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We have reviewed our top 10 choices below and also done in-depth reviews by brands, but if you are in a rush:
Here’s our top choice: Jet JWL-1440VSK 1 hp Wood Lathe with Legs (Check Price on Amazon.com)
Creating elegantly turned legs and other wood pieces is easy with the use of a lathe. Though some still rely on old-fashioned tools with a hand crank, others prefer the speed that an electronic lathe can provide. With one simple machine, you can make controlled cuts and add to the finished design as the machine turns that wood post for you. Wood lathes let you make everything from table legs and wood decorations to useful bowls and wood pens. Check over a simple list of what to look for and how to choose the best wood lathes for your needs before looking at the top 10 wood lathes on the market.
Contents Table - Click to Expand
Best Wood Lathes On The Market 
|1||Jet JWL-1440VSK 1 hp Wood Lathe with Legs||10||Check Price on Amazon.com|
|2||General International 25-200M1 Variable Speed Maxi-Lathe VS +||9.2||Check Price on Amazon.com|
|3||NOVA 46300 Comet II Variable Speed Mini Lathe 2013 Edition||9||Check Price on Amazon.com|
|4||Jet JWL-1221VS 12-Inch by 21-Inch Variable Speed Wood Lathe||9||Check Price on Amazon.com|
|5||Shop Fox W1836 Bench Top Wood Lathe||8.9||Check Price on Amazon.com|
|6||PSI Woodworking TCLC10VS Commander 10-Inch Variable Speed Midi Lathe||8.8||Check Price on Amazon.com|
|7||Shop Fox W1704 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe||8.7||Check Price on Amazon.com|
|8||Shop Fox W1752 Mini Wood Lathe||8.5||Check Price on Amazon.com|
|9||Grizzly H8259 Bench-Top Wood Lathe||8.3||Check Price on Amazon.com|
|10||Woodtek 143009 Midi Lathe||8||Check Price on Amazon.com|
How to Choose the Ultimate Wood Lathe
Choosing a wood lathe can seem difficult, but there are really just a few key things you should look for when shopping online. We created a list of the top things you should look for in a wood lathe.
The first thing you should consider is the type of projects you want to do. For similar and smaller projects, a tabletop lathe is best. These lathes actually attach right to the surface of your worktable to help you keep an eye on your projects. If you want to work on larger projects like wood furniture, you need to invest in a power lathe or an electronic lathe. These lathes use power from any electrical outlet to turn the wood.
The speed of the lathe depends on whether it has a manual or electronic design. Manual lathes require that you make adjustments with your own two hands to control how quickly it moves, which means it will take longer to turn a piece of wood. Electronic designs can move the wood much faster. Manual options are generally best for beginners and those just starting out.
Few people realize that they should also check the overall height of the lathe. You generally want the middle or the center of the lathe to sit right at or near your elbows. If the lathe is a little too tall or short, it will impede your movements and may make using the lathe harder.
Unlike other tools, where you want something more lightweight, you usually want a lathe that weighs more. The heavier it is, the more balance it will provide as you work. That weight can also help cut down on the vibrations that would otherwise cause your hands to slip off.
If space is at a premium in your shop, you’ll prefer a wood lathe that works with any bench. With a few turns of the included components, you can temporarily attach that lathe to your bench. If you have more space though, consider a lathe that comes with its own workbench. As the lathe remains permanently attached to that bench, you won’t worry about it possibly coming loose in the middle of a project.
Depending on the projects that you do, you might take a look at some of the accessories available from the manufacturer of your lathe. Those accessories can help you easily create bowls and other items for your kitchen, work with larger wood pens and legs or create unique projects. Those that use a taper size of Morse #2 may work with accessories from other manufacturers as this is a standard or base size.
Don’t forget to look for lathes from the top manufacturers. Companies based in the United States and those that have facilities in America often have facilities that can make repairs to your lathe nearby, which cuts down on the time you spend without a working machine.
The 10 Top Rated Wood Lathes
1. Jet JWL-1440VSK 1 hp Wood Lathe with Legs
Though the price on this Jet model is more than the others on our list, it earned the top spot for its amazing features and for its perfect reviews from users. This wood lathe produces one-horsepower and has one of the easiest to use designs we saw. You can use the hand crank on the top to change the speed at which it turns the wood, and you can even adjust its RPM up to 3000. It comes with seven locking positions that will keep your wood pieces from moving or sliding and a design that gives you 360-degree access.
- 360-deg sliding headstock
- variable speed
- redesignd clamping
- No reverse switch
- Minimum 400 rpm
2. General International 25-200M1 Variable Speed Maxi-Lathe VS +
With a frame, headstock and tail all made from cast iron, this General International wood lathe does a great job of reducing vibrations. It also has a lever that lets you adjust the tension in the belt and an adjustable RPM range of 300 to 3600. Small metal feet on the base of the lathe let you place it on any workbench or surface without worrying that it might slip off that table. As an electric lathe, it comes with a long cord that lets you plug it into any available outlet around your shop for convenient use.
- Vibration-free turning
- 3-variable speed ranges
- digital spindle
- Toolrest too short
- Electronics concerns
3. NOVA 46300 Comet II Variable Speed Mini Lathe 2013 Edition
The NOVA Comet II has the most impressive RPM speed range of all the wood lathes we examined. It can move from just 250 RPM when working on a simple table leg all the way up to 4000 RPM for making intricate designs and pieces. You can use the simple pulley system to easily move from a lower speed up to a higher one. NOVA added a variable speed motor that helps you quickly adjust the speeds without pausing in your work. It also comes with a dependable warranty that covers the motor for one year and all other components for two years.
- 250 to 4000 rpm
- improved speed motor
- No option for swing outboard attachment
- Does not come with a mandrel
4. Jet JWL-1221VS 12-Inch by 21-Inch Variable Speed Wood Lathe
Though this Jet model lacks some of the features found on our number one choice, it still delivers high speeds and comes loaded with good features. Its variable speed motor can produce between 60 and 3600 RPM, making it a great choice for anyone who works on a variety of projects. Unlike other similar models that make you take your wood out and turn it around to work on the opposite side, this one has a reverse mechanism that makes it easy to transition to a reverse setting. It also comes with an adjustable belt system for tightening or loosening the belt.
- speed control
- smooth transition from forward to reverse
- Poor motor positioning
- Alignment issues
5. Shop Fox W1836 Bench Top Wood Lathe
A 3/4-horsepower and 110 volt motor is just one of the things you’ll like about this Shop Fox bench top wood lathe. Designed for use with a bench top of your choosing, it comes with all the components and accessories you need for securing it to that surface. A digital readout on the very top shows you the exact RPM setting you currently use and helps you quickly move to a lower or higher setting. It also features two different RMP setting ranges: one with a maximum speed of 1800 RMP and a second with a max speed of 3800 RPM.
- variable speed
- two spindle ranges: 500 to 1800 and 1000 to 3800
- no reverse
- head cannot be angled for turning
6. PSI Woodworking TCLC10VS Commander 10-Inch Variable Speed Midi Lathe
Thanks to a brightly lit digital screen, this wood lathe from PSI Woodworking lets you see your current speed and keep an eye on the speed as it changes. A lower speed of around 150 RPM is perfect for finishing a wood piece, while a speed in the 3000 to 4100 RPM range is great for shaping that same piece. It also comes with a flexible work light attached to the top for working in lower light conditions and two carrying handles at the top for taking it to the job site or moving it around your shop.
- digital readout
- Effective 3/4 HP motor
- does not come with a mandrel
- not reversible
7. Shop Fox W1704 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe
This Shop Fox wood lathe comes with a cast-iron base that has the durability you need. That heavy-duty metal will withstand years of use in even the busiest of shops and will keep your lathe more stable when using it with larger or heavier woods. Weighing just 45 pounds, this lathe also functions as a portable lathe that you can take to work with you. We also like the paddle switch that the manufacturer designed with safety in mind that keeps the lathe from accidentally turning itself on or shutting itself down as you work.
- variable speed control
- large distance between the centers (12-inch)
- no wheel on the drive
- motor takes a longer time to fully run at maximum
8. Shop Fox W1752 Mini Wood Lathe
This mini wood lathe from Shop Fox is great for beginners and those who work on smaller projects like pens. Its swing over bed lets you work with pieces that have a diameter of up to 10-inches, which is extremely impressive for such a smaller tool. It also has a tailstock that adjusts to more than three-inches and a tool rest on the very front. Use that rest to store your chisels and any other woodworking tools you need for your current project. Though small in size, this Shop Fox model can handle more jobs than you might expect.
- easy to adjust tool rest
- safety switch
- 1/2 HP motor
- quill handle concerns
- noise problems with lower pulley
9. Grizzly H8259 Bench-Top Wood Lathe
The only reason this Grizzly model didn’t make it higher up on our list is because it comes with just a 0.5-horsepower motor that cannot compete with the motors found on some of the higher ranking models. That 110V motor and 10-inch long work space is perfect for creating simple bowls, cups and pens. While you can’t use it on traditional table legs or other projects, you can use it on a wide range of projects because of its five RPM speeds. Like other smaller models, this Grizzly wood lathe also comes with a tool rest for storing and organizing tools your tools as you work.
- 1/2 HP Power
- comes with a faceplate
- no included chuck for turning bowls
- no bed extension
10. Woodtek 143009 Midi Lathe
Featuring bright shades of green and yellow, this Woodtek lathe is one that anyone will see and recognize when walking into your shop. Designed for use on smaller projects, it’s suitable for creating perfectly turned table legs and for designing wood pens of your own. It has an easy to reach belt for convenient replacing and a tool rest for easy switching between tools. While it doesn’t have nearly as many features as some of the larger or more expensive models do, it’s a simple and basic wood lathe that is great for beginners. You’ll even get a manual that shows you how to use it.
- easy use for beginners
- perfect for designing wood pens
- few features compared to higher models
Our Wood Lathe Winner
After looking at features like speed, strength, price and durability, we picked the Jet JWL-1440VSK 1 hp Wood Lathe with Legs (View on amazon.com) as the Top Ranked Wood Lathe on the market today. Its simple design lets you slide and pivot the different features to customize its overall shape and design for your own use, and it has a locking feature that keeps the attached legs from moving while using the lathe. It also has a variable speed that lets you quickly adjust the RPM produced from a minimum of 400 up to a maximum of 3000. You’ll also love its simple design and easy to use hand crank.
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