Best Wood Lathe – Buyer’s Guide & Reviews

Woodturning is a popular hobby. A lot of woodworkers use a lathe purely for this craft, and have no interest in building chairs or beds. Therefore, the wood lathe needs to be suitable for this task. If you’re just getting into woodturning, or need a new lathe, this is the best place for you. I can give some handy tips about wood lathes, some great information about wood turning and my picks for the best wood lathes for turning bowls.

Turning Bowls?

Woodturning is a craft, known for its woodworking skills, but also its artistic skills. You can make some beautiful products, by using the right tools, patience and skill. The wood turning process allows you to carve pieces of wood into shapes, i.e. bowls. It uses a lathe to spin the wood at high speeds while tools, such as chisels, carve the wood into the shape you want. These can be for your own use, wonderful gifts, or for the professional, a great way to make money.

At a Glance: Our Choice of the Best Wood Lathe On the Market

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Buyer’s Tips: What you need to know when buying the best wood lathe for turning bowls

There are a few good tips to follow when buying a wood lathe. For wood turning you really should do your research before buying anything.  

  • A solid bed. This is the core foundation of any wood lathe. You need something heavy and stable to stop any vibrations from occuring. Buying something light and portable is great, but has its drawbacks. 
  • ​Motors. What size motor you buy depends on the types of projects you will be creating. Bigger bowls will need larger sizes. If you’re a professional wanting to create multiple items a day, you need a quality machine.   
  • Head Stock. You will probably need a rotating head stock to keep the tail stock in place when accommodating bigger bowls. 
  • Tool rest. Having an adjustable tool rest is important when turning bowls. You need something solid, but easy to interchange tools.  
  • Price. You should always do research before hand. You could be paying over the odds for an amazing wood lathe that can do fancy woodworking tasks. You might be better paying less for a lathe that is great solely for turning bowls. 

Now folks, here are my picks for the best wood lathes for turning bowls!

Best Wood Lathe for Turning Bowls

WEN

WEN 3420 8' by 12' Variable Speed Benchtop Wood Lathe

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The Wen wood lathe has a variable speed function which makes turning bowls a cinch. A lot of beginners would do well with this lathe, its ease and simplicity suits all levels. It includes a 5 inch faceplate, which can be used to turn bowls, cups and other items. You can use projects on this lathe measuring up to 12 inches long and 8 inches wide. The soft start motor helps to minimise damage to the machine. This is a durable machine which will do you proud. It’s also priced well, nifty for those who haven’t got the budget of celebrities.

Rikon

RIKON Power Tools 70-220VSR 12-1/2' x 24' VSR MIDI Lathe,

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This power tool is a bit of a beast. You can’t go far wrong with its 1HP motor. It has all the power you could possibly need to turn large bowls. The larger project sizes allowed on this machine, make it a highlight for professionals. The huge turning capacity of 12” diameter and 20” between centres, will certainly catch a few eyes.

The 24 position index head can make intricate designs and has a very high accuracy rate. The Rikon also has a variable speed, LED display showing its capabilities as 250-3850 RPM. The price is pretty steep; this is the wood lathe for professionals or those with higher budgets.

Shop Fox

SHOP FOX W1704 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe

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This is the middle of the road wood lathe. A handy ⅓ HP motor allows you to complete most bowl turning projects without trouble. The 12 inch distance between centres can allow decent sized projects within. There is an 8 inch swing over the bed and the price isn’t too bad.

This wood lathe is made from cast iron, it’s durable, steady and will last a good amount of time. If you need something fairly decent for an average price, this is the one. It has a lot of high rated reviews, the Shop Fox lathe seems to be a pretty popular wood lathe.

Proxxon

Proxxon 37020 DB 250 MICRO Woodturning Lathe

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Say you want to make smaller projects but need the accuracy and reliability of an awesome wood lathe? This is where the Proxxon comes into play. This micro wood turning lathe is mini, but will turn small bowls, cups and pen with astonishing accuracy. It’s largest collet is only 1cm, so get your micro projects ready. It has a very quiet motor which comes with a lifetime guarantee. You can be ensured you’re getting a quality product.

What to turn to?

Which wood lathe to buy depends solely on the size of the projects you have in mind and your budget. Small projects needing accuracy would be better off buying the Proxxen. Professionals needing high quantity, bigger items are suited to buying the Rikon.

My overall pick for the best wood lathe for turning bowls goes to the WEN. It’s got a great price tag, suitable for most budgets. It’s big enough to turn bowls that the average woodworker would want to consider. The power and size is there. It’s the overall winner.