When you’re using a lathe, you have to do it right. Whatever it is you want to create, the job is only as good as the tools will allow it to be. Having the best possible equipment is important.
Worst case scenario, if the lathe is spinning too fast, you’ll get wood fragments flying everywhere, and it can be quite dangerous.
Other dangers include getting things caught on the spindle, such as loose clothing or long hair. Recipe for disaster.
But, there’s no need to worry. With the right equipment and the right instruction, you can avoid all the nasty accidents that can occur with mini-lathes, and produce some really nice woodwork.
In this article, we’re going to show you our favorite mini-lathes for wood that we have taken the time to pick out for our shortlist. Please, take a look through and see what catches your attention.
But we get that picking the best lathe can be tricky, so we’ve also put together a buying guide for you. You can use it as a checklist to ensure that you’ve definitely thought of everything before you buy.
You may also want to stick around for our FAQ section at the end.
Let’s get straight to it!
Short on time? Here are the best mini lathes for wood in 2021
OUR TOP PICK
OUR TOP PICK
This mini-lathe for wood is a bestseller with online retailers in the category of power wood lathes, and comes highly recommended by those who’ve bought it.
There’s 15.5 inches between the two centers, which is a nice length. And there’s a bed swing of an impressive 10 inches, so you can work with some very chunky pieces of wood.
We love how you can vary the speed as you work. There are 6 different speeds you choose from. Specifically 500, 840, 1240, 1800, 2630, and 3975 RPM. And there are 24 indexing positions to choose from to boot.
It’s a good, sturdy, rigid machine and is very smooth running, which is exactly what you’re looking for. This smooth running is thanks to its improved tensioning system, which gives easier access to the belts. And the stability is thanks to the wide bed.
It’s a good choice of lathe for both the novice and the more advanced users, though with this price tag, it is likely to appeal more to the advanced users rather than the newbies.
We were also impressed by the length of warranty, which lasts an entire 5 years.
👍 Very sturdy and stable
👍 24 indeving positions
👍 6 different speed settings
👍 Long 5-year warranty
👎 Premium product at a premium price
Here’s another bestselling mini wood lathe that has gone down really well with customers.
For a mini lathe, the RIKON Power Tools 70-105 has quite a large capacity. There’s a whopping 18 inches between the two centers, and a 10 inch bed swing.
We also love just how sturdy it is. And, being made from cast iron rather than aluminum, you don’t have to worry about any vibration.
It has 0.5 horsepower, which is all that you need for all kinds of projects. There are 5 different speed ranges you can tap into.
And whether you want to bore barrel holes, rough out pen billets, or move onto shaping and finishing, you will find the perfect speed for the job.
In addition to the lathe itself, you will also receive a spur center, wrenches, rubber feet, a live center, a user’s manual, and a 6" tool rest.
👍 Fair and reasonable price
👍 Very sturdy with no vibration
👍 Plenty of power for your projects
👍 Choice of 5 different speeds
👎 The after-sales support could be better
Again, this is another bestseller with the online retailers, and one that’s received very positive customer feedback.
With 12 inches between the two centers, and 8 inches of bed swing, it's a good size for all sorts of projects, such as bowls, cups, pens, chess pieces and so on.
It has plenty of power behind, 3.2 amps in fact, which is twice as much power as most other mini-lathes of similar size.
And because of this extra power, you get more speeds to choose from. Speeds start at 750 RPM, and go all the way up to 3200 RPM.
It has a very sturdy frame and is made of cast iron rather than cheap lightweight aluminum.
In addition to the lathe itself, you also get a 2.3 inch face plate, two interchangeable tool rests, and an MT1 spindle and tailstock taper.
All that, and it’s available at a great price too! A great entry level lathe.
👍 Nice size and capacity
👍 Sturdy cast iron frame
👍 Comes with accessories
👎 Some customers have found it a little underpowered
Here, we have another great mini-lathe, also a bestseller with retailers in the power wood lathes category. And it’s had great customer feedback too.
It’s quite big for a mini lathe, with a whole 21 inches between the two centers. And it has a large bed swing too, coming in at a very spacious 12 inches.
Just think how much you could do! You could argue that at this size, it’s more like a midi-lathe than a mini-lathe.
There are a total of 24 different integrated indexing positions at your disposal. And you can optimize the speed of the machine for each element of your projects, with speeds ranging from as low as 60 RPM, all the way up to a whopping 3,600 RPM.
We were also impressed with the very innovative ratchet-style belt tension system. When we learned of that, we knew we had to include it in our shortlist.
It’s very easy to use and convenient overall, with easy to reach controls, and two very handy tool caddies on board.
And we’ll be the first to admit that this lathe is very expensive, however looking at the customer ratings, it’s clear that many woodworkers believe it to be worth the money.
👍 Great dimensions & capacity
👍 24 different integrated indexing positions
👍 Speeds ranging from 60 to 3600 RPM
👍 Ratchet-style belt tension system
👎 Premium product at a premium price
Here’s another great mini-lathe for wood. We’ll admit there seems to be less fuss about this one than some of the others that made our shortlist, but we can assure you that it’s up there with the best of them, and it has still made the bestseller lists with retailers.
There are a total of 18 inches between the two centers, and the bed swing is a generous 10 inches, so you have plenty of room to accommodate medium size projects.
It has a 370 watt motor, to give you all the power you need for your woodworking projects. You may also be pleased to hear that it has a soft start for safety, and is surprisingly quiet to work with.
And it features variable speed. You can set speeds as low and easy to work with as 500 RPM, or if you’re ready to work more speedily, you can set the speed as high as 3200 RPM. And of course, at several speeds in between, including 760, 1100, 1600,and 2200 RPM.
And the speed controls allow you to be very precise, which is exactly what you need for more intricate work.
We love that it has a cast iron construction rather than, for example, an aluminum one. This way the machine provides great weight and stability, and minimal vibration, if any. All on good rubber feet. You get a nice, smooth operation.
In addition to the mini wood lathe, you will also receive 2 interchangeable tool rests, 150mm and 300mm, a face plate, a chuck, a set of accessories, and of course, the user’s manual.
And better yet, the price tag is very reasonable.
👍 Large & generous capacity
👍 Fair and reasonable price
👍 Variable & precise speed control
👍 Comes with plenty of accessories
👎 There are very few peer reviews for this one on the net
Best Mini Lathe For Wood - Things to Know Before Getting One
As promised, here’s your buying guide. We’ll start with the basics.
What is a mini-lathe?
A mini-lathe is a benchtop lathe with 21 inches or less capacity between the two centers, and with a maximum workpiece diameter (AKA bed swing) of 12 inches.
Such lathes typically have half a horsepower motor, and often feature optional bed extensions, that can be used for turning longer spindles.
But it’s important to note at this point that manufacturers don’t always agree on the line between mini and midi lathes. Some manufacturers avoid referring to these terms at all when presenting their products.
Why a mini-lathe?
There are several advantages to a mini-lathe over a regular lathe.
First off, they are easier to use than larger wood lathes. And are great for beginners because there are far less functions and features to be concerned about.
Some would argue that a mini lathe also helps in the precision of your turning. And perhaps it does because you find yourself concentrating on smaller details. So it’s good not only for beginners but for improvers as well.
There is less room for human error with a mini-lathe too, which makes for much better consistency in your work.
They are also more portable, which can come in very handy if you’re short of space in your workshop.
What to consider when buying a mini lathe
Precise Dimensions & Capacity
Mini-lathes are not all one size, and they do differ in their dimensions, which has implications for what kind of woodworking you can carry out on the lathe.
Horsepower and Speed
The horsepower of your mini-lathe determines the maximum speed of the machine. We would argue that slower speeds are not only safer to use but are also easier to work with.
Therefore we feel that a high horsepower is not necessarily a better one, and that one half or one third horsepower will often suffice.
That said however, a stronger motor is less likely to stall when working with harder or knotted wood.
If you have a lot of work to do on a piece of wood however, it is nice to be able to change the speed of the machine where it helps to do so. So you may want to look for a mini-lathe with different speed options to choose from.
A lower speed is best when you’re roughing out your blank, but a higher speed towards the end should produce a really smooth finish.
You should also consider how easy the speed setting controls are to access as you work.
Weight and Stability
Although you may not want your mini-lathe to be too heavy, at the same time it’s good to have some weight there, as this helps to prevent any unwanted vibration, which can be quite an issue with some of the cheaper mini wood lathes.
To that end we would recommend going for lathes with a cast iron frame rather than an aluminum one. If however you don’t want a cast iron frame, you should instead look for one that can be bolted onto your workbench.
Interested in metal lathes? Here are the best mini metal lathes in 2021!
The stability of the machine can have a strong impact on your turning, so it is important that you not only have a very stable base for your lathe, but also that your workbench is also very strong and sturdy.
Some woodturners choose a mini-lathe for their portability.
And a compact size and light weight, can certainly help if you have a relatively small workspace, and intend to take the machine in and out of storage.
It would be nice if money were no object, wouldn’t it. But unfortunately, none of us are made of money, and there are limits to how much you can spend on your mini-lathe.
Now, mini-lathes for wood can vary in price from as little as about $200, to as much as $1000. So, it pays to shop around, and our advice, as always, is to check the prices as you go along so you can learn what your money buys you and you can then make a good, informed decision as to how much budget to set.
When shopping for anything as expensive as this, it’s very reassuring when you hear that there’s a warranty in place. The length of the warranty is a good indication of the expected lifespan of the product.
If you’re shopping online and you find there’s no warranty information on the product page, don’t be disheartened. You may be able to obtain the warranty directly from the manufacturer.
You may also want to consider that retailer you buy the mini-lathe from. This is because some retailers, such as Amazon, allow payment in installments. Which can come in very handy if you decide to go for one of the more expensive models.
Amazon also features handy comparison tables on their product pages, so you can see how different mini-lathes compare.
Customer Ratings and Reviews
If you’re shopping online, we recommend taking advantage of the opportunity to check out the customer ratings and reviews.
You don’t need to read every review by any means, but you should gauge how customers have generally got on with the product.
Moreover, sometimes these reviews provide really useful tips on using the machine.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best mini wood lathe?
This is quite a difficult question to answer. All of the mini wood lathes that made our shortlist of top 5 picks definitely tick all the boxes.
If we had to pick just one though, we would concentrate on value for money. In which case the best mini wood lathe would be the WEN 3421 8" by 12" Variable Speed Mini Benchtop Wood Lathe.
What is the best beginner wood lathe?
We would argue that all of the mini wood lathes in our top 5 picks would be a good choice for a beginner or novice to work with.
However, we get that a beginner may not want to pay top dollar for their machine, when there are far more affordable options available.
In this instance, it would make good sense to go for the most affordable option which is the WEN 3421 8" by 12" Variable Speed Mini Benchtop Wood Lathe.
What is the best wood lathe for the money?
This is an easy question for us to answer.
The best wood lathe for the money would be WEN 3421 8" by 12" Variable Speed Mini Benchtop Wood Lathe.
What kind of wood is best for turning on a lathe?
The good news is that there are plenty of different woods that can be worked very well on a lathe.
Here’s some of our favorites: beech., ebony yew, rosewood, manzanita, eastern white pine, hickory, and mesquite.