3 Features You Need in a Wood Lathe

Turning out professional quality wood products is easy if you have the right tool

lathe lead
A lathe is an essential tool for anyone serious about woodworking.Goplus

Creating spindles, banisters or chair legs requires a wood-turning lathe, as does making those popular wooden bowls. With price points starting at $150 and soaring to well over a grand, choosing a lathe can be a little daunting. There’s a definite correlation between the cost and quality of the lathe, with the pricier and heavier cast iron models giving you a more precision wood-turning platform than lighter models. By comparing lathes and their features in these three areas, you can choose a lathe that matches your needs.

Project capacity

jet jwl 1015-wood working lathe
This mid-price lathe is 15 ½ inches between centers and is adaptable for longer projects with a bed extension.Jet

How long are your wood-turning projects? How about the diameter of the wood you are turning? Are you turning bowls as well as spindles? Most hobby projects require 36 inches or less in length, and the lathe should accept at least a 9-inch diameter piece of wood. Some shorter lathes can be easily adapted to accept longer projects with an additional bed extension. If you are planning to turn wooden bowls, look for a lathe with a swinging head for much easier access as you work.

Power

goplus loathe lead
Look for a lathe with variable turning speeds. This model is powered by a ½ horsepower motor and features four speeds adjustable by switching belt settings.Goplus

You'll want a lathe that offers a range of at least 400 to 2000 RPMs, with a minimum of a 1/3 horsepower motor. It should have an easily accessible speed control system, preferably with a memory of previous settings.

Tools platform

grizzly industrial loathe
Cam-style locking supports precision adjustments of the tools platform.Grizzly Industrial

The tool rest should be easily adjustable both vertically and horizontally, preferably using a cam-style locking system. The tool rest should be cast iron or otherwise heavily constructed to minimize vibration.