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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.

Top Pick

This mid-price model is adaptable for longer projects. 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.

Great Value

This model is powered by a ½ horsepower motor and is adjustable by switching belt settings. Balance World Inc

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.

Worth the Splurge

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.

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