Best Midi Wood Lathe in 2021 – Reviews & Buyers Guide

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Midi wood lathes are a popular choice among woodturners because they offer plenty of power but they don’t take up nearly as much space as your traditional wood lathe. It’s large than mini lathes and gives you the best of both worlds in both power and compact nature.

The best midi wood lathe will be compact with a 12-14 inch bed swing but also still have a reliable speed, torque, and horsepower so your projects and capabilities won’t be limited. We’ve searched the market and done some testing to bring you the best midi wood lathes on the market.

In this guide, we will share with you our top picks and outline just what it is that stands out about each one, including ratings for the RPM range, material, swing overbed, HP, and voltage so you know exactly what you’re looking at. We hope you can find a suitable option for a midi lathe right here!

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Best Midi Wood Lathe Reviews & Buyers Guide
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The Best Midi Wood Lathes Reviewed

We chose wood lathe options in the mini department based specifically on quality and research. From checking out what other customers are saying and trying out the specs to fully understand the product, each of these details made a difference in our selections.

These reviews will provide you with an overview of the midi wood lathe in question as well as share with you our ratings on some of the most important specs to consider as you make a decision.

Let’s get started, shall we?

1. Best Overall: JET Variable Speed Midi Lathe

JET Variable Speed Midi LatheCheck Latest Price

The JET Variable Speed Midi Lathe  is the best wood lathe overall and our top pick for benchtop wood lathes. It’s a 12 inch variable speed device that even brings its own innovation to the table with a patent-pending ratchet style belt tension system that no other midi lathe offers.

This benchtop wood lathe has great speed ranges that move from 60 to 3,600 RPM. The controls are easy to reach and the machine is versatile for handling all types of needs. It offers 24 integrated indexing positions. In addition, the JET JWL 1221vs also offers onboard storage with two tool rest caddies that can come in handy. This is made with cast iron.

Here are our ratings on the specs. Each rating is a 1-10, with 10 being the highest.

  • RPM Range: 10
  • Materials: 10
  • Swing Overbed: 8
  • HP: 10
  • 1 horsepower gives you plenty of power for a midi lathe
  • The dual tool rests are convenient
  • A wide speed range that is easily adjustable
  • Cast iron materials are durable
  • Smooth transition between forward and reverse
  • This benchtop lathe is great but the quality control from the company could be improved as many customers have defect issues that have to be repaired or returned with the company initially

Why We Like It

In terms of midi lathes, the JET JWL is made with solid cast iron that really sets it apart. It is one of the best wood lathes you will find with quality speed control and a measure of simplicity that really can’t be beat.

2. Budget Pick: Wen 3421 Variable Speed Mini Benchtop Wood Lathe

Wen 3421 Variable Speed Mini Benchtop Wood LatheCheck Latest Price

If you’re looking for an affordable and reliable compact lathe, Wen 3421 Variable Speed Mini Benchtop Wood Lathe might be a great consideration. It’s slightly smaller than some options and falls into the mini wood lathe category with an 8-12 inch variable speed design. It operates on 3.2 amps, so not quite a 1 HP motor but it has a good variable speed range and is reliable as far as mini wood lathes go.

The speed ranges for this mini wood lathe cover a good range from 750 yo 3200 RPM. The face plate is 2.3 inches with an MT1 spindle bore and reasonable spindle speed. It also uses MT1 tailstock taper with 2 interchangeable tool rests for your convenience.

Spec Ratings (on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest.)

  • RPM Range: 8
  • Materials: 9
  • Swing Overbed: 8
  • HP: 8
  • Budget friendly mini lathe benchtop lathe
  • Quality spur center and tailstock taper
  • Optimal speed with a decent range
  • Soft start design
  • Turning pens and spindle turning are super easy
  • It is a bit on the small side so don’t expect to be able to do all of the things you might do on a full size wood lathe

Why We Like It

Mini wood lathes are great for simple and small projects and this budget friendly piece has reliable speed ranges, simple speed controller, and all of the swing capacity you will need for a portable lathe option. This is a really great option for beginners and small projects alike.

3. Best Value: Rikon 12 x 16 Midi VSR Lathe

Rikon 12 x 16 Midi VSR LatheCheck Latest Price

If you’re looking for the best bang for the buck, you really can’t go wrong with the Rikon 12 x 16 Midi VSR Lathe . The midi wood lathe has a maximum length of 16 inches, which is an optimal center to center distance. It’s fitted with a solid cast iron base and offers a variable speed design that gives you a good minimum speed to a maximum speed range of 450 to 3,500 RPM.

The speed controls are electronic rather than pulley speed ranges. This is one of the best wood lathes on the market for the price. It even has a digital readout for displaying the speed control figures for your convenience. The machined ends give you more spindle capacity and a tool rest base. The 1 HP motor is strong and mighty for any task.

Spec Ratings (on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest. )

  • RPM Range: 9
  • Materials: 10
  • Swing Overbed: 10
  • HP: 10
  • As solid as any full size wood lathe
  • 1 HP motor provides plenty of power
  • 450 to 3,500 variable speed midi lathe
  • Cast iron base is durable and sturdy
  • Add capacity with an extendable spindle lock
  • The control panel isn’t the best quality but it gets the job done

Why We Like It

We chose this Rikon lathe as the best midi lathe for the money because it has optimal maximum speed and minimum speed ranges plus quality materials and design. The spindle lock and swing capacity paired with cast iron construction really give you a great tool for many woodworking projects.

4. Delta Industrial 12-Inch Variable Speed Midi Lathe

Delta Industrial 12-Inch Variable Speed Midi LatheCheck Latest Price

The Delta Industrial 12-Inch Variable Speed Midi Lathe is a simple machine that is highly-rated and durable. While it may not have as many bells and whistles, it is consistent and gives you everything you need in midi lathes. This cast iron wood lathe works on a professional level with a powerful 1 HP motor and a large capacity.

This wood lathe provides a 12.5 swing capacity as well as a variable speed range that uses three pulley speed ranges. The live center uses a drive spindle with 1 inch 8 TPI thread. You can forward and reverse smoothly so your finished project will be perfect. The lack of table legs will not affect your work here!

The downside is the RPM is not really specified. We find the maximum speed is 4,000 RPM but the range is unclear and hard to monitor.

Spec Ratings (on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest.)

  • RPM Range: 7
  • Materials: 10
  • Swing Overbed: 10
  • HP: 10
  • Industrial strength midi wood lathe
  • Cast iron materials
  • Include tools rests
  • High swing from headstock spur center
  • Powerful motor
  • Could be improved with a digital readout to monitor speed

Why We Like It

The Delta Industrial wood lathe is simple and yet powerful at the same time. From a tool rest to a wide swing range, you really can’t go wrong if you want reliable consistency as well as ingenuity for this type of tool. The wood stock design will bring you perfect results with any project.

5. Nova 46902 Comet Variable Speed Midi Wood Lathes Bundle

Nova 46902 Comet Variable Speed Midi Wood Lathes BundleCheck Latest Price

Next up, the Nova 46902 Comet Variable Speed Midi Wood Lathes Bundle makes a powerful and reliable midi lathe that is compact enough to look like a mini lathe but versatile enough to give you plenty of workability. It has a 14-inch swing overbed, 1 HP motor, and speeds that range from 250 to 3,450 RPM so you can handle anything you might need to handle on a wood lathe.

This mini lathe is very easy to use and also offers a modular tool rest system for your comfort and convenience. The speeds adjust easily and the digital readout lets you know exactly where you are. The distance between centers is 14 to 18.5 live center, for a full swing capacity. This power tool has solid cast iron construction and a digital display with spindle locking technology to turn wood like a pro.

Spec Ratings (on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest.)

  • RPM Range: 8
  • Materials: 10
  • Swing Overbed: 10
  • HP: 10
  • Tool rest provides simple convenience
  • Solid construction base
  • Tailstock cup center measurements 14-18 inches
  • Easy to reach controls
  • Motor power of 1HP
  • There is limited information from verified customers to get a real feel for quality and potential issues

Why We Like It

This wood lathe stands out to us for the 44 inches distance between centers and the 12 inch tool rest that is just right for a flat wrench or other tool to be placed. The spindle capacity is significant with one of the largest swing capacity capabilities for wood lathes in this category.

6. Shop Fox W1704 Benchtop Lathe

Shop Fox W1704 Benchtop LatheCheck Latest Price

If you like the compact style of a mini lathe that won’t take up any floor space, Shop Fox W1704 Benchtop Lathe could be a great option. It’s another affordable model and it is a bit smaller than most wood lathe options here, it’s built well and it works great for the size. It has a simple 12 inch distance, with two interchangeable tool rests, a reverse switch, and 12-inch distance between centers.

This will not let you down for your woodworking projects. The two belt positions provide you with variable speed control and a good range. It is challenging to monitor or maintain your speed with the lack of a digital display. This wood lathe is made with heavy cast iron and it holds up well over time.

Spec Ratings (on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest.)

  • RPM Range: 7
  • Materials: 10
  • Swing Overbed: 8
  • HP: 7
  • Small but mighty
  • 12 inch tool rest (two)
  • Small swing bed works great for small projects
  • Stable and solid build
  • Variable speed with good ranges
  • The motor is 2 amps and about 1/3 HP, which is lower than we prefer but suitable for this size

Why We Like It

This wood lathe strikes our fancy because it works for small and compact needs. It’s less powerful than most but it works really well for its size and intended functionality. It’s simple and durable in all of the ways that count and your wood stock will easily turn into a beautiful project.

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A Buyer’s Guide to Choosing the Best Midi Wood Lathe

When it comes to picking out a wood lathe, there are some specific things to consider, apart from just knowing what people like me say is the best wood lathe out there. Where I tested certain features and capabilities to create my list, the playing field can still be limited here.

When you are purchasing your wood lathe, you will have specific needs and preferences to consider. Don’t lose sight of your needs and the use you will have for a wood lathe as you check out these qualities that we share in the buyer’s guide. We created this simply to provide you with some intuitive information to help you make an informed decision in the end.

What is a Midi Lathe?

A Buyer's Guide to Choosing the Best Midi Wood Lathe
Image by Joenomias from Pixabay

Let’s start with just a basic overview of what a midi really is. You probably have a good idea if you’re here but maybe you’re just doing some research on different options and you need some more detail. You’ve come to the right place.What is unique about a midi is that it is portable to some degree. It can be placed on your benchtop or tabletop and simply doesn’t take up as much space as a traditional wood lathe. The mini and midi are often grouped together and while they can be similar and even overlap, they really are two separate categories. We will discuss some of their differences shortly.

Midi lathes also fall into the middle price range. What you really should know is that these are rarely on a stand or legs, although sometimes you can add legs. They fall into a size in the middle as well as a price. It’s your “medium” fit.

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Midi Vs. Mini

Really quick, let’s talk about the difference in midi and mini just so you can distinguish easily between the two. The mini lathe is completely portable and usually also lightweight, although they can still be iron materials. These have a swing that is usually 10 inches or less and a full center swing of 15 inches or less.

Mini can still give you variable power and a lot of functionality. They are primarily designed for smaller projects like pen turning, letter openers, small bowls and dishes, and similar items. They are quite a bit more limited as to the sizes they can handle. These also are typically quite a bit more affordable.

Midi, on the other hand, is just a slight upgrade that is not as limited. Your swing is going to start at 12 inches and possibly go up to 18 inches and the center length might be as high as 45 inches in some cases. These are more expensive than a mini but also have more functionality.

Midis have more powerful motors, quite a bit more size, and will still have plenty of other features and capabilities as well.

Power

When it comes to midi size wood lathe options, you are going to find that the power can vary considerably. Mini options often make their way into the category and they use considerably less power but the power is usually good enough for their function.

In general, I like to see 1 HP for the motor on a wood lathe in the midi category. If it’s not a full HP, something close like 3/4 or 2/3 is also typically acceptable. This is powerful enough to handle most materials and work for just about any wood stock. To be fair, a lesser motor might still be sufficient for some models. It really depends on the size of the model.

For example, the Wen and Shop Fox models that we covered in our choices have much smaller motors. However, you will also notice that their working size and capabilities are also slightly less so the power is sufficient for the design of the machine.

This is the key. You want to know the machine will be sufficiently powered with the motor.

Swing Measurements

The swing capacity is probably one of the most important considerations for a midi size wood lathe. This basically will determine how large of a project your lathe can handle so it gives you a good idea of whether or not it will be suitable.

When it comes to the swing, you will hear two different measurements. The swing overbed is the swing over the bed of the lathe. The swing otherwise, is the full length from the center. On average, for a midi wood lathe, the overbed swing will be around 12-18 inches.

A number between 12-15 inches is ideal and if you want a midi on the larger side, then totally shoot for 18 inches if you find a good option with that ability. You will also see measurements from center to center and this is important. The average for a midi is around 40 inches but it might vary up or down slightly here, depending on the model.

Speed Control

Most midi wood lathe options will have speed variations. On average, the range should be from around 250 to around 3,500. Again, these numbers can vary quite a bit depending on the model but if you see numbers close to these, you have a good range.

These speeds are typically controlled by belt positions and the belt adjusts by the turn of a dial in most cases. There are different ways to control the speed but what you really want to know is whether it’s easy to adjust and whether it will disrupt your project to make that adjustment.

You will see some options that have digital displays and others that are literally just a knob that says low and high. The display makes it easier to know just where you are but they both do the job they are intended to do so your preferences will come into play here.

Materials

Midi Vs. Mini
Photo by Eva Elijas from Pexels

If you’re going to spend the money on a wood lathe, you want to know that your investment is going to be built to last and is designed with quality materials. The majority of options will be made with cast iron, which is ideal. However, this is not always the case. It is not a deal breaker if you find a midi lathe that you really love and it is made with some other material. You want a quality material that is heavy-duty and will hold up well over time. Know your materials and pay attention to what the tool that you are looking for really is made of. Cast iron will most certainly make your machine heavier so if you plan on moving it a lot or porting it with you to jobs, this could be something to keep in mind as well. You can look at the weight of the tool to really get a feel for whether or not it will work for you.

Always look for high-quality materials from every spindle and piece down to the base of the machine. Even the display and control knob need to be reliable and made with reliable materials so don’t forget to note those things as well.

Accessories

After these particular items, most things from there can vary a lot and may or may not be a part of the lathe that you look at. For example, some lathes offer tool rests while others don’t have a tool rest at all.

If you want something specific, be sure to look for those details. In addition, you can look for things like a digital reading, spindle adjustments, and even the speed control design. Determine what accessories and settings are essential to your needs.

These are the things that might vary quite a bit between different brands, models, and designs. Just because a specific model maybe doesn’t have a digital reading doesn’t mean that is a lesser than model, it simply means it is missing an accessory that you are interested in. Keep this in mind and know that some things such as this might vary.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Best Wood Lathe on the Market?

Our top pick comes from JET. It’s an all around reliable brand with quality design and materials. We love the overall functionality, as well as the speed and the power associated with the machine. Keep in mind that your preferences vary well might be different but this proves to be a reliable machine across the board.

What is the Best Wood Turning Lathe for Beginners?

If you’re just starting out and you’re looking for something reliable and easy to learn with, we recommend going with our budget-pick, the Wen model. This particular lathe is perfect for beginners and really great for small projects as well. It’s a great lathe to learn the basics and then you can upgrade when you are ready (if that’s something you want to do).

This budget-friendly model has reliable power, a good size, and is made with quality materials. You will also notice that it has interchangeable tool rests for your convenience, as well as a display that makes speed adjustment a breeze. It’s just as well made as several of the other options and it’s really easy to control and use.

Are Harbor Freight Wood Lathes Any Good?

A Harbor Freight wood lathe can be a good option, particularly for beginners. The nice thing about these is that they are made much like any other lathe. They tend to be affordable so they make a great option if you’re just getting started or you have a tight budget for purchasing a lathe for your needs.

How Much Power Should a Midi Lathe Have?

I feel as though 1 HP is the best motor for a midi lathe. However, if your needs don’t require as much power or you work primarily with smaller projects, you can use a motor that is slightly smaller and get along just fine.

Conclusion

We hope that you find this guide to finding your new midi lathe to be a resourceful guide with some really great options. You can’t go wrong with any of the options here. Just remember what you need as you check out the options.

Expert Tip

If you’re able, go with a wood lathe that gives you the best value for your money. This will help you have a reliable machine that you can continue using even when you are no longer a beginner, rather than needing to upgrade in a couple of years.

Did You Know?

A mini lathe and a midi lathe are very similar but they really are two separate categories. If you’re specifically looking for a midi, be sure to keep those specifications in mind.

Amazon Recommends:

SaleBestseller No. 1
RIKON Power Tools 70-220VSR 12-1/2" x 20" VSR MIDI Lathe
  • 1HP motor delivers all the power you need for turning spindles to large bowls or platters.
  • Big turning capacity of 12-1/2" diameter swing and 20" between centers.
  • 24 Postion Index head allows accurate pattern or design work on projects.
  • Electronic variable speeds 250-3850RPM with LED display and forward/reverse functions.
Bestseller No. 2
WEN 3421 3.2-Amp 8" by 12" Variable Speed Mini Benchtop Wood Lathe
  • Perfect for pens, bowls, cups, chess pieces, and other small workpieces
  • Fits workpieces up to 12 inches long and 8 inches wide
  • 3.2-Amp motor provides over 50% more power than most 8-inch wood lathes
  • Adjust the soft start variable speed motor anywhere from 750 to 3200 RPM
  • Features a 2.3-Inch face plate, an MT1 spindle and tailstock taper, and two interchangeable tool rests
Bestseller No. 3
PSI Woodworking KWL-1218VS Turn Crafter Commander 12" Variable Speed Midi Lathe
  • KWL-1218VS replaces TCLC12VS. ETL Listed and certified by Intertek.
  • Powered by 1hp Variable Speed high performance induction motor(120V-60HZ) & an SBC microprocessor. Two belt positions: 500-1800 RPM & 1950-3800 RPM.
  • Headstock Thread 1" x 8tpi. Headstock/Tailstock Taper #2MT. Distance between Centers 18". Swing over Bed 12". Cast iron base.
  • Tailstock & Spindle Bore 3/8". Quill Travel 1-5/8". (24) indexing positions with spindle locking. Convenient built-in handles.
  • See Description below for all of the included parts.