Best Mini Wood Lathe in 2021 – Reviews & Buyers Guide

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If you simply don’t have a lot of extra space to host a full sized lathe or perhaps you only do small projects and a small lathe will be sufficient, you should take a look at mini wood lathes. The best mini wood lathe will be suitable for a variety of projects and not just limit you to pens only, although those are a great project as well.

How do you choose from the best mini wood lathes? Ultimately, you want something that is small but mighty. You need to consider the power of the lathe, the size of the lathe, and the features that the mini wood lathe offers you so that you know it will really work for your needs.

Photo by Adam Patterson on Unsplash
Photo by Adam Patterson on Unsplash

In this guide, we will walk you through a variety of the best mini wood lathes on the market. We’ve searched and sorted and tested the options to bring you the very best choices available. We used specific details like the power, the swing, the overall construction, and even the price to make our decisions.

You will find a good variety of options for the best mini wood lathe here, complete with all of the details that you need to know in order to make a fully informed decision for your wood lathe needs.

Let’s get started!

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The Best Mini Wood Lathes Reviewed

In this part of our guide, we will focus on our top picks for mini wood lathes in the industry. We’ve done all of the background work and research so that you don’t have to spend hours doing that yourself. These reviews will share a comprehensive overview of each lathe as well as some spec ratings and the pros and cons as well. We hope you find something here that sticks out to you.

1. Best Overall: JET JWL 1221VS Variable Speed Wood Lathe

JJET JWL 1221VS Variable Speed Wood LatheCheck Latest Price

In terms of small wood lathe reviews, the JET JWL 1221VS Variable Speed Wood Lathe always seems to rule as one of the the best performing mini lathes out there. It has a variable speed range that is superior to mini and it is perfect for all of your smaller projects from turning pens to making chess pieces and several other detailed projects as well.

With a solid foundation cast iron construction, 24 integrated indexing positions, and a unique ratchet style belt tension system, and even a dual tool holder for your convenience. Smooth operation is a guarantee and it’s nice to be able to handle most woodturning projects thanks to how much power this small lathe has sporting a 1 HP motor power range.

This offers one of the widest variable speed operations you will see with low speeds of 60 RPM clear up to high speeds of 3,600 RPM. Reverse to forward transition is very smooth and the self ejecting tailstock is pretty great as well.

Finally, you can track the RPM on the digital with a convenient control location and setup that slightly mimics full sized lathes and their design. Your swing is 12 inches with a distance of 21 inches between centers.

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

  • Motor: 10
  • Swing: 10
  • Speed Range: 10
  • Construction: 10
  • Smooth operation with very little vibration
  • Great for all types of projects from bottle stoppers to pen turning and more
  • Variable speed mini lathe with a full range of speeds
  • Powerful motor with 1 HP
  • Reverse switch offers a smooth transition
  • Unfortunately, there seems to be poor quality control and a lot of people have to contact customer service for issues upon receiving their mini lathe

Why We Like It

If you want the best wood lathe from top to bottom, this one certainly beats a lot of other mini lathes out there. It’s a benchtop lathe with plenty of power, valuable tool rests, and nearly infinitely variable speed options that far surpass most machines, including some midi wood lathes.

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

Wen 3421 Variable Speed Mini Benchtop Wood LatheCheck Latest Price

If you want a quality mini wood lathe but simply don’t have the budget for an expensive machine, take a look at this simple benchtop lathe from Wen. It’s a really great mini lathe with cast iron construction, cast iron bed, tool rests, and variable speed as well. In terms of mini lathes, Wen 3421 Variable Speed Mini Benchtop Wood Lathe is a winner that you can depend on. It can handle a few larger projects but it is best for small projects.

The variable speeds range from 750 to 3,200 RPM and this lathe weighs only about 20 pounds but it is still solid enough to handle what you need. It offers two tool rests and a lathe bed that gives you space and control. This has a good motor power for a starter lathe or smaller lathes with 3.2 amps. It’s an 8 inch spur center with a soft start motor.

The operational controls are simple with a dial to adjust your variable speed option. There isn’t a digital readout but the dial is pretty easy to read even while you work. This has an MT1 spindle that will enhance your woodworking game. You can turn small bowls, chess pieces, cups, and so much more!

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

  • Motor: 8
  • Swing: 9
  • Speed Ranges: 10
  • Construction: 10
  • Extension bed gives you 8-12 inches of working space with a swing of 8
  • Tailstock taper and spindle are reliable in coordination
  • Powerful motor for the needs of this power tool
  • Variable speeds cover a good range
  • Simple to operate
  • Most mini lathes have more powerful motors so the power may hold you back from some of your larger projects or just take more time

Why We Like It

This is a great benchtop lathe for beginners with enough power to handle small tasks and reliable functionality at the same time. This mini lathe fits into a tight budget space but still holds enough power for turning bowls and other similar projects in a limited space.

3. Best Value: Rikon Power Tools 70-105 10 x 18 Mini Lathe

Rikon Power Tools 70-105 10 x 18 Mini LatheCheck Latest Price

If you’re looking for the best bang for your buck, check out this best mini lathe. It’s a really great value and it’s a reliable machine to boot. This best mini wood lathe has variable spindle speeds and a heavy cast iron bed and build with rubber feet to give you a solid stance, much like table legs (only shorter).

This machine is pretty unique. Rikon Power Tools 70-105 10 x 18 Mini Lathe has a two tool rest design with interchangeable pieces. You can use carbide tools or another cutting tool with no problem here, much like you might on a full size lathe. The speeds are variable but it’s a little bit different with basically 5 speed settings that you can switch between and get a broad range of speeds for any type of work.

This machine was designed based on woodworkers who do a lot of work with pens mostly so it is special to that type of task but it can be used for plenty of other tasks as well. It’s a cast iron tool so it is sturdy and has far less vibration as well. It’s simple but reliable and even has a safety paddle on the switch. The live rolling center also lets you swiftly move around and enjoy the reverse feature when you need it.

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

  • Motor: 9
  • Swing: 10
  • Speed Ranges: 8
  • Construction: 10
  • 5 speed ranges for variable speed control
  • Mini wood lathe is a good bang for your buck
  • Designed perfectly for pens with a movable tool rest
  • Powerful motor at 1/2 HP
  • Spur center has a good length for multiple projects
  • The biggest downside is that while this is variable speed, it’s just with 5 set ranges rather than the ability to truly vary

Why We Like It

This Rikon mini wood lathe is a great value for the money. The tool rest and the cast iron build give you versatility and stability and you have a good variable speed range with the dial of 5 settings. If you’re ready to make Christmas ornaments, pens, or other small projects, it’s a great choice!

4. Shop Fox W1704 1/3 HP Benchtop Lathe

Shop Fox W1704 1/3 HP Benchtop LatheCheck Latest Price

The Shop Fox W1704 1/3 HP Benchtop Lathe is a great lathe with a slightly less powerful motor and yet powerful enough to handle small tasks with ease. This truly is a mini wood lathe with an 8-inch swing designed to handle miniscule projects without taking up a ton of space. It has a nice tool rest, actually, two tool rests that can be changed and it sports a variable speed style that will work wonders for your jobs.

With 12 inches of distance between centers, you have a versatile range of options. Shop Fox brings you a wonderfully small and simple mini wood lathe with a cast iron build and all of the safety features that you could possibly need.

If you’re looking for a highly-rated variable speed mini wood lathe, you will find it here with this Shop Fox. It’s small but sturdy with all of the versatility and control that you really need to accomplish those mini lathe tasks. It even has a knockout bar for some added control. The best part is no adjustment wrench is needed to enjoy those varying speed controls!

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

  • Motor: 8
  • Swing: 9
  • Speed Ranges: 10
  • Construction: 10
  • Small but mighty in its own way
  • Cast iron build for stability
  • Variable speed with complete control
  • Tool rest with interchangeable options
  • Quality mini wood lathe perfect for smaller projects
  • The locking nuts tend to come loose and need to be tightened regularly

Why We Like It

This little Shop Fox W1704 machine might not be as powerful as some of the mini wood lathes out there but it’s still really great for doing the smallest projects. It’s versatile and reliable in all of the ways that count. This could be a great mini wood lathe for beginners or simply for smallish projects as well.

5. Nova 4600 Comet II Variable Speed Mini Lathe

Nova 4600 Comet II Variable Speed Mini LatheCheck Latest Price

The Nova 4600 Comet II Variable Speed Mini Lathe is a great option as well. This lathe can sometimes be harder to find simply because they aren’t as heavily produced but it is highly-rated across the board and makes a good choice if you can get your hands on it. The Comet wood lathe has an almost infinitely variable speed ability that jumps from 250 to 4,000 RPM, giving you one of the highest on the market.

This wood lathe is 12 inches so you also have a lot of room to function and you’re not just limited to pens and the tiniest of projects. You have a touch more versatility thanks to the size. The Nova 46300 Comet II variable speed mini operates with a powerful motor for the size, sporting 3/4 HP to help you get your work done quickly and efficiently.

While the speeds vary, this does use a unique pulley system to really gauge into high, medium, and low speeds so you get the range you really need. You have total control of the speed and you have the safety functions on the switches as well. It’s easy to flip between forward and reverse. The tool rest is really sleek, as is the overall design of this wood lathe with logo design and color on it.

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

  • Motor: 9
  • Swing: 10
  • Speed Ranges: 9
  • Construction: 10
  • 3 step pulley system to really get in the speed ranges you need
  • Knockout bar is well-made for control
  • Colorful and impressive style
  • Solidly built with cast iron materials
  • Tool rest is strong, sturdy, and versatile
  • Can be challenging to find in stock and available due to low production rates
  • There seems to be some lack of quality control and inconsistency

Why We Like It

The Nova 46300 Comet II is a mini lathe that delivers consistent results with your work. With 12 inches of swing, you have a little more room plus the stability of the machine build backing your work. It’s a great choice when you can find it available.

6. PSI Woodworking Penpal Portable Mini Wood Lathe

PSI Woodworking Penpal Portable Mini Wood LatheCheck Latest Price

If you’re looking for something simple and convenient primarily to make pens, this mini wood lathe could be a great option for you. PSI Woodworking Penpal Portable Mini Wood Lathe is slightly limited on capability but perfect for pens and being able to port it around wherever you might need it in the moment. It only weighs about 15 pounds so you can easily take it wherever you need to go. Lightweight, portable, and a small footprint can be pretty useful at times.

This mini wood lathe operates on 1/5 HP but remember that is definitely mini with a small swing bed of 5 1/2 inches. The quality is consistent and reliable from a well-known lathe brand that delivers. This is built to be lightweight so it is made with anodized aluminum. It comes with flanges so that you can mount it to a surface if you want or need to as well.

This was specifically designed for pens so it comes with a pen mandrel shaft, collet closer, mandrel saver, bushings, collet wrenches, and a drill bit specifically for the task. Since it is portable, they added a dust collection hood plus a port and hose clamp as well. It’s simple but effective for pen making and also has a good range of speed options as well.

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

  • Motor: 8
  • Swing: 8
  • Speed Ranges: 10
  • Construction: 9
  • Specifically designed for making pens and comes with accessories for just that
  • Lightweight and perfectly portable
  • Includes a dust hood
  • Has holes for mounting as needed
  • Reliable and consistent for the stated task
  • This is limited to primarily pen making so be aware of that if it’s the route you decide to go for a mini wood lathe

Why We Like It

Some woodworkers purchase mini lathes specifically for the act of making pens so why not have a lathe designed just for that? If pens are your main activity and you don’t plan to do much else on your mini lathe, this is a great option and it comes with everything you need to do it!

7. Grizzly Industrial T25920 12 x 18 Benchtop Mini Wood Lathe

Grizzly Industrial T25920 12 x 18 Benchtop Mini Wood LatheCheck Latest Price

We know Grizzly Industrial T25920 12 x 18 Benchtop Mini Wood Lathe to be a quality industrial brand and one of the most common brands that you see on the lathe market. It’s particularly popular for industrial usage but it can be a great option for a garage or woodworking shop at home too. This offers you a long swing bed for a mini lathe, measuring 12 inches of swing and spindles that measure 16 1/2 inches.

This has a little bit of everything with a high-quality build that is made to be sturdy and durable as well as some bells and whistles that other lathes don’t always have. This has the varying speeds from 650 to 3,800 RPM, giving you versatility for just about any task. In addition, it even has a digital spindle speed indicator so you always know your speeds.

The digital readout rests on the headstock for easy visibility. There is a turn dial for adjusting speeds and a safety switch as well. It’s easy to reverse or move to forward with smooth movement. You also have the adjustable tool rest so you can do what you need when you need it.

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

  • Motor: 10
  • Swing: 10
  • Speed Ranges: 9
  • Construction: 10
  • 3/4 HP motor will work for just about anything
  • Long swing of 12 inches
  • Variable speeds for your needs
  • High-quality build and construction
  • Visible digital readout for tracking speed
  • A lot of users receive a machine with a broken wire paneling cover, which is easily fixed but seems to be a quality control issue

Why We Like It

We chose the Grizzly because it’s just large enough to handle some of the larger tasks you might need without being overly huge and bulky. It’s solid, sturdy, and reliable making it a great choice for a lot of great uses.

8. Mophorn 10 x 18 Inch Benchtop Mini Wood Lathe

Mophorn 10 x 18 Inch Benchtop Mini Wood LatheCheck Latest Price

Finally, we leave you with one last quality option to give you a well-rounded assortment of lathes to choose from. Mophorn 10 x 18 Inch Benchtop Mini Wood Lathe is a good lathe with varying speed options and parting tools to boot so you are fully prepared for just about any task you might need. It’s a cast iron machine that has rubber feet for some added stabilization.

This is a bit of a work horse. You have a 10 inch swing over bed and a total distance of 18 inches. The tailstocks move and adjust so you have all of the versatility to work with just about any project. It’s smooth and stable and powerful all at the same time. Your speeds move from 500 to 3200 with 5 different set speed options to choose from.

This comes loaded with professional tool rests that can be changed depending on what your needs are. Working with this lathe is simple but also effective. You can do so many things and you have stability and customization on your side. Where some of these mini lathes are more limited because of width and length, this is a really good size for a range of projects.

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

  • Motor: 7
  • Swing: 10
  • Speed Ranges: 8
  • Construction: 10
  • Large enough to handle a wide array of projects
  • A good range of speeds to handle your needs
  • Professional tool rest parts that are easy to change
  • Includes tools and accessories for use
  • Stable and sturdy
  • The tool resting pieces are not as sturdy as expected and may not hold up under pressure

Why We Like It

If you’re looking for something reliable and versatile for some of the smallish projects out there, this one is a good option. It has a stable build so that you can rely on your work getting done without a lot of vibration and excessive noise.

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How to Choose the Best Mini Wood Lathe

Now that you’ve seen the top options available, there are some things to consider and know before you spend the money on a machine. Choosing a lathe is about more than just knowing the name brand or seeing those 4 and 5 star ratings on a listing. You need to know the details and the specifications that you really want to pay attention to so you can understand whether you are choosing a good machine for your particular needs.

That’s what this buyer’s guide is for. We have some helpful tidbits of information simply to help you be fully informed while you peruse your options.

Size

Size does matter when it comes to a lathe and what it can handle. With a mini lathe, you expect it to be a smaller size and most suited to smaller projects but you also want to make sure it will be large enough to handle your needs so you can do what you purchase it to do, right?

It’s challenging to define a specific size but this category of mini typically covers a range from 8 to 12 inches. The smaller it is, the more limited you might be. These lathes are great for small things like chess characters, ornaments, pens, and other similarly sized items. When you get to 10 or 12 inches, you can even handle some small bowls and vases if you like.

The swing overbed is the diameter that your lathe can handle and the length between centers is the total length it can handle so just be sure to pay attention to these numbers and be aware of how they may affect your work so you can be sure that you have the size that you need to do your intended jobs on the lathe.

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Power

Power is a pretty important aspect of the lathe. This also really heavily depends on the work you will be doing. You need to know that the lathe can handle the power that you need from it to work quickly and efficiently. If it has lower power, it might work ok for larger tasks but they will simply be slower going.

Even though these machines have certain speed capabilities, it is the motor power that will drive that functionality. You will see quite a range in a mini lathe. We like to see somewhere from 1/2 to 1 HP for the mini size but if it happens to be smaller than that, just be aware you will be better with just small projects.

Ultimately, the power really makes a difference with heavier and thicker materials as opposed to the job in general. With heavier or thicker materials, it will probably take quite a bit longer on machines like the Wen or the Mophorn simply because they don’t have as much power behind the speeds.

Don’t get us wrong, these machines are still fully capable, they just might operate more slowly or bog down more easily in some instances.

Speeds

The speed is really where it’s at when you’re working. The ability to move from low to medium to high speeds is critical with some tasks. While we prefer to see variable options, we are also ok with set speeds as long as there is a good range there to give you some control of the speed of your spindle.

We love lathes that also have the digital readout so you can see the exact speed you’re at but this isn’t required for a lathe to be a good machine in the end. The Jet lathe in our very first best overall pick has one of the highest ranges of speeds that you will find with a super slow to a steadily fast available speed.

You will find quite a few varieties here, including machines that have a full range and machines that have set speeds but give you 5 speeds to choose from so you still have a steady range for just about every need you might have.

The key here is just to make sure you have a good range to cover your needs so that you don’t try to do a project and get frustrated that you’re moving at a snail’s pace.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Best Mini Wood Lathe?

The best overall pick according to our standards is the Jet mini lathe. It’s a versatile lathe that really will deliver for just about anything in this particular realm. It’s a good size and it has a full range of speeds so that you can do whatever you need with full control. This machine is built to work and built to last and it does it with ease.

What is the Best Beginner Wood Lathe?

As a beginner, you’re just getting started. You’re probably setting out with a limited budget and still learning processes and practices to get the most of your work. If you’re a beginner that just wants a quality lathe, we recommend the Wen in our ranks. It’s a solid starter lathe and it’s a really great price as well.

What is the Best Wood Lathe for the Money?

This term could really depend on your preferences. Our best value for the money pick is the Rikon mini lathe as it has a lot of great functionality and size for a pretty reasonable price. It has the power to back the speeds and it will deliver results with consistent and reliable functionality.

What Can You Make with a Mini Wood Lathe?

While a mini lathe might be more limited than say a midi or a full sized option, there is still a lot that you can do. Remember that your capabilities might depend on the size that you end up with so pay attention to that detail to truly know what your lathe can do!

Here are some great ideas for mini wood lathe projects.

  • Pens
  • Small bowls
  • Chair legs
  • Letter openers
  • Decorations (like Christmas ornaments)
  • Chess game pieces
  • Vases
  • Bottle stoppers
  • Spindles
  • Drawer pulls
  • Small cups

This is just a few of the things but you can create anything that will fit in the size of lathe you are working with!

Conclusion

We hope that you find our guide for the best mini wood lathe to be a valuable resource for finding some great options. There are a lot of really good choices here for you and a broad range of options so that there is something for just about everyone!

Expert Tip

More power means the ability to handle faster work so if you want to really be able to move fast, be sure to stay to 1/2 to 1 HP for the best power.

Did You Know?

Did you know that there are lathes out there that can actually work with glass as well? We see wood most commonly and metal at times also but glass is a function that some people never knew about. It does take a specific lathe for this type of work.

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Bestseller No. 1
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. 2
Mini Carbide Tipped Wood Lathe Turning tools Combo set Rougher Detailer Finisher with Wood Handle and Diamond Round Square Carbide Inserts,3pcs
  • Indexable Replacement carbide insert design: matched with Carbide Insert, Indexable give you fresh edge for maximum cutter life. If you need Carbide Replacement Tip Insert , you can find it in our Amazon Store,(Square11 ×11× 2.0mm,Round 12 × 2.5mm-30°,Diamond 10×28mm with Radius Point and 10×32mm with Sharp Point)
  • Handle:wood material,Ergonomics design makes it more comfortable while doing turning job
  • Easy to use: greatly simplified learning curving when turning,No complicated angles to learn and remember,For all skill levels woodworking enthusiast or DIY,Every tool is beautifully coated for durability
  • Package: Set of 3, Plastic case packaging
Bestseller No. 3
HighFree Key Type Drill Chuck MT2 Connecting Rods with Carbon Steel 1-13mm Capacity Stable for Centering, Tapping, Reaming Operation for Metal and Wood Lathes
  • 【High Quality】The mini lathe drill chuck is made of high-carbon steel, hard and durable, accurate precision and stable performance for long lasting and trouble free use.
  • 【Easy to Use】Wrench style chuck, using chuck key rotation, which offers more efficient and accurate adjustment. Make it easy to use.
  • 【Size】Drill chuck total length: approx. 16cm/6.3inch, wrench length: approx. 8.2cm/3.2inch.
  • 【Great Design】Excellent waterproof and dust-proof capability ensures that its inner core components will not be damaged by magazines and effectively extend its service life.
  • 【Application】This lathe drill chuck is perfect for drilling machines, suitable for centering, drilling, tapping, reaming operation.