Best Benchtop Lathes – 2020 Buyer’s Guide

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​Benchtop lathes are some of the handiest tools around if you are getting serious about your woodworking and want to move on to wood turning.

If you are excited about the possibility of handcrafting bowls, pens, and other complicated woodworking projects, you really should invest in a benchtop lathe. Read on to learn more about these awesome tools.

​Snapshot​! Best ​Benchtop Lathes

​In a hurry? Here are our top picks​:

Best Overall
Runner-up
Best for the Money

Comparison Chart of the ​Benchtop Lathes

Product

Our Rating

​Price

Jet JWL-1221VS

​Best Overall

Delta Industrial 46-460

​Runner-up

Wen 3421

​Best for the Money

Grizzly Industrial G0602

Best Benchtop Metal Lathe

Shop Fox W1836

Best Benchtop Wood Lathe

Are All Benchtop Lathes The Same?

Not all benchtop lathes are the same. Some lathes are specifically designed for working with wood work pieces, while others are more intended to work with metal. There are also all different sizes of lathes including mini lathes, which are meant to take up minimal space​.

There are also larger, industrial-sized lathes meant to crank out larger projects at a more efficient pace. Plus, there are a wide variety of different features lathes can have, from variable speed control to safety precautions and even high-fidelity computer control!

When Would a Benchtop Lathe Come in Handy?

​Want a lathe but not sure when you'd use it? Making all sorts of neat and useful household things is the obvious answer!

Bowls

If you take even a quick glance at product reviews for lathes, you will see that a lot of people use them primarily to craft wooden bowls. There really is no better tool than a lathe for hollowing out a piece of wood and making sure all of the inner surface of a bowl is completely smooth.

Pens

Smaller lathes are great options for working with handcrafting pens. There is not much that is more satisfying than fine tuning your lathe to wind up with a beautiful, sleek, polished pen barrel.

Furniture Legs

If you do want to work with a larger lathe, a project many would recommend is handcrafting your furniture legs. With a benchtop lathe, there is really no limit to the amount of ornate curves and detailing you could craft into a beautiful set of legs for your dining room table.

Quick Take: Best ​Benchtop Lathes

Hoping to cut right to the chase? Below are the best ​benchtop lathes:

  1. ​Best Overall: Jet JWL-1221VS
  2. ​Runner-up: Delta Industrial 46-460
  3. Best for the Money: Wen 3421

Review of the Best Benchtop Lathes

Now that you are all excited about the different projects you will be able to accomplish with your benchtop lathe, let’s scope on some actual products:

​Best Overall:
​Jet JWL-1221VS

PROS

  • Exceptionally quiet
  • Easy to change turning speeds
  • Can be used to turn both wood and metal
  • Smaller than some other models, easy to store

CONS

  • Will require some parts tightening upon arrival

Our Review

Okay, get ready for some definitions here. The best part about this lathe is that it has the option to control the speed at which you turn your work piece. You can either use discrete speed control settings, or continuous speed control settings.

Discrete speed control means that you set the lathe to turn at a predetermined speed, such as 430 or 810 RPMs. Continuous control means you can at the speed at any RPM level up to the machine’s capacity, which is up to 3600 RPM. It really does not get more customizable than that.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

Beyond the speed control, this lathe is also quite smooth to operate. While it is not recommended for beginner use, intermediate wood turners should feel more than comfortable working with this Jet. And of course, it is tough enough to stand up to expert use as well.

​Runner-up:
​Delta Industrial 46-460

PROS

  • Easy to change out the belts
  • Comes with a five year warranty
  • Good option for beginner wood turners
  • Especially great for larger pieces of wood

CONS

  • Does not have a digital speed readout

Our Review

This lathe can really go the distance! We read multiple user reviews about how they were able to operate this lathe for many years, on a wide variety of different kinds of wood, and the lathe still works just as well as it did on the very first day they used it.

You also will not need to worry about making any additional required purchases with this lathe. It comes with a 6 inch tool rest as well as a 10 inch tool rest, plus a 3 inch faceplate. Finally, this lathe has an exceptionally large swing capacity.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

Most lathes have a wider range of speeds at the lower end of the RPM spectrum, but this Delta actually offers more options at the higher range. So if you have a huge project that needs finishing, this is the lathe to go with.

​Best for the Money:
​Wen 3421

PROS

  • Arrives fully assembled
  • Comes with a 5 inch faceplate
  • Especially excellent for crafting pens
  • Can be reversed and used for sanding purposes

CONS

  • Wen does not provide good customer service

Our Review

If you are running out of space in your cramped workshop, and you want to find a lathe that will do whatever job you require of it, but will not take up too much of your hard fought shelf real estate, this WEN is the option for you.

It is lightweight and compact enough that you can easily lift it off your work bench when you are done using it, and tuck it away on a bottom shelf somewhere. It also has a number of safety features to increase user confidence, including a soft start motor and a safety lock on the on/off switch.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?:

You are probably going to think you are being scammed when you see the price tag on this lathe. No way could something of actual quality be offered for such a low price, right? We are here to say YES WAY! Get on this deal ASAP.

​Best Benchtop Metal Lathe:
Grizzly Industrial G0602

PROS

  • Has five different speed settings
  • Comes with a one year warranty
  • Lightweight and easy to transport
  • Grizzly provides good customer service

CONS

  • Motor can overheat quickly

Our Review

This Grizzly lathe is far and above the best option we could find when it comes to turning metal work. Not only is it a bright and peppy addition to any workshop, with Grizzly’s signature turquoise color, it is also an absolute beast! It is durable enough to stand the test of time and is built to last.

It is also extremely well made – users report that this lathe is so intentionally designed that they experience almost no vibration when they are working with it. Users also report that this lathe is a particularly excellent tool for hobbyists.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

We were big fans of all of the goodies that come along when you purchase this lathe. You also get a live rolling center, a tool rest, a spur center, and some wrenches, so you will not have to worry about making any additional purchases.

​Best Benchtop Wood Lathe:
Shop Fox W1836

PROS

  • Easy to adjust
  • Made of heavy duty cast iron
  • Additional bed extensions can be purchased
  • Efficiently cuts through all types of wood, including many hardwoods

CONS

  • Does not have the most powerful motor

Our Review

This lathe really has every other lathe on this list beat out in terms of stability, which is why we chose it for our best wood lathe option. Because this Shop Fox is made almost entirely of cast iron, it is quite heavy – coming in at slightly over 100 lbs.

While this quality may not make this lathe the best option if you are looking for something lightweight and portable, it certainly does set it apart if you are seeking something that is sturdy and stable. There is no easy budging of this lathe! Plus, it has a digital RPM readout, so you can tell at a glance how fast it is turning.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

This Shop Fox is specifically designed for use with smaller wood turning projects. If you are a casual woodworker who does not anticipate needing a larger work space, you should go with the Shop Fox to save yourself some money and workshop real estate.

​Pros and Cons of Benchtop Lathes

If you are still on the fence about whether or not you should go with a benchtop lathe, here is a breakdown of some of the top pros and cons:

​Benchtop Lathe Pros

  • Efficiency

    Sure, you could hand carve a bowl, or a pen, or even a furniture leg if you were ambitious enough. But it would take an exceptionally long time. Benchtop lathes take the hard work of cutting a curved surface and compress it into a much shorter time period

  • ​Versatility

    Even though we did categorize some of our lathes above as best for working with metal vs. best with working with wood, most lathes can easily be used to work with both. A benchtop lathe is an adaptable tool that could help ease the burden of any of your projects.

  • ​Fun

    This is the whole reason you like woodworking, right? It’s super fun! And benchtop lathes open up a whole new subset of projects you could dive into. You might not ever need to purchase anything made of wood again – you could make it all at home with your benchtop lathe.

​Benchtop Lathe Cons

  • ​Takes Up Space

    Benchtop lathes are called that for a reason – they take up space on your benchtop. While some lathes are easily moved around, many are so heavy that moving them becomes extremely prohibitive. So make sure you are willing to keep your lathe out on your work table.

Conclusion

Benchtop lathes are some of the most fun woodworking tools you can find on the market today. And if you are working with wood turning, they are really indispensable. Make sure you invest in a lathe that best fits your needs, taking into account the size of your projects and the types of materials you plan on working with. You will not be able to go wrong with any of our reviewed lathes above!

People Also Ask

We have compiled a list of some of the most common lingering questions people have about benchtop lathes:

What Is A Benchtop Lathe?

A benchtop lathe is a tool for turning a work piece. If your project requires smooth, curved edges (or even a smooth, curved interior, as in the case of a bowl), a benchtop lathe is really the only power tool that can do the job.

Are Benchtop Lathes Safe?

As with all power tools, you need to stay alert when you are using a benchtop lathe, as it certainly can be dangerous. However, there are a number of safety features incorporated into different lathes, such as a soft start motor, that can make operating them more safe.

How Many RPM Do Benchtop Lathes Operate?

RPM, or revolutions per minutes, is the speed at which a benchtop lathe turns. Lathes operate at a wide variety of different RPMs depending on the size of the engine, the size of the lathe, and the type of project they are intended to complete. Most lathes range from slightly under 100 RPMs all the way up to slightly over 4000.

Should I Opt For Variable Speed Or Belt Drive? What’s The Difference?

We would probably recommend a variable speed lathe, which means you can program it to electronically adjust the speed. Belt drive lathes require you to manually change out the belt on the interior pulley in order to change your RPM speed.

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