Best Lathes for Bowl Turning (2020 Round-up Review)

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If you ever get into woodworking, you’re going to keep getting at it. It’s a rabbit hole that goes deep. With all the tools available, those looking at wood lathes must be getting serious about woodworking. Still, not every lathe is ideal for turning bowls.

Hoping to cut right to the chase? Below are the best lathes for bowl turning:

  1. ​Best Overall: Grizzly Industrial G0462
  2. ​Runner-up: Delta Industrial 46-460
  3. Best for the Money: Jet JWL-1015

Comparison of the Best Lathes for Bowl Turning

Product

Our Rating

​Price

Grizzly Industrial G0462

  • Extremely sturdy spindle and 360° headstock swivel
  • 600-2400 RPM, 43" between centers
  • 16" max bowl turning capacity

Delta Industrial 46-460

  • Forward and reverse spin for finishing
  • 250-1725 RM, 12.5" between centers
  • 12.5" max bowl turning capacity

Jet JWL-1015

  • Best for the Money
  • 500-3975 RPM, 15.5" between centers
  • 10" max bowl turning capacity

Nova 71118 Comet II DR

  • Editor's Pick
  • 250-4000 RPM, 16.5" between centers
  • 12" max bowl turning capacity

Rikon 70-105

  • Honorable Mention
  • 1700 RPM, 18" between centers
  • 10" max bowl turning capacity

What Size of Lathe Do I Need for Bowl Turning?

That wouldn’t be the right question. Lathes of any size can do a decent job at bowl turning; it just depends on the size of the bowl. If you aren’t looking to make bowls that are larger than 10” in diameter, a smaller benchtop lathe will do. However, you’ll be able to turn larger bowls as you go up in size, to as large as 24” bowls.

Larger lathes are also likely to be sturdier, which means that they can handle more substantial wood pieces without too much shaking.

For some people, a large wood lathe can be overkill. Others prefer to get a large lathe to be able to turn pretty much anything.

What Makes a Lathe Great for Bowl Turning?

You can’t just go to a hardware store and expect the attendants to know everything, especially something less obscure like a lathe. First and foremost, any lathe can be good at bowl turning, depending on your needs. Here are the traits to pay attention to.

The Spindle Diameter

The spindle diameter is one of the most important. Small and mid-size lathes often have a 1-inch spindle of 8 threads per inch. This is good enough for turning bowls of up to 12” in diameter, which might be good enough for most people. It also means that you’re going to need a large lathe to go up in size.

Center-to-Center Distance

The between-center range, this is essentially the distance between a lathe’s tailstock and spindle nose. It also determines the maximum size of the bowls that you can work on.

Swing Size

The center height that goes over the banjo (tool base), this is another specification that determines the size that you can work on.

Power and Speed

Again, the ideal power depends on the material, wetness, and so on. For practical purposes, the power ratings of wood lathes are best judged at 75%, as they are often overstated.

For a beginner, for example, there’s nothing wrong with an entry-level wood lathe first.

Review of the Best Lathes for Bowl Turning

For beginners and pros alike, below are some of the best lathes on the market.

​Best Overall:
​Grizzly G0462

PROS

  • Comes with a stand
  • 43” center-to-center distance
  • 10 speeds from 600-2400 RPM
  • Very sturdy and stable iron legs
  • Decent swing capacity of 12 inches

CONS

  • The provided tool rest isn’t great
  • Probably better for intermediate and advanced users than beginners

Our Review

The G0462 is a serious wood lathe. With a wide speed range, it’s ideal for bowl turning. If you’re working on smaller bowls, the 600-2400 RPM range will do just fine. However, it may be a bit too much for large bowls. Of course, seasoned woodworkers would be able to tame the G0462’s speed and do a smooth job with bowls. Probably not as much for beginners working with larger bowls.

Still, it comes with its own stand, which isn’t standard with wood lathes. Plus, the swing capacity is great for most bowl turning needs.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

Although the speed range is excellent, it’s the ten speed settings that set the Grizzly G0462 apart. In some instances, the speed capacity is less important than the ability to fine tune the speed. With 10 settings, the G0462 can be incredibly accurate when operated properly.

​Runner-up:
​Delta Industrial 46-460

PROS

  • 42-inch center-to-center
  • ​Above average 12.5” swing
  • As low as 250 RPM for versatility
  • Comes with a surprising number of accessories
  • One of the most compact desktop wood lathes

CONS

  • Only 3 speeds

Our Review

Versatility is an essential trait in lathes for bowl turning. If you want to be able to turn bowls of different sizes, you’ll have to be able to adjust speed. In this regard, the Delta industrial 46-460 doesn’t have too many settings, which is a potential downside. However, the range of 250-4,000 RPM is quite excellent.

The first speed setting is 250-750 RPM, which goes up to 600-1,800 RPM and 1,350-4,000 RPM for second and third. As long as a bowl can fit on the lathe, you can cut it with precision.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

Without a doubt, 250 RPM is very handy for the larger bowls. Not many wood lathes can go down to 250 RPM. Especially not one that can go up to 4,000 RPM. If you’re looking for a lathe that can turn a number of sizes of bowls, the Delta Industrial 46-460 could be your best bet.

​Best for the Money:
​Jet JWL-1015

PROS

  • Rigid wide bed
  • Six speeds from 500 to 3975 RPM
  • Decent 10” swing size for a small lathe
  • Compact 15-1/2” center-to-center length

CONS

  • Not for large projects and inability to work in reverse.

Our Review

The Jet JWL-1015 doesn’t pretend to suit those who work on large bowl turning projects. On the contrary, the JWL-1015 excels at being compact. It’s great for those who aren’t working with anything larger than 10” bowl diameter.

If you’re worried about the center-to-center length, the 15-1/2” is more than enough for most bowl turning projects. So much so that you might be able to take on some mid-sized projects too.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

500 RPM isn’t the lowest speed that you can find, but this can also go up to nearly 4000 RPM. And the six speed settings should be enough for most people working on a desktop lathe.

​Editor’s Pick:
Nova 71118 Comet II DR

PROS

  • Operable in reverse
  •  Large 12-inch swing for a desktop lathe.
  • Variable electronic motor capable of 250-4,000 RPM
  • 16-1/5” center-to-center distance, extendable with a 42” accessory

CONS

  • May need a 15A line to operate this wood lathe

Our Review

It’d be hard to find a better desktop wood lathe than the Nova 71118 Comet II DR. Although it’s quite compact, it boasts a solid swing and center-to-center distance. In fact, you can even add a 42” extension, which may put mid-sized and even larger lathes to shame.

The Nova 71118 uses an electronic DC motor that doesn’t draw more than 1 horsepower to go up to 4,000 RPM. It’s also easy to assemble such that it shouldn’t take you more than 20 minutes to put it together.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

The 42-inch extension kit really sets this desktop lathe apart. This will give you a lot of room to dedicate your woodworking needs and ideas, above and beyond bowl turning. With the 12-inch swing, you should be able to make most of your bowl turning ideas come true.

​Honorable Mention:
Rikon 70-105

PROS

  • 10-inch swing
  • Very affordable
  • 5-year factory warranty
  • 500-3,200 RPM speed range with 5 presets
  • Impressive 18-inch center-to-center distance for a desktop lathe

CONS

  • The bolts may not be sturdy enough and may break during assembly

Our Review

First of all, the Rikon 70-105 is not a top-range product, which you can probably tell from the price. It’s a small, practical, and most of all, highly affordable wood lathe, perfect for those who are just getting into bowl turning.

That also means that you can’t expect to get a machine that can handle anything you throw at it. Still, the speed will allow you to tackle most bowl turning projects. Although the lowest speed is only 500 RPM, it should be enough for any bowls that this lathe is designed to handle, up to 10” diameter.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

The most interesting thing about the Rikon 70-105 is the quality that you can get at this price point. The miracle of offshore manufacturing, right? For a woodworker, if this is you’re your first foray into wood lathes, you don’t have to spend too much at all to get a competent model.

Quick Take: Best ​Lathes for Bowl Turning

Need a recap? Here are the Best Lathes for Bowl Turning:

  1. ​Best Overall: Grizzly Industrial G0462
  2. ​Runner-up: Delta Industrial 46-460
  3. Best for the Money: Jet JWL-1015

​How to Make a Wooden Bowl on a Lathe

Here’s a brief guide.

Measure and Cut Out

If you have a square wooden block, you probably won’t be able to shape it with a lathe properly without prior preparation. First, draw the shape of your bowl design using the necessary tools. Typically, a math compass would work great. After that, use a saw to cut out the rough edges around the shape.

Mount the Stock

Use your lathe’s faceplate and secure it with four or more screws. The faceplate attaches to the lathe’s spin axis and then secure the stock onto the lathe.

Turn It True

With a roughing gouge, turn your stock true. This means smoothing out the edges so that the stock starts to become shaped into a bowl.

Start Shaping the Bowl

Begin shaping the bowl from the outside prior to moving to the other side. This is very important, as you wouldn’t want to have screw holes on the inside of the bowl.

From here on out, it’s all up to your expertise and experience. Use the roughing gouge to “trim” the bowl into your desired shape. You’ll get better with experience.

Sanding

Finally, keep the bowl spinning and use a grit to sand the bowl into smoothness.

What Do I Need to Know Before Buying?

As mentioned earlier, choosing a wood lathe depends on the projects that you plan to undertake. Even if you’re working solely with bowls, you still need to keep a couple of things in mind.

Speed

As a rule of thumb, the wider the speed range and the more speed settings the better. This is absolutely true for bowl turning. Firstly, a wide speed range means that you’ll be able to go low enough to detail larger bowls. Or, high enough for the more immediate and finer details. But then, it also depends on how many speeds you can actually set it at, if you’re looking to create detailed products.

Swing

In essence, the swing measures the diameter of your bowl. It’s the width capacity of a lathe. If you’re making large bowls, look for swing capacities of 12” and above. For most people, however, 10” should work well enough.

Center-to-Center Distance and Extensions

For bowl turning purposes, you’re not going to need a large center-to-center distance. As 16” will do the trick for the most part. However, some wood lathes come with optional extension kits that increase the center-to-center distance. Good to have the option, perhaps.

Conclusion

Finding an ideal lathe for bowl turning is pretty much up to your needs. If you’re a beginner, start with a small lathe and see if you need to move up at all (you may not). A seasoned woodworker may already know enough to consider the speed, swing, center-to-center distance, and so on.

People Also Ask

Like with most woodworking hobbies, bowl turning can be slow to get into. Unless you have a lot of experience working with wood, you probably have a bunch of questions. Like these questions below, maybe.

What Lathe Tools for a Wood Bowl?

You’re going to need a couple of gouges first. Go to your local hardware store and get a couple. You’re also going to need some sanding paper for finishing things off, and of course common tools like screwdrivers that you should already have.

Will Any Chuck Work for Bowl Turning?

Not with all bowl and project sizes. Look for about 30-40% base to diameter. For example, let’s say you have a 10” bowl, that makes a 3-4” tenon on the base.

What Wood Is Best for Bowl Turning?

While you can turn just about any piece of wood into a bowl, some have a higher risk of imperfections and even cracks. For beginners, wet maple and construction-grade pine should be perfect. Moving on up, you can go to poplar (cottonwood) and more.

How Fast Should My Lathe Be When Bowl Turning?

This depends on things like the size of the bowl, the details, and perhaps your creativity and ideas. As a rule, the recommended speed is anywhere between 1,200 and 1,800 RPM. This, however, doesn’t mean that you will never have to set the speed at above or below that range.