I did a whole lot of research before purchasing my lathe.
I wish I had all the money in the world to spend for the high-end models such as the Powermatic 1352001, but I had to compromise and get a mid range lathe based on the cost.
That being said, I spent countless hours researching watching videos, reviews, and tutorials about wood lathes. I’ve read many datasheets and determined which lathes were adequate to purchase as a good investment and which ones were not.
There are many choices and I encourage you to do your research especially if this is your first time buy. That being said, I highly recommend buying online as the prices are much lower than in a hardware store. Furthermore, I wasn’t able to see all the models at the local Home Depot and the Harbor Freight lathes just didn’t seem any good.
The Most Recommended Mid-Range Wood Lathe on the Market
After countless hours of debating my own conclusion, I finally decided to purchase the JET JWL-1221VS lathe for myself. I believe that it’s an excellent choice as it’s sturdy, comes with a lot of power and is quite compact. It’s important to note that although I always wanted a full-size lathe, my current living conditions are simply not suited for such a machine.
The lathe came with extensive features which I wasn’t able to find on the lower end models. Although I believe it’s good practice to work with a pulley-based lathe, I really wanted to get something with variable speed control. Of course, this feature comes at a price; which I was willing to pay.
The lathe is sturdy and hasn’t had any issues in the last three years. It is quiet (I live in a quadruplex, so excessive noise is also a factor), smooth and rarely needs any alignment.
As far as the stand goes, I made a crude workbench which I’ve loaded with sandbags and placed the lathe on top. I couldn’t be happier with the operation of the lathe.
While doing my research on different tools out there, JET definitely stood out for a number of reasons. They have a lot of different lathes which shows me that they are a large player in the space as well as invested in customers at all price points. They have an excellent upgrade plan which allows a current lathe user to extend the bed or purchase a full-sized frame which tells me that they are looking out for their customer in the long run. Lastly, the brand has excellent reviews all over. Some of their models have received less than 5 stars, but overall they make great products.
Other Highly Recommended Options
Here’s a short summary of lathes which I believe to be an excellent choice for one specific reason. Keep in mind that although some of these may not be suited for you, it all depends on the individual’s needs, situation, environment, etc.
Absolute Bottom Dollar Entry Lathe
In my opinion, this entry level lathe is absolutely suitable for someone just getting started with the hobby without a large sum of money to spend. Furthermore, this would be the kind of lathe I would recommend for someone younger or a parent who’s looking to get their child into woodworking. Chances are, they may change their mind about the hobby. With this lathe, you won’t break the bank and still manage to have tons of fun.
See it on Amazon: WEN 3420 Benchtop Wood Lathe
Mid Range Lathe with an Awesome Look & Features
The PSI Woodworking KWL-1218VS wood lathe was a close second on my list of lathes to purchase. Although I still prefer the JET, this lathe has a great look, a lot of features I wanted and an array of great reviews to back up the hype.
The Turncrafter Commander comes with an option of being manual or variable speed, which as I mentioned before was extremely important to me. At the price point, it’s currently being sold at, it’s a definite steal. Keep in mind that the variable speed version still has two ranges which require you to move the belts between going from one to the other. This makes it slightly less convenient than the full speed range of the JET JWL-1221VS lathe.
See Reviews on Amazon: PSI Woodworking KWL-1218VS Turn Crafter Commander
Some Other Options I’ve Covered in a Separate Post
I’m constantly looking at the market for lathes. You will do that as well after your purchase in order to stay informed about what else is out there. That being said, I wrote several posts where I covered some of the lathes I learned about, their features, the opinions of the general public about them and much more.
Here are said posts, I’d highly encourage you to take a look before making a final decision on your purchase.
Conclusion on Wood Lathes
The bottom line is that we all have different preferences, environments, and constraints when it comes to purchasing a large tool such as a wood lathe. You should spend enough time educating yourself about the different aspects which make a lathe particularly suited for you. It may be size, speed, power or a different set of features. Lastly, you should be realistic about the expectations you set for your tool depending on your budget. Just like anything else in life, a high-end lathe will perform better, last longer and be more pleasurable to work with.
Find the right lathe for your application!