Are you looking for a small wood lathe? We’ll look at four lathes from different manufacturers and compare them in terms of size and weight, motor, features and price.
First off what is a mini lathe? Different people will tell you different things, but for our purposes we’re going to stick with lathes that have less than 12″ of clearance over the bed, less than 18″ center to center and motors smaller than 1 HP. Anything bigger than that we’ll call a midi lathe instead.
The four contenders are the JML 1014i from Jet Tools, the Shop fox W1704, the Rikon 70-100 and the TCL10VS Commander from PSI. These are four of the most popular small wood lathes on the market and they’ve all got a lot going for them. I should say before we start looking at the specs that the right tool and the best tool are not necessarily the same. Depending on your usage you might prefer one of these for different reasons.
First up we’ve tabulated some of the more important specs below. The winner in each category is highlighted in green. Swing listed here is the swing over the bed, the effective swing over the tools rest will be a bit smaller in each case. The review scores are taken from Amazon.com and should be a pretty good reflection of how people like their lathe.
|no||Shop Fox W1704||JET JML 1014i||Rikon 70-100||PSI TCLC10VS|
|Power||1/3 HP||1/2 HP||1/2 HP||3/4 HP|
|Range||700-3200 RPM||500-3975 RPM||430-3900 RPM||500-3800 RPM|
|Weight||45 lbs.||82 lbs.||90 lbs.||89 lbs|
After looking at all the specs and reviews here’s our ranking of each of the lathes.
#1 – The Rikon 70-100
Our choice for best mini wood lathe. The biggest strength of this tool vs. the rest of the category is the extra 2″ of swing over the bed. Two inches might not seem like a lot, but it will go a long way in terms of the flexibility to work on larger pieces. The 70-100 also has the best reviews of the four lathes and is the heaviest. You might not be looking for a heavy tool, but it’s a good indication of quality materials and construction. It also has a 12 positon index head and the Rikon brand name, which carries a good reputation. Click here for the full listing.
#2 – The PSI TCLC10VS Commander
Also a good choice, this lathe from PSI has a great feature set, including a variable speed motor with a display, 24 position index head and worklight. The 3/4 HP motor is the most powerful of the four and it has the longest distance center to center. Didn’t take the number one spot based on the smaller swing and slightly lower review scores than the Rikon. You can read the reviews on Amazon
#3 – The Jet JML 1014i
Jet has a reputation for quality lathes and this one is no different, however you pay a price for the brand. It’s missing some of the features of the other lathes and it’s the most expensive. This is a solid mini lathe that should be very durable. Reviews are generally very good and the 1/2 HP motor should be more than enough power given the small size. You can find more info here.
#4 – The Shop Fox W1704
The 8″ swing and 1/3 HP motor on this lathe will be a limiting factor in what projects it could be useful for. However if you’re interested in pen turning or other small pieces this could be the best value for your money. The shop fox comes in at almost half the price of the other tools on this list and has a great feature set for a cheap wood lathe. The cast iron construction and variable speed control really stand out and will be hard anywhere else to find at this price point. You can read our full review here or see the listing on amazon.