If you’re looking for a good beginner lathe or just interested in working on pen turning or other small projects the Shop Fox W1704 could be a good choice. The W1704 is designed to sit on top of a bench or table top.
This Shop Fox lathe features a variable speed motor capable of turning at a rate of 700-3200 rpm at 1/3 of a horsepower. Changing speeds without having to swap out any belts is a very convenient feature and is a real pro on an inexpensive lathe like this.
The body of this lathe is all cast iron, which is not the case for some tools in this price range. The weight comes in around 45 pounds which is enough to give this lathe a solid feel. Alignment is good out of the box and should stay that way without any adjustment. With 12 inches between centers and 8 inches of swing over the bed you have more than enough space for pen turning, as well as bowl turning or any other small piece.
Standout features: Wallet friendly price, Infinitely variable motor speed, cast iron construction.
Limitations: Small size mean it’s not suitable for larger projects, No Handwheel.
Comes with a MT #1 spur center, and MT #1 live center. This is a standard size and other attachments are readily available. Also comes with 4.25 inch and 7 inch tool rests and a 3/4 inch 16 TPI RH spindle.
What other people are saying:
If you’re looking to get started with pen-making or other small turning and you’re on a budget, this lathe is certainly one to consider. It has better bones than many comparable midi lathes and a better price to boot. My lathe arrived well packaged and in perfect working order. There were no adjustments needed. I just attached the handles and was ready to go. It does have that short delay when I turn it on like someone else mentioned.
I think it is very similar to some of the other small lathes, but I also think it is finished much nicer than most (the threads for a chuck at the headstock are very nicely finished…
All in all this is a dependable lathe that strikes a good balance between quality, features and price. While it’s inexpensive the materials and workmanship do not have a cheap feel. MSRP is 245$, which is a good price, but it can be had for less. It’s available at Amazon.com with free shipping for less than the list price if you prefer to buy online.