Professional turning has become more accessible throughout the years. Nowadays, you can watch plenty of tutorials online to learn more about pen and bowl turning.
But more importantly, you can find the best lathe for pen turning and bowl turning without spending a fortune.
By getting the right full-size lathe, you can make your very own hand-made pen and bowl that anyone would love to have as their own. And that's why we're here: to help you pick the ideal lathe.
Top 5 Best Wood Lathe For Pen & Bowl Turning Comparison:
(Best Full Size)
(Best For Bowl Turning)
(Best For Pen Turning)
Our 14 Best Full Size Wood Lathes for Pen Turning & Bowl Turning:
With the right tools, you're guaranteed to make the best pen and bowl that anybody would love to have on their hands.
We've tested thousands of lathes, and concluded that these are the best lathes that any woodworker can wish for in their lifetime.
We have picked the best pen turning lathe, full sized lathe, and the best lathe for bowl turning to ease your job finding the right one.
1. Powermatic 1352001: Best Full Size Wood Lathe
This is the best company for those folks who need a machine that pushes the limit of results.
At first sight, you will notice just how beefy this machine is. The sturdy and durable structure allows this machine to stop unwanted vibration when cutting wood in half, which leads to more accurate results.
One nice thing about this powerful machine is that it has a little tool holder on the side. The tool holder is super convenient if you want to keep all your tools somewhere you can easily find them.
Simple, user-friendly control makes this machine such a great option for those who need a powerful machine to get professional results without spending several hours figuring out how the machine works.
This powerful machine has an easy-to-read digital display to allow the user to have more control over the device and feel more confident using the machine. Because this is a full-size lathe, you have a lot of room to load gigantic woods.
Moreover, this machine's sliding headstock is truly mind-blowing; it allows the user to feel more comfortable turning wood.
This company understands all the risks behind using a wood lathe, and that is why they've included a robust wire safety cage to stop possible flying debris from getting into your eyes.
And finally, to keep things from getting messy, this power tool has a comfortable and useful tailstock storage compartment that you can use to store items you want to keep around at all times.
This Powermatic lathe machine stands out among all other competitors in full size category. There is hardly anything that may bother you about this tool.
2. Laguna Tools MLAREVO 1836: Best Bowl Turning Lathe
Do you need a lathe machine that provides excellent results? The MLAREVO 1836 is the best pen turning lathe that anyone serious about pen turning can buy.
This company sets the new standard for user-friendliness. You don't need unnecessary and challenging ways to change speed. With this lathe machine, you have a nice looking and easy to use control panel that you can use.
Belt adjustment can be difficult, and sometimes it takes a lot of time. However, with this lathe machine, you can easily adjust the belt using the adjustment handle.
The best thing about this machine is the accurate results that it can achieve. This machine's high-quality steel bed makes sliding the headstock incredibly easy, which leads to excellent results.
This machine's speed range is truly on another level; it has two ratios that you can adjust. You can set the ratio to go from 0 to 1,500, and if you want to reach that sweet 3,500 RPM, all you need to do is adjust the belt.
Because this is a bulky machine, you don't have to worry about vibration suddenly ruining your precision when turning wood.
When it comes to durability, no other machine can't beat this robust lathe. The steel design allows it to hold up pretty well over time.
Underneath the machine, you have a lot of space if you want to fit a shelf in two different places. So, if you're going to store logs underneath the machine, this is a perfect choice for you.
With all those features, we believe this is the perfect lathe if you want a robust, consistent, and durable machine. You really can't go wrong with this lathe from Laguna.
Whether you are a professional or just starting out, this Laguna will serve you perfectly for bowl turning. Its unique design and digital display sets it apart from it competitors by miles.
3. JET JWL-1440VSK Bowl Turning Lathe
If you want to stand out from the competition, you need the right tools. Rest assured! This company has all the tools to take you from a newbie to a professional.
This model from JET is a dream come true for many woodworkers. But why is it? It significantly reduces vibration through its robust and bulky design — so no need to worry about vibration when turning wood.
Underneath the machine, you have plenty of room. You also have a few brackets, which make installing a shelf super easy for anybody.
If you need this machine primarily for bowl turning, you will be amazed at the results. It comes with a faceplate to make wood turning easier. And, you won't have to go out of your way to get a faceplate.
This lathe machine is made of cast iron, which makes the machine pretty rigid. Due to its durable, the lathe can get through those never-ending days at work.
Furthermore, this model might look a little bit intimidating for the average user, but anybody can get used to it in just a matter of minutes. If that appeals to you, you'll be pretty satisfied with this lathe.
Turning the pivot is also relatively easy. All you need to do is unscrew the locking collar and then pull it out to twist the newly designed headstock. Changing the RPM is surprisingly comfortable. The machine has a handle that you can move to the RPM you want, and you're good to go.
Another great benefit you get from this machine is that the tailstock handwheel has a spinner knob that you can use to make changes a lot easier.
If the high price of Laguna Tools lathe makes you down, this JET product can be a savior. It provides almost similar performance but saves a thousand bucks.
4. WMH Tool Group JWL-1221VS Full Size Wood Lathe
The JWL-1221VS is the one of the best full-size wood lathe you can buy in the market for woodturning. It has everything you need from a high quality wood lathe. When it comes to precision and quality, you really can't beat this company.
Furthermore, the first thing you will notice right away about this machine is the forward and the reverse setting. The reverse option is super useful as sometimes you might deal with tapping and threading, which the reverse option makes it more accessible.
One thing we like about this machine is how quiet it is. We've dealt with professional wood lathes before, and some of them can be stupidly loud, which is annoying to deal with as a woodworker.
This model, on the other hand, is pretty quiet. However, as the RPM goes up, the sound will increase, but it is relatively quiet compared to other options.
After testing thousands of wood lathes, we've noticed how common it is for a machine to hammer at full speed when you turn them on. On the other hand, this machine doesn't go at full pace as soon as you turn it o. It picks up speed slowly, making it a nice feature.
Keeping your working area organized is a must if you want to optimize your time. This lathe has two comfortable and reliable tool racks, which you can find at the end of the lathe.
You don't need an engineering degree to operate this machine. The design is pretty simple for anyone to handle. For example, the tailstock is easy to use; you have a lever in the back, which you can use to lock the lathe.
The lathe bed is also no joke and it is wide enough to give you a comfortable and firm grip while using the tailstock.
5. Delta FBA_46-460: Best Pen Turning Lathe
This lathe machine is what you need to accomplish exceptional results for woodturning.
You will notice that you get many tools with this lathe. First, we got the plate wrench, a three-millimeter Allen wrench, a knockout bar, and many more useful tools. This machine's design is pretty straightforward, and you don't need an extra tutorial to figure things out.
The machine does not feel uncomfortable, nor does it feel too heavy. Both the tailstock and the crank feel pretty smooth, which leads to more accurate results at the end of the day.
Moving onto the machine's belt, you will notice that you have three settings for the belt. The first setting allows you to reach 250 and 750 RPM, the other setting lets you go from 600 to 1,800 RPM, and the third option can go from 1,350 to 4,000 RPM.
To adjust the belt is pretty simple; you can adjust the belt by moving the variable speed knob, which you can find on the back. Another thing we love about this machine is how quiet it is; no loud sounds. It just gets the job done without disturbing the whole neighborhood.
One noticeable feature of this machine is the spindle locking system; it allows you to lock the spindle in place with about 24 different locking positions. The different locking positions are quite useful for completing various woodworking projects.
If you ever want to put it back in reverse, this lathe has a button that allows you to use the reverse option. And you can also set it to forward if you need to do so.
If the sole purpose of purchasing a lathe is turning pen, the this Delta lathe is perfect for you.
6. Shop Fox W1704 Full Size Wood Lathe
The company behind this mighty unit has been in the market for a long time, and they prioritize quality over quantity, and it shows on all their products.
We've reviewed high-speed wood lathes before, and this one lives up to our high standards. It's variable speed ranges from 700 RPM up to 3,200 RPM.
This model's distinguishable feature is the 14 inches between centers and the 8.5-inch swing over the bed; it is one of the most enjoyable lathe machines you can get for woodturning.
Moreover, the model is made of heavy cast iron. This material is excellent as it holds up pretty well as time goes by. We're pretty happy about this machine because both the tailstock and the headstock are in alignment.
Having to stop the motor and then adjust the belt just to increase the rotational speed is super inconvenient. On the other hand, with this model, you have a modern and electronic variable speed control, which you can use to change the speed as much as needed.
Compared to other wood lathes out there, this model runs quietly, which we always look for when buying a lathe machine. And to top it off, it does not experience any vibration when running at full speed.
Another excellent feature of this machine is that it comes with a faceplate. The faceplate comes in handy if you want to get into bowl turning and need to remove the tailstock.
And finally, we love the fact that this model slowly picks up speed, and it just does not go at full pace as soon as you turn it on.
7. WEN 3420T: Best Mini Lathe For Pen Turning
Do you want to impress your family with your pen turning skills but don't have the right tools to do so? Then you will love this model from WEN.
When you first get this lathe out of the box, you will notice how smooth and stable it feels. This lathe does not use cheap materials and does not feel like a low-end machine.
On top of the comfort the lathe provides, you can change the RPM from 750 to 3,200 RPM, and when changing the speed, the machine won't go at top speed right away. It will slowly increase the speed until it reaches the desired RPM.
Adjusting a lathe machine has never been this easy. With an excellent and adjustable system, you can make adjustments to the tool rest and the tailstock. By doing this, you will get more accurate results.
Loud noises can stop you from getting things done. On the other hand, this machine is pretty quiet even when reaching high RPMs, which is super convenient to have if you get annoyed by loud noises.
With this lathe, you get many accessories that you can use for this machine right out of the box, including a high-quality tool rest, a faceplate, and much more that you can find inside the box.
This model is an excellent choice for you if you want to use different accessories. Both the tailstock and the spindle allow you to use additional accessories.
And finally, we believe that this is an excellent choice if you're getting into woodturning. It has just about everything that you can expect from a high quality wood lathe to get the job done.
This was in fact our first choice in pen turning lathe category. Only thing that shifted it to second position is its tool rest position. If you can bear with that, we prefer WEN 3420T over Delta tool. You'll save around a hundred bucks here.
8. Grizzly G0462 Lathe for Bowl Turning
To push the limits, you need the outstanding performance of a lathe machine, and that is why the Grizzly G0462 is one of the best lathe for bowl turning that any woodworker needs for bowl turning.
If you want to step your wood turning game, this is the perfect machine to get started. The 16-inch swing over the bed and the 46 inches between centers allow you to load gigantic woods inside the machine.
This machine's outstanding horsepower will blow your mind; it has a variable speed settings that allows you to reach 600 to 2,400 RPMs, which is ideal for bowl turning.
One noticeable thing about this lathe machine is that you can rotate the headstock 60, 90, 120, and 180 degrees; this allows you to have more control over the lathe machine, and outboard turning is a lot easier.
We've ruined beautiful wood projects because of some poorly-made lathe machines that couldn't handle vibration. On the other hand, you have this machine from Grizzly, which has sturdy legs to prevent vibration and provide excellent stability.
With the included readout of this machine, you won't feel like you don't know what's going on.
The results we have achieved using this wood lathe have exceeded our expectations, and it's all due to the smooth experience this lathe has to offer.
Another nice thing about this machine is how easy it is to operate. We had someone who had little to no experience turning wood to understand the basics in no time. And with a little bit of guidance, they managed to achieve great results.
The most noticeable benefit of having such a bulky wood lathe for bowl turning is that you can turn big bowls and get excellent results.
9. Nova 71118 Wood Lathe
There is nothing like a good lathe that allows you to achieve stunning results. If that's what you're after, you will love this well-built lathe.
The most exciting thing about this lathe is length; it is perfect for beginners who are just getting into woodturning. And the swing over the bed is about 12 inches, and the distance between centers is approximately 16.5 inches.
If needed, you can expend the length to 42 inches, but only if you get the extra extension bed feature.
You get variable speed ranges with this machine. For example, you can set the speed to 250 all the way up to 4,000 RPM. And you have both a forward and reverse option.
The best thing about this machine is how easy it is to set up once you get it out of the box. You don't have to spend hours assembling the machine, which helps a lot if you're short on time.
You get a lot of tools with this machine. For example, you get a wrench, which you will need to set up the faceplate, a knockout bar, a drive spur, and a high-quality live center. In short: you will get everything you need.
We always appreciate that fact when companies add a digital display to their wood lathes. Without one, the job gets unnecessary tricky, which is why we chose this machine. The digital display allows you to set the right speed to get the job done.
Some lathe machines make it hard for the average user to get to the belt. However, with this wood lathe, you have a lot of space inside the belt, making it easier to adjust it.
10. Shop Fox W1758 Pen Turning Lathe
Anybody likes a high-quality lathe machine that can bring your ideas to life — that is precisely what this wood lathe has to offer.
It's pretty hard to find a better deal than this lathe machine. It has all the features that anybody needs to get into both bowl and pen turning.
Not many wood lathes hold a candle to this one. Its simple yet powerful design allows this machine to be one of the best options for those that need a highly functional lathe for their work environment.
This model's study legs are made of cast iron; this leads to more stability and significantly reduces vibration when dealing with wood.
As for this machine's speed, you can either set the RPM to 600 all the way up to 2,400 RPM — so no need to worry about the lathe feeling a little bit slow.
One impressive feature of this wood lathe is the tool rest extension. You can use the tool rest to make outboard turning less tedious.
Consumers from all over the world have been pretty happy with the machine's design. For instance, both the handwheel and the bed of this model proved to be quite comfortable.
The clamping system of this machine is top-notch and allows you to secure the machine — so you won't experience any inconvenience while turning wood.
And to make your job easier, this machine features an elegant digital readout system on the top of the device. This way, you will know what RPM you're getting when turning wood.
When it comes to making adjustments, this machine goes to show just what it is capable of achieving. You can adjust the positive locking tool rest, the speed, and much more.
Best Full-Size Wood Lathe Buying Guide
Here are the determining factors that we have considered when selecting the top wood lathes.
Type of Lathes (according to size)
These days, there are mainly three options: mini lathe, midi lathe, and full-size wood lathe machine. They are appropriate for different jobs, and they all come with pros and cons.
Mini and Midi Lathes have some properties in common. They both have a transportable size and are portable. The mini lathes are smaller in size and possess smaller motors than the Midi lathes. These two deliver lesser power than the full-size lathe.
Apart from mobility as an advantage, the mini lathe is efficient for pen turnings and miniatures but can’t handle big items. The midi lathe is very applicable for spindles needed in furniture works; it is also perfect for medium bowls.
While, mobility is not easy, the full-size wood lathe is appropriate for the workshop and can handle any turning task. This big lathe delivers all job functions.
Strength of Base
This factor cannot be overstated. A lathe’s bed is meant to a solid foundation; it is the horizontal beam found at every wood lathe’s base.
It is like the spine that holds everything, and cast iron is mostly the material for it. It must be strong enough to withstand the weight of other parts and the wooden objects being worked on.
It must also be heavy enough to absorb vibrations generated by the spinning motor. A weak base doesn’t only make the job harder; it turns the working environment into a threat against safety. Always remember, heavier cast iron base is better.
The maximum length and swing capacity are the most important measures to consider. The two centers’ full distance determines the span of the workpiece that a lathe can contain. The maximum diameter a lathe can turn depends on the swing. These two factors are primary forces to reckon with.
If you usually work with small parameters, a mini lathe is excellent, and it even allows you to sit while working. When workpieces are relatively bigger, some midi lathes even make room for adjustable beds that can be extended. When you own a workshop and do various jobs with different sizes, you just have to get the full-size machine.
The lathe height is also another factor to consider; you would want the spindle to be around your elbow level. If the spindle is higher, the alignment of the job becomes difficult. If it is too low, you’ll get backache from operating the lathe.
Specifications of the Motor
This can be a bit more technical but definitely a necessary factor to consider. The motor engine’s capacity is rated in Horsepower (HP), and it defines how much work the engine can do. The range is usually between 1/8 HP and 3 HP. As expected, larger capacities will do more massive jobs.
The speed of turning is control by the motor. Having better control over speed is a big plus, a lot of lathes have powers between 400RPM and 3000RPM or even more.
Headstock and Tailstock
Structurally, every wood lathe has a easy locking headstock and also a tailstock. The headstock has a threaded spindle to accommodate various accessories, mostly the chucks in different sizes.
It is essential to make sure the threads are standard that is still useful even if you upgrade your lathe. The tailstock is a movable part, a casting that can slide horizontally to accommodate the workpiece. It is a rotating component with an internal taper holding to the dead center, and it allows taper shank tools.
The tailstock must always be securely locked at any point along the bed; its alignment must not be compromised. Both the headstock and tailstock get the turning done regarding the workpiece. Make sure your lather comes with Morse tapers for both the headstock and the tailstock. The Morse tapers make your setup very versatile so that you won’t be forced to always work with the manufacturer’s settings. You will be able to choose new centers, tweak alignment to your taste, and use a broad range of required tools.
This factor sounds fundamental and not technical but don’t be deceived; it is equally important. The tool rest offers the support your workpiece will need; this is crucial when you turn. The tool rest should be able to provide vertical changes the operator needs, but most importantly, it must be locked to a fixed position when set to work.
They are typically made of cast iron to reduce vibration, mostly around 10 inches long. If the tool rest is too loose, it is very dangerous. The significant points here are simple: tool rest should be adjustable and must maintain position while absorbing vibrations.
The power Control Switch
From experience, I know a lot of people are not really bothered about this factor. That doesn’t make it less critical. The switch must be easily assessable, don’t underestimate the importance of that. The ease of turning the lathe on and off is undoubtedly a deal maker. I am sure you don’t want to spend half of the time and energy on operating the power switch.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the best wood lathes?
According to our research, these 5 products stand out among thousands of other choices-
- Powermatic 1352001
- Laguna Tools MLAREVO 1836
- JET JWL-1440VSK
- WMH Tool Group JWL-1221VS
- Delta FBA_46-460 Lathe
What size wood lathe should I get?
When it comes to the size you need, we recommend going with the most flexible size option available at your budget.
This means you should get a lathe that can process small wood pieces to larger ones without any hassle.
If you are getting the machine only to do jobs like pen turning or bowl turning, then we recommend going with the non-flexible budget lathes that can serve your purpose. In that way, you don't spend additional money for flexibility.
What is a good beginner wood lathe?
JET JWL-1440VSK model in our best wood lathe reviews is a perfect shot for the beginners who are serious about woodturning.
This provides great control which is a must for beginners and can do things that a professional machine offers at a much higher price point. So, a balanced machine.
Are grizzly wood lathes any good?
Grizzly Industrial is a prominent brand and our guide features two models from this company. So, you can easily guess the quality they provide.
However, we don't recommend going after the brand names as things may not always come good from big companies. That's why reviewers like us come into play.
Read honest reviews and make your mind.
What is the easiest wood to turn?
Soft woods are easy to turn. You can start with Maple or poplar in case you are getting it hard with other woods.
Soft woods are easier to turn but they tend to go bad faster than those that require a little more effort in turning.
Is pine good for woodturning?
This is great for beginners. The pinewood is soft and thus, pretty easy to shape. For the people starting out turning, pinewood is a savior.
Is wood turning difficult?
It may feel difficult for beginners. Beginners get it difficult to turn the wood into the correct shape. Plus, if you choose hardwood for turning at the beginning, it may feel like rocket science.
In short, woodturning may feel difficult for absolute beginners but with a few days of practice, a person should get hang of enough of it to start enjoying the turning projects.
Are lathes dangerous?
Incorrect use of wood lathes can take life. Yes, you read it right. However, the risk is so minimal compared to the other power tools like saws.
As the wood lathe remains in motion when you are working with it, any wrong move can make the machine throw the wood towards you at a significant pace. Broken pieces can fly off as well. And a strong reminder, don't wear loose clothing when you work on wood lathes or any other machines with a powerful motor.
What is needed for pen turning?
Here are the tools that you will need to do pen turning-
- Pen turning lathe
- Pen mandrel
- Pen press, and
- Tube inserting tool
Did you have fun going through our list of the best lathes for pen turning? We hope you finally managed to find the lathe you need for both pen-turning and bowl turning.
Sometimes you might feel overwhelmed doing research just to find a lathe. But if you don't do enough research, you will end up picking a cheap knock-off that barely does anything.
So, to avoid getting ripped off, we suggest taking enough time to pick up the right one rather than getting the first lathe you see.