best mini wood lathe

Evaluating 8 Mini Wood Lathes: Small Size, Big Woodworking Impact

After putting 8 mini wood lathes to the test, I’ve found that the RIKON Mini Wood Lathe is the best option for beginner and intermediate users.

My choice was rooted in my professional woodworking background, where I learned my trade, practiced on-site construction, and built countless outdoor structures using lathes, drills, kumiko jigs, and much more.

So, why the RIKON? 

Its advantages boil down to a small but convincing list, including a fast and powerful motor, adjustable speed, and a rock-solid design.

But, the story doesn’t end there! 

For price, ease of use, or an extra-small build, I have some other options to recommend.

Read the rest of the guide for my top 8 choices, where I also give a handy guide for picking the best lathe for your workshop.

Mini Wood Lathes – Summary Table

Product ImageProduct NameSimpleWood
Working
Rating
What I likedWhat I did not likeLink
RIKON Mini Wood LatheRIKON Mini Wood LatheBest Overall– Powerful motor
– Secure build
– Variable speed
– N/ACheck Price Here
WEN 3421 Mini Benchtop Wood LatheWEN 3421 Mini Benchtop Wood LatheBest for Ease of Use– Intuitive assembly 
– Basic feature set
– Smooth learning curve
– Motor heats quickly 
– Limited project size
Check Price Here
UOKRR Mini Wood Lathe MachineUOKRR Mini Wood Lathe MachineMost Secure Design– Material sturdiness
– Tool rests
– Compact design
– Power inefficiencyCheck Price Here
Excelsior 5-Speed Mini LatheExcelsior 5-Speed Mini LatheBest for Accessory Choices– Compatible accessories
– Lightweigh
– Speed settings
– Weaker motor
– Lack of durability
Check Price Here
JET JWL-1015VSJET JWL-1015VSBest for Speed Control– 3 speed ranges
– Easy tool access
– High accuracy
– Lacks reverse mechanism
– Unstable motor
Check Price Here
PROXXON MICRO Woodturning LathePROXXON MICRO Woodturning LatheMost Compact Build– Size, Ideal for small designs
– Low volume
– Unsecure tailstock
– Poor tool rest
Check Price Here
SHOP FOX W1704SHOP FOX W1704Most Affordable– Price
– Quality parts
– Simple design
– Loose tool rest screwsCheck Price Here
VEVOR Benchtop Wood LatheVEVOR Benchtop Wood LatheBest for Motor Power– High power
– Professional accessories
– Wide workbench
– Poor tool rest durabilityCheck Price Here

8 Best Mini Wood Lathes

If you’re still choosing a mini wood lathe and stuck in a rut, check out my list of the 8 best lathes, beginning with my favorite:

1. RIKON Mini Wood Lathe – Best Overall

RIKON Power Tools 70-105 10' x 18' 1/2 hp Mini Lathe

Targeted at both casual and experienced woodworking users, the RIKON Mini Wood Lathe has a few key advantages that secured its spot at the top of my list:

  • Powerful motor. Built with a 0.5 HP motor, the RIKON wood lathe has enough power to make it a strong choice for more intensive woodworking goals, like turning furniture.
  • Secure build. The lathe has a highly sturdy design made from cast iron, so it will prevent vibration (a factor notorious for leading to inaccurate turning, which in the past has ruined more than a few of my pen projects!)
  • Variable speed. With five adjustable speed settings, the machine can be manually customized to work with different projects, giving it a flexibility that’s indispensable for woodworkers who like to branch out.

2. WEN 3421 Mini Benchtop Wood Lathe – Best for Ease of Use

WEN Mini Benchtop Wood Lathe, 8-Inch by 13-Inch with Variable Speed (LA3421)

Ease of use and assembly is a critical component of a decent beginner wood lathe, and the WEN 3421 Mini Benchtop seems practical tailor-made for that purpose:

  • Intuitive assembly. Due to its straightforward design and helpful instructions, the WEN mini lathe is very easy to put together, which will keep beginners from quitting on account of a high entry barrier.
  • Basic feature set. The machine disregards fancy bells and whistles, instead focusing on quality core parts, making it ideal for those still getting a hang of the basics.
  • Smooth learning curve. While I was already plenty experienced in wood lathes, I couldn’t help but think while using this one that it would be a breeze for a beginner to learn!

As I’ve come to expect, there were also some downsides:

For one, the motor heats up extremely quickly. This led to me having to regularly take breaks to give it a chance to cool off, impeding my workflow and speed.

Plus, even for mini machines, the WEN is fairly limited in project size. Pens or cups are no problem, of course, but once I started moving on to bigger pieces like furniture, the limitations became starkly apparent.

3. UOKRR Mini Wood Lathe Machine – Most Secure Design

UOKRR Mini Wood Lathe Machine for Woodworking 1/3 Horsepower Benchtop Wood Lathe 8” x 12” Wood Turning Lathe Infinitely Variable Speed 750-3200rpm for Beginners/Professionals to Make Pens, Bowls, Cups

A stable and securely-assembled mini lathe is crucial both for safety and functionality, and the UOKRR Mini Wood Lathe shines in that area:

  • Material sturdiness. Made with cast iron parts, I was enormously impressed with the complete vibration-less stability of the lathe, which eliminated precision concerns.
  • Tool rests. The UOKRR includes two tool rests, increasing guidance and stability for the spindle and improving overall accuracy.
  • Compact design. Weighing in at a light 44 lbs, the machine is small even for mini lathes; an excellent quality if portability is a top priority for you.

My chief complaint while using the lathe was power inefficiency. The tool quickly ran out of juice even on low-intensity projects, which ended up making some builds very difficult to work with productively.

4. Excelsior 5-Speed Mini Lathe – Best for Accessory Choices

Excelsior 5-Speed Mini Lathe - Cast Iron Mini Wood Lathe Turn Bowls 10” & Spindles 17-3/4' in – Mini Lathe Machine for Wood for Chair Legs, Small Table Legs, & Decorative Woodturning - Turning Machine

Miniature wood lathes rarely include everything they need to operate at optimal conditions.

The Excelsior 5-Speed Mini Lathe addresses that problem by focusing on compatibility and extensibility:

  • Compatible accessories. The Excelsior easily works with helpful additional tools like an extension bed, talon chuck, and duplicator attachments. This makes it a particularly appealing option from the viewpoint of customization and adjustability.
  • Lightweight. Since the machine is compact and light, it can easily be integrated into a multi-tool woodworking workflow without taking up too much physical space.
  • Speed settings. Testing the 5 built-in speed settings, I was satisfied with the ability to adjust work speed, as that’s a crucial element for turning different types of wood objects.

Major weak points for me were the weaker motor and lack of durability (causing some minor parts to occasionally detach.)

Both problems sort of “ganged up” on me and froze work progress while I either had to wait for the motor to cool off, reattach a loose screw, or both.

5. JET JWL-1015VS – Best for Speed Control

JET 10' x 15' Variable-Speed Woodworking Lathe, 1/2 HP, 1Ph 115V (Model JWL-1015VS)

A smooth, effective, and easy-to-use variable speed mechanism is critical for a quality mini lathe. 

The JET JWL-1015VS incorporates that mechanism, along with other perks, through its features:

  • 3 speed ranges. Rather than having 5 static settings like other lathes on this list, the JET instead provides 3 ranges, with a dial to fine tune the exact speed within those ranges; I was glad to see this gave me much more control over speed and workflow.
  • Easy tool access. Both the power switch and the speed dial are conveniently located within reach right on the side of the machine, aiding in both ease of use and safety.
  • High accuracy. This lathe is precise and exact, making the final product look more professional and well-crafted.

While working, there were several points where I would have liked a reverse mechanism, which the JET neglects. 

The motor was also a bit unstable, and there were a couple of times where I had to power the machine down and turn it back on to get the motor running properly.

6. PROXXON MICRO Woodturning Lathe – Most Compact Build

PROXXON MICRO Woodturning Lathe DB 250, 37020 , Green

For those with limited workspace or who need a portable lathe machine, the PROXXON MICRO Woodturning Lathe is a good bet:

  • Size. Due to its ultra-lightweight design (weighing in at 5.74 lbs), the PROXXON is more or less unmatchable when it comes to portability and storage freedom.
  • Ideal for small designs. The micro-sized build is perfect for smaller, more intricate designs like pens and rings. I used it to make a ring during testing, and the quality was certainly on the higher end.
  • Low volume. An often-overlooked but very pleasant feature in lathes: The machine is quiet! Even at maximum speed, the motor doesn’t make much noise, which is good news for woodworkers with neighbors or who like to work at night.

I wasn’t so enthusiastic about the PROXXON’s unsecure tailstock, which constantly shook and bounced while I was using the lathe. 

Additionally, I didn’t much care for tool rest. The screws for the rest stripped after a few uses, so replacement was a minor headache I had to deal with.

7. SHOP FOX W1704 – Most Affordable 

SHOP FOX W1704 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe

Though we all wish budget wasn’t a factor in choosing a lathe, it unfortunately always seems to manage to creep up on us!

Luckily, the SHOP FOX W1704 provides a much-appreciated and affordable pick:

  • Price. The SHOP FOX is on the lower end of the mini lathe price ranging, providing a high-value pick for woodworkers with smaller budgets.
  • Quality parts. Despite its inexpensive nature, the machine includes strong and durable tools, making factors like wear and tear or motor failure much less likely. After repeated use I didn’t notice any signs of damage or wearing out.
  • Simple design. Using a basic, intuitive, and easy-to-learn machine design, the lathe is unlikely to turn off beginners or casual users who are just getting started.

On a less pleasant note, during my testing the locking plate used to secure the tool rest suffered from loose screws. 

While not a huge deal, this ended up being an irritant, as I had to regularly tighten the screw to keep the tool rest securely attached.

8. VEVOR Benchtop Wood Lathe – Best for Motor Power

VEVOR Benchtop Wood Lathe, 10 in x 18 in, 0.5 HP 370W Power Wood Turning Lathe Machine, 5 Variable Speeds 780/1320/1920/2640/3840 RPM with Rod Injection Wrenches Faceplate Foot Pads, for Woodworking

Power is an overriding consideration when comparing mini wood lathes, so the VEVOR Benchtop Wood Lathe heavily emphasizes this factor:

  • High power. Capable of a maximum motor power of 3,200 RPM, the VEVOR is well-suited for higher intensity wood turning, like in the case of turning furniture parts. 
  • Professional accessories. The lathe includes components such as wrenches, foot pads, and a faceplate. These accessories increase functionality and make the machine suitable for professional projects.
  • Wide workbench. Consisting largely of an 18-inch workbench, I found the lathe to be a satisfying fit for sizable, resource-heavy wood turning projects.

A negative I noticed (that sort of put a damper on my experience) was the tool rest, which wasn’t particularly durable and came loose from the machine after only a handful of uses. 

I was able to reattach the tool rest, but the experience didn’t bode well for the material integrity of the other parts. 

Our Buying Guide for Mini Wood Lathes

For the most part, selecting the best mini wood lathe comes down to two questions: What features are you looking for, and what sort of use case will you have for your lathe?

Let’s explore each question more comprehensively:

Mini Wood Lathe

Top Features for Miniature Wood Lathes

While there’s a huge range of benefits offered by different lathes, in my decades of experience I’ve figured out 3 main features to compare:

  • Power. Most mini lathes fall into a pretty narrow motor range, ranging from 0.5 horsepower to 1.3. For more intensive projects, I’d stress that higher-power machines are crucial. 
  • Cost. Some lathes are significantly more affordable than others, but, as you can imagine, there’s usually a feature and quality tradeoff. Your project budget will help you weigh how high you should rank price on your list.
  • Portability. One of the main benefits of all miniature lathes is portability, but some are even more compact and portable than others. If you maintain multiple workshops or frequently move your tools, this feature becomes an essential priority.

Who Makes the Best Small Lathe?

My testing led me to the strong conclusion that RIKON Power Tools makes the overall best small lathe.

The mix of stability, power, and adjustability give the manufacturer’s lathe a compelling case.

On the other hand, if we’re talking about super small (i.e., “micro”) lathes, then PROXXON is at the top of my list. The company’s tool is just about as small as you can get without making major quality sacrifices.

Most Common Uses

Picking a mini wood lathe becomes much easier when you know your specific use case. Let’s briefly talk about the main small lathe uses, and some alternative tool options:

What Can a Mini Lathe Do?

Since the main function of a mini lathe (shaping wood by using a spin mechanism) is quite broad, there are many use cases for one. 

You might use a small wood lathe to turn bowls, vases, table legs, holiday ornaments, or bracelets, to give just a small list.

How about an example?

Five years ago, I used a miniature lathe to turn a pair of custom, wooden salt and pepper shakers. The results were impressive, and my family still uses the shakers to this day!

What Can I Use Instead of a Lathe?

Maybe you don’t have a lathe, but your shop is full of other woodworking tools and machines.  

Can you use one of those instead?

While you won’t get the same quality of results as a dedicated lathe machine, a drill press can actually make for an effective vertical lathe in a low-budget or DIY project. 

Doing this requires some modifications, however. 

You’ll need to fix a spindle to the press, which can be done using a threaded rod. I’ve tried this process myself, and while I was pleasantly surprised with the results, I’d still prefer a real lathe machine for the large majority of projects.

Conclusion

For a miniature wood lathe, your best bet is the RIKON Mini Wood Lathe. 

The machine has a lot to offer to hobbyists and beginners, with a special emphasis on its motor power, sturdy and secure construction, and five speed settings.

To see if the RIKON is best for your wood shop, check out the tool’s store page and compare it to other options on your list!

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

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