Professional woodturners may spend thousands of dollars on a lathe. But the rest of us, even those who turn fairly often, probably don’t need that much tool. So, we wondered: What kind of lathe can you get for less than $1,000. To find out, we brought in eight models from six manufacturers. Then, an expert turner put them through their paces.
Your top five demands for lathe performance:
- Speed range/ease of changing speeds
- Tool rest/tailstock security
- Headstock-tailstock alignment
Other points to ponder
If turning bowls is among your goals, consider a lathe with a swiveling headstock, as found on six of the eight models tested. This allows you to turn faceplate-mounted objects without constantly leaning over the lathe bed, and allows turning object larger than will fit over the lathe bed. The headstock also slides along the full length of the lathe bed on three of the models.
If space is an issue in your shop, you’ll be interested to find that three models are available with or without a stand. Another tested lathe is very compact. But, none of these models could be considered portable. All are heavily built, and should be considered stationary unless mounted to a rolling base.
You can learn the results of our testing of the Craftsman 21715, Delta 46-715, Grizzly G1067Z, Grizzly G1495, Jet Jwl-1236, Jet JWL-1441, Ridgid WL1200LS, and Teknatool Nova 3000 by picking up a copy of the March 2003 issue of WOOD magazine and turning to page 98.