About 2 years ago I bought a Jet JWL-1014 mini lathe because I found a good deal on Craigslist (famous last words). What does everybody say about buying only the tools you need? Yes, it’s true. You should only buy a tool when you need it to do a project. The problem I ran into is that I bought a small lathe because it was a good deal, but now I’m looking at projects that require turning long spindles. I thought if I wanted to, I could always add a bed extension. Wrong! It turns out that since the JWL-1014 is an old model, the bed extension is no longer available. Anywhere! I figured out that instead of buying a bed extension kit, you can still buy the parts individually. Problem solved, right? Wrong, again. It turns out that when they originally manufactured the JWL-1014 they didn’t make it with the ability to easily add an extension. And sure enough, I bought one of the older models for which the parts to retrofit it are really no longer available. Time for a new lathe.
I follow tools, like a vulture follows dying animals so I already had a good idea what brands to look at and what features to look for. Below is chart that outlines my “research” with the most import details about features (and how much it’s going to hurt your wallet). This chart only has what I consider to be entry level lathes that require bed extensions to turn long spindles. No Oneways, Powermatics, or other huge machines.
So which one is the best? It really depends on what features are important to you. Here’s a summary of every lathe listed above.
The RIKON 70-100 looks like a great all-around lathe with everything you need, but not a lot of extra features. With a ½ HP motor, 6-speed pulley system, 12″ swing over the bed and 16″ between centers bumped up to 40″ with the added RIKON 70-900 Bed Extension, you can turn just about anything you need. Rikon has been producing lathes for a long time with most woodworkers heaping praise, so you should be able to buy without worries.
Another great option from Rikon is the new 70-105 model lathe. This lathe is just like it’s brother with a different 6-speed range, 10″ swing over the bed, 18″ between centers that goes up to 39 ½” with the 70-906 bed extension you can still turn a wide variety of projects at a fraction of the cost. This probably isn’t the best option for bowl turners. Total price with the bed extension out the door is $400 at the time of this post which is a great deal for anyone wanting to dip their toes into wood turning.
No mini lathe review would be complete without a Jet, the company that started the mini lathe craze. The Jet JWL-1015 lathe is the model that replaced the JWL-1014 which I currently have. Jet is know for quality especially when it comes to lathes. With that comes a price ($480 at the time of this review). The specs on this are similar to the Rikon 70-700, with a little less swing over bed at 10″ and less distance between centers at 15 ½” up to 36 ½” with a bed extension. There is also a variable speed version of this same model that costs $100 more.
Nova Comet II
The NOVA Comet II is a mini lathe with a lot of bells and whistles. The motor is bumped up to ¾ HP, variable speed motor and has a reverse switch. Depending on where you buy this, it sometimes comes with a Nova G3 chuck (if you’re into that sort of thing). The swing over bed is 12″, with 16 ½” between centers and 40″ with the added extension. With the Nova Versaturn Coupler you can also add a tool grinder to the outside end of the headstock.
Of all the smaller lathes, the Delta 46-460 boasts the best specs with a 1 HP motor, variable speed, and a reverse switch. It has 12 ½” swing over bed with 16 ½” between centers and 42″ when you add the Delta bed extension. This lathe was rated by Fine Woodworking “Best Overall” in 2012 for a reason.
Rikon 70-220VSR vs. Jet JWL-1221VS
The last two lathes are what I would call a midi lathe, although the Delta 46-460 also claims to be a midi lathe. The JET JWL-1221VS and the RIKON 70-220VSR both have 1 HP motors with variable speed. If you really want to crank down the speed the Jet takes the cake at a miniscule 60 RPM’s. That’s 1 rotation per second for those of you who can’t do math. The Rikon and Jet both have 12 ½” swing over the bed, but the Jet had the slight edge for distance between centers at 20 ½” compared to the Rikon model at 20″. When you add a bed extension the advantage tilts to Rikon with 44″ between centers versus the Jet at 43″. These differences are minor so it’s more a matter of budget or brand preference as far as I’m concerned.
Like I said before, which one is best for you really depends on what you’re looking for in a lathe. That’s why it’s important that you buy with a specific project in mind. All of these lathes should hold their value pretty well if you think you might want to upgrade later.
Find out which lathe I chose and why. I’ll be doing a full review later.