Best Midi Lathe – Full Guide on Choosing the Right One

Midi lathes are a popular option for woodturners because they have tons of power but don’t take as much space as a traditional wood lathe. It’s larger than the best mini wood lathes and offers the best of both worlds for its compact nature and power.

The best midi wood lathe is compact and features a 12 or 14-inch bed swing. It also has reliable horsepower, torque, and speed, so the projects and capabilities aren’t limited.

However, it’s important to do some testing to find the right wood lathe, and most people don’t have the funds to buy tons of wood lathes to determine the best one.

Therefore, you need a guide to share the top picks and outline what stands out for each one. This includes material ratings, RPM range, HP, swing overbed, and voltage. That way, you know what you’re looking at when it comes to wood lathes.

The midi lathes were chosen based on previous research from others and quality. From checking what customers say and determining the specs to understand the product, these details make a difference.

Here are the best midi wood lathe reviews out there to give you an overview of the choices. That way, you can handle your small projects with ease without taking much floor space for your power tool.

Best Midi Wood Lathes Available

JET JWL 1221vs Variable Speed Midi Wood Lathe

The JET JWL 1221vs Variable Speed Midi Lathe is the overall best choice and the top pick when it comes to benchtop wood lathes. This is a 12-inch variable speed machine that brings its own innovation to the table. You’re sure to appreciate the patented belt-tensioning system, and no other wood lathe has this!

Overall, this benchtop wood lathe features excellent speed ranges moving from 60 all the way to 3,600 RPM. The controls are quite easy to reach, and this machine can handle all types of woodworking projects. Plus, it’s smaller than a full-size wood lathe but has the same features, like the spindle lock and cast-iron base.

With it, you get 24 indexing positions that are integrated into the machine. In addition, these wood lathes offer onboard storage with two different tool rest caddies!

Wen 3421 Variable Speed Mini Benchtop Wood Lathe

If you want a reliable and affordable mini lathe, the Wen brand has you covered. It’s a bit smaller than some products because it falls into the mini wood lathe area. Plus, it has an 8 to 12-inch variable speed design. On top of that, it uses 3.2 amps, so it’s got a bigger motor than a 1-horsepower version. Still, it offers a decent variable speed range and is quite reliable where mini wood lathes are concerned.

Overall, the speed ranges for this lathe cover a range from 750 to 3,200 RPMs. Plus, the faceplate is set at 2.3 inches and features an MT1 spindle bore with a reasonable spindle speed. This also means that spindle turning is quite easy to handle, and the spindle lock keeps things in place.

You’re sure to appreciate the MT1 tailstock taper that has dual interchangeable tool rests for more convenience.

Rikon 12×16 Midi VSR Lathe

Those who want the most bang for their buck can’t go wrong with the Rikon Lathe. This midi wood lathe offers a maximum length of 16 inches, so it’s got an optimal distance between the centers. Plus, it has a solid cast iron base and includes the variable speed design you want for minimum speed and maximum speed ranges of 450 to 3,500 RPMs.

With that, the speed controls are electronic and not pulley speed range styles. This could be one of the best wood lathes available for the price. Plus, the digital readout, optimal speed, and machined end offer more convenience. You can see the speed control figures and have a higher spindle lock capacity. There’s also a tool rest base and a 1-horsepower motor that’s strong enough for all of your tasks.

Delta Industrial 46-460 12-inch Variable Speed Midi Lathe

The Delta Industrial 46-460 is a variable speed cast-iron wood lathe. Overall, it’s a simple machine that’s rated highly and very durable. Though it doesn’t have the bells and whistles as other midi lathes, it’s consistent and gives you what you need.

Plus, it works on a professional level to give you a powerful 1-horsepower motor with a large capacity.

Overall, this portable lathe from Delta Industrial offers a 12.5 swing capacity and three pulley speed ranges. There’s also a live center that uses a drive spindle. That way, you can use the reverse switch so that your finished project is perfect. Even though there are no table legs, it doesn’t affect your work!

The downside here is that the manufacturer doesn’t specify the RPMs. The maximum speed is set at 4,000 RPM, but the range isn’t easy to monitor. Still, you do get a tool rest with the Delta Industrial brand.

Nova Comet II DR Variable Speed Midi Wood Lathe Bundle

When you want various midi wood lathes that work together to give you all the power you need, you want the Nova Comet Bundle. This is a reliable and powerful lathe that’s small enough to look like the mini lathe but is versatile enough to offer more workability.

It features a 14-inch swing capacity and a 1-horsepower motor. Plus, this wood lathe offers a speed range of 250 to 3,450 RPM, allowing you to handle whatever you need to do.

This mini lathe is quite easy to use and includes a modular tool rest system for more convenience and comfort. It easily holds a flat wrench or other tools you might have! You also get a digital readout or digital display to help you adjust the speed quickly and know where you are. The distance between its centers is 18.5 to 14, giving it a full swing capacity.

Overall, this tool features a cast-iron construction and a digital display, along with spindle locking technology to turn the wood like a professional.

Shop Fox W1704 Benchtop Lathe

When you want compactness like a mini lathe that doesn’t take up room in the workshop, you need the Shop Fox brand. It’s quite affordable and smaller than other wood lathes out there. Still, it’s well built and works well for its size.

You’re sure to appreciate the 12-inch distance between centers, the reverse switch, and the two interchangeable tool rests of this wood lathe.

Overall, this compact lathe doesn’t let you down. It has two belt positions to give you a good range and variable speed control. However, there’s no digital display, so it’s hard to maintain and monitor your speed. Still, it’s made using cast iron and holds up well with time.

Buyer’s Guide

When it’s time to get a new midi lathe, you may wonder which one to pick. There are so many features out there, such as tailstock taper, maximum power transfer, and speed adjustment options. Therefore, how do you know what the best midi lathe is?

There are specific things you should consider. Though it’s nice to hear what others think of as the best midi lathes, it’s not enough. You also need to know about the features and capabilities that make it great. Overall, the playing field might be limited.

When you buy a wood lathe, you have specific preferences and needs to consider. Don’t lose sight of those while you’re trying to find the best midi lathes. Know what you plan to use it for, and check out the qualities found in this buyer’s guide. It was created to give you a simple method of finding what you want. There’s plenty of intuitive information available to ensure you make a more informed decision.

What’s a Midi Lathe?

The first thing to understand is what the midi is. You’ve probably got a good idea because you’re here. However, you may also be doing research on options and want more details to help you out. This is definitely the place to be!

What’s unique about midi lathes? They’re portable to a degree. Generally, you can put it on a tabletop or benchtop, so it doesn’t take up as much space as a normal lathe. The mini and midis tend to be grouped together. While they’re similar and might overlap at times, they’re two separate categories.

Typically, midi lathes fall into the mid-line price range. They rarely have a stand or legs, but you might be able to add that if you want. Overall, they are a “medium” fit.

Mini or Midi Lathe

It’s important to know the difference between a midi and mini so you can tell them apart. Mini lathes are very portable and also lightweight. However, they’re usually made of cast iron materials. They also have a swing that’s less than 10 inches, with a full-center swing of fewer than 15 inches.

The mini lathe can give you tons of functionality and variable power. However, they’re designed for smaller projects, such as dishes, small bowls, letter openers, and pen turners. Often, a mini lathe is more limited in the sizes it may handle and are more affordable than other choices.

On the other hand, the midi is a slight upgrade that’s not as limited. The swing starts off at 12 inches and can go up to 18 inches. With that, the center length could be up to 45 inches sometimes. They’re more expensive than minis and have more functionality to turn wood.

You also get more motor power with a midi, and they have tons of extra features and capabilities, too.

Power

When it comes to the options for a midi lathe, you may find that the power varies considerably. Mini options make their way into the midi category and use less power, but it’s often good enough for their need or purpose.

Generally, it’s best to see a 1-horsepower motor for a wood lathe of a midi. If it’s not the full horsepower, something like 2/3 or 3/4 can also be acceptable. This is often powerful enough to handle any wood stock or materials you use. To be fair, though, a lesser motor could still be sufficient for some purposes. It just depends on the model’s size.

For example, the Shop Fox and Wen models have smaller motors than the others. However, you notice that the capabilities and working size are a bit less, making the power sufficient for the machine’s design.

This is the key; you need to know that your machine is sufficiently powered for the motor it uses.

Swing Measurements

The swing capacity of the midi lathe is probably the most important thing to consider. This determines how large a project the lathe can handle, giving you a better idea of if it is suitable or not.

When focused on the swing, you find two different measurements. There’s the swing overbed, which is the swing over your lathe’s bed. The swing is then the full length out from the center. On average, overbed swings are between 12 and 18 inches.

Having a number between 12 and 15 inches is ideal, but if you want a larger midi, shoot for 18 inches. You may also see center to center distance measurements, and that’s also important. The average here is about 40 inches, but it can vary slightly depending on your model.

Speed Control

Most midi lathe options have speed variations. Typically, the range must be from 250 to about 3,500 RPM. Again, those numbers vary significantly depending on the model. However, if you see numbers that are close, this is often a good range.

The speeds are usually controlled by the belt position. Your belt adjusts with a control knob or dial. There are various ways to control the speed, but what you want to know is if it’s easy to adjust or might disrupt the project while making the adjustments.

Some options offer digital displays, but most of them are just a knob ranging from low to high. Though it might have a wide speed range, it’s hard to tell without the display feature. Still, both do their job as intended, so it’s based on your preferences as to what you want to have.

Most midis have three speed ranges, but some might have a speed controller that has more or fewer. Look for one that meets your required speeds and has easy-to-reach controls.

Materials

If you spend money on a midi lathe, you need to know that the investment is designed to last and uses quality materials. Most of the choices are made using cast iron, and this is ideal. However, it’s not necessarily a deal-breaker if you get a midi you love that’s made of other materials. Overall, look for something that’s heavy-duty and holds up over time.

Know the materials and look at what the tool is made of. Cast iron is bound to make the machine heavier. If you plan to move it or take it with you on jobs, you should keep that in mind. Check the weight of each tool to get a feel for it.

Always go with the highest-quality materials, whether it’s the spindle, spur center, knockout bar, or the machine’s base. Even the display and control options should be reliable!

Accessories

After the things mentioned above, everything else can vary significantly. You may not have all the latest accessories or features from your lathe. For example, some midi lathes include tool rests, but others might not have a tool rest at all!

Therefore, if you want or need something specific, it’s best to look for those things when searching for the right product. With that, you may check for features like spindle adjustments, digital readings, and speed control design. Just make sure you know what settings and accessories are crucial for your needs.

These are often the things that vary a lot between different models, designs, and brands. Just because one model doesn’t have a three-phase induction motor doesn’t mean that another brand doesn’t. It just means that the particular product you looked at missed an accessory you’re interested in having.

Just keep that in mind. If possible, make a list of the things you want so that you only choose lathes with those options.

FAQs

What’s the Best Wood Lathe?

The top pick for us is found below. However, some people might not want to focus on a particular model or brand. Therefore, it’s important to check the build quality, materials used, and the other factors mentioned in the buyer’s guide. If you follow through with those and choose the accessories you want most, you’re sure to have a midi wood lathe that meets all of your needs to become the only lathe you require.

What’s the Right Wood-turning Lathe for a Beginner?

If you’re just starting out, you want something that’s easy to learn on and reliable. The budget pick today is the Wen model. This lathe is ideal for beginners and is excellent for small projects. You can learn the basics and upgrade when you become ready and decide to.

This budget-friendly model is a good size, has reliable power, and has certain accessories like a tool rest that you’re sure to appreciate. All of that makes it convenient, but speed adjustment is a breeze, too.

Are the Wood Lathes at Harbor Freight Good?

Beginners might find that the tools at Harbor Freight are great. It carries many name-brand options and its own versions. The nice thing is that the brand’s own products are made like the others. Therefore, they might be more affordable, even if they don’t give the longest lifespan.

How Much Power Does a Midi Lathe Have?

In general, the 1-horsepower is the best option for a midi lathe. However, you may not require that much power or might work with smaller projects. Therefore, a motor that’s smaller might be just as good!

Conclusion

Many people confuse mini lathes with their midi counterparts. They might be similar but are in two different categories. If you are specific about a midi lathe, make sure that you keep the specifications of one in mind.

You’ve learned how to pick a model based on various factors. The buyer’s guide helped you understand what things are important and what accessories might be included. Therefore, it’s time to give a winner for the best midi wood lathe. Overall, it has to be the JET JWL 1221vs Variable Speed Mini Lathe.

In a sense, it’s the most reliable brand and features a quality design and material build. It’s got amazing functionality and the power associated with other midi lathe options. Just make sure that it meets your specifications and preferences because they could be different. Otherwise, this is an excellent machine across the board and can be advantageous for your workshop.

Why trust Handyman.Guide?

s written by Itamar Ben-Dor, who has 25 years of experience in renovations, carpentry, locks, creation, landscaping, painting, furniture construction, and furniture renovation, works with concrete, plumbing, door repair, and more.

This article was written by Itamar Ben-Dor, who has 25 years of experience in renovations, carpentry, locks, creation, landscaping, painting, furniture construction, and furniture renovation, works with concrete, plumbing, door repair, and more.


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Itamar Ben Dor

Itamar Ben Dor

My father is a practical engineer, and as a hobby he was also involved in construction, renovations, carpentry and woodwork at home; So there was always tools, saws, drills and more at home. Already I was a little kid Dad and I would renovate the house. Once we built a shed for garden tools, once we did flooring for the garden, once we renovated the bathroom and that’s the way it is. Long before there was an internet, directories and plans. We would build things, kitchen cabinets, install electrical appliances, do flooring, pour concrete and more ... I in this blog want to pass on to you the experience I have gained over the last 20 plus-minus years since I was a child to this day and give you information about the best tools, project plans, guides and more.

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