Marilyn knows how to present the dullest topic in an interesting and easy-to-read way. When she’s not teaching English Literature at a local school or writing for our site, Marylin loves to knit and bake for her two grandchildren.
Julie owns a shop specializing in sewing equipment and accessories. No wonder she knows everything when it comes to technical specifications of practically anything we review. In her free time, Julie loves quilting and scrapbooking.
Last updated: August 21, 2021
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Would it not be wrong to buy the first lathe you come across when you enter a lathe shop? Not only would it be a genuinely unwise decision but the lathe might be exactly the opposite of what you need. In getting the perfect midi lathe for your workshop, whether you are a beginner or a seasoned wood enthusiast, you will need to identify the key features that your lathe must come with.
To get the best midi lathe for your workshop, you must consider a number of factors. Among the things to explore include the speed and the power of the machine. You don’t want a lathe that can’t spin a majority of the pieces you intend to work with. The swing space and the distance between the centers should be a big factor to consider as this determines the maximum size of lumber you can work on. Of course, the dimensions, the weight, and the guarantee offered are the other features you must consider.
Whether you are the creative type or a professional woodworker, the Delta Industrial 46-460 lathe will amaze you with its incredible capabilities. This lathe allows the user to work on almost all sorts of wood projects. It measures 36 x 11 x 17.5 inches, weighs 97 pounds, and is powered by a 1 HP motor.
You can either adjust the lathe’s speed via the automatic electronic variable speed control or the manual speed belt speed adjustment. The belt speed control has a 3-speed setting, and it can easily be accessed by lifting the headstock. The speed settings are 250-750 RPM for the large gear, 600-1,800 RPM for medium gear, and 1,350-4,000 RPM for the smallest gear.
This is a high-quality midi wood lather that is highly versatile and a high performer. With this machine, you will perform your tasks with ease and with little to no noise. The more than generous 12.5 inches swing size of the machine lets you handle a wide range of artisanal projects. This reasonably priced midi lathe comes with an easy to toggle switch on the headstock, making it easy to forward or reverse it.
What we liked: The manufacturer has used a patented belt tensioning system for easy and quick speed changes. If you are looking for an industrial lathe, then this Delta midi lathe is your answer.
What could be better: The only downside with this lathe is that it doesn’t come with a digital speed readout and comes with a short working length.
Are you a professional wood expert who is looking for a compact, high-quality lathe? The JET JWL-1221VS lathe will cost you a little more than the competition, but quality and value are what you will get. This lathe, which measures 33.7 x 11 x 17.8 inches, weighs 136.4 lbs. For maneuverability and ease of operation, the manufacturer has included six handles. Its heaviness helps reduce vibrations when working.
This lathe is unlike anything JET has made, or anyone for that matter. It comes with optimally designed speed ranges, which vary between 60 to 3,600 RPM. To enhance its high-speed performance, the manufacturer has integrated a spring-loaded spindle lock into it and used a 1 HP motor. The controls and DRO are conveniently located.
This is the best midi lathe for professional use because it has used an innovative ratchet style belt tension system that enhances its performance. The unit comes with a forward and reverse switch that ensures that there is always a smooth transition. Its capacity reaches 12 x 21 inches, which pretty much covers a majority of pieces used to make professional pieces.
What we liked: We did love the fact that you can switch the machine from forward to reverse without turning it off. It is bench top compact, making it an ideal working tool for all your light and medium woodwork.
What could be better: While we agree the lathe is smooth and very powerful, we note that it lacked the usual JET quality control during its production. You will find several parts not ideal as the JET brand should.
Nova 46300 comet II DR lathe is one of the best midi lathes for the money. This lathe comes from a leading multinational lathe producer with a renowned brand name. The manufacturer has equipped the lathe with an electronic variable ¾ hp motor whose power makes the lathe vibration-free. The lathe hardly takes up any room, making it ideal for a DIY woodwork enthusiast.
This Comet model will never disappoint when it comes to spinning blocks of wood. The powerful motor will spin wood at a rate of between 250 and 4,000 RPMs. With this lathe, you will enjoy three speed ranges that can be selected by simply shifting the drive belt position. You should then twist the variable speed dial on the side of the machine. The three speed ranges are 250-680 RPM, 530-1,420 RPM and 1,380-4,000RPM.
This lathe measures 33 x 9 x 18 inches and weighs only 82.4 lbs, making it ideal for DIY enthusiasts who don’t have a lot of space. The machine’s capacity is 12 x 16.5 inches. The manufacturer has included a digital speed readout that makes the unit highly effective and easy to operate.
What we liked: This lathe comes with a forward and reverse switch, which offers flexibility and a superior finish to your products. We also loved it because its swing over bed can be extended to 42,” and you can buy bed extension accessories.
What could be improved? There is nothing much to complain about this lathe. Something to note, though, is that it has a short throw on the tailstock screw.
Do you own a woodshop and are looking for an effective way to transform it? Well, the PSI Woodworking KWL-1218VS lathe is guaranteed to give you great results. This lathe replaces the TCLC12VS, which was highly effective in doing what it was intended for. This is a lathe that will get the job done.
The KWL-1218S lathe is powered by a 1 HP variable speed high-performance induction motor, making the lathe a high-performance tool. The SBC microprocessor also enhances the lathe’s performance. Operating at 120V-60Hz, the lathe’s performance and its power are further enhanced by having two belt positions (speed range 500-1800 RPM and 1950-3800 RPM). This is a lathe that will handle all your wood projects.
All lumber measuring 12 x 18 inches will be handled with ease. Measuring 32 x 11 x 10 inches and weighing 106 lbs, this lathe will fit in your medium size workshop. The headstock thread and tailstock are both #2MT. Note that the headstock is 1″ X 8TPI. The tailstock and spindle bore are 3/8″. The manufacturer has included several accessories that should make your lathing experience all the more exciting and efficient. The accessories include spur center, knockout bar, tool holder, and faceplate.
What we liked: We do like the machine’s capability to work exceptionally well at medium speeds. At very low or very high speeds, the machine will vibrate a lot.
What could be improved? We appreciate the lighting idea, but it is awkwardly positioned, and this makes it hard to use it or work using it.
The WEN 34018 lathe is a powerful machine that features a 4.5A motor. This powerful lathe will handle with precision any type of wood you throw at it. The lathe gives you a variable speed of between 450 and 3,500 rotations per minute (RPMs). The exact speed the machine is operating at will be displayed on the onboard digital screen display, which helps in easy monitoring and management of the lathe. Indeed, this lathe combines speed, strength, and precision, yet it is no larger than the other midi lathes in the market.
The lathe’s overall dimensions are 37 x 9.5 x 16.5 inches, and its weight is 70.3 pounds. These features make the unit one of the best performing midi wood lathes. The pieces that you can feed the lathe should be no more than 11 inches in width and 18 inches in length. Should your pieces exceed these measurements, you can always buy a WEN 3424EX extender, which will outspread the bed space up to 41 inches.
This manufacturer has gone a step further to make the tailstock and the MT2 spindle compatible with a majority of chucks and center out there. This means that you will have an easier time buying accessories.
What we liked: We liked the digital display, which makes working with this versatile machine easy. We also loved the machine’s compatibility with off-market accessories.
What could be better: Though it is an overly effective machine for its size, it is not the most affordable in the market.
Measuring 38.5 x 15.5 x 17 inches, the Shop Fox W1836 is one of the best performing midi wood lathes of today. This lathe, which is powered by a ¾ HP 110V single-phase universal motor, is guaranteed to handle all of your woodwork without a fuss. The unit comes with two electronic variable spindle speed ranges of 500-1,800 RPM and 1,000-3,800 RPM. The manufacturer has included a digital RPM readout that gives exact speed adjustments, making the lathe a premium pick.
This lathe comes with 24 index points and a marginal difference of 15 degrees. This feature allows you to cut or mark your pieces evenly while the headstock remains in a locked position. The bed space offers 12″ swing over bed and 15″ swing between centers. The TPI RH thread spindle size is 1″ x 8″.
You will never be disappointed with the W1836 lathe because it has plenty to offer. The tailstock is made of cast iron hence making the unit quite durable. You also get to enjoy a number of accessories such as a tool holder, live center, and retractable cushioned carry handles.
What we liked: You can extend the bench top to reach 38 inches, which makes it handle projects that ordinary midi lathes can’t. The vibration of the 82-pound lathe has also been reduced using rubber feet.
What could be better: Our only issue with this lathe is its bench top that is not big enough. You have to buy an extension bench top for items measuring more than 15 inches in length.
If you are a beginner woodwork enthusiast, you can’t go wrong with the RIKON Power Tools 70-220VSR lathe. This lathe boasts of many unique features that make it appealing to even the experts in the trade. The lathe is powered by a 1 HP, which sends powerful torque to the spindle. This then means that the material you are working on rotates at high speed. This RIKON midi lathe measures 40.75 x 12 x 17.7 inches and weighs 115 pounds. It is one of the larger midi lathes in the market.
The lathe boasts of electronic variable speed control that operates in three speed ranges of; 250-750 RPM, 550-1,650 RPM, and 1,300-3,850 RPM. With these predetermined speeds, you will have an easy time adapting the speed to the material you are working on. These power and speed options ensure the lathe outperforms the competition.
RIKON has backed this lathe with a 5-year warranty. To ensure that you get the best value out of this machine, the manufacturer has donned a 12.5″ swing size and 20″ center to center length on it. This means that the distance between the bed to the swing is 6.25 inches.
What we liked: We loved the unit’s forward and reverse switch. The speed controls work for both the forward and reverse modes. We also liked its decent swing size.
What could be better: Of course, the price tag that the machine carries could be better. We were also not impressed by the fact that the unit doesn’t come with any accessories.
You need a reliable lathe to work on your wooden projects. The Grizzly Industrial T25920 lathe which has been powered with a 5.3A, 110V single phase ¾ HP motor, will definitely handle all of your projects with ease. This powerful machine affords you three speeds range that varies from 650 to 3,800 RPM and can easily adjust to your preference and demand.
With this machine, you get to enjoy 12″ of turning radius. While the swing over bed is 12″, the distance between centers is 18″. You also get 3 ¼ faceplates and a knockout bar. For accurate readings and execution of your work, the manufacturer has included a digital spindle speed indicator.
The machine comes with a 5-7/8″ tool rest with 5/8″ post and spur centers. Working with this lathe will further be enhanced by the spindle’s size of 1″ x 8 TPI RH and the spindle and tailstock taper of MT#2. Grizzly guarantees that this is your everyday lathe because it measures 38.75 x 12 x 17 inches and weighs just 79 pounds. It comes with a 6-foot long power cord and a 9.5 inch tool rest.
What we liked: Besides the timely digital RPM readout, we loved the lathe’s quick release on tool rest and tailstock. This means easy and precise adjustments can be made.
What could be better: Even though the lathe is made using strong cast iron, we couldn’t help but notice no accessories are accompanying it.
If this is your first time you have gone out shopping for a wood lathe, the RIKON 70-100 will not disappoint. With a ¾ HP motor, you will have an easy time working on all of your wooden items. The 6-step motor comes with spindle pulleys, which help deliver variable spindle speeds. Moreover, RIKON knows just how important it is for you to want absolute control over the lathe. For this, the unit comes with easily accessible speed buttons. This means your machine, which has three speed ranges (430-810 RPM, 1,230-1,810 RPM, 2,670-3,900 RPM) is quick and easy to handle.
This is a RIKON midi lathe that will give you the best value for your money. It weighs 89 pounds and measures 32 x 10.5 x 17.5 inches. Even though small, this lathe never compromises on functionality and practicality. It boasts of a 12-inch swing and 16 inches between centers. The manufacturer has gone further and added cool accessories such as nylon-face plate washer and a flip-up handle. Besides a solid 5-year warranty, RIKON has included a self-ejecting tailstock and a 12 position index head, which serve to make the unit more effective.
What we liked: We really love the self-ejecting tailstock and the generous 8-inch tool rest. We also love the machine’s dual-purpose lock that is situated at the top of the headstock.
What could be better: This is a perfect midi lathe that gets the job done. However, changing speeds by moving the motor and the pulley can be tedious and exhausting.
If you are looking for an affordable midi wood lathe, then check out the Mophorn wood lathe. This lathe, whose motor gives 550W affords you variable speeds with digital readings, ensuring you get precise readings. The speed range starts from 800 all the way to 3,800 RPM. This means the unit will handle any of the wood projects you can think of.
The lathe’s work capacity is a swing of 12 inches, which is equivalent to 300 mm. The distance between the centers is 18 inches, and the swing over bed is 10 inches. The unit’s tool rest measures a moderate 6 inches while the faceplate is 3 inches. The lathe’s overall dimensions are 35 x 18.5 x 13 inches, while the total weight is 88 pounds.
For the lathe’s smooth and stable operation, the manufacturer has used cast iron to make it. They have gone a step further and included rubber feet that serve to decrease the lathe’s vibrations. You will further enjoy working with this unit because all gears and shafts in the headstock are well-grounded and hardened, which further ensure smooth and quiet operation.
What we liked: This is one of the least priced midi lathes in the market, and given that it is quiet, smooth, and with excellent working capacity, one can’t fail to like it.
What could be better: There are a few things that one can’t easily find about the unit, such as the guarantee offered or the actual HP of the motor. Still, this is an ideal woodworking lathe for a beginner.
Things to Consider
If you are looking forward to becoming better in woodworking, then a midi lathe is a tool to consider buying. You must explore the available lathes carefully to get the best deal possible. Some of the factors to look at include your safety, the machine’s longevity, and the features it boasts of. We have explored the factors you must consider and even answered a few FAQs to help you make an informed decision when shopping for your midi lathe.
What can you use midi wood lathe for?
To best understand the use of a midi wood lathe, we should first try and explain what a wood lathe is. A wood lathe is a type of tool that is designed to specifically work on wooden pieces. Such lathes are meant to cut, drill, face, turn, deform, and sand wooden pieces of work.
Midi wood lathes, which are relatively new in the market and quite popular are best suited for medium and even moderately large workshops. These lathes combine power and performance of the larger lathes while giving you the convenience of a mini lathe. These lathes are designed to be used on projects whose diameter is no more than 12 inches, and a maximum distance between the centers should be a maximum of 20 inches. Some lathes like the JET JWL-1221VS and Delta Industrial 46-460 negate this rule. They offer 21″ and 25″ of distance between the centers, respectively.
Safety tips for midi lathe users
As you may already be aware, a midi wood lathe or any other lather, for that matter, spins a wood piece so that a fixed tool can be used to create a pattern on the wood piece. Many dangers come with operating a midi lathe. This calls for the user to be cautious when working with this machine with very fast-moving components. Some of the tips to follow are;
Keep your fingers off the moving parts.
Always wear short sleeve shirts. If you must wear a long sleeve shirt, they must have fitting cuffs. This is to avoid the sleeve being caught by a moving lathe component. On the same note, tie back long hair or wear a safety hat. Also don’t wear necklaces, bangles or watches.
Wear eye protection. Most preferable use a face shield or industrial safety glasses that come with side shields.
Never leave the lathe unattended.
Always start the lathe at a low speed, then increase gradually.
Whenever you are running the lathe in reverse, a chuck or faceplate can unscrew unless it has been securely tightened on the spindle.
Rotate workpieces by hand to ensure that it clears the tool rest and bed before turning on the lathe.
Remove the chuck key immediately after tightening the chuck.
Tips and trips for work with midi lathe
When you are working with your midi wood lathe, you will need to know some cool techniques and tricks if you will get the best value out of the machine. By learning some of these hands-on techniques and tricks, you will learn of new ways to make your lathe serve you. Here are a few tested tricks;
Generally, when you want to get a smoother finish on a piece, you are working on, sanding a spindle in the opposite direction it was going works. If, however, you own a lathe such as PSI Woodworking KWL-1218VS, which doesn’t have a reversing gear, you can make a small plywood disc with a 1/8″ in the center. You should then cut two kerfs at 90 degrees to each other and across the face of the disc. On the side, you want to be attached to the spindle, sand the plywood to make it have a better grip. Just flip a spindle end-for-end before inserting the disc between the drive center and the spindle and sand the spindle smooth.
Readjusting the calipers can be tedious. A practical and straightforward way to go around this is to have a set of open-ended wrenches on the worktop. With these wrenches, you will no longer be required to keep on resetting your calipers, especially when the job is repetitive.
Maybe an obvious one is ensuring that your lathe’s speed is at zero or minimum whenever you shut the machine off. This ensures that whenever you turn on the lathe, there is no risk of destroying your wood piece or injuring yourself because the lathe was left at a very high-speed setting when it was last used.
Features to consider while buying the best midi lathe
To get the best midi lathe for your workshop, you should explore the numerous features that these tools can adorn. A lathe is an incredibly versatile and practical machine tool found in almost every manufacturing wood workshop. Many woodwork enthusiasts find it quite hard to produce quality items without the help of this tool. We have taken a more in-depth look at the features that you should consider when buying your midi wood lathe.
Your lathe’s motor power determines how efficient the machine tool will execute the tasks thrown its way. A majority of midi wood lathes will have a motor whose horsepower falls between 0.5 HP to 1HP. Such motors offer variable speeds of between 500 to 4,000 RPM. The important thing to note about lathes is that the bigger the motor, the easier it is to turn larger workpieces. While considering the motor power, also look at where the power switch is. You want it placed at a spot where it’s easy to access it for the machine’s easy operation.
When we talk of the lathe capacity, we mean the swing and the maximum diameter between centers. If you are still not conversant with these terms, let us explain the term capacity in a simpler way. Capacity here means the ”swing” and ”diameter” together. Swing, which is the first number in the sequence, means the total diameter of the piece you are working on. This is the distance from the bed of the lathe to the center of the spindle, and then double that measurement because you are looking for a diameter, not a radius.
The second number in the sequence refers to the total distance between centers. The first center is the one in the headstock, and the other is in the tailstock. This is the length of the wood piece you are working on. Let us take a look at Delta Industrial 46-460 whose numbers are 12.5″ x 25″. The lathe’s swing is 12.5 inches, while the diameter between centers is 25 inches.
Many of the midi wood lathes in the market today have three variable speed settings. Many of the lathes in this category will have speeds starting at around 500 rotations per minute (RPM). However, lathes such as RIKON Power Tools 70-220VSR start their speed at much lower RPMs (250RPM). Many will have a maximum of between 3,800 and 4,000 RPMs. Depending on the project you are working on and the exact type of product you want to produce, you can choose any one of the three gear settings.
Ideally, customers look for items with long warranties. This is because this guarantee serves as insurance when they buy a product. In our review, we found that RIKON 70-100, RIKON Power Tools 70-220VSR, JET JWL-1221VS, and Delta Industrial 46-460 all come with a 5-year warranty. You don’t want to go for a lathe that is not backed, especially because this is a machine tool that is put through rigorous maneuvers every other day.
This review focuses on wood lathes that are in the medium range. This means that all the lathes have their lengths falling between 30 inches and 41 inches. The lathes are moderately sized to allow them fit in a medium workshop. On top of this, the lathe will weigh around 100 pounds or less. We have Delta Industrial 46-460 lathe, which weighs 136 pounds, which is slightly off the average weight of midi lathes. By design, the lathe’s size and weight should be such that no vibration should be experienced when you are at work.
In a lathe, a spindle is the rotating axis of the machine found on the headstock. The spindle usually has a shaft at its very center. It can also be said to be the part on which shaped milling cutters are mounted. In midi wood lathes, MT2 spindles are usually used. A high-quality spindle allows you to work on large pieces.
Your work comfort is vital when working with a lathe. Besides your safety being important when working with a lathe, your comfort also plays an important role in determining how well you work with the machine. Among the features that will affect your comfort include the height lathe, the location of the tool rest, and the accessories provided. Another thing would be the digital speed readout, which helps you determine the speed at which the lathe operates at with ease.
Types of projects and prices
You may have a particular project in mind that no carpenter seems to really understand what you want. Out of frustration, you might want to buy a lathe just to execute your dream project. Given the price of a lathe and the machine’s sheer size, it might not be the wisest decision to buy one just to use it once. However, if you are an enthusiast and are looking forward to working on projects using a lathe, then investing in one should not be a bad idea.
There are three types or classes of wood lathes, namely; mini, midi, and full-size or heavy-duty lathes. A midi wood lathe is essentially a heavy-duty lathe that has been compacted. You can do a lot with a heavy-duty lathe that you can do with a midi lathe as well. Of course, a heavy-duty lathe whose motor power ranges between 1.5 HP to 5HP and has a working capacity of at least 14″” x 20″” is more powerful. The weight can go up to 1,000 pounds for the heavy-duty lathes. The general weight of midi lathes is around 100 pounds. Unless you plan to use a lathe at an industrial scale, you should invest in a midi wood lathe. Invest in a high-quality lathe that will help you produce exceptional products for many years to come.
To make a lathe more appealing to the customer, a manufacturer will include a number of extra accessories or features. A reverse switch was almost unheard of in earlier days, but today, it is quite a common extra feature to look out for. Some of the extra features and accessories that you should look out for include a tail-ejecting tailstock like in the RIKON 70-100. Other extras to look out for include soft startup, tool holder, and rubber feet.
Before anything else, you will need to have some basic items such as kerosene, brushes, and an open wrench. All these will help you in cleaning the lathe. With these, you are ready to set up your lathe for work. The lathe will come as one unit, and you won’t be required to install or assemble anything. However, you will need a bench grinder, dial caliper, center drills, safety glasses, and live center to start working. The lathe should be set upon a flat place to avoid vibrations when you are working.
When it comes to picking the best midi wood lathe for a beginner, all of the above lathes fit the criteria. In picking the best lathe, you will need to factor in several things, such as the machine’s price and its complexity. While the above lathes are not cheap, save for very few, you will get the best value for your money regardless of the one you pick. You will need to look at the material used, the weight of the machine, the extra features it adorns, and the warranty given. Such a lathe will need to have adjustable speeds which is the case with the above lathes. This is to allow you to operate the device at comfortable speeds as you get to advance in skill and confidence.
It is not dangerous to use midi lathe. But there is a disclaimer; provided you correctly use the lathe, there should be no threat of injury or damage. A lathe should be operated by a qualified person who has the right tools. Such a user should understand and be able to switch the lathe on and off. That person should know the different speed ranges that the lathe comes with and be able to switch between the different speed levels.
Our editor’s choice is Delta Industrial 46-460 lathe. This lathe boasts some very cool features that make it ideal for a beginner yet a good compromise for a professional woodworker. Among the key features that will impress you include a 1 HP motor, a 5-year warranty, and three speed ranges.
When searching for your best midi lathe, you shouldn’t pass the JET JWL-1221VS. This machine tool affords you a 1 HP motor, speeds of up to 3,600 RPM, and a 5-year warranty. This midi lathe takes the second place because of its functionality and some cool features, such as the reverse function and 6 handles.
Our spot for the best value midi lathe goes to the WEN 34018. This lathe reaches a maximum speed of 3,800 RPMs and is backed by a 2-year warranty. Its light weight of 70 lbs, the 8-in tool rest, a digital speed screen, and the soft startup all serve to make this one of the best lathes you can own.