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Mini vs Midi Lathe Overview

best mini and midi lathe

There are a wide range of different lathes and in this review I am going to provide a comprehensive overview of the best lathe available in 2023 and compare a mini vs midi lathe. I initially wrote this article in 2020 but am updating it in April of 2023 to help provide an update and account for new products available.

What is a lathe?

The lathe is used both for working with metal and for working with wood. Some are suitable for people who are just starting to use it for small household projects, while the full-size machines are created specifically for professionals and have greater capabilities. Lathes are used for shaping and sanding these materials into cylindrical objects such as baseball bats and furniture legs.

Throughout this article I have broken down the different types of lathes and explained their use cases in detail.

Difference between mini, midi and full-size lathe

There are 2 main differences in each lathe size:

  • Horsepower
  • Diameter of the swing

A mini lathe will have a max swing of 8-10 inches and have a slightly slower horse power. They are great for smaller tasks.

In comparison, a midi lathe will have a swing up to 14 inches and typically have higher horsepower and allow for more rotations per second.

Now let’s figure out which lathe to choose for your project. First, you need to understand what you want from this tool and what exactly you want to make. For example, when choosing the best lathе, pay attention to the power you will need and find out the permissible diameter of the raw material that can fit into it for your work session.

Mini and Midi Lathes Comparison Table

Mini and midi lathes SOB DBC Motor, Amps / hp Speed, RPM Review
WEN 3420 best mini wood lathe 8″ 12″ 3.2 / 3/4 750 – 3200 Review
Shop Fox M1049 best mini metal lathe 9″ 19″ N/A / 3/4 130 – 2000 Review
JET JWL-1221VS best midi wood lathe 12″ 21″ N/A / 1 60 – 3600 Review
Powermatic 3520C best full size for PRO 20″ 36″ N/A / 2 40 – 3200 Review
Laguna Revo 1836 best full size for home use 18″ 36″ N/A / 1.5 135 – 3500 Review

How we tested

We tested the lathes with different material so that we could recommend the best ones for each unique product. Different projects may use oak, maple, or even other types of wood and in testing each product, various materials were used.

You should also read my article on the best face shield for woodworking

Mini lathe reviews

My favorite mini wood lathes

WEN 3420 – best mini wood lathe

WEN 3421

First on the list is the WEN 3420 as it was my favorite mini wood lathe. WEN has long made a good name for itself thanks to the quality machines they produce. Model 3420 is the ideal solution for those who want to start creating smaller wooden crafts.

This model covers a range of workpieces up to 12 inches long and 8 inches wide and it is equipped with a 3.2-Amp motor. What stands out most about this model is that the motor is 50% more powerful than ordinary motors that come in the basic set of a mini lathe. It is also possible to control RPM, from 750 to 3200 and this variable speed can be very helpful for shaping the object you need.

WEN 3421 Photo
Key specs

Swing over bed, inch: 8″

Distance between centers, inch: 12″

Motor, Amps/hp: 3.2 / N/A

Ranges of speed, RPM: 750 – 3200


The ultra-convenient choice for bowls turning because of 2A soft-start motor that prevents damages

Features more powerful motor than the majority of mini lathes

An excellent choice for creating small objects like pen turning


Needs frequent cleaning of the torque mechanism because, over time, it simply stops working and causes problems

RIKON 70-105

RIKON 70-105

Another great option is the RIKON mini-lathe. It is a slick model and one of the best looking lathes you will find. The RIKON 70-105 is very solid and reliable and is ideal for small crafts, pens, toys, and other smaller woodworking projects.

The specifications: It has a 10” swing and has a self ejecting tailstock and it is very easy to adjust the speed. It has 5-speed levels making any speed adjustment very simple and straight forward.

RIKON 70-105 Photo
Key specs

Swing over bed, inch: 10″

Distance between centers, inch: 18″

Motor, Amps/hp: 3.7 / 1/2

Ranges of speed, RPM: 500 – 3200


With plenty of power, the machine is pretty quiet and smooth

The compact design makes it easy to place wherever you want without sacrificing performance


Requires incredibly careful adjustment to avoid vibration and chafing that sometimes appear in most users

Plenty of customers complain about the very thin tailstock

Shop Fox W1704

Shop Fox W1704

Another great mini-lathe option is the Shop Fox W1704. It is very sturdy and reliable, well-designed, and practical. And when it comes to prices, it is one of the best value mini-lathes you will find, as other lathes with similar characteristics are much more expensive.

Specifications: The device is equipped with a fairly solid motor, with a 700 to 3,200 RPM range allowing for easy speed adjustments.

Before moving on to metal lathes, I want to recommend that for any of these models that you have a large flat work table to place this mini lathe on.

Shop Fox W1704 Photo
Key specs

Swing over bed, inch: 8″

Distance between centers, inch: 12″

Motor, Amps/hp: 2 / 1/3

Ranges of speed, RPM: 700 – 3200


Affordability is a great con among other similar products

Powerful enough to carry on all possible crafts you want to make


The tailstock is pretty unreliable because of poor quality

Components sometimes break so they need more attention, cleaning, and care

Mini metal lathe overivew

Shop Fox M1049 – My favorite mini metal lathe

Shop Fox M1049

In the category of mini metal lathes, another product from Shop Fox, model M1049, is a fantastic option. This model is very compact, reliable and most importantly, it works smoothly with minimal vibrations and twitching. All component parts including the bed, base, headstock, and gears are made of high-quality iron.

Other specifications: the powerful inline motor has a horsepower of 3/4. With such a motor, you can easily process the required metal and easily adjusted the speed from 130 to 2000 RPM. Additionally, this lathe has a 9″ swing over bed.

Shop Fox M1049 Photo
Key specs

Swing over bed, inch: 9″

Distance between centers, inch: 19″

Motor, Amps/hp: N/A / 3/4

Ranges of speed, RPM: 130 – 2000


Incredibly reliable machine with 100% vibration-free

Smart control panel placement for very convenient work sessions

The device has an additional handwheel for precision adjustment


Pretty small motor power index and RPM index is also quite weak

Grizzly G8688

Grizzly G8688

The Grizzly G8688 is a pretty solid product. It gained its popularity among craftsmen due to its reliability and minimal vibrations. This mechanism can please the buyer with its high-quality and powerful motor. It also has a 3/4 Horsepower motor and allows for an RPM range from 100 to 2500.

One downside is that the threading gears are made of plastic. This is one potential con as many alternative models have the gears made of iron or alloy, making them more durable.

On the plus side, the packaging includes a guard for the protection of the backsplash, a steady resting tool, Jaw chuck with external jaws, Chip pan, and a 6-1 / 4-inch faceplate. Many manufacturers do not shell out for such things, so this model certainly has its advantages.

Grizzly G8688 Photo
Key specs

Swing over bed, inch: 7″

Distance between centers, inch: 12″

Motor, Amps/hp: N/A / 1/3

Ranges of speed, RPM: 100 – 2500


Compact and lightweight design make this an excellent choice for beginners

Thanks to a powerful motor and variable speed controls, it turns metal without any vibrations

Very easy to set up thanks to manual included


Some details are made of plastic that is not so reliable as iron for example

Midi lathe reviews

JET JWL-1221VS – My favorite midi wood lathe


As we move to the category of midi wood lathes, I would like to start with the JET JWL-1221VS. As expected, the system power ratings are an order of magnitude higher than that of mini lathes as it has a full horsepower electric motor. Such a lathe is the greatest option for those who have already mastered this skill but still fall short of working with full-size machines. Despite the fact that this is a midi model, it still takes up relatively little space.

The range of speed is between 60 to 3600 RPM and it can be adjusted easily with a convenient button on the body. Swing over the bed is 12 inches.

The control system of the JWL-1221VS lathe is very simple and straightforward. With its help, you can easily control the speed and also use the reverse. JET also offers a faceplate, two tool rests (short and long), knock out bar, two tool racks, drive center, live tailstock center, hex wrench, and headstock wrench, complete with a lathe.

JET JWL-1221VS Photo

Key specs

Swing over bed, inch: 12″

Distance between centers, inch: 21″

Motor, Amps/hp: N/A / 1

Ranges of speed, RPM: 60 – 3600


The perfect mix of affordable price and quality from a good manufacturer

Thanks to the high-quality durable metal body, it makes almost no sounds and just does its job at the highest level

Extremely easy to set up with simple and useful manual included


Pretty heavy as for a midi lathe

Delta 46-460

Delta 46-460

Delta 46-460 is a very simple and reliable machine and comes in at an average price point, making it a decent value.

The 46-460 is equipped with a powerful 1 hp max motor that produces a maximum of 4000 RPM. With so much power, you can handle even heavy and large materials. The large 12-inch swing capacity provides the ability to handle large materials for handling. In addition, the machine accepts the use of the extension, so the indicator increases to 42″. My favorite feature is the electronic speed control. It is incredibly easy to use and comes with 3 options to choose from. Moreover, the built-in speed regulator makes it possible to reduce vibrations to zero.

The package includes a 6-inch and a 10-inch tool rest, a knockout bar, a live center, wrenches, and a detailed user manual to set up and configure your device without headaches.

Delta 46-460 Photo

Key specs

Swing over bed, inch: 12″

Distance between centers, inch: 16″ (with extension: 42″)

Motor, Amps/hp: N/A / 1

Ranges of speed, RPM: 250 – 4000


Provides really extended working area even for biggest materials

It comes with a rich set of accessories which you don’t have to buy any more

Extremely adjustable and easy to use


Lots of complaints about unstable variable speed work

Full size wood lathe overview

Powermatic 3520C – full size wood lathe for professionals

Powermatic 3520C

Now it’s time to talk about the giants of woodcraft. Meet the Powermatic 3520C, a huge machine that is impeccably the best full size wood lathe for professionals. Despite its large size and weight, this machine is quite versatile. For example, it has a moveable control box for customization, electronic variable speed with low and high-speed ranges, the spindle lock, digital RPM readout, and a laser-etched quill that is self-ejecting. All these small but important features make this product perfect. As for me, it is the presence of so many pleasant bonuses that makes this product a good choice for guys who are already considered professionals in the field of woodcraft.

Specifications: First and foremost is the motor. It has a capacity of 2 horsepower and will range from 40 to 3200 RPM. Powermatic 3520C has a 20″ swing over bed. Thanks to these impressive numbers, you can actually make very large items without any problems.

Powermatic 3520C Photo

Key specs

Swing over bed, inch: 20″

Distance between centers, inch: 36″

Motor, Amps/hp: N/A / 2

Ranges of speed, RPM: 40 – 3200


Thanks to sturdiness and qualitative materials, vibrations are almost undetectable

All components are made of reliable iron for maximum stability and reliability

Package includes the anti-rotation tailstock key, a two-position mount, an ergonomic spindle lock design, and a sliding hammer knockout rod


Ultra limited mobility because of the overall weight

Laguna Revo 1836 – A full size wood lathe for home use

Laguna Revo 1836

Compared to the previous lathe, I like the Laguna Revo 1836 more because of its neat design and compactness for home use.

It’s worth mentioning the incredibly cool ergonomic angled control panel made from anodized aluminum. Revo 1836 is equipped with very convenient buttons: emergency stop, forward, reverse switch, start/stop, and variable speed adjustment knob. The bed is made from steel which allows the cast iron headstock to work incredibly smoothly and then prevent vibrations.

The filling of Laguna Revo 1836 is also quite solid. The motor is equipped with 1.5 horsepower. When working with wood, the minimum rotation speed is 135 RPM, which is very cool for detailed work. The maximum speed is 3500 RPM. This perfect device features an 18″ swing over bed.

Laguna Revo 1836 Photo

Key specs

Swing over bed, inch: 18″

Distance between centers, inch: 36″

Motor, Amps/hp: N/A / 1.5

Ranges of speed, RPM: 135 – 3500


In-built induction motor is extremely quiet even in the high spin level

Because of smart placement, speed changing buttons take seconds to switch

Speed controls are easy to use and the LCD display is very bright


No cons found

Additional products to consider for your wood shaping

GREBSTK Chisel Tool Sets

GREBSTK Chisel Tool Sets

Lathe Set up Guide

Setting up your lathe

When you have made an important purchase of a lathe, the next step is to install and configure it. These settings change depending on which lathe you bought. If, for example, it is a mini version, it is better to set it up on a workbench or sturdy table. Alternatively, you can craft a special surface using thick plywood. The most important thing is that the surface is stable and not wobbly. Nobody needs an extra shake, right?

Another thing is the correct placement of large lathes as full-size or midi versions. They are often preferred to be placed against a wall to save space. As for me, this is a mistake, because this way you lose access to the front side of the machine. I think the best solution would be to place the lathe perpendicular to the wall. However, the choice is yours.

Leveling your lathe

To work with a wood lathe, it is not enough just to purchase it, unpack it and plug it into an outlet. There are quite important settings that should not be neglected in order to firstly protect yourself, and secondly, to make the work as comfortable as possible for you. Correct leveling is a very important thing, which, unfortunately, is often forgotten.

It should be level along the length of the ways and across the ways at each end. Across at each end is most important, because different states of the level at each end of the lathe may introduce a twist into the bed. You just need to adjust the adjusting screws on your lathe post to be horizontal. Remember that it is important to first put your machine in the right place and only then adjust.

Are lathes dangerous?

I think it is obvious that any device in inept hands is dangerous. The lathe has never been an exception. When using this mechanism, you should always keep in mind the basic safety rules.

Fortunately, from early childhood, we are taught how to properly handle sockets, electricity, and so on. Your lathe must be connected stably, have a steady flow of electric current, and no drops. Do not turn off the device until the end of the work.

It is also important to remember that dust also has a role. No one is pleased with the thick layer of dust on the face. It is unpleasant when it gets into the eyes or into the respiratory tract through the nose. In fact, it is fraught with more problems than just sneezing. Therefore, I strongly advise you to protect yourself and purchase special face protection.

The rotating mechanism itself deserves special attention when considering safety. As you already know, it spins at incredible speed and can cause injury if used carelessly. Always remember that you don’t have to stick your hands where you don’t need to. Moreover, friction produces heating. When working with wood, remember to take breaks after a long session. Sawdust, dust, and natural resins that are released from wood are incredibly easy to catch fire. Keep this thought in your head while you work and keep yourself safe.

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