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What size Lathe Should I Buy?

The size of a lathe plays a significant role in any woodturning project. However, it may not be easy to get the right size because many woodturners do not know the budget and space required to buy the size they need.

Apart from these, it may be difficult to know what features the lathe size needed should have. If you are a woodturner and considering getting a turning lathe, this article will help you make the right choice of size.

Rules That Guides the Choice of Lathe Size

Before getting any size of woodturning lathe, there are three questions you will need to ask yourself.

·      Do I want to work on a small or large project?

A lathe could be used for either large or small projects. For instance, they could turn bowls, cups, boxes, coffee mugs, platters, tool handles, or even ornaments. Hence, the type of project you choose to undertake will be a determinant for the size of your lathe. If you are considering turning smaller objects, go for a small-sized lathe. On the other hand, larger projects demand larger tools.

·      What is my Budget?

Apart from considering the project you want to turn, the cost of getting the right size matters a lot. For experienced users that need larger working lathes but have limited budgets, getting the right size for your project may be difficult. This is because the larger lathes are usually pricey.

·      Do I have enough space?

A spacious woodworking room will serve best for both small and large lathes. But, not everyone has a spacious room for turning. before getting a lathe, consider the available space for your machine. A small lathe can fit anywhere. But, a big lathe will not. After answering these questions, it boils down to knowing the types of lathe models available.

The Different Types of Lathes

Today, three different types of lathes exist the mini, midi, and full-size lathe. They come with some similar features that enable reliable functioning. However, they differ in size and use.

1.     Mini Lathe

This size of lathe aims at turning miniature items such as a pen. Unlike the other lathes, it is the most affordable, with about 1 to 8-inch spindles and 12 to 15-inches between the center. Also, it comes with a swing between 8 to 10 inches and four to five pulleys to regulate speed. Likewise, it comes with a bed extension that makes it enables it serves as a bench lathe. So, if you have a relatively small space this turning lathe is compact and space-saving.

2.     Midi Lathe

If you are looking to create medium bowls or furniture spindles and have a not too big or slightly small space, this lathe could be the perfect choice for you. It has the right center distance, extension table, and compact design to fit any space. With about 12inch spindle height, this tool can work for slightly larger pieces in the setout working environment.

3.     Full-Size Lathe

Of all the lathe types, this tool is the largest and takes up space. Moreover, it is expensive, and the budget of many woodturners may not meet its cost. However, they can take any project as long as there is available space. What this means is that they can turn anything, including huge bowls. We have also reviewed the best full size wood lathes so you can find the best one if you are shopping around.

All these lathes serve various purposes. So, if you are in the market looking to buy a lathe, there are more essentials you will need to consider.

Choosing a Lathe: What Size Should I Buy?

To know the size of lathe that will cover your woodturning needs, consider the following:

·      Spindle Diameter

Every lathe comes with a unique spindle diameter for turning. For instance, mini and midi lathe both has a 1inch spindle diameter with about eight-thread on every inch. Although this capacity can adequately turn on not too small or large objects, sit does not particularly work well for heavy-duty projects. Unlike the full-size lathe, which uses about 1-1/4inch (1.250″) or 33mm (1.299″) spindle making it easy to work on any item. But, this alone cannot account for the size of lathe you should buy. Let’s read on.

·      Swing

The swing is the height of the spindle above the bed and determines the spindle diameter. For most persons working on smaller projects, a swing of 4″ should do the job. However, if your goal is to turn larger objects, it is best to go for a lathe that has a swing of 6″.

·      Consider the center Distance

Working with a lathe will be tasking if a woodturner does not know the distance of the center on the tool. To know the right measurement, it is necessary to check the distance from the spindle nose to the tailstock nose, the tailstock flush, and the edge of the bed. If you need a lathe for not too large items, you will require one with a center distance between 29″ to 36″.

·      Motor Power

In all types of lathes, there are 745.7 watts in its horsepower. While mini lathes come with a 1/2HP motor, midi lathe outfits it with a decent 1HP motor. On the other hand, a full-size lathe is designed with 1-1/2HP three-faced induction motor together with a Variable Frequency Drive (VDF) that converts the single phase 60 hertz power to a three-phase current. So, before buying any size lathe, consider the motor capacity.

·      Weight

Many woodturners do not consider this factor good because it makes it difficult to move the lathe. However, weight is essential. Many heavy cast-iron machines tend to vibrate when roughing the wood, and this vibration may lead to the tool being unbalanced. But a weighty lathe will keep the wood in place, unlike its lightweight counterpart. Consider weight before getting a lathe.


One could easily walk into a store and pick any lathe of choice. But, this could be disadvantageous because you might choose the wrong size. Before buying a lathe, make sure to consider available space, budget, and turning needs. Additionally, knowing the spindle diameter, swing measurement, motor power, and weight of the lathe will help you make the right choice of the lathe.