Skip to main content

What You Need to Know to Pick the Perfect Lathe


Buying a lathe seems like a pretty big commitment. But don’t let the price give you cold feet. 

“A lathe is the cheapest investment in your wood turning experience,” said Roy Hershberger, quoting a friend. "All of [the chisels, tools, and wood] adds up and all of the sudden your lathe becomes the cheapest item on your shopping list.” But you really get what you pay for, so don’t just get the cheapest out there.

To make things simple, we’ve put together a buying guide for what to look for. We call it the “3 Ss.” Swing. Spindle. Speed. Now let's look at how each of these aspects add to the quality of the lathe:

Swing. This is the maximum diameter of your finished product. For example, if you have a 12-inch round piece of wood, then the diameter of the rotation would be a 12-inch swing.

Spindle. What length of wood are you looking to turn? If you looking to turn a baseball bat, you’ll want a longer spindle length. 

Speed. It’s important to have a variety of speed levels on your lathe. You’ll want to have a slower speed when you start off on a lathe project. Then when you’re applying the finish to a project, you’ll want a higher speed to get a nicer shine. So speed variety is key.  

At Keim, we only sell quality products. No shakes. No rattles. Just what you need for a solid woodturning experience. If you’re looking for a quality lathe, we recommend starting with Nova or Jet brands. You can find them in our store. 

PRO TIP: If you ever have trouble with your lathe, bring it to the Repair Center at our store, in Charm, Ohio. We ‘re happy to repair any tool that we sell.  

If you’re new to woodturning, we recommend you start with a small, benchtop lathe. You’ll get a quality woodturning experience, but at the end of the day, you can just pick it up and put it away to make time and space for the other people and hobbies you love.