Why a Variable Speed Wood Lathe is Your Go To Option

best wood lathe

As woodworkers, the tool that wows us the most is Wood Lathe. We believe it’s the same with you Mr. Xylophile! You must’ve come across its most versatile version— the Variable Speed Wood Lathe.

Whether you have or haven’t, this article has a lot to offer you. The better you know the tool the better you craft your woodturning projects.

Once you get familiar with this lathe, you start feeling like a superman who can transform a simple piece of wood into something special; starting from a wooden plate or a bowl to a super-exciting baseball bat. In fact, you can even own your personalized furniture shop!

Nevertheless, you’ll need some extra bit of stuff aside from this core instrument. But here we want to focus on the variable speed wood lathe only and guide you about its different aspects. You’ll find out what makes this tool the pick of the litter? And how you can make the best use of it? Let’s start!

What is a Wood Lathe

We don’t want to sound too technical. Wood lathes are machines used to shape wood into functional furniture components like bowls, candlesticks, or other decorative wooden pieces.

We think “Wood Turner” or “Rotating Cutter” is the self-explanatory term for the wood lathe that better describes this tool. The core component of the tool is the spindle which is considered as the heart of its headstock.

Imagine a scenario where a kid comes to his dad’s workshop and asks for a wooden toy. The dad says, “No biggie”. The man then gifts his darling with a lovely wooden bird. And you see a beautiful smile! This is Wood Lathe for you, the core tool used to create this adorable moment. Click to create some more projects like this.

variable speed lathe

Why Go for a Variable Speed Wood Lathe

Coming to the main question, “Why Do You Need a Variable Speed Lathe?” The answer is simple, achieve superior control and precision in woodturning projects.

We’ve closely observed the advantages of a variable speed wood lathe and they can be listed as follows:

  • Allows quick adjustment of the speed without stopping it
  • Changing speed to an optimal one from 10% to 200%
  • Different pulleys offer different ranges of speed
  • Fairly easy to move the belts and change the speed ranges

All of these benefits make sure that you have the maximum control over your woodturning speeds. Cheese!

How Cool It is for Woodworking

Our experience says turning becomes way easier with a variable speed wood lathe. On the other hand, turning a lathe that didn’t have variable speed leaves us with a bitter experience.

You can get stuck with a single-speed lathe and shout a “Dang!” out. This isn’t something you’d feel with a variable speed lathe.

It’s great to be able to adjust the speed when you’re doing the turning tasks. Not only that, but it also offers beginners to start off slow and safe in their woodworking journey.

Once you become more efficient and productive, you can always increase the speed!

variable speed woodturning lathe

What You Should Know About a Variable Speed Wood Lathe

When talking about variable speed lathes, there are a few factors you should be familiar with before buying out one. Let’s find out some of these below.

Speed Range

If you’re out to buy a variable speed lathe, you must know what speed range is ideal for you.

  • Turning a 6-inch bowl will require a speed ranging from 1,000-1,500 RPM
  • For a 5-inch bowl, you need a speed between 1,200-1,800 RPM
  • The 2-inch stocks or objects smaller than that will require you to turn at 3,000 RPM or higher

We can define a rule out of these. The speed you require to turn is inversely proportional to the width of the stock—”The wider the stock, the lower the speed.”. If you’re finding it difficult, we can say math is not your cup of tea but don’t bother!


Let’s look at some other components that make a good variable speed lathe:

  • The size and power of the spindle—It tells you how big your workpiece should be
  • Chuck size—This holds the workpiece and the bigger the chuck, the bigger the workpiece
  • Lathe bed—It is found in two self-explanatory versions: British flatbed and American v-bed
  • Axis—It is confusing; remember the more axis of movement, the more sophisticated the lathe is


Wood lathe use


The variable speed wood lathe is available in different sizes. But you’ve to choose it carefully and according to the type of your woodturning project.

If you’re up for turning a pen or such smaller objects, a mini lathe should be fine. For a mid-size stock, slightly larger midi lathes can be a great option. To turn large bowels, a full-size lathe is what you need.


The motor and the power it can generate is an important factor to consider for the variable speed lathe. The variable speed wood lathe motor comes with a specification from 1/8 to 3 HP. So carefully choose the power depending on your woodturning application.

Now you’ve got a list of factors to consider before choosing the right variable speed wood lathe.

We haven’t included the price here, but you know a lathe is a costly tool. You can mark your time for a variable speed wood lathe sale to get the product at a discount. Else you’ve to be prepared to pay top dollar!

working with variable speed wood lathe

Tips for Using It the Best Way

Why not make the best of use of the variable speed lathe? Need some tips? Take a look at the tips as follows:

Safety First

Remember “better safe than sorry”, for this benign tool of your workshop. Carefully start the machine at a slow and safe speed. Also, protect your eyes and face, wear goggles.

Have the Right Tools to Assist

To accomplish a perfect woodturning project, you also need some more elaborate types of tools. It could include chisels, gouges, scrapers, parting tools, etc.

Check out your arsenal and make sure if you have the right ones before starting your project.

Wood lathe accessories

Carefully Do the Belt Changeover

For a variable speed lathe with multiple speed ranges, you need to change over the belt between a high and a low-speed range. It should be an easy task if you’re trained yet you’ve to be careful.

Optimum Speed

To stay on the safer side, you can set a speed around 750 RPM to 1100 RPM for your woodturning projects. Most of the time, your work should be turned around in this range.

Be Practical

There are some practical tricks to follow for your woodturning job with this particular lathe.

Some of these tricks include using softwood in the beginning, crafting simple projects first, using the bodyweight to make cleaner cuts, sanding and smoothening the workpiece after the finish, and so on.

Final Words

The variable speed wood lathe is a fantastic addition to any woodworking arsenal. It lets you know what you’re actually doing and whether you’re doing it fine.

If you’re stuck with a single or dual speed lathe, no worries, there are variable speed wood lathe conversion kits available for you. It’ll allow you to transform a multi-speed wood lathe into a variable-speed version!

Remember, this craft includes a gradual yet coherent learning process. The information about the variable speed wood lathe here is a small part of it.

So be persistent with your effort and you’ll surely find yourself doing wonders!

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