Best Lathe For Pen Turning 2020 (Reviews and Buying Guide)

Best lathes for pen turning

Lathe Machine by jon trillana from the Noun Project

It’s a familiar story, and it usually goes like this:

"I watched a YouTube video of someone turning pens on a lathe... 

...now I’m in love with pen turning.

Or I signed up for this woodturning class, and I’m particularly interested in turning pens now. 

But this is where I’m stuck: I don’t know which is the best pen turning lathe?"

We’ve all been there.

That’s why we are here to help you find the best lathe for pen turning and recommend a couple of lathes that we love. Here we go...

  1. 1
    The best - Rikon 70-105 
  2. 2
    Best budget pen lathe - WEN 3421
  3. 3
    High end - Jet JWL-1015
  4. 4
    Best full size lathe for pen turning - Jet JWL-1640EVS
  5. 5
EDITORS CHOICE
1. Rikon 70-105
Why it's our top pick:
  • Specifically made for pen turning
  • 5-speed ranger covers bases for decent pen turning.
  • A tailstock that ejects itself.
  • The motor has cooling fins, so the lathe just runs warm rather than hot.

Top Pen Turning Lathes

Type

Power and Speed

Price

2.  WEN 3421

Mini (8"X12")

Power: 3.2 amp.


Variable Speed: 750-3200 rpm

3. Jet JWL-1015

Mini (10"X15")

Power: N/A.


Variable Speed: 500-3975 rpm

4. Jet JWL-1640EVS

Full Size (16"X40")

Power: 1.5 hp.


Variable Speed: 40-3200 rpm

5.  Delta Industrial 46-460

Midi (12"X20")

Power: 1 hp.


Variable Speed: 250-1750 rpm

Looking to Do a great pen turning job? Here's Some Things to make the process easy:


  • Figuring out the different pen turning tools is overwhelming for a beginner. A good pen turning starter kit wiil save you from them hassle. Here, check out this high-quality pen turning starter kit that I was surprised to see how affordable it was.
  • Along with lathes, you will need various pen turning tools to get started. Check out our recommended pen turning tool list to avoid wasting money on unnecessary tools.
  • "Not everyone who makes pens will only make pens;" It's almost certain you will soon start woodturning things like bowls. Check out this article on recommended woodturning tools to fast track yourself into the elite Woodturners list.

3 Best mini lathes for pen turning - Reviews 

1. Rikon 70-105 - The Best 

Our Thoughts

Rikon 70-105 mini lathe is what happens when manufacturers listen to the requests of their customers. 


This sturdy mini lathe is specifically tailored for pen turning.


You got what you asked for:

Seriously, this mini lathe was made upon the request of turners like you.

Turners that wanted a pen turning lathe that was both sturdy and dedicated to their needs. 

It’s either cast iron or nothing, right?

You know a pen turning lathe has its shit together when it’s fabricated with cast iron. 

Unlike other pen turning lathes that are made of aluminum, the Rikon 70-105 is made of cast iron that eliminates unnecessary vibrations.

The bed, headstock, and tailstock are all made from cast iron for a smooth pen turning process.

Five-speed ranges

This 75-lb mini lathe’s speed ranges from 500 to 3,200 RPMs.

Just think about it.

This will make it easier for you to carry out all the pen turning steps, from boring holes to the finishing touches.

Great, little pen turning buddy

A small lathe translates to low efficiency, right?

Wrong.

The Rikon 70 - 105 is a great little lathe with five pulley positions offering a decent range of speeds for any project.

Let’s be honest: while this great little lathe takes numero uno in this list (and in our hearts), it still has its drawbacks.

So, what are its not-so-flattering aspects?

Slow pulley belt speed change

Everyone loves working fast and changing the pulley speed quickly when necessary.

Well, this lathe will teach you a thing or two about patience.

Silver lining: you get a moment to catch your breath.

9” diameter limit

While this mini lathe was specifically tailored for pen turning, bowls and other small woodturning projects are invited to the party.

But there’s a catch: before cutting the bowl, there is a 9” diameter limit. 

So just turn pens. And small bowls and other smaller projects.

  • Smooth travel on the tailstock.
  • The motor has cooling fins.
  • Zero vibration.
  • Good range of speeds.
  • Self-ejecting tailstock.
  • Slow pulley belt speed change (like 10 seconds).
  • 9-inch diameter limit

2. WEN 3421 - Best for beginners  

Our Thoughts

Novice pen turners in the house, this is your lathe.


Though Pen turning is easy enough but you need to go thorugh a learning curve. And this mini lathe helps beginners learn the ropes way easier and a lot faster.

Ease of use

Pen turning beginners should have no trouble at all using this lathe.

And if it’s your first time handling a lathe, we couldn’t recommend any other than this sturdy and straightforward mini-lathe.

A cast-iron affair

We love cast-iron lathes.

Here’s the thing: a lathe made from cast iron makes the pen turning experience friction-free.

There won’t be unnecessary vibrations to slow you down.

This beginner-friendly mini lathe isn’t perfect, though. So, what are some of its flaws?

It’s a little picky

So you want to work metal on this?

Well, we may have bad news for you. This mini lathe’s motor just doesn’t have enough torque to turn metals.

The lathe is also more susceptible to jamming, so you may want to take it slow.

Experienced pen turners keep off!

We love this mini lathe because it’s beginner-friendly.

However, it wouldn’t be the perfect fit for experienced woodturners who expect speed and great efficiency from their lathes.

For starters, you won’t handle bigger projects with this lathe. And the motor torque may not be up to your liking.

  • Beginner-friendly
  • Friendly customer support
  • Can’t turn metals
  • Can jam easily

3. Jet JWL-1015 - High End

Our Thoughts

Frankly, this high-end lathe surpassed all our expectations, and we believe it’d be an excellent fit for pen turning that doesn’t have a tight budget.

If you want to take your pen turning to the next level, we wholly recommend this lathe.

Everyone can use this 77-lb lathe, from newbies to experienced machinists. 

Does literally everything

Honestly, we’ve tried many pen turning lathes, but the build, reliability, and consistency of this machine is something else.

You can also turn both wood and metal using this lathe.

Among other features, the versatility of this mini lathe is enhanced by its cast-iron bed, 15-½” length between centers, and six variable speeds. 

Like a hot knife through butter

The Jet JWL-1015 operates smoothly and is so much satisfying to turn pens with.

What’s more, this lathe is well-built and achieves quiet operation when compared with other lathes in the market.

You’re probably wondering: what can be wrong about this mini lathe? 

This lathe isn’t perfect either. Let’s reveal a few skeletons from the closet, shall we?

Lacks variable speed

When you’re working on any woodturning project, you’ll need to adjust the RPMs. 

While this pen turning lathe comes with six variable speeds, adjusting between the speeds may take some time since you’ll need to shut off the lathe.

A little more torque would be great

If it were up to us, we would add a little more power to this lathe. 

It’s totally fine as it is, but it would do better with some more power.

The new model has more plastic

Compared to its previous models, the new Jet JWL-1015 mini lathe is made of more plastic.

Here at Woodworkers Lab, we are choosy, so we think it would have been great if the door was made of metal rather than plastic.

Here’s a round-up of the good and bad aspects of this pen turning lathe:

  • Well-built.
  • Adjusting RPMs is quick and easy.
  • Turns both wood and metal.
  • Operates quietly and smoothly
  • Needs to be shut off to adjust the speed
  • Could use a little more torque
  • Has more plastic than earlier models

4. Jet JWL-1640EVS - Best Full-Size Lathe For Pen Turning

Our Thoughts

Many of us will go beyond pen turning and it's wise get a full size lathe to do all sort of woodturnings.


We get you.

Maybe you want something a little bigger and neither a mini nor a midi-lathe is going to cut it for you.

The Jet JWL-1640EVS is the lathe for you.

A sliding and rotating headstock

You know what this means, don’t you?

For us and everyone who takes woodturning seriously, a rotating headstock is a welcome addition. 

Who doesn’t love outboard turning?

So quiet you can nap away

Seriously though, don’t sleep while working with a lathe.

Turning pen on this lathe is so smooth and quiet due to the heaviness of the lathe: 300 pounds.

Speed can be varied infinitely

This full-sized lathe’s RPMs can be varied seamlessly from 40 to 3,200 RPMs, according to the requirements of the project.

Awesome customer service

Jet Woodworking backs up a great product with amazing customer service.

The customer care folks promptly answer any question you throw at them concerning any of their products.

The lathe could use a longer faceplate

While the current faceplate (three inches long), is decent and serviceable, we believe a longer faceplate would be awesome.

A pen turning heavyweight

While this isn’t necessarily a drawback, this lathe weighs 300 pounds, which is on the heavy side.

So don’t put it on wheels.

Here’s the summary of the flattering and not-so-flattering aspects of this lathe:

  • Speed can be varied infinitely.
  • Runs smoothly and quietly.
  • It allows for reverse sanding.
  • Has a rotating headstock.
  • This lathe has a digital RPM scale and spindle lock.
  • Has a three-inch reversible faceplate.
  • Could use a longer faceplate
  • Heavy.

5. Delta Industrial 46-460 - Best midi lathe

Our Thoughts

Let’s say you don’t have enough room for the Jet full-size lathe, or its weight intimidates you.

Or maybe mini lathes don’t excite your taste buds. Then this Delta Industrial midi lathe can be the suitable middle-ground.


Well-built and powerful

This lathe is categorized as a midi lathe, but it’s as well-built and sturdy as a full-size lathe.

A sturdy 1 hp max, 1,725 RPM motor and a 12-1/2 -inch swing capacity are some of the features that enhance the power and torque of this midi lathe.

Smooth and quiet

Just like some of the lathes on this list we’ve discussed, this midi lathe warmed our hearts because it’s smooth, quiet, and seamless to work with.

Changing RPMs is a piece of cake with this midi lathe.

Reverse switch for sanding and finishing

We particularly liked this lathe because of its reverse switch. While some experienced pen turners may not consider it a must-have, this feature is great for sanding and finishing.

On the flip side, here are some things we didn’t like about this midi lathe:

The tool rest banjo may be unwelcoming to other tools

If you choose to use other tools, they may not fit on this lathe’s ⅝ inch tool rest banjo.

Reverse-forward works backward

Remember the reverse-forward feature that helps in sanding.

Well, it turns out that it works backward in this midi lathe. It does not pose a serious challenge or hamper the operation of the lathe, but it may confuse novice pen turners.

  • Plenty of power.
  • Has a fixed headstock that allows for outboard turning.
  • Forward-reverse switch for sanding.
  • Easy and straightforward to set up
  • Variable speed controls.
  • No digital RPMs read-out
  • Faulty forward-reverse switch.

We’ve discussed some of the best lathes for pen turning out there, but you must be wondering how to choose the best one to fulfill your needs.

So, let’s dig a little deeper and give you some tips on how to choose the best pen turning lathe, whether you are a beginner or a seasoned woodturner.

What lathe size is more suitable for turning pens?

That’s a question we asked ourselves too.

Generally, there are three basic lathe sizes; mini, midi, and full-size. 

One cardinal rule of thumb in woodturning circles is that you can turn small things on large lathes, but you can’t turn large things on small lathes.

Since pen turning has brought many enthusiasts to woodturning, naturally their first choice is a mini lathe.

While lathe size does indeed matter, it’s more important when turning bigger things. So any size of lathe should do perfectly fine for your pen turning project.

What it needs to have, however, is variable speed, so that you can turn the pen at higher speeds then sand it at lower speeds.

Are you a casual hobbyist or a professional?

Once you answer this question, then you’ll probably know the type of lathe to invest in.

Pen turning hobbyists are, more often than not, novices to pen turning, and they have a habit of going for the cheapest and most beginner-friendly.

Professionals prefer midi and full-size lathes that can handle other projects aside from pens.

Crowning it all

Without a shadow of a doubt, our favorite lathe for pen turning is the RIKON 70-105.

We’ve ranked it higher than all the other lathes in this list because it has ample power, a self-ejecting tailstock, and cooling fins. 

And there’s more.

The mini lathe is specifically tailored for pen turners and small enough to help both hobbyists and professionals to excel in their craft.

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