October 6, 2019

How to Pick the Right Size Lathe

When shopping for a lathe, picking the right size is essential. A small lathe will limit the types of projects you can work on. Large lathes can be cumbersome and difficult to use. This blog post will discuss how to pick the right size lathe for your needs. We will also provide tips on using a lathe safely and efficiently.

What size lathe do we need?

Lathes come in more than 3 sizes:

  • Mini lathe: this lathe is for the hobbyist or someone who does not have a lot of space. Its traditional lathes are about 12 inches in diameter, with a swing over the bed of just 30 to 35 inches. These lathes work well on small pieces, and they’re great for beginners looking for an inexpensive way to get started before eventually upgrading.
  • Midi lathes: These are more significant than the mini lathe but still small enough to use in a home shop. They have a swing over the bed that’s usually between 31 and 36 inches, measuring from just under 18 inches to about 22 inches across the diameter of the lathe.
  • Full-size lathes: this is what most people will be familiar with. They have a swing over the bed that measures between 36 and 42 inches, with lathes measuring 18 to 24 inches across the diameter of the lathe.
  • Long lathes: these are some of the largest machines on the market but still small enough for most people’s homes. They have a swing over bed size of up to 45 inches. You will find this used in professional environments.

Get a lathe that fits your workspace

This may seem like an obvious point. You want to measure the size of your workspace before you get your lathe in. This includes checking that it can fit through the entrance fully assembled. Some manufacturers have leeway to disassemble products and assist with putting them together in your workspace. In most cases, you want one that avoids this problem.

How to measure lathe size?

Lathes are measured in length and the width of the bed, which is the horizontal section on which you will be turning. The lathe should match your benchtop. If this matches up here, it’s a good fit for you.

The lathe must also fit through doorways when assembled.

Get a lathe that is easy to use

Did you know that choosing a suitable lathe reduces the chances of accidents and injuries? If you are a beginner, it is advisable to start with lathes ideal for beginners. These tend to be less powerful and have a smaller learning curve.

Get a lathe with a power source you know how to use

You should also understand the lathe’s power source. If you are unfamiliar with it, find a lathe powered by electricity or compressed air instead of oil.

Get lathes from reputable brands

When shopping for lathes, buy from well-known and respected manufacturers so that a good track record will back up your purchase. That also means having support and a community to lean on if you encounter a problem with the lathe. You can also go online to find out what to expect from any model you may consider.

Get a lathe that you can expand on later

If you are unsure of lathe size and want to increase your options in the future, then look for lathes that have added features such as a headstock or tailstock. You can add these accessories later when you know more about what type of woodworking projects will be best suited for them.

These lathes may have some downsides, such as a lathe that is not self-contained in terms of power or space, but the extra features will make up for it when you have more experience.

What is the maximum size we can have?

They have a swing over bed size of up to 45 inches. The lathe’s swing determines the maximum size of lathes. The maximum size of the lathe is the long lathe.

Swing is the distance between two lathe centers and on a horizontal plane. You can measure it from both ends of either lathe center to any point on that line or, in other words, how much an object will turn around when placed at one end of a lathe with its length parallel to this.

What is the difference between vertical and horizontal lathes?

The lathes, which are vertical lathe machines, can be used to produce round, square and rectangular sections in roughing or finishing operations.

They have a bed that the workpiece rests on vertically with a headstock at one end of it. The horizontal lathes run horizontally with their bed parallel to ground level, and they’re usually equipped for heavy-duty tasks.

Do not forget about weight restrictions

Weight restrictions for lathes are usually specified as weight capacity in pounds of the lathe machine. In other words, how much an object will turn around when mounted.

Part of this will include considering the size of wood that you will be working on. This may not be an issue if you work on toys or other small wooden pieces.


If lathes were all the same cost, it would be easier to pick one. But lathes are available at many different price points depending on what you want in them–perhaps from as low as $150 and up to tens of thousands for automated lathe machines that do your bidding!


If you’ve been thinking about getting a lathe or upgrading your current one, we hope this post has helped to clarify the differences in size. You can use it as a guide when comparing different models on the market and deciding which is best for your needs.

When it comes time to purchase a new machine, keep these considerations in mind to get the right size lathes for your workshop- even if that means more than one! What do you think? Which of these sizes would work best for what you want to make with your woodworking projects? Let us know by commenting below.

David D. Hughes

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