Whether you’re an expert pen turner or hobbyist, you’ll need the best lathe for pen turning. It is an indispensable tool that turns simple woods into beautiful pens.
That said, sometimes finding the best pen turning lathes gets tricky knowing that there are many options available to choose from. However, you can set your mind at peace today as we’re about to present an in-depth review of the top 10 products available to date here in this article.
So, without further delay, let’s get started.
Top 11 Pen Turning Lathes: Pen Lathes Quick Look
- Best Overall: JET JWL-1221VS
- Best Full-Size: Laguna Tool Revo
- Best Value: Delta 46-460
- Best Mini: Shop Fox W1704
- Best Budget: Wen 3420T
- Best Under $600: Nova 46300 Comet II
- Best Under $500: PSI Woodworking KWL-1018VS
- Also Great Under $500: JET JWL-1015
- Also Great Under $500: Grizzly H8259
- Best Under $400: Rikon 70-105
- Also Great Under $400: Mophorn 10 Lathe
Best Lathes for Pen Turning – Reviews (2021)
1. JET JWL-1221VS Variable Speed Pen Turning Midi Wood Lathe – Best Overall
Jet offers some great wood pen lathes, which are reliable, and feature-packed. The JET JWL-1221VS wood lathe is no exception. If pen making is just a hobby or you do it because of the profession, you cannot go past this lathe.
The motor inside the lathe is capable of 60-3600 RPM operation. That is a wide range of RPM to control that gives the freedom to work with.
Also, the lathe can turn forward and reverse for your convenience. They made the transition smoother and easier to work with as well.
This wood pen making lathe has a spring-loaded integrated lock system, acme thread at the tailstock, and 24 indexing positions. This allows for maintaining a fixed position while working on a pen.
They made it with sturdy materials with long service life in mind. So, having one of these means you don’t have to worry about the consistency of the build or the lasting length.
After reading all the features, it’s easy to realize whether it is making, cutting, and shaping a pen this is the best overall wood lathe for you.
2. Delta Industrial 46-460 Midi Wood Lathe for Pen Turning – Best for the Money
Delta made a name for its cost-effective industrial product. The Delta Industrial 46-460 Midi Wood Lathe is a good example of that. If you are a beginner and looking for an affordable yet powerful lathe, this is your best for the money buy.
This midi lathe comes with 1 HP motor capable of producing a maximum 4,000 RPM coupled with a swing capacity of 12-1/2 inch and pulley system to regulate speed.
For superior finish and precision, the lathe can go forward and reverse with ease. You only need to flip a switch to change the turning orientation.
The belt tensioning system in this pen making lathe is patented. The unique six groove belt is super proficient at speed changes and offers a longer life span.
The steel construction is sturdy and durable. Additionally, it comes with a faceplate of 3 inches, another one of 6 inches, and the 10-inch tool rest for maximum tool compatibility.
When you are just starting, you would want a top rated lathe for pen turning and have all the features under your belt. Fortunately, Delta delivers all that at a reasonable price.
3. SHOP FOX W1704 Benchtop Wood Lathe – Best Mini Lathe for Pen Turning
Proper space utilization is very important in a small wood workshop. Individuals who interested to peruse a hobby in confined spaces should look for mini lathe for pen making.
Luckily, the Shop Fox W1704 is one of the Best Mini Lathes for Pen Turning and a great buy in respect of exploiting your tight workspace.
The machine is built with cast iron. That implies despite its small form factor, it will be strong enough to handle the rough workload.
It has a fairly powerful 0.33 HP motor which can run on 110V. It also gives liberty to control from 700-3200 RPM. Additionally, they have two added tool rests. One of which is 4-1/2 and the other one 7-inch. That’s plenty for any turning application.
This pen maker’s lathe comes with 12 inches of space from wide 5-3/4 inches headstock to the tailstock. Also 8 inches of swing over bed function. That allows creativity in any penning project. It’s really hard to ignore, all the features that come in a small package.
4. WEN 3420T Variable Speed Mini Lathe – Best Budget Lathe for Pen Turning
Every woodwork shop demands tools that are great at what they do. Consequently, those tools come with a heavy price tag. It doesn’t have to be like that when you have the best budget lathe for pen turning from WEN.
This WEN 3420T pen making wood lathe has a wide 5” faceplate and MT1 spindle tailstock. Meaning it would handle any woodturning work like a pro.
The 2 amps motor is capable of soft start making it safe from damages. Furthermore, you can adjust the RPM from 750-3200 according to your work need.
The lathe also comes with a flat wrench, spur center, and cup center on both stocks. With those, you can turn any small to medium wood piece comfortably.
Its exceptional clamping system allows you to adjust two 4-1/2” and 7” tool rest and spindle tailstock. Ultimately granting you great precision in slimline pen projects.
WEN 3420T is a true beginner pen turning lathe. Now you can take your passion for turning a pen forward at the convenience of your budget.
5. Nova 71118 Comet II DR Digital Readout Pen Making Midi Wood Lathe
Nova 71118 Comet II DR is a capable pen turning mini lathe. This bench-top tool is well built with strong materials to last through your many pen makings as well as woodworking projects.
The whole body of the lathe is constructed with solid cast iron. Though this is a portable version still it brings sturdiness and longer service life of a regular big lathe machine.
This powerful lathe features a 0.75 HP motor that can rotate forward and reverse between 250- 4000 RPM with ease. Unlike other lathes, it has digital display and control for precise speed access.
The distance between 2 stock heads is respectively 12 and 16.5 inches. Moreover, the bed space can be extended up to 40 inches with additional purchase.
Like the previous lathes, it features 3” faceplate, adjustable tailstock, 3 stage pulleys, extensive 6 inches tool-rest, and Versaturn Coupler.
The manufacturer Teknatool International believes in innovation and bringing the latest technology to customers. This explains how it finds a place in our pen turning lathe review.
6. RIKON Power Tools 70-105 Mini Wood Lathe for Turning Pens
Rikon 70-105 wood lathe could be a good option for you if you are looking for a portable lathe. Working with a lathe in a small workspace can be a challenge. But RIKON Power Tools see this as an opportunity and developed mini lathe for pen turning.
The tool comes with adequate power to work on a wooden pen blank or any acrylic pen blanks with less effort. Thanks to 0.50 HP motor and its 5 stage speed regulator. Just turn the knob to get to the required speed.
The lathe is not only suitable for pens; you can use it to shape other wooden objects of small to medium sizes at the same time. The 18 inches bed size and 10 inches swing capacity are enough to handle such versatile works.
For extensive control on various moving parts, it offers a secure locking system. Moreover, various knockout bars, wrenches, and wide tool rest also aid in maximizing its functionality.
7. JET JWL-1015 Variable Speed Pen Turning Midi Wood Lathe
JET JWL-1015 is another well-built lathe for making wood pens from the JET company. Though it doesn’t make it to the top five places, still it has a lot to offer as far as the features go. If the above lathes don’t tick your interest, maybe this one will.
This great value for money lathe has 6 different speed options. Unlike other fixed speed lathes, this has the advantage to do creative stuff with your project.
The lathe bed is surprisingly wide to carry out rough turning with various materials. The 0.5- 15 inches space between center sure helps turn many small to medium wood pieces.
Any lathe for turning pen uses a belt to turn the head plate. If the belt has a poor groove, it won’t be as efficient. With this in mind, they developed and constantly improving the belt system to tolerate more stress while working.
8. Mophorn Variable Speed Digital Display Midi Wood Lathe for Pen Turning
Mophorn is another easy to use beginner level lathe for pen making. Given all the features it comes with, it is perfect for almost any turning jobs.
With a powerful 550 watt motor, you can easily set the speed to between 500 and 3800 RPM. Also, it’s good that it has a simple speed regulator to jump from one speed to another quickly.
While other manufacturers make lathe feet with just steel, this particular model offers rubber feet to reduce slipping while operating on high RPM.
For using woodturning gouge tools and other shaping accessories it has fairly wide tool rest. Besides the tool rest can be adjusted with a lever to a decider height level and angle.
The tool is built with cast iron ensuring its longevity. If you take good care from time to time It won’t disappoint you in the future.
9. PSI Woodworking KWL-1018VS Turncrafter Digital Readout Midi Lathe for Turning Pens
If you are looking for a multifunctional pen makers lathe for professional use, this PSI Woodworking KWL-1018VS can be a great option and a bit dilemma with a hefty price tag. But if that’s what you want, we’re sure the price tag won’t matter at this point.
The machine is quite big and can handle the various size of wood pieces with no issue. If that is not enough for you, you can always opt for bed extension to make 42” long bed from regular 10”.
You will be glad to know this model is certified by Intertek and ETL listed. This means, 0.75 HP motor installed in this lathe is particularly capable and reliable.
Two distinct belt positions are available to adjust your RPM up to 3600. The digital meter also helps you keep track of which RPM you ‘re currently on.
10. Grizzly Industrial H8259 Benchtop Pen Turning Midi Wood Lathe
Grizzly H8259 is the last model on our review list. But that doesn’t make it a dire product at all. Think of it like it’s on the list because it has features to compete with other contenders on the market.
The lathe is suitable for small operations. So if you are just starting with the pen making, you can get away with any small projects with its convenient 0.5 HP motor. Luckily the voltage requirement on this model is 110V only.
With the RPM range from 826 to 3337 and 5 levels of speed, you will have several options to turn your workpiece effortlessly.
One thing this Lathe manufacture gets it right is their adjustable rubber feet. Why is that important you may ask? When working in sensitive work, you will want your tool to be precise at the exact level and angle. And that’s where adjustable feet come in handy.
Pen Turning Lathe Buying Guide
Before you buy one of the best lathes for pen turning, we highly recommend you to consider the following factors. This guide will help you choose the right lathe for your pen turning projects.
Pen turning wood lathes are available in three different sizes: Full-size, Midi and Mini.
If you’re an individual pen maker, then we recommend you to go for a midi or a mini lathe. They are benchtop machines designed for small and medium projects, lightweight and require less space than full-sized lathes.
Full-sized lathes are suitable for commercial uses, designed for large woodturning projects and heavy-duty performance. A full-size wood lathe only for pen turning is undoubtedly an overkill.
Almost all pen turning lathes come with the power ranges from 1/2 to 1-1/2 HP. The more power the motor can produce, the better your lathe will perform, but the higher it will cost.
If you intend to use your lathe for other projects along with pen turning, you should go for a powerful machine.
Make sure your pen turning lathe comes with this costly yet crucial feature. It allows you to switch to different speeds (RPM) by dialling the speed knob, which is extremely convenient.
On the other hand, multi-speed lathes are cheaper than their counterparts. But every time you want to change the lathe speed, you’ll need to move the drive belt to a different position manually. And it requires opening up the belt cover which will slow down the workflow.
Pen making lathes with low or almost no vibration allow you to achieve your goals more efficiently. Vibration may occur for various reasons, and structural weakness is one of them.
So make sure the lathe has a sturdy and durable construction, that ensures less vibration and smooth operation.
Essential Pen Turning Tools: Pen Turning 101
Pen turning projects require a set of tools and accessories. Here we will discuss the essential tools for pen turning. You will find some of the vital tools in pen turning starter kit.
Pen Turning Lathe
It’s the most important and expensive tool for any pen turning project. An excellent lathe for making wood pens will allow you to make different styles of attractive pens more efficiently.
Check out our previous section of pen turning lathe reviews, and you’ll get ten great options there.
Pen blanks are small square pieces of wood or acrylic intended for making pens. The most common pen blank size is ¾ by ¾ by 5 inches. Pen blank is the most crucial element of any pen turning project, so you should choose them carefully.
Are you looking for pen blanks? Check some of the incredible options here.
While it comes to pen turning, you can’t attach your pen blanks directly to the lathe. Pen turning mandrel mounts between centres on the lathe and it supports the pen blanks for turning.
Pen mandrel’s headstock size should match the size of the lathe headstock’s tapered hole. Depending on the size you will need either an mt1 pen mandrel (½ inch or 12mm) or mt2 pen mandrel (¾ inch or 18mm).
If you’re looking for a pen making mandrel, check out these options here.
Pen kits come with the required brass tubing and the pen hardware mechanism.
If you’re looking for some excellent pen kits, check out these options here.
After scuffing up the pen brass tube, you’ll need to add Cyanoacrylate (CA) glue on it. It allows the tube to better grip with the pen blanks.
If you’re looking for CAS glues for pen turning, here are some excellent options.
Pen bushings or spacers are simple rings. You’ll need to place them between the pen blanks onto the pen mandrel. The bushings are the indicators of the required diameter of the pen blanks you’re turning.
Bushings should match the size of the pen mandrel and the type of pen you’re turning. The 7mm pen bushings are the most common size available on the market.
If you’re looking for pen bushings check out these options here.
Pen Turning Lathe Tools
We highly recommend you to read our in-depth article on these tools, and you’ll enjoy it.
Pen Barrel Trimmer
Pen mill barrel trimmer is a drill attachment which allows you to accurately squaring up the end of pen blanks with the brass tube inside.
This process ensures there’s no gap between the brass tube and the pen blank.
Need a pen barrel trimmer kit? Check these options here.
You’ll need a drill press to drill the pen blanks to make the housing for the brass tubes. If you’re looking for a drill press for pen blanks, have a look at these models.
As an alternative of the drill press, you can use a pen blank drilling lathe chuck to drill the blanks using the lathe.
To cut pen blanks to the required sizes, you’ll need a saw. The band saw is the most convenient option of doing it.
You can also use a table saw for this purpose.
You’ll need to sand the pen blanks with 180 grits through 400 grits sandpapers after reaching a certain diameter.
This process allows you to achieve a smoother pen blank surface. Check out these woodturning sandpapers for your pen making projects.
After turning and sanding the pen blanks, you’ll need to apply finishing coats onto the blank for a glossy appearance. You can use the finish you like. The most common option is the CA pen finish.
If you’re looking for pen turning finishes, have a look at these options.
Once you complete turning the pen blanks into the required shapes, you’ll need a pen press tool to assemble the pen.
You can use these woodturning pen press tools for all kinds of pen assembly and disassembly works.
How to Turn Pens on a Wood Lathe?
Turning pens on a lathe is a fairly complex work and requires experience. That doesn’t mean you can’t start from today with our how-to guide.
- First of all, try to gather all the necessary supplies in your hand’s reach. Keeping things close will save you precious time.
- In the next step, cut the blanks and drill in the middle to fit the brass tube. The easiest way you can do that is, mark the places where you will be making your cuts holes.
- Later, it’s time to slide the brass tube into the hole you just made with a drill. Before you do that make sure you have properly sand the tube and added an adequate amount of glue. When it’s done be sure to let it dry before turning operation.
- Now you can use a drill machine and appropriate attachment to make a small hole around the brass tube’s opening. This is done to clean out a bit around the tube and for a better grip on the stock. It needs to close enough to the tube but not so deep that the tube protrudes a bit.
- You will love this step as you slowly shape the blanks into a pen. Set the pen mandrel on the headstock of lathe and place blanks on the mandrel with bushes. Two on both ends and one in the middle. Close the tailstock securely. After everything is set start your lathe machine to shape it with a gouge.
- After done shaping, use sandpaper to smoothen out the finishing. Use up to 400 grit sandpaper gradually to achieve the desired finishing. And then, apply pen finish for a glossy look.
- Finally, you either manually put together pen parts or use a pen press to complete your first slimline pen.
Pen Turning Lathe Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. What is pen turning?
Pen turning is the process of making handcrafted pens from different kinds of pen blanks. This process requires a wood lathe and other pen turning accessories mentioned above.
Q. What is a pen turning lathe?
A pen turning lathe is a turning machine, which allows you to draw woods from the pen blanks and turn them into pens.
Q. What is the best lathe speed for pen turning?
You can start with 2000 RPM and speed up to 3500 RPM for turning wood pen blanks. And the suitable lathe speed for acrylic pen blanks is 2000 RPM to 2500 RPM.
Q. Midi vs. Mini Lathe – What’s the difference?
The main difference between midi and mini lathe is in the specifications and features.
Midi lathe comes with a more powerful motor. You can turn larger items on midi lathes due to the larger swing over bed size and between centers length.
Mini lathes are more affordable and comparatively lightweight than midi lathes. They are suitable for mini projects such as pen turning.
Undoubtedly, making a pen on a lathe machine can be challenging if never done before. But quality lathes help ease the learning curve as well as achieve precision.
That’s why this article contains the list of the best lathes for pen turning, so you can find yours with less effort.
If you are still undecided which one from the best pen turning lathes to get, let us make it easy for you. Both the SHOP FOX W1704 and WEN 3420T are great from the budget perspective and portability. You cannot go wrong with any of these at all.
Now it’s your turn to start making beautiful pens with a fine lathe.
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