What woodturning lathe should you buy?

If you are looking at getting into woodturning the first consideration is what woodturning lathe to buy. Axminster Tools offers a range of Workshop benchtop woodturning lathes to meet your woodturning needs. Before buying your lathe there are a few points to consider and parts of the lathe to understand:

  • Capacity
  • Type of machine
  • Power
  • Budget

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The capacity of your lathe determines the size of the project you can turn. It consists of the maximum capacity over the lathe bed and the distance between centres.

The maximum diameter you can turn on an Axminster Workshop woodturning lathe ranges between 240mm and 368mm.

The length of work you can turn is determined by the maximum distance between the headstock centre and the tailstock centre. The distance between centres on an Axminster Workshop benchtop lathe ranges between 205mm and 610mm.

In short, the larger the capacity of the lathe, the larger the project you can turn.

Top Tip!

If you want to turn longer pieces lathe bed extensions are available. This will extend the turning between centres capacity significantly and, in some cases, over 1,100mm. See our range of Workshop lathe accessories.

Type of Machine

There are three types of control. A fixed pulley, where you have a pulley on the top and a pulley on the motor. To change the speed, you turn the lathe off, slacken the belt and move over the pulley settings.

Axminster Workshop Lathes - Digital Readout
A digital readout clearly shows the speed

A mechanical variable speed lathe is where you have you have pulley's both top and bottom that mesh together. As you move the control leaver the pulley's move in and out, controlling both speed and torque.

An electronic variable speed lathe lets you quickly and easily adjust and set the speed to suit what you are turning. For example; drilling requires a slow speed, turning requires a faster speed. When sanding, a speed between the two is required.


Axminster Workshop variable speed benchtop lathes have powerful DC motors, giving you instant power when you need it. The Workshop range of lathes motor power ranges from 230W to 750W.

Basically, the larger the power, the bigger the pieces you can turn as the motor needs to keep the piece turning at a consistent speed.


Retail prices for an Axminster Workshop lathe roughly range between £240 and £1,200. *Price range correct as of November 2023

Generally, the more you spend on your lathe the bigger the motor, capacity, and number of features you get.

  AW240WL AW305WL AW355WL AW205WL
Max Diameter over Bed 240mm 305mm 355mm 205mm
Distance Between Centres 440mm 457mm 510mm 330mm
Power 375W 550W 750W 250W
Speed 700 - 2,800rpm (5) 500 - 2,040 / 1,000 - 4,080rpm (variable) 250 - 3,550rpm (variable) 750 - 3,200rpm (variable)
Overall L x W x H 900mm x 205mm x 365mm 970mm x 280mm x 440mm 1,040mm x 370mm x 480mm 730mm x 150mm x 310mm
Nett Weight 38kg 40kg 57kg 20kg

Something a little bigger

If space isn’t an issue in your workshop you might consider the Axminster Craft AC370WL floor-standing lathe.

Max Diameter over Bed 368mm
Distance Between Centres 610mm
Power 230W
Speed 500 - 2,000rpm (10, variable)
Overall L x W x H 1,400mm x 400mm x 1,250mm
Nett Weight 137kg

The main parts of the woodturning lathe

Axminster Workshop Lathe
1. Headstock handwheel 5. Lathe bed 8. Tool rest
2. Belt cover 6. Motor 9. Tailstock
3. Headstock 7. Tool rest saddle 10. Variable speed control (if it has one)
4. Headstock shaft