Many hipster woodworkers prefer the traditional method of hand crank spinners to shape pieces of wood. The rest of the world prefers efficiency and power. An electronic wood lathe makes life a lot easier for furniture makers and DIY-ers who need to cut intricate designs into long stocks or blanks. The machine saves both time and energy while simultaneously enhancing accuracy and appearance of chiseled designs.
Jet is known for producing high-quality power tools, including their line of tabletop wood lathes. Two of their lathe models – the JWL-1015 and the JWL-1221VS – have garnered positive reviews from both customers and industry experts. Although their lathes have some notable drawbacks, they’re insignificant compared to these machines’ overall performance. In this article, we’re going to take a quick look at some differing features between the two tabletop wood lathes. Hopefully, this will help you in your quest to find the wood lathe that best suits your needs.
This mini wood lathe features a ½-horsepower motor which delivers speeds of up to 3,975 RPM. This 6-speed motor uses a combination of manual belt positioning and a speed variable dial to switch between gears to determine max rotation speed.
This mini wood lathe features a 1-horsepower motor with three variable speeds starting from 60 to 3,600 RPM. Similar to the other model, this unit has six variable speeds which are controlled by manually configuring the drive belt position and rotating the speed dial.
The ½-horsepower motor in the JWL-1015 produces a quicker maximum speed, though the speed difference between the two wood lathes is insignificant. In addition, we found that the JWL-1015’s motor had fewer belt slips, resulting in more a more consistent RPM-rate.
On the right-hand side of the unit is a simple on/off switch. That’s all you get – there are no speed readouts so you need to appropriately adjust the belts and tension in order to get the right speed. There’s no reverse speed control on this model, either.
The control panel of this midi lathe is completely different from the mini lathe mentioned earlier. First of all, aside from having an on/off switch, it also has a digital readout of the spindle’s speed, a switch to reverse the spinning direction, as well as speed dial for controlling maximum RPM.
The JWL-1221VS is far ahead of the mini lathe model. The digital readout shows an accurate RPM speed so there’s less guesswork involved after adjusting the speed range.
This is the smaller of the two models. This wood lathe weighs in at only 77 pounds, making it the more portable machine. Despite weighing hardly anything for a mini lathe, we didn’t experience any noticeable quivers or vibrations when running the unit at its highest speed.
This “big brother” wood lathe model weighs a whopping 130 pounds after assembly. What’s surprising is that even though it’s almost twice the weight of the JWL-1015, the vibrations produced from the motor are somewhat unbearable, especially when operating it past 3,000 RPM.
The JWL-1015 is the clear winner here. It was a surprise to us since we expected lightweight lathes spinning at over 3,000 RPM to bounce around our workshop. The vibrations and hiccups during operation can probably be attributed to belt slips.
The model name tells us how large a stock or blank can fit in this mini lathe. This machine supports wood pieces of up to 10 inches in diameter and 15 inches in length. The size of the workspace is more suitable for making complex designs on smaller stocks, though some users have successfully added center-to-center distance by forcing the tailstock back, adding an additional ½ inch.
This midi lathe can hold onto pieces of wood as large as 12 inches wide and 21 inches long. Though it’s not nearly long enough to carve out baseball bats, it still supports making long pieces like table legs and chair legs.
It’s up to the user to determine whether a smaller swing diameter or a longer bed will suit their needs. However, the JWL-1221VS can support all pieces of wood that can fit appropriately into the 15-inch model. Just note that you can buy bed extensions for these wood lathes (additional 21 inches for the JWL-1051 20 inches for the 21-inch midi lathe).
The tool rest, also referred to as the banjo, stands at 5 inches tall, half that of the spindle. We found that the clamp mechanism of the tool stand doesn’t provide a good grip on either the unit or the banjo. You don’t even have to add much pressure and the banjo will begin to turn on you.
This tool comes with two tool rests which stand at 6 inches and 10 inches tall. The most generic banjo height is half that of the spindle axis. Similar to the mini lathe model, the lock system doesn’t clamp well on the banjo or the tool. This can be problematic, especially when working at over 3,000 RPM and the speed of the spinning stock will fight against the chisel, ultimately pushing the banjo out of position.
The JWL-1221VS wins simply because there are two banjos to work with. However, the clamp mechanism needs to be checked by Jet since it can lead to accidentally leaving markings in expensive stocks.
Jet JWL-1015 vs JWL-1221VS: Bottom Line
It’s a challenge determining whether a mini or midi lathe is better. Theoretically speaking, a midi lathe should perform all the tasks that a mini lathe can do, plus more. For this reason, the JWL-1221VS wins this battle, but there are still some things that need to be addressed about this machine. Apart from the digitized control panel and added reversible spindle option, the midi lathe really doesn’t have much going for it.
The problem with vibrations is a little too overwhelming for our taste. After sharpening our chisels, we still found that the 130-pound midi lathe would still try to walk along our worktable. The JWL-1015, on the other hand, is simply limited by definition of mini lathes – the swing and center-to-center distances mean you’ll mainly be working on small bowls and making pens, though what you create is limited by your creativity.