There’s no denying that any woodworker worth his salt finds excellent use out of wood lathes. They are an essential piece of equipment for any woodworker’s toolset which help is producing beautiful and symmetrical works of art. In the mid-1980s, wood lathe manufacturers began producing mini versions (between 8 and 10 inches of swing and between 12 and 15 inches between centers) of wood lathes to help beginners, and even some veterans (to a certain extent), in producing high-quality products from their workshops.
Woodstock International’s line of SHOP FOX machines, including table saws, jointers, and both midi and mini wood lathes, have been well-received by customers and industry experts. They praise the brand’s expertise in building great-performing woodshop equipment.
The SHOP FOX W1704 is a 1/3-horsepower wood lathe that has garnered a small following of both diehard fans and diehard opponents. Despite the critics, this unit continues to sell reasonably well. Let’s take a look at what features this mini wood lathe has and why it has received mixed reviews.
The SHOP FOX W1704 features a 1/3-horsepower, 2.0 amp motor which powers the spindle and provides speeds of up to 3,200 RPM. Considering the compact size of this mini wood lathe and somewhat “weak” horsepower count, at its maximum speed, users can produce clean, symmetric chisels.
Another thing about the 1/3-horsepower motor is that it doesn’t truly support working with large pieces of wood. This is actually a given since the swing-over-bed is 8-inches in diameter and 12-inches in length (center-to-center). However, even pieces of wood nearing the maximum recommended dimensions, users find that the wood lathe will jerk and jump around when attempting to chisel into the piece.
Infinite Variable Speeds
Speaking of rotations, this mini wood lathe is designed to provide rotations speeds of between 600 and 3,200 RPM. The wide range offers versatility and great chisel quality in both softwoods and hardwoods.
One great feature is the infinite variable speed controller. Using a simple knob, users have the freedom to determine how slowly or quickly they want the spindle to rotate. This speed variable controller doesn’t use preinstalled speed settings, but instead, the user can set up the spindle speed with just a twist of the knob. For a mini wood lathe, this ability to alter spindle speed on the fly is a great feature that even some more costly wood lathes don’t come with.
The SHOP FOX W1704 mini wood lathe is made of durable cast iron. The heavy metal gives this compact unit its much-needed weight for remaining on tabletops with little or no assistance. The machine weighs a total of around 50 pounds, so even though it’s on the light side, it won’t jump around your worktable, provided that you work with small pieces of wood.
Unfortunately, if you’re working with wood pieces that are almost or exactly the same size as the recommended dimensions that fit in this unit, don’t be surprised if the machine seizes up on your or drops onto your foot.
SHOP FOX W1704: Bottom Line
For a relatively inexpensive mini wood lathe, the SHOP FOX W1704 Lathe is actually quite good. The low horsepower provides ample power and speeds for working with small-sized pieces of wood. The infinitely variable speed which is controlled by twisting a knob is an excellent feature that’s not too common in mini or budget wood lathe models.
However, the fact that this tabletop wood lathe doesn’t actually remain on the tabletop when working with bulkier wood pieces is a shame and might be a deal breaker for many experienced or even first-time buyers. The 50-pound weight keeps the unit somewhat stable, but it definitely needs clamps or additional weight to keep from moving unexpectedly.