Are you shopping around for a small wood lathe for home use and want one that can turn out professional, precision work?
There are quite a few mini bench top lathes available, but two of the best sellers are the JET JML 1014VSI 10-Inch-by-14-Inch Variable Speed Indexing Mini Lathe and the SHOP FOX W1704 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe. These are both good midi/mini lathes with much to recommend them.

But, which is best? Feature for feature, which benchtop lathe will give you more bang for your buck?

In this review, I will take a close look at the main points and features of the JET JML 1014VSI Mini Lathe, along with its competitor, the SHOP FOX 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe; to try and determine which one is the best.

Why Do You Need a High Quality Lathe?

What's the best mini lathe on the market?

Although a lathe might not be the power tool you will use most often, if you have need of one, you want one that is well made and of high quality so that it provides you with professional, precision work every time. Many, or even most, jobs that would require the use of a lathe call for symmetry. For example, you might use a lathe to make such things as candlesticks or spindles for stair railings. These would need to be uniform—symmetrical—in size and cut to look good.

Besides turning out more professional looking work, you can count on a benchtop lathe made by a brand you know and trust to save you money by not ruining your expensive stock and work pieces. As anyone who has done any woodwork recently can tell you, materials aren’t cheap. Using an inferior quality, generic lathe could cost you more money over time in wasted materials than a higher priced but superior name brand lathe would have cost initially.

As far as being manufactured by a reliable brand, the JET JML and the SHOP FOX are evenly matched. Both companies have built a solid reputation for state of the art technology, durability and high quality in the lathes they produce.

This chart might help to give you a birds eye view of the main specs of both lathes.

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You can see at a glance that while there are certain likenesses between the two lathes, there are also fairly significant differences.
It might help you to make a decision as to which lathe would best suit your purposes if we examined the primary features individually.

Motor

If you want a heavy duty motor with a lot of power to tackle big, tough jobs, the JET JML 1014VSI Mini Lathe might be more to your liking than the SHOP FOX Benchtop Lathe. Why? Because the JET has a one-half horsepower motor and the SHOP FOX has a one-third horsepower motor, which isn’t puny but isn’t as robust as the JET. Both motors are enclosed and fan cooled—a huge help in durability and a long, healthy life of the lathe.

If you want a hoss of a motor in your benchtop lathe, you should probably opt for the JET. But, the one-third horsepower motor isn’t a weakling, either. Still, motor wise we would have to declare the JET JML the winner.

Spindle Speeds

The SHOP FOX 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe has variable speeds from 700 to 3,200 rpms and you can easily adjust the speed with a dial. The JET JML 1014VSI 10-Inch-by-14-Inch Variable Speed Indexing Mini Lathe also has variable speeds from 500 to 3,975 RPMs, also with an adjustable dial. The JET differs from the FOX in that it has three belt settings. Both lathes seem to increase vibration with increased speeds, which seems reasonable; although the FOX may experience more pronounced vibration. Many of the JET lathe users say that it “hums” at high speeds but doesn’t actually vibrate much.

A closer look at the 5-3/4-inch faceplate

A closer look at the 5-3/4-inch faceplate (shopfox)

There isn’t that much difference between spindle speeds, but there is some. The SHOP FOX lathe has a wider spindle speed range than the JET JML. So, if this is a game changer for you, we would have to declare the FOX as the winner of this round.

Durability

A lathe, even a small or mid-sized benchtop lathe, needs to be durable. The JET JML and the SHOP FOX are pretty close in this area. Both have heavy duty cast iron construction, which is a big plus. Even if you only plan on using yours for pen turning, you still want a lathe that will go the distance and serve you well for a number of years. The SHOP FOX 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe seems to have a problem with the tail stock being hard to maneuver and not exactly matching up with the head stock. This could affect durability, especially if you had to replace the tail stock.

We will have to declare the area of durability almost a dead heat between the two lathes, with the JET finishing just a bit ahead.

Noise

One important feature to a lot of power tool users is the noise level. If you plan on using the tool quite a bit, for extended periods of time per session, it is easy to understand why something that made as much noise as a jet airplane would be objectionable. In this area, both the SHOP FOX and the JET JML excel. Neither lathe is described as too noisy and the SHOP FOX, in particular, garners many kudos specifically regarding how quietly it runs.

The Jet runs quiet and is used by professionals worldwide

The JEt runs quiet and is used by professionals worldwide

If you prefer a quiet operation, the SHOP FOX or the JET JML should fit the bill.

Accessories

When you are comparison shopping and trying to decide between one product or another, similar product, one factor that might influence you is what’s in the box, or the accessories. Here, too, these two benchtop lathes are very closely matched. The SHOP FOX 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe comes with: an MT Number 1 spur center, an MT Number 1 live center, 4-1/4-inch and 7-inch tool rests, a 5-3/4-inch faceplate, plus a 3/4-by-16-inch TPI RH spindle. The JET JML 1014VSI 10-Inch-by-14-Inch Variable Speed Indexing Mini Lathe includes a six inch tool rest, a live center, a three inch face plate, spur center, tooling knockout, and a pair of safety goggles.

The lowdown on the accessories, then, is which ones you would rather have. If you like the extras that come with the SHOP FOX better than the accessories that come along with the JET JML, then that will be the best purchase for you. If the accessories don’t matter, we have a tie.

The Bottom Line

To sum it all up, there are some pluses and minuses for both lathes.

If more power is essential to you, then the JET is the champion and the lathe for you. If a longer warranty makes a big difference to you, the JET JML lathe is still winning the race. The JET pulls out in front of the SHOP FOX again on spindle speed, since it has a marginally wider range of variable speeds.

Otherwise, the JET JML 1014VSI Mini Lathe and the SHOP FOX 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe are equally as good.

Either one of these lathes might suit your needs nicely. They are both manufactured by leading brands and backed by a history of excellence and commitment to quality, so you can’t go wrong there. Personally, I would recommend the JET mini wood lathe because spindle speed & power is important to me!

Click here to buy the JET JML

“A real beast!”

or

Go for the Shop Fox


“Tons of accesories!”