I recently bought myself a Jet JWL 1220 wood lathe as a replacement for my old General lathe. I was a little skeptical at first, as I've heard bad things about the quality and build of Asian imported lathes, but this lathe has definitely won me over, it has great features for the price, and the quality control is not a Problem at all.
What finally sold me on a Jet was the price, but more importantly all the reviews I read of their lathes seemed overwhelmingly positive, and I think that's a pretty important criteria. I looked at both the 1014 and 1220 models and finally settled on the latter.
I think the 1220 is a great choice for a lot of reasons. I mostly confine myself to turning pens, lures and other small pieces. The 1220 is not too big that it's awkward on smaller objects. Everything i've tried so far has turned out very well and I could not be happier with the performance of this lathe.
I sometimes have to turn fairly large projects and so I bought the stand and extension with the lathe. The extension brings the distance center to center to 4 feet even! This makes for a pretty serious tool, and opens up a very wide range of things you can do with this lathe, such as furniture, table legs, etc.
I've only turned a few piece that pushed the 1220 to its limits in terms of length, but in each case it had no trouble turning larger pieces. The motor is 3/4 horsepower, which seems like more than enough for the size. With the extension you could possibly turn a piece up to 24 inches in diameter and 48 inches in length, which might prove too much for the motor, but I've yet to try.
I was surprised by the heft of the JWL 1220, it's very heavy and solid. It has a cast iron body and I've noticed very little vibration when turning.
One of my favorite features is the built in lamp, it's very convenient. My shop is in my garage and the lighting is not that great, so it really improves visibility. Not really a big selling point, as it would be very easy to mount a lamp to any old lathe, but it's nice nonetheless.
The one feature I wish my JWL 1220 had is variable speed control. There is a model with variable speed available, but it does not come standard, and I did not feel the upgrade was worth the extra cost. The belt system is reliably easy to use, but not quite as convenient as a continuously adjustable control would be.
By Arthur Milton
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