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Shown with the accessory bed extension and stand, the JET JWL-1220 proved to be a very capable lathe that can grow with you.
Click image to enlarge

JET JWL-1220 Wood Lathe

Is it a mini? A midi? Or a disguised full size?

Text, photos & video by Tom Hintz

Posted - 7-31-2007

The new JET JWL-1220 is a very well built woodturning lathe that appears to be an evolution of their venerable JWL-1014 mini. However, its 12" swing capacity and a new set of standard features make it hard to classify the JET JWL-1220 as a pure mini, or a midi for that matter. Add the accessory bed extension and the JET JWL-1220 between center capacity zooms from 20" to nearly 50", exceeding that of many full-sized lathes.

In the end, classifying the JET JWL-1220 as a mini, midi or full-sized lathe is unimportant. The quality and capability it brings to the shop. Its expandability could be an important bonus for many new and veteran turners.

Sizing It Up

(left) The spindle has 1" X 8 outside threads and like the tailstock has #2 Morse taper for maximum compatibility.
(right) The 3/4Hp motor is certainly out of the ordinary in this size lathe but is a welcome addition.
Click images to enlarge

At first glance, the JET JWL-1220 looks like a JWL-1014 with a taller headstock. Look closer and we find that JET added roughly 1" of width to the bed cross section. This additional mass insures rigidity as well as a solid base for the larger turnings this machine is capable of. The tool rest base and tailstock are very similar to those of the 1014 series but have been sized up to match the 12" swing of the JET JWL-1220.

While they were making things bigger, JET increased motor power from the common 1/2Hp to a full 3/4Hp. The TEFC (totally enclosed fan cooled) motor fits nicely under the bed and helps maintain a relatively small footprint. The proven stepped pulley system from the 1014 series is retained.

To maintain compatibility with the widest range of accessories the JET JWL-1220 spindle and tailstock have #2 Morse tapers. The spindle has the common 1 X 8 threading for screw-on equipment.

Changing Speeds

Changing between the six available spindle speeds is easy and quick.
Click image to enlarge

The JET JWL-1220 features 500, 840, 1240, 1800, 2630 and 3975-rpm spindle speeds and uses the tool-free system from the 1014 series for changing between them. Spindle speeds are regulated with a pair of opposing stepped pulleys, connected by a flat, multi-groove belt. A pair of doors in the headstock provide access to the pulleys and belt. The belt tensioning handles are on the front of the lathe for easy access.

The proven speed changing system is easy to use and with a little practice, surprisingly fast. Eliminating the variable speed hardware keeps the headstock very simple, super smooth and essentially bulletproof. As with the 1014 series, these are qualities of the JET JWL-1220 that wood turners will appreciate for many years.

Included Equipment

The JET JWL-1220 comes with all the standard accessories, plus a 10"-long tool rest, tool caddy, cord wrap and a built-in task light!
Click image to enlarge

JET expanded the list of equipment that comes with the JET JWL-1220. As is the norm, a quality live center, four-wing drive spur, knockout rod, 3"-diameter faceplate and a 6"-long tool rest are in the box. JET adds a 10"-long tool rest, a pair of real safety glasses (not the goggle-type deals we normally throw away), an on-board tool rack and cord-wrap brackets. They also added a built-in task light on a flex shaft, complete with it's own on/off switch. The task light is connected to electrical power within the JET JWL-1220 so an additional socket is not required.

Indexing

New on the JET JWL-1220 is an easy to use indexing system with 24 positions. The indexing system is largely internal but engaged through a button on the headstock, just above the hand wheel.

A new 24-position indexing system was added to the JWL-1220. This button can be pressed to temporarily lock the spindle or screwed in to leave both hands free.
Click image to enlarge

The indexing button is spring loaded so it can be depressed with a fingertip to lock the spindle temporarily for installing or removing thread-on equipment like chucks and face plates. That same button can be screwed in to lock the spindle, freeing both hands for other operations such as drilling hole patterns or routing flutes.

Expandability

JET offers a 28"-long bed extension for the JET JWL-1220 that jumps between center capacity to nearly 50"! If you check the spec sheets on many full-sized lathes you will find that exceeds many of their between center capacities.

The bed extension bolts up to existing holes in the JET JWL-1220 bed and that process is made easier, particularly when doing this alone by the inclusion of a "hanging" plate on the extension. That plate fits over the web at the end of the JET JWL-1220 bed, freeing your hands for inserting the included hex head screws. A very simple but very welcome idea.

The bed extension accessory increases between center capacity to nearly 50", or longer than many full-sized lathes!
Click image to enlarge

The bed extension also has four hex head screws in its end that help align its surface with that of the JET JWL-1220. If you have ever tried shimming an extension bed into alignment, this will be a welcome feature.

The bed extension comes with screw-in rubber-tipped feet that can be adjusted to stabilize the machine on a less than flat surface. They also give the extension some traction on the surface to resist moving during use.

Stand Accessory

JET offers a heavy-duty, all-steel stand for the JET JWL-1220. The stand is made from heavy gauge, square steel tubing with a pair of widely-spaced rubber tipped feet at either end that make this a very stable unit. The feet can be adjusted vertically to keep the JET JWL-1220 stable on a not-so-level floor. All of the stand components are fully welded and those subassemblies bolt together quickly and easily.

The stand kit, shown here with the extension kit added, makes the JET JWL-1220 very stable and frees up bench space.
Click image to enlarge

The JET JWL-1220 mounts to plates using the included hardware. The mounting plates can be installed in a set of holes that allow fine-tuning the spindle height by roughly 2" between 43 and 45 inches above the floor.

JET offers an extension kit for the stand to accommodate the JET JWL-1220 when equipped with the bed extension. This kit includes a special center post, horizontal rail, mounting saddle and necessary hardware. The stand in the photos within this review has that stand extension kit installed.

In the Shop

I have used the JET JWL-1014 Mini for years and have found it to be a solid, super-smooth running machine. The JET JWL-1220 is every bit as smooth and solid but its expanded capacities make this an even more versatile machine.

Turning pens, bottle stoppers, peppermills and common spindle projects are no-brainers on the JET JWL-1220. It handles them with ease. The additional power of the 3/4Hp motor and the 12" swing put larger bowls and heavy spindle projects well within its range of capabilities.

Video Tour!

For this evaluation I installed the bed extension and put the whole unit on the expanded stand. After using the JET JWL-1220 in this configuration for a few weeks, I have found it to be surprisingly stable without the addition of sandbags or other additional weight. The JET JWL-1220 is very smooth and supports the larger stock this machine is capable of swinging with ease. I did see a little shaking with badly out of balance bowl blank that just barely fit over the bed but that motion was no more than I have seen on any lathe under similar conditions. The shake quickly disappeared as the rounding process removed the excess weight from the outer edges.

I turned a 48"-long post and found the JET JWL-1220 had more than enough power to handle that at whatever speed I wanted to turn it. The JET JWL-1220 showed no sign of letting the piece vibrate until I reduced the diameter to where the wood itself was flexing. No lathe can stop that without the addition of a steady rest.

The spindle of the JET JWL-1220 is rock-solid and makes turning small projects a pleasure. I tried a number of different small-scale turnings such as bottle stoppers and knobs, all with the same result. The JET JWL-1220 is dead smooth and makes getting a clean surface directly off the tool purely a matter to your technique.

The spindle indexing is a welcome addition as is the built-in task light. Many of us routinely added a clamp-on light to lathes so the built-in task light saves time and money. The 10" tool rest also saves money because it would have to be purchased to accommodate the capacity of the JET JWL-1220.

Conclusions

The JET JWL-1220 strikes an interesting balance between the traditional mini and full-sized lathes. Between its solid operation, 12" swing and expandable between center capacity, the JET JWL-1220 is sure to become a favorite for new turners and veterans who so frequently add a second lathe to the shop. The remarkable expandability of the JET JWL-1220 means a new turner can start with the basic lathe and increase the spindle capacity if and when it is needed, saving some up-front money in the process.

With a street price of $416.00 (7-30-2007) the JET JWL-1220 represents an economical way to get into turning without sacrificing capacity or expandability. Factor in JET's long-standing reputation for making extraordinarily durable machines and this becomes a long-term, if not a lifetime investment.

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