There are a number of different Jet wood lathe models to choose from. They offer mini lathes with a 10" or 12" swing and mid-size machines with a 12" or 14" swing, but here we will take a look at the big boys, the 16 inchers! If you are interested in the smaller models, take a look at my separate pages on the Jet Mini Lathes or the Jet Midsize Lathes.
All of them are good choices as long as you use them within their capacity. But if you want to turn large bowls or other big, heavy items, size matters! The Jet 1642 lathe offers more of the power, stability, and capacity that you need for large turnings.
There are two full-size models in the Jet wood lathe lineup, the JWL-1642EVS and JWL-1642EVS-2. These woodworking lathes are identical except for the motor. They both offer a 16" swing over the bed and a 12" swing over the tool rest base. The distance between centers on the Jet 1642 wood lathe is 42", and there are two speed ranges, from 50-1200 RPM and 125-3200 RPM.
The speed is electronically variable within each range, but you do have to stop the machine and move a lever to change the range. The 1642 Jet wood lathe series does not use the Reeves drive system that some folks are not fond of in the mid-sized machines.
The Jet JWL-1642EVS and JWL-1642EVS-2 both have a digital speed readout, and the motor is reversible for sanding operations. The headstock does not swivel, but will slide to the opposite end of the bed for outboard turning. The motor on the Jet 1642 lathe is positioned on the left side of the headstock, so it doesn't interfere with large blanks like the motor does on the mid-size models. There are 36 indexing positions, and a hollow tailstock with a removable pin in the live center and 4" of ram travel.
The Jet JWL-1642EVS has a 1.5 HP motor that runs on 110V, and gets excellent ratings and reviews:
Owners of the big Jet wood lathe love the electronic variable speed feature, the digital speed readout, and the super-low 50 RPM speed. Like the other Jet woodworking lathe models, it runs quiet and smooth, and the fit and finish are top-notch. The Jet 1642EVS is heavy and stable, and most owners say it has plenty of power.
An owner on the Sawmill Creek forum says, "... I am very pleased with my purchase and would recommend this lathe to any who ask." Elsewhere, the same owner says, "I've owned a Jet 1642EVS since they first hit the market in 2002-2003. Since that time I've turned everything from big salad bowls, to peppermills, to bottle stoppers and pens. I have zero complaints about my Jet. The variable speed control is fantastic and very easy to use."
There are a couple of things you need to be aware of, though. Several owners reported that the lathe will not run when connected to a GFCI outlet, which is what many workshops and garages have in order to meet code. It is simple enough to change the outlet to a conventional one, but you might have to change it back to the GFCI type when you go to sell your home.
Also, since the headstock slides and doesn't swivel, you have to leave room at the end of the lathe if you want to do any outboard turning. Some folks wished for even more power to turn the really big stuff, but more power requires a 220 volt machine.
Which brings us to the Jet JWL-1642EVS-2. It has all the same specs and features of the 1.5HP version above, but it has a 2.0 HP motor and requires a 220V circuit. Reviews of the top-of-the-line Jet wood lathe are also excellent:
Here is a video showing the features of the Jet 1642 lathe:
The JWL-1642EVS-2 gets many of the same comments as the 1.5 HP version, but no complaints about a lack of power! It is heavy, stable, powerful, smooth and quiet. The electronic variable speed works great. Fine Woodworking Magazine did a comparison test of heavy-duty woodworking lathes in 2007, and said, "The Jet wood lathe is a solid performer and similar in many ways to its beefier sibling, the Powermatic. It has plenty of power".
Just like its little brother, the headstock does not swivel on the JWL-1642EVS-2, so outboard turning is accomplished by sliding the headstock to the far right end of the lathe. There really aren't any other complaints except that Jet had an issue with motor failures on units built prior to 2009.
The company has reportedly corrected that issue, but the average ratings still reflect those problems. If you negate those reviews with the now-fixed motor issue, the average combined rating on the 1642EVS-2 comes out to about a 4.9 out of 5 stars!
That is one point I want to bring out here. When reading reviews or looking at forum comments, you have to pay attention to when they were written. You may be reading about issues that have long since been corrected, and don't apply to a new machine.
Overall, the 1642 Jet wood lathe is a great choice. It offers more capability than the smaller machines, and there really isn't much else out there that offers the same features and quality for a similar price. Sure, there are some great quality woodworking lathes available with even more capacity, but they cost considerably more than the 1642 Jet wood lathe.
If you want a reversible motor with the convenience of electronic speed control, plus the ability to turn large items, it's hard to beat the big Jet wood lathe for the price. You can get all the detailed specs on Jet wood lathes at JetTools.com.
Note: If you are new to woodturning or a veteran that is interested in getting more out of your lathe, there are tons of great woodturning books out there. The ones that are recommended most often for beginners on the woodturning forums are Turning Wood with Richard Raffan and The Lathe Book: A Complete Guide to the Machine and Its Accessories by Ernie Conover. Either of these books would be a great introduction to woodturning - I have an older edition of Richard Raffan's book and it has been a great resource for me as a beginning woodturner.