Jet 1221vs Lathe Review for Wood Bowl Turning

Jet 1221vs Lathe Review Main Photo

The Jet 1221vs lathe (vs stands for variable speed) fills a much-needed gap between small not-so-powerful and more expensive large wood bowl turning lathes. This lathe is an ideal wood lathe for the beginner to advanced wood bowl turner working with pieces up to 12 inches in diameter.

Jet 1221vs Lathe Specifications

  • Max Swing or Bowl Diameter – 12”
  • Spindle Length – 20.5”
  • Headstock Spindle Size – 1” x 8 threads per inch
  • Spindle Interior Taper – MT2
  • Tailstock Quill Taper – MT2
  • Banjo Toolrest Inset – 5/8″
  • Motor Power – 1 horse
  • Power Source – 115V Standard (grounded)
  • Recommended Circuit – 10 Amps.
  • Pulley Speeds – L (60-900 rpm) M (110-1800) H (220-3600)
  • Speed Range – 60-3600 R.P.M.
  • Index Positions – 24 (inside pulley compartment)
  • Overall Size – 33.6”L x 11”W x 17.7”H
  • Weight – 137 pounds
Jet 1221vs Lathe on Work Bench
Jet 1221vs Lathe on Work Bench

Jet 1221vs Size

Before I got this lathe, I was concerned about how much space it might take up. I have a small workshop in my garage, and I didn’t want to lose a ton of space.

It was a relief to discover that the footprint of the Jet lathe is ideal and not too large. The lathe fits on one cabinet bench section or the width of a standard two-door cabinet.

Jet 1221vs Lathe Power

A one-horsepower electric motor comprises the drive train of the Jet 1221vs lathe, which is standard 115v. This lathe plugs into a standard outlet.

There are three pulley settings from the electric motor driving the headstock spindle. Each pulley setting adjusts rotation speed and torque.

“Why are there pulleys if it’s a variable speed lathe?” I’m often asked. The answer is torque. There is more torque at the lower pulley setting than at the higher settings. Adjusting torque is essential when turning a larger, heavier bowl blank compared to a small-diameter spindle.

The motor speed can be increased or decreased with the variable speed control knob. The headstock speed and torque are controlled and dictated by the range of each pulley configuration: Low, Medium or High.

Lifting the pulley adjustment level at the bottom of the machine makes pulley adjustment easy. This level essentially lifts the electric motor, providing enough slack for moving the belt to a different setting.

An important note about the power supply: the 115v outlet used to power the Jet 1221vs lathe should have a dedicated breaker. The outlet I use is not dedicated and occasionally the lathe will trip the breaker.

Jet 1221vs Lathe Control Module

The controls on the lathe are simple and straightforward. The Jet 1221vs lathe variable speed control knob is fantastic for easily dialing in ideal turning speeds and getting the bowl blank up to speed quickly.

The Jet’s digital r.p.m. readout is a fantastic luxury for such a fair-priced lathe. The readout makes it very easy to quickly return to a previous known speed and continue turning a bowl.

A reverse setting is also an available option on the lathe controls. There is a forward and reverse sliding switch next to the speed control knob. Unfortunately, the forward and reverse switch is a sliding switch with a peaked oval-shaped thumb surface.

At first, this switch may seem like no big deal. However, I found myself many times second guessing whether the Jet 1221vs lathe was in forward or reverse before starting the lathe. The switch appears to be a flip-able toggle switch. Because of this, the switch appearance looks to be in the reverse setting.

I overlooked the reverse switch issue after a short while. But correcting this switch confusion is something Jet might consider updating in future versions.

Jet 1221vs Lathe Reverse Forward Switch Detail
Jet 1221vs Lathe Reverse Forward Switch Detail

Jet 1221vs Lathe Control Module Location

The location of the control module to the right side of the lathe is great, because it keeps you out of the way of the turning wood in the event something goes wrong. If the need should arise to turn off the lathe quickly, most of the time this can be done quickly without crossing the turning timber.

There are some occasions when I need to be on the headstock side of the lathe working a particular area of the bowl, and it can be a bit unnerving knowing I need to reach across the spinning wood bowl to get to the switch.

The location on the right side is 100% better than being on the left side, which would require constantly crossing the turning bowl. I guess with the Jet 1221vs lathe, the only way to improve this setup would be to make the control module corded and mobile. All in all, I really like the controls being on the right side.

Jet 1221vs Lathe Accessories

The Jet 1221vs Lathe comes with a variety of tools and accessories including: a faceplate, two tool rests (short and long), knock out bar, two tool racks, drive center, live tailstock center, hex wrench, and headstock wrench.

Not included with the lathe, but available from Jet, are additional accessories for this lathe.

Jet makes a Stand for this lathe that allows the lathe to be a freestanding (and movable) machine in your shop. Jet especially designed the Jet JWL-1221VS Stand for the Jet 1221vs lathe.

If I had more shop space, I would purchase this stand to free up my bench space. And it gives the option of locating the lathe in different areas of the shop easily.

The Jet 1221vs lathe bed length is 21” long, or 20.5″ according to the specs. An optional Bed Extension, Jet JWL-1221VS BE Bed Extension can be used to add 20 more inches, 40” total spindle length to the lathe bed.

Jet 1221vs Lathe Accessories plus Additional S Curve Tool Rest
Jet 1221vs Lathe Accessories plus Additional S Curve Tool Rest

Additional Toolrest and Faceplate

The included tools that come with this lathe are great items to get started. I also really needed a curved tool rest for working bowl interiors more efficiently. I found this very nice “S” Bowl Interior Toolrest (check Amazon for current price)

I also added an additional Faceplate (Amazon link) to be able to have a dedicated faceplate for my jam chuck. By adding this faceplate instead of just using one and moving it back and forth, I save a lot of time and don’t strip screw holes out of my jam chuck.

Four-Jaw Chuck

Of course, as a bowl turner, a four-jaw chuck is a must and a very valuable addition to the turning process. I’ve found the Hurricane Tools 4 inch HTC100 Chuck (See my Recommended Chucks page for more details) to be a great four-jaw chuck to turn bowls. Its sturdy construction and dovetail jaws hold the bowl blank tenon flawlessly every time.

Also, this chuck comes with a center screw chuck. Additional jaws of various sizes may be purchased, giving you a variety of turning attachment options.

Example of LED Side Light on Bowl
Example of LED Side Light on Bowl

Additional Light

I found I really needed a good light source while working with my Jet 1221vs lathe. The overhead lights in my garage shop are good, but I really needed a better adjustable light up close.

This Gooseneck Arm LED light with a magnetic base (Amazon check current price) worked perfectly. Not only does it securely attach to the iron body of the lathe with its magnetic base, it is easy to position anywhere I need additional light.

Having an adjustable light is critical for many turning occasions, but never as much as when sanding or removing tool marks from bowls.

I position the gooseneck LED light to shine from the side, across the bowl surface to see any trouble areas. This side lighting technique quickly illuminates any wood surface areas needing attention.

It’s shocking how many times, before I use this focused sidelight with just the overhead shop light, that I think the bowl surface is fine. My bowl quality has improved dramatically since using this light.

Jet 1221vs Lathe with mounted bowl blank and additional LED light
Jet 1221vs Lathe with mounted bowl blank and additional LED light

Jet 1221vs Wood Lathe Overall


  • Tool rack blocks access door to pulleys. All tools need to be removed beforehand.
  • The forward and reverse switch looks like a toggle, and it is not clear if forward or reverse is selected.
  • Tool thumb locks on tool rest and banjo could be sturdier.
  • Won’t accommodate turning larger-diameter bowls


  • Great size and ideal for small to medium wood bowl turning
  • Three torque range pulley settings (L is ideal for wood bowl turners)
  • Variable Speed Control for turning bowls at the optimum speed all the time.
  • Digital R.P.M. Speed Readout
  • Compact Footprint
  • Solid construction no vibration
  • 5 Year Warranty

The Jet 1221vs lathe is a fantastic turning machine for wood bowl turners. Bowls ranging from 4 or 6 inches up to 10 or 12 inches can be turned on this lathe efficiently.

Natural Edge and Regular Wood Bowls Made on Jet 1221vs Lathe
Natural Edge and Regular Wood Bowls Made on Jet 1221vs Lathe

I believe, for the wood bowl turner that enjoys making small to medium pieces, the Jet 1221vs lathe is a great match. Check here for the current price of the Jet 1221vs Lathe, along with the Jet JWL-1221VS Optional Stand and Jet JWL-1221VS BE Bed Extension.

For the woodworker that wants to get started making various turned items for general woodturning and incorporating turnings in other woodworking projects, this lathe is a dream.

The Jet 1221vs lathe is not the clunky, too-small lathe that typically collects dust in the corner of the shop. No, this lathe is a lathe that can make bowls, turn spindles, create fantastic craft projects, ornaments and basically anything you can think of within the 12” diameter limit.

I would recommend the Jet 1221vs lathe to anyone wanting to start out in small bowl turning or anyone who is ready to step up from their smaller midi or mini lathe.

Jet 1221vs Lathe Review Image Pinterest
Jet 1221vs Lathe Review Image Pinterest

Do you already own a Jet 1221vs lathe? If so, please leave a comment below and tell what you think of your lathe.

Are you looking for a larger, more serious lathe? Check out my review of the Robust Sweet 16.

Here are a couple of Lathe articles to check out next:

Happy Turning,

30 Responses

  1. Hi! I found your site after I received the Jet 1221 VS for my birthday. I have begun turning a variety of projects with my carbide turning set from Simple Woodturning Tools. However, I cannot find much information about types/kinds of chucks to buy that will fit this Jet lathe. There is of course Jet brand chuck sets, but they are much outside of my budget at the moment. Do you recommend a bowl turning chuck for this model? Thank you!

  2. Would you please the maximum weight a bowl blank could weigh in order for the Jet 12-21 to turn without damaging the motor?

    1. BC,
      Good question. You really need to ask the manufacturer, but you can try turning it slow to see if it is turning smoothly.
      If you are finding the gouge can stop the turning, you might need to reduce your belt to the lowest/most torque setting to get a bit more turning power.
      All the best to you and Happy Turning!

    2. Hi Kent, I just ordered a Jet 1221VS after finding it for $250 off in an after-Christmas sale. I’ve had a lot of fun and success turning bowl blanks as large as 16″ and 21 pounds on my 1955 Shopsmith, but I have been considering a standalone lathe for a long time. The Shopsmith accessories I’ve been using to turn such large bowls sold over the weekend, and my wife will be happy that I’ll be limiting myself to small to medium bowls from now on. The Shopsmith will still be getting lots of use as a bandsaw-sanding-drill press station.


      1. Tony,
        That’s exciting! Always fun to get tool upgrades. Enjoy and Happy Turning!

  3. Kent,
    As always, your articles, E-courses, and videos are incredibly well done and extremely helpful. Thank you.

    After working on a 1965-ish Shop Smith, and have snapped in two 1 gouge, 1 tool rest, and 1 finger. Thankfully not all at the same time though. But mainly because of the inability to slow down the lathe speed and foolishly trying to just work through the fierce shaking of a few bowl blank. . . . the Jet 1221 here might be in my very near future – that is after my finger is healed. I can’t wait.

    One question though with a lathe like this, and perhaps this needs an article (and/or) video of its own. Why, when with bowl turning would you want to put your lathe in reverse?

    Thank you,

    1. Mark, good question. It all depends on how you want to sand. I never use reverse on bowls or much else for that matter. Some people like to do final sanding in reverse to clean up any fibers that were pushed down. Reversing the lathe can give a bit finer sanding finish to the surface.

  4. Kent, I am beginning turning and have experimented on both the Jet 1221 and the Laguna Revo 12/16. I like them both. I like the ability to turn up to 16″ on the left side of the headstock with the bed extension, something not available on the Jet 1221. So I’m leaning toward the Laguna for this reason solely. However, every Jet 1221 review is absolutely GLOWING, yours included. Have you ever reviewed (or used) the Laguna? I really respect you and your expertise so I’m interested in your thoughts. Thanks for the website. I’ll be signing up for your “Tree To Bowl” eCourse this week after the grandkids leave and I can devote the needed attention

    1. Thanks, Mike! To answer your question, no I haven’t used a Laguna. Initially, I too was intrigued by one of their lathes, but it was never in stock. I think if the features and price fit your needs and budget, go for it. Most of these brands make very good products. All the best to you and Happy Turning!

  5. I want to thank you for this review, I’m just getting starting in turning and have been looking for a good lathe and your review really helped me decide.

  6. Hi Kent, one thing I’ve noticed on mine is that when I’m out of the line of fire for a bowl my hip is close to the on/off switch. I’ve occasionally hip checked the lathe off. This might be less of a problem if it were on top of a bench, but with the Jet stand for the 1221vs the power switch is in the line of fire. I like having it nearby in case I need to shut it down in a hurry, but wish it were a little better placed.

    1. Yeah, sounds like a readjustment might be in order. I do wish they made that switch detachable. Happy Turning!

      1. Just a suggestion. I too turn with a 1221. I’ve turned numerous bowls on mine and have found, as Stuart Batty suggests, you do better to get rid of the natural inclination to have your right foot in and put your left foot/hip in. This feels wrong at first, but it allows the tool handle space to be pulled all the way back, producing a much better cut with less strain and better posture.

        I’m ready for a larger lathe now, for various reasons, and I have loved this Lathe. I which it had a 1 inch tool rest, like we’re finding in several of the newer midi lathes. But, that said, this lathe is a perfectly aligned machine and I’ve created some wonderful pieces on it.

        1. Mike,

          Thank you for writing and sharing!

          That’s a good point and most likely corresponds to the use of the 40/40 gouge. Remember, the bevel angle of your bowl gouge is more about the ergonomics of how you will orient your body than anything else.

          All the best to you and Happy Turning!

          1. Kent,

            Thanks for your response. Actually, the 40/40 grind doesn’t work that well in the bottom third of the bowl, the ribbons turn to dust. So I use a 60 degree English grind (bottom feeder) for the long grain to get nice ribbons again. I’ve found this grind also works better on platters, as the wings engage the long grain better. This is all done with the right leg back, allowing me to pull the handle toward an open hip. By the way, very nice review.

            1. Sounds like you’ve found a method that works best for you. Fantastic!
              All the best to you and Happy Turning!

      2. My lathe has stopped working. It will not run. It appears to be a problem with the variable speed control. Is it covered by warranty

        1. Robert, I’m sorry there is no way for me to know this. Please contact your lathe manufacturer. Happy Turning!

  7. Thank you for the great review, it tells me I made a good choice, my 1221 arrives today, can’t wait to get started, also read your review on sweet 16, maybe someday when my experience, and ability progress

    1. Allen,

      Thanks for writing and enjoy your new lathe!!! That’s such a fun feeling!

      Happy Turning,

    2. Just got a 12/21 Jet. First real lathe. How come the headstock is two pieces? The Jet lathe the next size has rotating headstock. Is it possible with the 12/21??

  8. Hey Kent! I also have a 1221vs and it is a sturdily built machine… (here it comes) but on mine at least the speed control is WAY too touchy. It seems to take a very long time (out of balance stuff is measured in milliseconds) to settle on a final speed. Did you find this on your machine?

    By the way, well done website…

    J.R. Darnall

    1. Hi Jerry,

      Yes, the speed seemed to jump quickly when turning the knob. I have to be sure to make very small incremental adjustments. That’s a good point.

      Thanks for sharing!

  9. Hey, Cool website! I found it doing some gouge sharpening research and totally appreciate all the info, research and stuff you share here. Really cool.

    Just saying nice work, thanks for sharing. Do you have an instagram account? Lots of cool turning stuff there as well.

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Kent Weakley-Turn A Wood Bowl-About
Hi, I’m Kent

Hi! I’m Kent, a husband, dad, papa, graphic designer, photographer, artist, traveler, birder, dark chocolate lover and I’m addicted to turning wood bowls! Learn more about me, see the online courses I made for you, and join our group on Facebook. Ready for your wood bowl adventure? Click here to Get Started

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