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Thread: Basic Lathe Chuck Questions

  1. #1
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    Basic Lathe Chuck Questions

    I'm looking for a lathe chuck for my small Delta lathe to turn stuff that is about 1 1/2" dia. I'm looking at the Grizzly 5" chucks for about $70.

    Q1. What holds more securely...a 3 jaw chuck or a 4 jaw chuck? Either way, it must be self centering...I don't work with anything irregular or square.

    Q2. Some chuck jaws have serrations, some don't. How important are serrations?

    thanks, Jeff
    Thank goodness for SMC and wood dough.

  2. #2
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    4 jaw chuck, definitely!!! Way more useful in the long run for other types of projects as well.
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  3. #3
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    Which chucks are you looking at? The Grizzly chucks are not all equal, some they call chucks for wood lathes are really metal lathe designs and are dangerous to use on wood.

  4. #4
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    I'm looking at these two (attached)Chucks.jpg
    Thank goodness for SMC and wood dough.

  5. #5
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    Those are sorry excuses for wood lathe chucks. If you look at metal lathe chucks you will see the same exact designs of chucks. They were metal lathe chucks before, and still are now.

  6. #6
    I have had very nice luck with the Nova G3. It uses a single wrench, which is more convenient than Tommy bars. It also has interchangeable jaws so you can use it for larger things if you so wish. The standard jaws on this are 50mm, though, so you'd need to get a smaller set, which means this all-in price would be about $150. I still consider this a great buy.

  7. #7
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    I agree with the others that those are mainly for metal; the jaws can bite into wood easily. You want a chuck with jaws which wrap around the item.
    I have not used these but I did start with a tommy bar style chuck and they are not bad (and in some ways better) than a keyed chuck. The general saying is that if you can use a pair of pliers with one hand you can use a tommy bar chuck with one hand.
    Looks like a good price with the variety of jaws but ask of folks who have used them as to the quality of the chuck itself. According to the reviews at the web site they look pretty good.
    https://www.pennstateind.com/store/CUG3418CCX.html

    I do agree the Nova G3 is a very nice chuck, I have four. The chuck runs about $100 with 2" jaws and you would probably want the 35mm spigot jaws for the smaller items you mentioned. So, yep, about $150 total.
    Last edited by Michael Mills; 02-14-2018 at 5:19 PM.
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  8. #8
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    Yep, the Nova G3 is a sweet deal. Don't forget to get the chuck that fits the threads on your lathe. May or may not require an adapter, depending on what model you get.
    I personally think using Tommy bar chucks require significantly more skill than a pair of pliers. There are 3 moving pieces to a T chuck. The 2 bars and the rotate to tighten chuck. There are only 2 moving parts to a pair of pliers. Neither of which is ever greater than a hand span away. They are great in other ways though. As a whole, they take up less space, and that could be important on a small lathe.

  9. #9
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    If you are on a tight budget look at the Penn State Ind. chucks, the utility chuck uses tommy bars. $90 including 2 sets of jaws and the large jumbo flat jaws for doing the bottom of bowls.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeffrey Makiel View Post
    I'm looking for a lathe chuck for my small Delta lathe to turn stuff that is about 1 1/2" dia. I'm looking at the Grizzly 5" chucks for about $70.

    Q1. What holds more securely...a 3 jaw chuck or a 4 jaw chuck? Either way, it must be self centering...I don't work with anything irregular or square.

    Q2. Some chuck jaws have serrations, some don't. How important are serrations?

    thanks, Jeff
    I use 3-jaw chucks on my metal-turning lathes but never on the wood lathe. Besides the fact that, as others mentioned, the 3-jaw chucks won't hold wood well in the compression mode, another reason for using a 4-jaw chuck is you can hold a square turning blank nicely by putting the corners between the jaws. I use Nova chucks and I often turn 1.5" diameter stock this way. You might be able to see that in this photo:
    top_turning_lines.jpg
    These jaws will also hold round stock nicely, even more securely than the square stock.

    The G3 chuck will work perfectly, although the slightly larger Supernova and Supernova2 will also work well - I have some of each and keep jaws on several just for that size stock. The G3 is the least expensive of the three.

    The Nova chucks do need an insert threaded for your particular lathe. This is an additional cost but the big advantage is if you ever want to sell the chuck or use it on a different lathe all you have to do is get a different insert.

    Serrated jaws are not that great for face work on a short tenon but are perfect for spindle stock. (I prefer the serrated jaws for spindle squares.) I can't remember the exact Nova jaws I use for 1.5" squares but I could check sometime tomorrow. (maybe the Nova 35mm or 45mm jaws) I have all the jaws mounted on separate chucks so I could easily check the range of each if you are interested.

    When turning finger tops I typically hold a 6 to 8" piece of 1.25 to 1.5" round or square stock in the chuck and turn several tops in a row. The hold is extremely secure even when aggressively turning hard woods 8" from the chuck.

    JKJ

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kyle Iwamoto View Post
    I personally think using Tommy bar chucks require significantly more skill than a pair of pliers.
    If someone already has one, or someone buys one, I didn't learn the following for about six months.
    After using the ring to hand tighten (which is faster than turn, turn, turn with a key) the sets of holes will be offset.
    Rotate the chuck where one the holes towards the headstock is about top center. Somewhere in the rotation the hole on the work side will be about 1:30 and it is very easy to use one hand to tighten. To remove rotate until the headstock side is again top center an another hole will be about 10:30. Again a easy reach and a squeeze releases the item.
    Yes, it was a pain before I learned this. I assume most chucks are the same; this is the way the Woodcraft and the Nova worked.
    I noticed the Easy Wood chuck has a scroll ring (they call it a zoom ring) to tighten by hand then use the chuck key,
    "I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity." - Edgar Allan Poe

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Mills View Post
    If someone already has one, or someone buys one, I didn't learn the following for about six months.
    After using the ring to hand tighten (which is faster than turn, turn, turn with a key) the sets of holes will be offset.
    Rotate the chuck where one the holes towards the headstock is about top center. Somewhere in the rotation the hole on the work side will be about 1:30 and it is very easy to use one hand to tighten. To remove rotate until the headstock side is again top center an another hole will be about 10:30. Again a easy reach and a squeeze releases the item.
    Yes, it was a pain before I learned this. I assume most chucks are the same; this is the way the Woodcraft and the Nova worked.
    I noticed the Easy Wood chuck has a scroll ring (they call it a zoom ring) to tighten by hand then use the chuck key,
    Yep. Significantly more skill than squeezing a pair of pliers.

  13. #13
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    It sounds like the 4 jaw chuck is the better way to go. I don't think it has serrated jaws, but I probably could remedy that myself if needed.

    I'm looking to "machine" wooden and plastic parts for pool cues. I'm not looking to use the chuck for bowl turning.

    Some parts for a pool cue may be as small as 1-1/4" dia x 2" long. These parts will required boring and machining on both ends. So, I need a chuck that won't wobble too much, and hold the wood well without a tailstock.

    As you can probably tell, I'm not a hardcore turner. My avatar, which is 13 years old now, shows a turning project by happenstance.

    -Jeff
    Thank goodness for SMC and wood dough.

  14. #14
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    Sounds like you will also need a Jacob's chuck for the tail stock. BTW, I have the PSI chuck with 4 sets of jaws. A good starter chuck and may be all that you will need for casual usages. I don't see the tommy bars as that bad.

  15. #15
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    I am able to use the chuck from my drill press which also sports an MT#2. It holds drill bits up to 5/8".

    I bought the mini 3 jaw chuck from Harbor Freight. What a piece of junk. I didn't read the reviews. It's run-out is clearly visible, and anything you place in its jaws vibrates loose in about 20 seconds. I can probably use it as a static bit holder in the tailstock in lieu of the drill chuck from the drill press, so I kept it.

    The Grizzly chucks (both 3" and 5") seem to have good reviews on Amazon. I will check out the PSI chuck.

    I'm frugal because it will see limited use. It's part of a lathe upgrade project to adapt the lathe for new cue stick builds, and to accept existing cue sticks for modifications/upgrades.

    Jeff
    Thank goodness for SMC and wood dough.

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