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Thread: Quality Chucks/Jaws

  1. #1
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    Quality Chucks/Jaws

    I am considering upgrading my lathe from a Nova Comet II to the Powermatic 2020 and will need to purchase at least 1 new chuck. One of my Nova chucks is actually the proper fit for the Powermatic's 8 X 1 1/4" spindle (without its adapter). That Nova chuck will serve, for now, for smaller bowls, but I need to have a chuck with larger jaws for larger bowls. What chucks are considered high quality? VicMarc and Record I would guess are for sure. However, I have seen other brands like Easy Wood, Proxxon, and even Tecknatool/Nova. Are there any that are considered best?

  2. #2
    I have all Vicmark chucks. The Oneway and Nova are all good quality chucks. Not sure about the Easy Wood. They did have some problems when they first came out, but apparently they were fixed. Most of the professional turners use the Vicmark. I called up Craft Supplies to order my first chuck, over 20 years ago. A friend had told me to get the Super Nova. The tech said, if you are going to spend the money, get the Vicmark. I did, and no regrets.

    robo hippy

  3. #3
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    I have Vicmarc and Nova chucks. The VM120 that I have is very nice. Really heavy duty jaws. I have two SN2's and a Titan. The Nova's are good, and the Titan is similar in size to the VM120. While I think the Vic is the better chuck, you pay for it. That, coupled with the fack that you already have Nova chucks, leads me to recommend the Titan. This gives you more flexibility since all the Nova jaws are interchangeable (except the quick change chuck). The Titan is good chuck in its own right.

  4. #4
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    Randy -- With the exception of the Proxxon, I can say that all the brands you mentioned are quality chucks. So are the chucks from Oneway. A couple of things to consider: Do you want a closed back chuck or an open back chuck? The primary advantage of the closed back chucks is it tightens with a hex key (like an Allen key), while the open back chucks open with a chuck key (like you might use with a drill press, only much larger). Most people prefer using a hex key than a chuck key. More important than the convenience of using the key, is what happens when the key is lost. If you're using an open back chuck, you may have to order a replacement key from the manufacturer -- which can take days if not weeks to arrive. If you have a set of large Allen keys, you probably already have a replacement key for your closed back chuck. Every few months, someone will post on this forum or elsewhere looking for a replacement key for an open back chuck.

    A second consideration is whether you want the jaws to be quick attach or not. Most chucks use two grub screws to attach each jaw to the chuck body. That requires removing 8 screws to remove one set of jaws and tightening the 8 screws to attach the replacement jaws. Other chucks, the Easy Chuck from Easy Wood Tools being the most prominent example, allow you to 'snap on' and 'snap off' the jaws. This makes replacing jaws a snap. (Sorry.) This is a material advantage. However, it's easy to overstate it. Most of us have several chucks and we dedicate one of those chucks to a frequently used set of jaws and almost never swap the jaws to another set. This is my approach. I have one chuck body that I reserve for infrequently used jaws. I almost never use that chuck because my others, that have my frequently used jaw sets already mounted on them, are the one I use instead. However, I do occasionally use the chuck that is reserved for infrequently used jaws. So, if all my chucks had easily swappable jaws, I might save 10 - 15 minutes over the course of a year.

    You might think that I could get by with fewer chucks if I used one of the quick attach chucks. There is some truth to that, but not much. Every time you take something out of the chuck, it is almost impossible to remount it on the same center. To avoid this problem, I try to keep a project mounted in the chuck until I am through with it. So, I use two chucks for making a box -- one to hold the body of the box and one to hold the lid. Easily swappable jaws wouldn't change that. Besides, Easy Wood Tools hasn't released very many jaw sets for its chuck. The largest is 3.5".

    With those things in mind, I prefer Vicmarc chucks. That's the brand I have the most of. I also have two Record Power SC4 chucks. The Vicmarcs and the Record Power chucks are closed back chucks. None of them use easily swappable jaws. I believe the Vicmarc chucks are higher in quality than the Record Power chucks, but either one will serve. If you want a larger chuck, the Vicmarc 120 has a 5" chuck body. The Record Power SC4 has a 4" body. You can get 9" chuck jaws for the Vicmarc. I don't think the Record Power has jaws larger than 5".

    HTH
    David Walser
    Mesa, Arizona

  5. #5
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    Thanks for the responses; all useful. I do like the VM120. It appears to be heavier duty and a good choice for larger turnings. After my post I realized that I could buy a spindle adapter to adapt one of the Nova G3 8 X 1" chucks to 1 1/4" which would mean I'd have 2 of my G3 chucks to start with for bowls at least up to 12" (although I think the chuck is rated for 14"). Thanks Tom for bringing up the jaw compatibility issue. The Titan might be a good choice just for that reason. I have a couple of jaw sets along with a Cole Jaw set and, since I can keep 2 G3 chucks, I could continue to leave the Cole jaws mounted on a chuck, even selling one chuck/jaw set with the old Nova lathe. Once I start moving up to larger, heavier turnings, I could invest in a larger chuck. Makes me feel a little better about the move to the Powermatic lathe, being able to postpone buying a new chuck for awhile (not that I have ever needed an excuse to stop me from buying a new tool). The cost of the Powermatic lathe is enough to last me for awhile.

    Thanks again. I appreciate the quick, reasonable advice.

  6. #6
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    I'll also point out that the Novas weigh less than the Vics, which is a bit easier on the bearings/easier for the motor to spin up. Though, it likely won't matter with a PM. Our club shies away from using Vics on their. PM's. I'm guessing it's due to the weight. We needed an extra chuck for a workshop and I had my VM120 with me, but they wouldn't let me use it. I think they are being overly cautious. Our club prefers oneway's, but I hate their keys and open back design.

    One other thing, the 2" jaws on the VM120 are probably twice as thick as the same on the Novas. The hold like crazy. Also, Range of travel is much larger on the VM. They easily open at least 1/2" wider than the novas before hitting the stop. This let's me put bigger square stock in the jaws without having to turn down a tenon small enough for one of the Novas. Obviously I love my VM120, and it I could afford it, I'd only have VMs. But the Novas are far more bang for the dollar. That's why I have purchased the SN2's instead of VM100's.
    Last edited by tom lucas; 03-23-2021 at 3:27 PM.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Randy Heinemann View Post
    ... One of my Nova chucks is actually the proper fit for the Powermatic's 8 X 1 1/4" spindle (without its adapter). ...
    You sure? I thought Nova used a non-Imperial thread on their adapter chuck bodies. (IIRC- I've heard M33 & proprietary, but neither will correctly fit 1-1/4" x 8tpi spindles.) Sorry to sow confusion, designs change so maybe yours is older or something. But double check.

    Quote Originally Posted by Randy Heinemann View Post
    ... What chucks are considered high quality? VicMarc and Record I would guess are for sure. However, I have seen other brands like Easy Wood, Proxxon, and even Tecknatool/Nova. Are there any that are considered best?
    Something to consider is the direction you turn the key to tighten the chuck. TeknaTool seems to be the odd-man out. Using the righty-tighty rule, they tighten into a recess while (many/most?) others tighten around a tenon. I'd be OK with either, but a mix would drive me nuts!

  8. #8
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    Don't know for sure about whether Nova's chucks would fit the Powermatic, but they sell both types, metric and imperial. They sell an adapter for the imperial type, which is what I have since the spindle on my Nova is 8 X 1". The specs are either 8 X 1" or 8 X 1 1/4" for all the imperial chucks and adapters. As far as how the key turns, I'm used to Nova's chucks and it most likely would be more confusing for me to switch back and forth. Really, in the end, that isn't much of an issue for me.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Bassett View Post
    You sure? I thought Nova used a non-Imperial thread on their adapter chuck bodies. (IIRC- I've heard M33 & proprietary, but neither will correctly fit 1-1/4" x 8tpi spindles.) Sorry to sow confusion, designs change so maybe yours is older or something. But double check.



    Something to consider is the direction you turn the key to tighten the chuck. TeknaTool seems to be the odd-man out. Using the righty-tighty rule, they tighten into a recess while (many/most?) others tighten around a tenon. I'd be OK with either, but a mix would drive me nuts!
    Nova can be purchased with all size inserts for all common headstocks: 33 mm, 1", 1-1/4", and those used by mini/midis (5/8", 3/4"???). Mine are 1-1/4 8 TPI.

    I've read that some of the newer novas have the opposite direction open/close from their older ones. Mine are the original "backwards" style (right loosen). It might depend if you get old or new stock, and I think they added a suffix or something to the model numbers to ID the new ones. If you have none and can get the new ones, it's a whole lot less confusing, as they will work like every other brand.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by tom lucas View Post
    Nova can be purchased with all size inserts for all common headstocks: 33 mm, 1", 1-1/4", and those used by mini/midis (5/8", 3/4"???). ...
    I know they sell inserts to fit most lathe spindles which screw into their insert chucks. I also know they sell direct threaded chucks in some sizes, which don't take inserts (so you can't change threading).

    OP said he has a chuck that works with 1-1/4" x 8tpi by removing the adapter he needed for his Nova Comet II lathe. I didn't know they offered a model that allowed that. (I suppose he may have a direct thread 1-1/4" x 8tpi chuck and was using some sort of non-insert adapter. I didn't consider that and it would explain how it might work for him. I still advise him to double check.)

    *I've was also sloppy using "adapter" when I should have said "insert". Mea culpa.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Bassett View Post
    I know they sell inserts to fit most lathe spindles which screw into their insert chucks. I also know they sell direct threaded chucks in some sizes, which don't take inserts (so you can't change threading).

    OP said he has a chuck that works with 1-1/4" x 8tpi by removing the adapter he needed for his Nova Comet II lathe. I didn't know they offered a model that allowed that. (I suppose he may have a direct thread 1-1/4" x 8tpi chuck and was using some sort of non-insert adapter. I didn't consider that and it would explain how it might work for him. I still advise him to double check.)

    *I've was also sloppy using "adapter" when I should have said "insert". Mea culpa.
    No problem, David. I just wanted to make sure anyone reading this that did not know would not misunderstand.

  12. #12
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    Back to chucks. The Vicmarc and Oneway are quality chucks, but there are others. My first chuck was a Hurricane HTC 125. The HTC chucks are a knockoff of the Vicmarc somewhat. The reason I bought this chuck was because it had a 1 1/2-8 tpi insert to fit my PM90. I still have that chuck and recommend it, however it is a large chuck and not one I would buy multiples of. Because of the mentioned “bang for the buck” I started buying Nova and Record chucks. I reached a point where I had 7 Nova/Record chucks (because we don’t like to change jaws). They are decent, but don’t seem to have the same respect as OneWay and Vicmarc. I was going to replace the Nova/Record chucks with Vicmarc chucks as an upgrade, but came across Axminster chucks. After I got my first Axminster I sold all the Nova/Record chucks and bought a second Axminster chuck. Axminster chucks are stainless steel and all are direct thread. I do not like threaded inserts as they can increase runout (Hurricane has a taper insert). The Axminster has the largest jaw selection of any mfg. I have their O’Donnell jaws that are not available from any other mfg. When you buy jaws you also purchase slides and to change jaws you crank one set out and another set in, no screws to change. There is the expense of slides, but much cheaper than another chuck. Storage is much easier with three chucks vs 7 or more by now.
    When working I had more money than time. In retirement I have more time than money. Love the time, miss the money.

  13. #13
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    I did check online last night and Nova sells inserts that will change the chuck to either 8 X 1" or 8 X 1 1/4" for their insert chucks, which one of mine is. The other Nova chuck which I would keep is a direct connect chuck for my 8 X 1" spindle. However, Nova lists adapters to convert that to 8 X 1 1/4" also. Whether these are both available right now with some products being out of stock is probably the issue. I know that the insert for my insert chuck is available from at least one retail store. Thanks for the caution though. The adapter descriptions are written so it is sometimes difficult to figure which direction the conversion goes.

    All things being equal, I would likely buy a new larger Vicmarc chuck because they seem to be the highest quality. It certainly is worth considering buying another larger Nova chuck though since I can use my current jaw sets.

  14. #14
    Tom Lucas, I am not sure why members would shy away from the Vicmark chucks because of weight, and on the PM. I turned on a 3520A for about 10 years. I did have to replace the headstock bearings at about 6 years or so. I was turning bowls with no tailstock support, which I figure was the cause of the bearings going. Use the Vic chucks on my Robust Liberty, and no problems. After years of concrete construction, I prefer things to be overbuilt so I can work with them and not have to worry about them breaking because I was hard on them. I do USE my tools....

    robo hippy

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Reed Gray View Post
    Tom Lucas, I am not sure why members would shy away from the Vicmark chucks because of weight, and on the PM. I turned on a 3520A for about 10 years. I did have to replace the headstock bearings at about 6 years or so. I was turning bowls with no tailstock support, which I figure was the cause of the bearings going. Use the Vic chucks on my Robust Liberty, and no problems. After years of concrete construction, I prefer things to be overbuilt so I can work with them and not have to worry about them breaking because I was hard on them. I do USE my tools....

    robo hippy
    I agree, Reed. I was puzzled by the reaction myself: Turn away the best made chuck in the world???? Too much for the almighty 3520? Hmmm, if so, I must really be destroying my cheapo G0766 with that chuck..... but I suspect not. The only issue with that chuck is it tends to overrun on my lathe and wants to unspin if I turn the lathe off at high rpms (direct thread, no grub screw). I have to slow it down or apply friction to it when turning off the lathe.

    It's still my favorite because it just doesn't let go. Those beefy jaws simply don't give.

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