Wood Lathe Chucks have been around for a while. However, as more and more people are entering the hobby, they are still intimidated by this tool. Our goal is to go over the tool and how to use a wood lathe chuck. Due to the fact that chucks are most commonly used for bowl turning, we will also go over the process of using wood chucks to turn a basic bowl.
Different Types of Wood Chucks
For a beginner, selecting the right tool can be overwhelming. There is a wide array of every single tool out there including one as simple as a wood chuck. Although we would recommend getting a four jaw independent chuck for a beginner, it’s important to have a general understanding of the different types of chucks as well as their applications.
Four Jaw Independent Chuck
This type of a chuck is the most common and most affordable. As mentioned above, we recommend it for any beginner looking to get into bowl turning. The operation of the chuck is quite straight forward. Four independent clamps slide in and out in and are secured with screws. Therefore, this chuck is capable of clamping down square, rectangular, round and irregular shaped materials. In addition to the above, the jaws may be reversed in order to achieve a reverse clamp motion.
Three to Six Jaw Self-Centering Chuck
A self-centering chuck differs from an independent one by the fact that all the jaw pieces operate together. In other words, the distance between each jaw and the center of the chuck is always the same. Although you lose the versatility for irregular shapes, you gain in precision and clamp speed. The adjustment is made with a key. These chucks are highly precise, fast and efficient. The higher end models are capable of operating with extreme tolerances going down to thousands of an inch. However, because of the mechanism, you can’t reverse the jaws. Therefore, you will need two sets of chucks if you need the “outward” operation.
Four Jaw Combination Chuck
How to use a wood lathe chuck comes down to using the right tool for the application. The four jaw combination chuck combines the functionalities of the two chucks we discussed above. In other words, the four jaws are adjusted independently, but are opened and closed at the same time with one key. These are especially useful when you’re working on multiple irregular pieces which require a special setup, but no adjustments in between the blanks.
Jacob Drill Chucks
This is a special set of chucks which is equipped with a mechanism similar to the end of a drill. It is essentially the ideal tool to hold a drill bit or round stock. It is most commonly used for precise drilling of tailstock on lathes.
How to Use a Wood Lathe Chuck to Turn a Bowl
Bowl Turning is one of the most popular activities for lathe hobbyist. Although it may seem daunting for beginners, it’s a fairly straightforward process with the use of the chucks we’ve covered above.
Turning the Tenon – Prepare the Bowl for the Chuck
If you’re new to bowl turning, you might be wondering what is a “tenon”. The dictionary definition is “a projecting piece of wood made for insertion into a mortise in another piece.”. In simpler terms, it is the portion of the wood which we will use to hold onto. Therefore, it is something which allows the chuck to grip into or onto. Note that when the chuck is inserted into this portion, it may also be called a recess.
You will need to identify the diameter of your chuck’s grip. This measurement will determine the maximum size of the tenon you can leave on the bowl. Additionally, you also want to consider the depth of the piece if you’re planning to locate the tenon on the inside; this may restrict your chuck from securing onto the piece and giving you additional trouble when it comes to working with the wood.
Once you’ve established this diameter, mill down the excess wood until you’re left with a round cylindrical “tail” of about 1-2 inches. Mount the chuck onto this area. Tighten the jaws onto the tenon.
Turning the Bowl
Start the lathe at a low speed in order to make sure that your piece of wood is secured properly onto the chuck. If it hasn’t flown off within a few seconds, increase the speed gradually. This will accelerate your carving process. Begin by cutting away wood from the bottom of your bowl all the way to the rim. Just like with a blank, position your tool on the tool rest and allow it to do the cutting. Make sure to gently position it against the wood and to slowly make progress toward the center. If it’s your first time working on a bowl, don’t rush. You will need to be patient and learn how to effectively maneuver the tool in order to create what you’ve envisioned. This is an important step in learning how to use a wood lathe chuck in your carving process.
Once you’ve completed that side of the bowl, repeat the process on the other side. Clamp the chuck onto the tenon and let your creativity shine.
Finalizing the Wood Bowl & Removing Tenons
You want to sand down the surface of your bowl and add any desired final touches before you remove the tenons. Take your time and make sure that you’re happy with the final result. Once you proceed with the next step, it will be difficult to mount the bowl on the lathe.
The final step is to remove the tenons you’ve used for your chuck. The process is quite straight forward. You can turn the bowl down until the tenon is gone on one side. On the other side, you will have to reduce the size of the tenon as much as possible and remove it with a tool at the end.
Practice Makes Perfect
Working with chucks isn’t rocket science, but learning how to use a wood lathe chuck is an important skill any woodworker should develop. Get some lumber, pick up a set of chucks and get cutting!