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Which chuck to buy for first lathe ?

3 jaw, 4 jaw, independant or self centering ?

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Brian John06/12/2014 06:08:41
1450 forum posts
579 photos

It looks like I will almost definitely be buying a Sherline lathe. They can be bought without a chuck so which chuck should I buy : 3 jaw self centering, 4 jaw self centering or 4 jaw independent.

The 3 jaw chuck is obviously the easiest to use but a search on the internet shows that some people think the 4 jaw independent is the most versatile once you get the hang of using it.

Thor06/12/2014 06:28:14
1102 forum posts
31 photos

Hi Brian,

If you have plans to buy a dial indicator and only one chuck, I would say buy a 4-jaw independent chuck. The self centering chucks I have used all have some runout, with an independent and a dial indicator you can get less runout. I use both self centering and independent chucks myself.


Edited By Thor on 06/12/2014 06:29:16

Roger Provins 206/12/2014 06:29:18
341 forum posts

I have a 3 and 4 jaw self-centering and a 4 jaw independent. I only used the independent when I really have to, offset or irregular stuff for which it is the only option. They take time and patience to setup but probably are the most accurate when correctly used.

Michael Gilligan06/12/2014 06:46:28
13581 forum posts
586 photos
Posted by Brian John on 06/12/2014 06:08:41:

It looks like I will almost definitely be buying a Sherline lathe.



First let me say that I think that's a very wise decision.

As for the chuck: In the fullness of time you will probably want both [and maybe collets], but I agree with Thor .

Buy a 4-Jaw first.


JA06/12/2014 08:33:40
764 forum posts
44 photos

When I did my machine shop training it was a four jaw chuck and a piece of chalk. The three jaw chuck was not even mentioned.


Brian John06/12/2014 08:35:54
1450 forum posts
579 photos

I had not intended to buy a dial indicator as I have no idea how to use one. Is this item essential if buying a 4 jaw independent chuck ?

Edited By Brian John on 06/12/2014 08:38:32

Brian John06/12/2014 08:45:55
1450 forum posts
579 photos

JA : Yes, but I will not have an instructor watching over my shoulder to tell me when I am doing something wrong

roy entwistle06/12/2014 08:52:44
1005 forum posts

Brian John I was first introduced to lathe work at school about 1948 we were only allowed to use four jaw independant Make life easier get ( or make ) two chuck keys use them diametically opposite put a piece of paper between the job aand the back of a reversed tool in the tool post you'll soon get the hang of it


Michael Gilligan06/12/2014 09:10:17
13581 forum posts
586 photos
Posted by Brian John on 06/12/2014 08:45:55:

... I will not have an instructor watching over my shoulder to tell me when I am doing something wrong


But, looking on the bright side; you do have access to YouTube

This , for example, would be eleven minutes well-spent.


Edited By Michael Gilligan on 06/12/2014 09:12:47

JasonB06/12/2014 09:14:16
15776 forum posts
1650 photos
1 articles

Right those with an engineering background won't like this but as the Sherline chucks are known to be quite accurate I would get a 3-jaw independant which will do 80% of the things you want quickly and easily, Then get a cheap far eastern 4-jaw for odd shaped and offset work.

For hobby use life is too short to clock every round item that you are going to make true in a 4-jaw, the sherline chuck will give you 0.001" TIR it will soon become frustrating to have to set the 4-jaw to better than this every few minuites.

I rarely use the 4-jaw to hold round work and seem to be able to make perfectly acceptable running engines using the 3-jaw. I only recently got collets for the lathe but half the time can't be bothered to put teh collet chuck on the spindle.



Edited By JasonB on 06/12/2014 09:15:11

Brian John06/12/2014 09:46:19
1450 forum posts
579 photos

3 jaw independent chuck.... I had not even considered that ? I thought if I was going to buy a 3 jaw chuck then it would be the self centering type which is what most small lathes come with.

Nigel McBurney 106/12/2014 09:47:30
579 forum posts
3 photos

When I was apprenticed,nobody mucked around making youngsters use a four jaw,typical training school attitude,we were taught to use the most appropriate method and which was quickest, go for a three jaw chuck and then when you get experienced buy a four jaw independent, forget about 4 jaw self centring chucks they are for wood turners I have never seen an trained person use one, Again I have collets for two of my lathes ,they are rarely used, 99% of turning can be carried out with 3 and 4 jaw chucks,faceplate and work between centres.

jason udall06/12/2014 09:50:41
2010 forum posts
41 photos
JasonB....sorry but I agree with you.
When I read the op question..I thought..if I had only one chuck which would I want.
....4 jaw indi...but futher thought was...Frankly a three jaw self center will fit most work and job could be done before the well known flexibility and added finesse of the 4 jaw could have even chucked the part up.
jason udall06/12/2014 09:52:36
2010 forum posts
41 photos
Although that said..a face plate is worth while.. ... Making.. ..

Edited By jason udall on 06/12/2014 09:53:31

Brian John06/12/2014 09:55:25
1450 forum posts
579 photos

All the Sherline lathes come with a face plate. I was surprised that most other brands do not supply one with the lathe.

IanT06/12/2014 09:58:43
1279 forum posts
130 photos

At the risk of stating the blindingly obvious Brian - just about any chuck will hold work very accurately provided that you can take a truing cut. For a lot of the small work I do, I often have to bring the work down to some known dimension anyway (I (re)use lot's of "scrap" material) so the 3 jaw is perfectly good enough for this and convenient to use. The 4 jaw independent gets put on mainly for second operation work where I need to clock the work back true or where I need a much better grip or for eccentric work.

Much of this also boils down to thinking a little ahead and planning your work (something I frequently forget to do I'm afraid - and I often end up having to do all sorts of work 'arounds' as a result!). So if you have some small wheels to machine (for instance) then get them all faced and bored before you make a mandrel to do the treads - because once the mandrel is turned in-situ - it will run absolutely true provided you don't take it out the chuck.

Jason believes the Sherline 3-jaw is pretty accurate anyway - so that sounds like a good way to go to me.



Ian S C06/12/2014 10:00:58
7427 forum posts
230 photos

I think Jason 's got it wrong, I think he means 3 jaw self centring, I'v never heard of a three jaw independent chuck(that doesn't mean much, there are lots of things I'v never heard of).

Ian S C

Russell Eberhardt06/12/2014 10:04:59
2465 forum posts
83 photos

Yes, another vote for the 3-jaw. Looking at what you are making, a 3-jaw will do everything you need. Any odd job that requires eccentricity could be done by shimming one jaw or by making an eccentric split bush to hold the work in the 3-jaw.

My first lathe came with just a 3-jaw chuck and I managed with that for a few years before buying my present lathe. Now I would estimate that I use the 3-jaw 60% of the time, collets 35%, and the 4-jaw only 5%.


Roger Provins 206/12/2014 10:12:24
341 forum posts

Posted by roy entwistle on 06/12/2014 08:52:44:

...........Make life easier get ( or make ) two chuck keys use them diametically opposite put a piece of paper between the job aand the back of a reversed tool in the tool post you'll soon get the hang of it


I bought my lathe secondhand and as well as other chucks it came with a 4 jaw independent chuck and 2 keys.

I wondered why - now I know!

Bazyle06/12/2014 10:16:59
4656 forum posts
185 photos

Why buy an expensive lathe with not even the basic tooling. That is folly if you are on a budget.

If you look at most of the used lathes on ebay they have the 3 jaw fitted - because that was the most likely to have been the last one used. Maybe 70% of work is done using it. The problem is square stuff just cannot (properly) be held in it so then you are stuffed.
However as mentioned earlier cheap 4 jaw chucks are available so you can get one and a pre-threaded backplate. I know you may be on a limitted budget but if that desperate wash cars, chop wood, rake leaves to scrape together the dosh as it will be less trouble in the long run.

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