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3 jaw chucks and soft jaws

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Chris Richards 329/10/2015 20:36:46
68 forum posts
13 photos


Do any of you manage to use soft jaws permanently in place of hard jaws? I ask as my hard jaws are now past it and replacements are £130. I assumed soft jaws are just machined for specific jobs but I'm considering trying to machine them for general use. Any suggestions of possible problems?



Bandersnatch29/10/2015 21:16:24
1713 forum posts
60 photos

Harold hall has a page on his website here devoted to this.

Chris Richards 329/10/2015 21:43:57
68 forum posts
13 photos

I'm not sure if his site only mentions boring them for specific jobs but not a one size fits all setup. Strange can't find any mentions of using them as a one size fits all.

JasonB30/10/2015 06:58:07
18603 forum posts
2046 photos
1 articles

I would have thought that if you machined them down to a narrow edge like a standard jaw then the softer material would soon wear and you would have to remachine on a regular basis.

Have you thought of regrinding the existing ones?



Edited By JasonB on 30/10/2015 07:14:23

Ajohnw30/10/2015 09:55:16
3631 forum posts
160 photos

The main problem is machining them in place on the lathe. If your lathe is turning a taper or some other strange shape due to spindle alignment etc you will finish up with bell mouthed jaws. Apart from that aspect they can hold work rather accurately.

I wouldn't entirely agree with Jason's comment. In use the jaws are under compression and even if they aren't tapered down at the end to hold low diameter works there will always be a degree of point contact when holding round work. The only sliding wear they may get is when your putting work in them. The scrolls on the back will wear more quickly than hardened jaws and that is the main reason for hardening them. This is why hardened soft jaw carriers are available for some chucks.

I've seen mention of machining or grinding ordinary jaws in various mags over the years. The jaws are just dangling in space = nvg. They need to be clamped on something for the best results. One way of doing that is to machine a shallow recess at the back of the jaws, say 1/16" x 1/16". Then grip a washer or what ever in that while pulling the washer back against the shoulder. Then machine the inside of the jaws going as close as you can to the washer. Remove the washers and take off the slight shoulder that is left.

If your jaws are worn you'll probably find that the ways in the chuck are too. When ever I have bought soft jaws I've found that they need fitting to the chuck and suspect they are deliberately made a bit over size to account for wear in the chuck. The slot in the jaws is usually a touch to narrow and the front width of the jaw past that a little too wide. I've just used a set of warding files to correct that being very careful to identify which part is fouling on the chuck body. I find it easier to keep the file still and move the jaw as that way I can feel when the surface being worked is square to the file.

Harold's idea of using them as carriers for other jaws is interesting. I'd wonder about annealing a set of soft jaws, doing what work is needed and then case hardening them. The mess on them after case hardening could be cleaned off with emery cloth with virtually zero change in size.



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