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Securing workpiece for parting in lathe or 'left feed'

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Stuart Munro 115/06/2021 15:55:58
108 forum posts

Hi, Not sure if this should be a beginners post - but I've been at this couple of years yet continue to face a problem of work holding when parting off.

My issue is that I use a Sherline lathe which has a 10mm shaft in the spindle. This means that any larger diameter piece is held either:

1. Just by the chuck.

2. By the chuck and a rotating 'live' centre in the tailstock.

3. Assisted with a 'steady'

My problem occurs mainly when parting off; the live centre needs to be removed (I'm advised) for parting off and the piece becomes less stable. I've tried moving closer to the chuck by cutting a bit off of the end and re-inserting the work piece into the chuck but I still occasionally find the piece coming loose during parting.

I say it occurs mainly when parting; I also sometime experience problems when feeding left and pulling the piece from the chuck. The steady can not be used as it obstructs the crosslide.

So I've finally admitted defeat and decided to ask the experts. Any advice?


Martin Kyte15/06/2021 16:30:31
2532 forum posts
45 photos

You only need to remove the live centre when you actually get close to separating the parted off bit from the parent stock. Up to that point you are just turning a deep groove. Just keep an eye on what you are doing and don't go too deep. Remove the centre for the last bit.

regards Martin

JasonB15/06/2021 16:38:08
21307 forum posts
2419 photos
1 articles

Also nothing wrong with using a hacksaw for all the cut or the last bit once the tailstock ctr has been removed.

Stuart Munro 115/06/2021 16:51:21
108 forum posts

Martin, Jason,

Thanks - experience and the blindingly obvious!. I imagine there is some complex design to secure the piece for cutting off and you both provide simple, no cost solutions. Thanks.

Reminds me of NASA spending $100,000s designing a pen that would work in zero gravity, only to learn that the Russians use a pencil.


not done it yet15/06/2021 16:59:24
6271 forum posts
20 photos

If the workpiece is coming loose while making a cut away from the chuck it may mean the chuck is goosed. Dull cutters or with too much feed and/or depth of cut (there are limits!) might also be why?

Most items can be cut from both ends towards the chuck if mounted between centres. I expect extended narrow centres are available - or able to be sorted in-shop - if you set your mind to it.

Stuart Munro 115/06/2021 17:04:19
108 forum posts

not done it yet, goosed?

I like the idea of extended narrow centres but would they impair stability when they get too far from the tailstock?


Dave Halford15/06/2021 17:27:35
1669 forum posts
19 photos

If you mount a piece of bar in the chuck tighten it as much as you normally do. Rotate the chuck till one of the jaws is at the top. Now shine a torch at the jaw from behind if you can see the light shining between the work and jaw the chuck is not gripping properly and therefore goosed, duff, mullered, knackered and all the other words the English invent to say broken.

old mart15/06/2021 17:28:41
3313 forum posts
203 photos

A four jaw independent chuck will give better support than a three jaw when parting off. If there is more than 1 diameter overhang from the jaws, the added support from the tailstock would be welcome, and finishing with a hacksaw can be much safer than parting all the way.

Stuart Munro 115/06/2021 17:38:52
108 forum posts

Dave, old mart, got it - goosed. No my chuck is not goosed but I do have a 4 jaw independent one that I thought about using.

My hacksaw problem - albeit small - is that the Sherline parting tool is 1mm (0.04" and the hacksaw not much less, so it takes care not to damage the finish.

Think I'll try getting almost there with a live centre then finish off with a jewellers saw, very fine blade,

Stuart Munro 115/06/2021 17:39:58
108 forum posts

Arghhh. The smiley snuck in instead of a closing bracket. Sorry

JA15/06/2021 17:42:37
1217 forum posts
73 photos

If you are going to use a hack saw, I frequently do so but not under power, put a piece of wood below the job on the lathe bed to protect the bed from the saw blade.


larry phelan 115/06/2021 17:42:45
1077 forum posts
14 photos

My pennyworth would be that if the workpiece is coming loose in the chuck, the chuck is not much use to you, something wrong !

I decided many moons ago Never to use the hacksaw for parting off, that,s a last resort, try a rear toolpost.

PS I dont always have happy part -off,s, break the odd tip now and then, like everyone else.

old mart15/06/2021 17:58:33
3313 forum posts
203 photos

The four jaws support the work at 90 degree spacing, wheras a three jaw is 120 degrees. Have you tried a junior hacksaw with the sides of the blade rubbed with 400 wet and dry paper just a little to smooth the sides of the set? A lot depends whether you want the parted off faces to be a finished surface, of if you can take a bit more off by facing off.

JasonB15/06/2021 18:17:08
21307 forum posts
2419 photos
1 articles

Allow sufficient length to reverse the work for a finish facing cut to clean up the sawn part as well as the parted surface as finish is seldom as good and if dia of work is large your 1mm tool may well wander to one side or the other

Dave Halford15/06/2021 19:34:27
1669 forum posts
19 photos
Posted by Stuart Munro 1 on 15/06/2021 17:38:52:

Dave, old mart, got it - goosed. No my chuck is not goosed but I do have a 4 jaw independent one that I thought about using.

My hacksaw problem - albeit small - is that the Sherline parting tool is 1mm (0.04" and the hacksaw not much less, so it takes care not to damage the finish.

Think I'll try getting almost there with a live centre then finish off with a jewellers saw, very fine blade,

In which case tighten the chuck properly

Dave S15/06/2021 21:42:39
201 forum posts
41 photos

I use centre support all the time on the CVA.

This is mystery steel, about 2" diameter:


Just remember to loosen it of as you get towards the actual cut off.


MadMike15/06/2021 22:58:13
223 forum posts
4 photos

Stuart, where are you located. With luck somebody is close at hand and could help you with this problem. For instance if you are in the East Midlands you are invited to come and see me and I can show you the way in which parting off can be done. I do a lot with stainless steel which would possibly alarm some. Oh yes and I never cut off with a hacksaw.

Stuart Munro 116/06/2021 08:16:44
108 forum posts

Lots of thoughts overnight. Thanks guys.

I do use a rear post cut-off already. It is definitely better than a normal front one. And I do tighten the chuck properly which is not 'goosed' but will try the 4 ja that I have.

I'm convinced the problem is the ratio of overhang to the amount gripped by the chuck. Using the live centre until I'm almost through makes sense but I never thought of leaving the piece in the lathe to cut it with a hacksaw. I tried taking it out and putting it in a vice. Leaving it in place makes sense perhaps:

Smooth the edge of a junior hacksaw blade (old marts idea) but then clamp it in place and manually rotate the piece for the final cut. Needs some thought on clamping but it should ensure the the cut is perpendicular to the base - not damaging the finish.

I'll try it


Martin Connelly16/06/2021 08:44:49
1849 forum posts
197 photos

Don't know if this is an option but consider replacing the live centre with a small rotating chuck in the tailstock to hold the workpiece without putting pressure on in the direction of the headstock.

Ideally for holding a small part such as the item you are cutting off from the longer stock a set of soft jaws cut to suit would be better but I suspect that is not an option for your Sherline. An alternative is a bored and split collet that fits in the ordinary chuck, this may be something worth considering since it will work for lots of other awkward to hold items as well. There are plenty of examples of how to do this on line.

What about an ER collet chuck on a parallel shank. You can cut the shank down to the maximum length that the chuck will hold for minimum overhang but you will get much better grip from the ER collet than from a standard set of chuck jaws when holding short parts. ER11 holds up to Ø10, ER 20 holds up to Ø13 and ER25 holds up to Ø16 for example.

Martin C

John Haine16/06/2021 10:09:51
4099 forum posts
241 photos

When you say "10mm shaft in the spindle", do you mean that this is the spindle bore? I assume you do. If it was bigger, why would it make any difference to workholding, in the chuck, or otherwise?

Does it have the type of chuck that you tighten with a pair of tommy bars, or one that has a chuck key that you but in a square or hex hole in the side of the chuck? The Sherline website seems to show the former, and these I think are quite difficult to exert a good tightening torque on. Even so I'm surprised that it can't hold well enough for turning left-to-right. Mind you, in 20+ years of machining I can't recall a single occasion when I have needed to do that!

Their 4-jaw independent chucks seem to have the conventional one-screw-per-jaw, which would allow a better grip.

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