Turning slippery slope #8: Mechanical question about the lathe

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Blog entry by Betsy posted 02-19-2009 03:15 AM 1565 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 7: Took a shallow plunge and actually made something! Part 8 of Turning slippery slope series Part 9: Working on pens »

Got a question about the “play” (for lack of a better description) that exists after you snug down the tail stock. Once it’s snugged down and then you dial in the final little bit with the top crank – how much play should you have?

It seems like I have to really crank down onto the tail stock lever to get it to not move the minute I try to do the final crank. I’m not sure if I need to adjust something on the lathe or if I need to be more forceful securing the lever.

So that’s today’s question. Now I need to show you what I’ve done!

I’ve done some pens before, but this one has to be the best so far. Something about having the right tools – makes a difference.

I am getting anxious to move onto doing bowls. But plan to stick with some of these smaller things for a bit longer so I can get a better grasp of the tools. (And learn to get rid of some of those tool marks you can see on the key chain!)

Thanks in advance for your help.



-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

8 comments so far

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 3796 days

#1 posted 02-19-2009 03:41 AM

well the way that the tailstock is held down is by a washer and a bolt on the bottom. i have a jet and i actually stripped that bolt and had to put another one on but if you move the bolt up a little bit on the bolt you can get more clamping capacity. it worked well on my jet and i can plunge into even hard woods and i have virtually no slippage

View CedarFreakCarl's profile


594 posts in 4081 days

#2 posted 02-19-2009 03:44 AM

Hi Betsy:
I’ve got the Rikon and it does the same thing to me. I’ve got to clamp it pretty tight so it won’t move when I turn the crank to snug it up. It’s not that I really clamp it that tight, it’s just tighter than one would think it needs to be. Anyhow, the pen and key chains look very nice. What kind of wood are you using there?

-- Carl Rast, Pelion, SC

View lew's profile


12102 posts in 3783 days

#3 posted 02-19-2009 03:56 AM

My Delta lathe does the same thing. I have to put a good amount of pressure on the tail stock locking lever to prevent the tail stock from sliding back when turning the tail center into the work piece.

As Denis pointed out, there may be some adjustment- on your lathe- to reduce the travel of the locking mechanism.


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View pyromedic602's profile


164 posts in 3776 days

#4 posted 02-19-2009 05:04 AM

I am glad you asked this question. I was wondering the same thing about my Steel City lath but like with everyone else if I put a little added force on the lever it locks it place fine,

-- Pyromedic602, free wood is always good wood

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 3924 days

#5 posted 02-19-2009 05:26 AM

Thanks guys. Denis – I’ll have to look at the bolt to see what it looks like. I’m glad I’m not the only one who has this issue.

I wonder if pushing the lever taught with my hand and then giving it a tap with a mallet would do the trick?

Carl – the wood for the pen is purpleheart. Not sure about the key chains – it was just a piece of scrap from some other project.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View rwyoung's profile


409 posts in 3499 days

#6 posted 02-19-2009 06:19 AM

It sounds to me, and maybe I’m misunderstanding the problem, that either (or both) the bed of the lathe and the bottom of the tail stock are not flat (I’d guess tailstock). So that you don’t have all of the surface area in contact, maybe only a ridge around the outside edge. You aren’t getting a good metal-to-metal surface contact. A ridge would be easy to feel by running your fingernail across to see if it catches as you exit the edge of the metal plane. And easy to take off with a light filing.

Just guessing.

-- Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things.

View StevenAntonucci's profile


355 posts in 3966 days

#7 posted 02-19-2009 06:27 PM

If I read this correctly, it sound like your tailstock isn’t locking properly. To test it, take a piece of wood to the lathe and put it between centers. Tighten the tailstock as normal. If you advance the tailstock point, you should get to a point where it is fully seated in the blank. Continue advancing the tailstock point. If you cannot, the tailstock is secured.

If you can, it is likely because the tailstock is creeping backwards on the ways. (draw a pencil line and observe). If this is the case, you can tighten the nut underneath slightly to see if it helps. If it does not, then check under the tailstock to see if there are any shavings or sawdust that prevent metal on metal contact. Lastly, check the castings on the underside of the ways as RWYOUNG mentioned above for rough spots and lightly file them away.

Good luck. I am betting that #1 or #2 are your issue…


-- Steven

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 3924 days

#8 posted 03-03-2009 04:23 AM

It turns out I had a ridge that once filed down solved the problem. These are the types of things I don’t think to look for. So I’m glad I have all my “big brothers” here to help.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

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