Lathe chucks

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Forum topic by MikeGraw posted 11-24-2010 09:13 AM 3075 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View MikeGraw's profile


21 posts in 2947 days

11-24-2010 09:13 AM

Last year we bought a house and the owner left his old Craftsmen lathe for me. “Don’t tell my wife, but we really bought the lathe and the house came with it!” :)

I haven’t used a lathe since 8th grade 35+ years ago and that was very little. Since I am new to turning I have a couple of questions.

I have read several places that having a lathe chuck really opens up what you can do on a lathe. Penn State has several listed in their catalog. Some are lever operated and some use a key. My first question is what is the difference between them?

The Penn State utility chuck for $89 comes with several sets of jaws and would be within my budget. It is lever operated. Would this be a good beginner chuck for someone with no experience? I like the idea of having various jaws to hold different sized items.

I already purchased a live center for the tail stock. I am also looking into getting some sort of sharpening system. Since I mainly do scroll work and box making, I don’t want to go too wild with purchasing gadgets for turning until I decide if I like it. There have been a few things that I have tried, but clearly see there is going to be a learning curve and lots of practice needed.


-- Mike's having fun in Central Wisconsin

12 replies so far

View justinwdemoss's profile


148 posts in 2920 days

#1 posted 11-24-2010 03:23 PM


I don’t have any answers for you, but will buddy up and follow this thread as I picked up a 1956 Dewalt RAS last summer to refurbish and use and the seller threw in a craftsman lathe and motor. It has the live center, but just the spur drive. Sorry I can’t help, but will hopefully learn from your post.

-- Justin in Loveland, OH

View CharlieM1958's profile


16275 posts in 4243 days

#2 posted 11-24-2010 03:46 PM

I purchased the Barracuda chuck system and it is a high quality chuck with attachments to cover pretty much every situation. IMO, a key-operated chuck is a little more convenient, but I don’t think it is a huge deal.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3099 days

#3 posted 11-24-2010 03:53 PM

My advise to anyone getting started with turning is to make certain you have a good method for sharpening. That should be your first priority. If budget is an issue – the chuck should be a second priority.

Regarding chucks – I’ve been using a Talon for many years but if I were to replace it today, I would buy a Barracudq. I have no experience with the bargain brands and cannot comment on them.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View lew's profile


12102 posts in 3780 days

#4 posted 11-24-2010 04:34 PM

I have a lever operated chuck and it serves me well. It is a TeknaTool Midi

It is similar to the one you are considering.

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

View dbhost's profile


5725 posts in 3257 days

#5 posted 11-24-2010 04:43 PM

I have a Woodriver Chuck, a fellow turner friend of mine has the PSI Utility chuck that you are talking about. If it weren’t for a stupid operator mistake created mark on his chuck, they would be identical except for the blow molded cases… Mine has one, his doesn’t. I don’t know if the PSI comes with one or not…

Some guys complain about needing 2 hands to operate the levers, they must have small hands because I find it very simple to operate one handed.

Would I like to upgrade to the Barracuda chuck? Sure. But only because I like the Ti coated models looks… Functionally, I do not think there is anything that a Barracuda chuck can do that my Woodriver can not..

If you grab the PSI, you basically get the same chuck as mine, PLUS you get an assortment of jaws that are extra cost for me… I wish PSI had that deal on the Utility chuck when I bought mine…

Before I let you go on this though, I need to echo what Rich said. If you want to get good at turning, have a way to, and get good at tool sharpening…

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View Bobin29's profile


12 posts in 2810 days

#6 posted 11-24-2010 04:56 PM

Mike, I really enjoy turning on the lathe. I have both a Oneway stronghold and a Barracuda 4. Both have the key tightening system. I prefer the key because you can tighten with one hand and hold the wood with the other. Oneway has some gaps in the diameters that it will hold. What I mean is you can have a diameter of wood that is too large for one set of Oneway jaws and too small for the next size larger. The Barracuda jaws overlap their sizes. Oneway has just about any size adapter that you could ask for, this is not the case with all chuck manufacturers. I think that both brands are very well built. There are a lot of chucks on the market and I’m waiting to see if any person or magazine does an article that shows compatability (if any) of jaws from one brand to another. Hope you enjoy your lathe. Bob

View Big_Bob's profile


173 posts in 3734 days

#7 posted 11-24-2010 05:36 PM

I think you will find a key operated chuck more useful than a lever. The nice thing about a key chuck is that you can hold the wood with one hand and tighten the chuck with the other.

I have three chucks a Nova, a Grizzly and a large Vicmarc. I absolutely love the large Vicmarc. However that would be way expensive and overkill for a Craftsman lathe. I like the dovetail jaws of the three chucks I mentioned. Some woodturners like the shark jaws of an Oneway chuck. That is the biggest argument in woodturning chucks. I think that if you find which ever style of jaws you like and stick with it you can not go wrong.

As for which chuck you should buy the Penn State sounds good, as well as the Barracuda, Nova or Grizzly. Each one of them is all the chuck you will ever need for your Craftsman Lathe. I have the VB-36 lathe, it can handle work up to 36” in diameter. When I am turning the big stuff I of course use my big Vicmarc chuck. When I am turning smaller stuff I use the Nova or the Grizzly and I am satisfied with them.

-- Bob Clark, Tool Collector and Sawdust Maker

View Lochlainn1066's profile


138 posts in 2802 days

#8 posted 11-24-2010 06:25 PM

I have a PSI Barracuda 2 and am completely happy with it. The price difference between it and the Utility chuck is pretty small, and all their “C” style accessories fit it, which if IRC don’t always fit the Utility.

But definitely get a scroll chuck. It makes turning anything other than spindles SO much easier I wouldn’t be without it!

-- Nate,

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 3023 days

#9 posted 11-24-2010 06:27 PM

Well, actually a chuck is nice to have but not a deal breaker. It is just one of many work holders.

Mixed things to think about:

If it is a small lathe, you are losing turning length.
Big spinning metal out where it can come in contact with cutting tools can bite you faster than you can react.
Expensive chunks of metal for nice ones.
The cheaper they are, generally, the less accurate they are.
They may or may not hold work as securely as other methods.
They may or may not make it possible to put work back in them accurately.
Independent jaws can be fussy to center.
Independent jaws allow you to hold irregular shapes.
Independent jaws allow you to turn off center if you want. Think of things like cabriolet legs.
Independent jaws allow you to turn cubes and other interesting things.
Chucks and faceplates are just about mandatory for most hollow work.

Faceplates are good and also if you get into it, you can get collets as well.

Lots of ways to spend money for turning toys ;)

Make sure you pick up a drill chuck for the tailstock. They make life much easier.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View zwwizard's profile


210 posts in 3734 days

#10 posted 11-24-2010 07:13 PM

I guess I am old school. I have two lathes, and very seldom use a chuck like these. I use face plates, jam chucks, or screw chucks. I learn to turn over 60 years ago and never learn the ‘new’ ways. Check out some of the older books on turning to get a idea of what I am talking about.

-- Richard

View jobott's profile


27 posts in 3386 days

#11 posted 11-24-2010 07:44 PM

I currently own 2 chucks made by Teknatool and found them to be a very efficient way to hold turnings. Theres is going to be a very good deal on the Nova Midi chuck which is a keyed chuck from Woodcraft on Black Friday. They are offering the chuck plus 6 accessories for $124 so if you are looking for one this is a great deal. You can mail order one if there is no Woodcraft near you. I’d get another but cant justify another chuck right now!! :) Consider checking out the website which is currently showing the Black Friday deals. and no, I do not work for Woodcraft! lol

-- Joe B

View lew's profile


12102 posts in 3780 days

#12 posted 11-25-2010 03:26 AM

these folks have chucks on sale

Use promotion code H39H2

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

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