Lathe chuck mounting method

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Blog entry by LesB posted 02-03-2018 06:51 PM 1405 reads 1 time favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Most of my wood turnings are mounted on a Nova chuck and a lot of it is rough wood sometimes called firewood. Getting the turning started and mounting it on the lathe is often a multi step process. Techniques such as using a face plate mount with screws into the blank so the first chuck mounting spigot or dado (recess) can be made on the lathe or using an intermediate waste wood mounting disk glued to the blank, or by using a threaded spur center with the tail stock (a popular method), or some other two or three step method. I just kept thinking there must be a quicker easier way to do it. One that allows me to mount and unmount pieces so I can alternate working on various projects simultaniously.

I don’t recall where I first came up with this idea, and I have searched around and not seen any one else demonstrating this process, but for many years I have been using my router with a dovetail bit, a guide, and a template to cut a dado or recess in a flat surface on my turning blanks so I can mount them directly on my lathe chuck. This recess is cut on the surface that usually will be cut away in the finished product; ie. the inside of a bowl. The flat surface on the blank does not need to be completely smooth, a rough flat chain saw cut is OK . The template is centered and clamped on top of the turning blank. I do it across the corner of my work bench and two clamps and it works great, pict #1. You just need enough space between the clamps for the router to do its work. While I have never done it you could make a mounting spigot instead with this method by just cutting a ring leaving the center raised for clamping inward by the chuck instead of cleaning out the whole recess and using the chuck in expansion mode as I do.

As illustrated in picture #1 I have cut a circle of appropriate diameter for the size of the turning blank and the chuck jaws in a piece of plywood as the template. I use a circle cutter on the drill press to make the template circles.
In the background you can see a second template with other size holes and some smaller blanks with the recess already cut. Picture #2 shows the router set up. Adjust the depth of the bit to create a recess 3/16 to 1/4” deep. In soft wood you may need to go a little deeper?
Pict #3 shows the recess in this large piece of Maple and pict #4 sows the opposite side in it’s raw condition. On large pieces like this I add the support of the tail stock until I get the blank trued up. On balanced or small pieces the tail stock is not needed.
When the bottom of the blank is trued up I proceed to shape and finish what will be the bottom of the piece (including sanding) and in the process create a new recess (or spigot if you prefer) so when I have finished turning the bottom I can reverse the mounting and then finish the top or inside.
When turning the second mounting recess I usually cut just enough of a ring for the chuck jaws to fit into and leave the center high enough so I can decorate it with bead rings which I leave in the finished piece. Inside the recessed ring cut for the chuck jaws is where I sign, date, and indicate the type of wood. If you prefer to use create a spigot that you will have to remove it when the turning is done.

In turning hundreds of different items, including platters up to 20 inches in diameter and large bowls I have never had one come off the lathe using this method. I seldom use soft wood like pine or popular and they may not be suitable for this method of mounting.

-- Les B, Oregon

5 comments so far

View lew's profile


13353 posts in 4834 days

#1 posted 02-03-2018 07:40 PM

Now that’s a cool idea!

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

View thimmaker's profile


17 posts in 1200 days

#2 posted 02-03-2018 09:07 PM

How do you finish the surface around the dovetail recess such as a bowl bottom? When its screwed to a faceplate, you can finish the entire bottom and outside.

-- thimmaker

View LesB's profile


2983 posts in 4521 days

#3 posted 02-04-2018 12:16 AM

I do not use a face plate in this process. Just make one side fairly flat usually the side that will eventually be the top side and then center the template and cut the recess with the router. Now if necessary you can start with cutting a recess on the bottom of the blank with the router, mount the piece and make a second recess in the top, then turn the blank around again using that second recess to mount the work so the bottom can be finished. Normally the first recess will be on the top side (what will become the inside of a bowl for instance) so you can mount it, then completely finish most of the bottom creating a second recess there in the process. This recess will be a permanent part of the turning. Flip the blank around, mount it on this second recess and finish the inside, and any more work that needs to be done on the sides.
Here is a picture of a finished bottom. This bowl was about 18” in diameter. You can see the decorative bead rings I turned in the center.

-- Les B, Oregon

View bushmaster's profile


4125 posts in 3361 days

#4 posted 02-04-2018 01:51 PM

Perfect size every time,I still like the security of the screws in large off balanced blanks. Worth a try though.

-- Brian - Hazelton, British Columbia

View LesB's profile


2983 posts in 4521 days

#5 posted 02-04-2018 07:19 PM

Perfect size every time,I still like the security of the screws in large off balanced blanks. Worth a try though.

- bushmaster

I do use the tail stock as a support on large or off balance blanks until I get them cleaned up. That last picture is a good example of where a tail stock would be used. I have had some so out of balance I had to start them at 400 rpm and the 500# lathe still vibrated a little until I trued them up.

-- Les B, Oregon

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