Rusty lathe live centre

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Forum topic by woodify posted 01-16-2015 03:40 AM 1851 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View woodify's profile


349 posts in 3357 days

01-16-2015 03:40 AM

I picked up an old lathe that had some surface rust. I removed all the easy to access rust from the lathe, however the live centre is stuck in the threaded head stock. I tried WD-40 and some rust gel but the live centre is stuck. I have seen people heat up rusted bolts to loosen them and I’m thinking about trying to heat the live centre with a torch to see if I can get it freed. My question is would I create damage to the threaded head stock by heating it up?

-- Woodify ~~

6 replies so far

View cutmantom's profile


408 posts in 4320 days

#1 posted 01-16-2015 04:14 AM

I would only use heat as a last resort, could you give some pictures, I am not sure why the live center would be in the head stock , should be in tail stock

View Woodknack's profile


13585 posts in 3666 days

#2 posted 01-16-2015 05:30 AM

One of my lathes had a dead center stuck in the tailstock and I tried everything except a torch. Finally had a mechanic friend push it out with a hydraulic press, they said it was the most pressure they had ever used. That thing was really stuck in there. Came out without damage. To specifically answer the question, a torch would be a last resort if I couldn’t find someone with a press.

-- Rick M,

View Minorhero's profile


373 posts in 3890 days

#3 posted 01-16-2015 11:51 AM

Most headstocks on lathes are hollow to assist in removal of centers. I keep a piece of steel rebar near my lathe for this purpose. When I need to remove a center I just slide the rebar in from the outboard end and give the center a few clunks from the inside of the headstock. Works great if your headstock is hollow like mine.

For tailstocks there is usually a method for removing centers. I have found that many tailstocks can be retracted so the center is pushed out by a part of the internal mechanism.

Regarding using heat. When metal is heated it expands, so heating the center would not help you. Heating the threaded headstock would help you. If when you say torch you mean a cutting or welding torch then keep that thing away from your lathe. If you mean a sweating torch like the kind plumbers use to sweat pipes then its safe to use. You can heat up the threaded headstock and that will expand a few thousandths of an inch which might be enough to unstick something. I do this all the time in machine restorations. Takes about 5 minutes to heat something up. Keep in mind the center will heat up as well, but hopefully not as hot as the threaded headstock.

Pressing it out would be a last resort as that would require taking apart most of your lathe if this is the threaded headstock and be of no help unless your headstock is hollow. If it is then the rebar method works great. If its hollow and it does not come out immediately with the rebar method then you just need to treat the rebar like its a nail or chisel and hit the other end with a hammer.

View crippledcarpenter's profile


32 posts in 3732 days

#4 posted 01-16-2015 01:00 PM

If your head stock is hollow, which most are(unless you bought a shop smith), i would use a brass rod through the backside of the head stock. If you use a steel rood and hammer to tap it out, you could scrach up the taper. Insert the rod until it stops. tap with a hammer and the “spur” will come out. (the live center would go into the tailstock)

-- haste makes firewood.

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 4871 days

#5 posted 01-16-2015 01:14 PM

I would make up two tapered wedges and slide them if possible behind the live centre and bring them closer together with a rubber mallet or copper or brass mallet.Also try a good clamp to pull them together behind the head of the centre.In other words just like removing a drill head from it’s jacobs taper see the wedge method for that.Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View Wildwood's profile


2959 posts in 3420 days

#6 posted 01-16-2015 02:16 PM

You may need repeated applications & time allowing what ever you use to loosen rusty parts before they break free. If dealing with a morse taper a long screw driver, hammer or mallet is all you need to knock a drive center out.

If drive center is screwed onto headstock spindle same op with soaking time, just use pipe wrenches to unscrew.

-- Bill

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