What is a lathe center?

A lathe center is mounted on the tail of a lathe and is used to hold a stable workpiece.

A lathe center is mounted on the tail of a lathe and is used to hold a stable workpiece. The typical lathe center is made of hardened tool steel and has a fine point. The tip is crimped in the center of a workpiece, which can rotate between the center of the lathe and the chuck of the lathe. This provides a robust and secure mounting device for the lathe.

When not using the center of the lathe, a workpiece tends to wobble and usually comes off the chuck. This creates a hazard in the workplace as it can fly across the work area. The workpiece is also difficult to cut and shape properly because of its tendency to wobble when pressure is applied against it.

The lathe center is not only used on large parts. It is used on very small objects also when the need for fine and precise detail demands a stable workpiece. The center of the lathe is used on the small part through to the final stages where it is withdrawn to allow for final detailing. This is especially true when scoring the surface of an item.

There are two basic types of lathe centers: a live center and a dead center. The center of the lathe consists of a pointed tool that turns and rotates on a bearing. This type of center allows the part to be held firmly and rotated quickly without burning or damaging the work. The dead center is a point that is locked in position and the workpiece rotates at the point while the point is stationary. This can burn the part and often come loose.

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A screw center is used in creating bowls. The center has a wood screw located in the center of the tip and the workpiece is tightened against it with the screw. After turning the bowl, it is removed from the screw and set aside. This type of center lathe is best for an item that can be removed and reinstalled many times as it keeps the work centered and in place in the center.

A spur center uses sharp blades around a pointed tip. The tip sinks into the workpiece while the blades cut and provide a drive mechanism. The harder the piece is turned, the harder the center of the spur digs into the wood, keeping it in place. A metal foam does not normally use a spur center.

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