Three- vs. Four-Jaw Lathe Chucks

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

2399 Articles

By Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

2399 Articles

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Three-jaw chucks, of the same general type used to hold bits in most power drills, are also common equipment on metalworking lathes.  Though it is not necessarily so, three-jaw chucks are so commonly of the self-centering variety, in which the jaws are not independently adjustable, that “self-centering” is generally assumed from the term “three-jaw chuck.”

But there are distinct advantages to using a four-jaw chuck (which is generally assumed, contrariwise, to have independently-adjustable jaws), and though a three-jaw chuck is nice to have for convenience and for use with hexagonal stock, most machinists find the four-jaw chuck to be more versatile and useful in the long term.

This table is adapted from a list by Bruce Simpson, as quoted on Frank Hoose’s excellent lathe-work site.

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