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Drive Centers

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I have been using the 4-blade drive center which came with my Powermatic lathe. It has worked well, except that, sometimes it it a little difficult to embed in the blank. I usually can just get mounted, bring the tailstock up and keep advancing the tailstock and shifting the blank till it is solid. I do think, though, that the blades on the drive center are dulling, so my first question is what is the best way to sharpen the blades?

My second question is . . . Are there drive centers available which are superior to the one I have?

I also have a "steb" center, but that probably doesn't work for roughing out larger blanks. Are 2-blade drive centers better than 4-blade for the truing up process? What other types of centers should be considered?
 

hockenbery

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A lot of spur drives that come with lathes have short useless blades.

For bowls and HF initial between center mounting I like the 1” 4 blade spur center (or a 1 1/4) with a removable center point. When the blades are less than 1/2 in length it is time to replace. If there is bark I drill a 1 1/4” hole with a Forster bit to get to wood.
I drive mine in with a carving mallet. I know lots of folks like the wiggle Mount. The drive-in is faster and it goes exactly where I
drive it.

The spur drive in the photos came from Packard.
For spindles I use the ONEWAY cup drive. You can see the little proud part of the spur edge from my radius CBN.
I have a nice square wheel on another grinder but it wasn’t plugged in when I decided to sharpen.
AD2C2DF8-0D16-4794-82D4-FAA6FB1109BE.jpeg

Sharpening. Wear a face shield!
Remove the pin spin the point on the wheel55F3A45B-FAC3-497A-B034-481AD93BED01.jpeg

Sharpen each blade in the wheel resting it on the edge on a platform 6E15BA5F-5117-4D39-AC0D-7183F59133DD.jpeg

If you don’t have a carving mallet turn one.

Other drives that work well for bowls. I have a 2” drive that is great for big stuff.
The one way big bite clamps in a chuck is great for big stuff.
A 2 spur drive a the big bit only let you safely rotate the work on the axis of the blades. It’s you rotate toward the end of the blade you pull the other end out reducing the hold and increasing the possibility of the drive spinning out
 

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Joined
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I do have a mallet, but the center didn't go in very far no matter how hard I hit it. After I get the tailstock up tight I still almost always twist and advance the tailstock till I can't twist the blank anymore. I found it's much more secure that way. I will try sharpening, then maybe get a new suggested one. The center I have hasn't really been a great one, but it has worked so far.

What do you use the center for when the point is removed?
 

hockenbery

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I do have a mallet, but the center didn't go in very far no matter how hard I hit it. After I get the tailstock up tight I still almost always twist and advance the tailstock till I can't twist the blank anymore. I found it's much more secure that way. I will try sharpening, then maybe get a new suggested one. The center I have hasn't really been a great one, but it has worked so far.
One important thing in drying in a center is to put the spurs at 45degrees to the grain that wat they drive in evenly.

If your spurs are not driving in a 1/4”

It is due to 4 things. Spurs are dull, spurs are too short, the wood it too hard, or you are driving into some dense endgrain.

I have not found a native hardwood that is too hard when green. - haven’t tried them all.
The local exotics camphor, red gum eucalyptus, rosewood, Norfolk Island pine, all drive well when green with a spur drive

What do you use the center for when the point is removed?
Nothing. It has to come out for sharpening

I often take the center point out of the live center so I can adjust the center a small amount. If I leave the pin in and try to move center 1/8” the point will pull it right back to the last center point.
 
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A lot of spur drives that come with lathes have short useless blades.

For bowls and HF initial between center mounting I like the 1” 4 blade spur center (or a 1 1/4) with a removable center point. When the blades are less than 1/2 in length it is time to replace. If there is bark I drill a 1 1/4” hole with a Forster bit to get to wood.
I drive mine in with a carving mallet. I know lots of folks like the wiggle Mount. The drive-in is faster and it goes exactly where I
drive it.

The spur drive in the photos came from Packard.
For spindles I use the ONEWAY cup drive. You can see the little proud part of the spur edge from my radius CBN.
I have a nice square wheel on another grinder but it wasn’t plugged in when I decided to sharpen.
View attachment 49028

Sharpening. Wear a face shield!
Remove the pin spin the point on the wheelView attachment 49025

Sharpen each blade in the wheel resting it on the edge on a platform View attachment 49026

If you don’t have a carving mallet turn one.

Other drives that work well for bowls. I have a 2” drive that is great for big stuff.
The one way big bite clamps in a chuck is great for big stuff.
A 2 spur drive a the big bit only let you safely rotate the work on the axis of the blades. It’s you rotate toward the end of the blade you pull the other end out reducing the hold and increasing the possibility of the drive spinning out
You need to get rid of that rounded edge CBN wheel. I have an 80 grit mega square and touching up the drive spurs is just one of the many excellent uses for it.
 
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You can also refresh the edge on your spur drive with a file or with a diamond hone.

Assuming you are turning a spindle, our local high school shop teacher would tell you to cut an X on each end of the blank on the band saw. Then you engage the drive center chisel points into the cut grooves. This method requires that you be more coordinated than I or have a jig that lines up your blank with the corners vertical.

If you are having trouble driving the chisel points into end grain, you may be trying to do it on the lathe bed, which risks damaging an iron bed. If so, put your blank on the concrete floor or a really solid bench before you whack it with a mallet. If that doesn't work, and you're not turning desert ironwood, you need a bigger mallet.
 
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Roger Wiegand

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I no longer own a spur type drive center, instead I use either a cup center or the Robust "bowl center" for larger pieces. I have had steb centers, but find that they mostly just saw their way into the wood if you have any kind of catch, and sometimes even if you don't. Using the plain cup has encouraged better technique and has rendered catches much less damaging. I have essentially no issues with work slipping when I don't want it to. With the bigger Robust cup I've driven pieces of log up to ~24" in diameter and weighing 70-80 lbs, so there is no lack of power available. The small cup center is plenty for spindle work up to 3-4" diameter.

More than once I've split a blank while driving a spur into it. I don't miss the spurs. I've been thinking about trying the Elio drive for use on irregular surfaces.
 
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Nova makes a nice large drive center, either two or four blades. The blades are removable, so easily sharpened. It threads onto the spindle; no morse taper. I use two blades when starting a large blank, the blades aligned with the grain, so they sink in deeper.

My method for sinking a drive center, for starting a bowl blank is sure to raise eyebrows, but I’ll share it anyway.
I find my happy centers by only imbedding the points, drive and live center. Tighten the tailstock reasonably, no need to get carried away, but enough to start the blades. THEN, I put my knockout rod through the headstoc, hold it firmly against the drive center, and smack it with a bronze mallet. A one pound for smaller pieces, or a two pound mallet for big pieces. I smack it once or twice, snug up the tailstock and do it again. The feel will change once the drive center is fully seated.
 
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Nova makes a nice large drive center, either two or four blades. The blades are removable, so easily sharpened. It threads onto the spindle; no morse taper. I use two blades when starting a large blank, the blades aligned with the grain, so they sink in deeper.

My method for sinking a drive center, for starting a bowl blank is sure to raise eyebrows, but I’ll share it anyway.
I find my happy centers by only imbedding the points, drive and live center. Tighten the tailstock reasonably, no need to get carried away, but enough to start the blades. THEN, I put my knockout rod through the headstoc, hold it firmly against the drive center, and smack it with a bronze mallet. A one pound for smaller pieces, or a two pound mallet for big pieces. I smack it once or twice, snug up the tailstock and do it again. The feel will change once the drive center is fully seated.
I was unaware that Nove made this drive center. What is the diameter of the drive center (or the distance between the outer ends of the spurs); about the same as a standard spur drive? Since I probably wouldn't use your method for seating the drive center in the blank, do you know if you could install the center as you would a normal spur drive center, by using a wooden mallet or block of wood with a hammer to insert it into the blank? Have you sharpened the spurs on a grinder or just sharpen them with a stone or diamond hone?
 
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I was unaware that Nove made this drive center. What is the diameter of the drive center (or the distance between the outer ends of the spurs); about the same as a standard spur drive? Since I probably wouldn't use your method for seating the drive center in the blank, do you know if you could install the center as you would a normal spur drive center, by using a wooden mallet or block of wood with a hammer to insert it into the blank? Have you sharpened the spurs on a grinder or just sharpen them with a stone or diamond hone?
It’s 2 1/4” across the spurs. I haven’t sharpened them, haven’t had the need, yet. Looks easy though since they come out.
This drive threads onto a 1 1/4 x 8 spindle, so even I wouldn’t seat it as I described above! That would put huge loads on your spindle and bearings. For this drive, I use the standard ‘on the floor with a mallet. Just be aware that the body is aluminum, so I use a wood block for cushioning.

My method, for taper seated drive centers only, puts no load on the spindle or bearings. The energy is passed through all of that, and directly to the point where the drive meets the wood.

My disclaimer: We should all do what we feel best for us. I’m just giving a different option, which has been working quite well for me.FB16C85E-203B-40BC-A024-EF077E0CB267.jpeg
 
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I have several 1” 4 prong drive spurs, an Elio drive, and the Nova jumbo drive center. When turning large, wet, heavy unbalanced pieces (just clearing 16” swing, 12-18” long), i started noticing a bit of fretting wear on the mt2 tapers and the spindle taper of the 1” spurs and Elio drives. I then got the Nova center because it threads onto the spindle - no chance for the spindle taper to wear. It also grips better than the others.

The spurs on all the drives are easily touched up with a diamond hone. The Nova spurs can be removed to sharpen if needed. The steb and spur drives I use have spring loaded center pins, and do not need sharpening unless dropped - if needed they are mounted in a drill and a file and diamond hone used as needed to redress. The Nova is adj but not spring loaded. It is adj out so that a blank can be rotated without engaging the spurs for checking balance.

1” spurs are still used on smaller stuff. I never drive a spur in off the lathe - tighten TS, wiggle, TS has always worked for me, thank you @Lyle Jamieson.

Driving the back end of the mt2 taper shaft through the HS does NOT add load to the spindle brgs. It actually reduces the load significantly momentarily when the mallet hits. This is actually a pretty good method for seating the spurs, but it will mushroom the end of the knockout bar and possibly the end of the taper shaft - check for burrs often. Its not a good method for the Nova jumbo, as the housing is AL, and the centerpoint is held by a set screw, allowing the shaft to slip.
 
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Joined
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Its hard to beat the versatile and adjustable Delta 46-933 for a conventional drive center. Its easily sharpened using a holding jig like I saw on a Oneway newsletter a decade or two back.

1        drive - 2.jpg

1        drive - 1.jpg
 
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Gahanna, OH
I have been amazed at how large a lank can be roughed out between centers. I bore through the bark to slid wood with a 1 1/4" dril bit, then hammer in the drive spur with a ball peen hammer, leaning it 5 degrees off center to seat all four blades. I was using a wood mallet, but could not get enough penetration in hard woods. I do have to grind off the mushroom on the hammered end from time to time.
of course your mileage may vary.
 
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I usually use a plastic covered weighted dead blow mallet to drive the center into a wood blanks.
The orange harbor freight plastic coated mallets are cheap and last a long time.
Using a ball peen hammer will take its toll on tool steel will peen the end sooner or later.
 

hockenbery

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do have to grind off the mushroom on the hammered end from time to time.
of course your mileage may vary.

Make yourself a bigger mallet. The cherry packs a bigger wallop that the pecanCF239AFA-4DC7-43E0-AD47-6FA895D0626E.jpeg

Frank Sudol borrowed a spur drive from me at a symposium and beat it up with a ball peen.
He was doing one of his 4 foot vases.
I get a tear every time I use it. Miss Frank - what a wonderful guy.
 
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A lot of good suggestions here. You could make an assembly mallet then you are pounding on end grain of the mallet. Make it from a heavy hardwood such as black locust or hickory or whatever you can scource.
 
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Tailstock quill threads can become distorted if you try too hard to use the tailstock to sink the spur drive into your workpiece. I've replaced several sets of tailstock quill and lead screw, on various lathes. I drive the spur into the wood with a 2-pound hammer and agree that it ought to go in 1/4" at least. Less than that and you may end up creating a no-traction fuzzball at the spur drive. If the back end of your Morse taper gets mushroomed a bit, just grind the back end down a bit till it fits properly again, no problem.

Powermatic changed their tailstock lead screw threads in the current model, 3520C, to trapezoidal threads rather than plain old 60-degree pointed threads -- but the outside diameter of the quill remains unchanged at 1-3/8" so the new ones will fit older models, and I have changed a couple of them.. According to Wikipedia, trapezoidal threads were developed to withstand the pressure generated by tailstocks -- you have now been warned!
 
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Several good recommendations as responses:

Standard 4-prong spur drive - Simple and has worked for many years. Mine may just need sharpening and/or it isn't the best quality.

Elio 3-point drive with adjustable depth for the points - Seems like a good concept but I'm not sure the points hold as well as the blades?

Nova Jumbo Drive Center with removable blades threaded for the headstock - Seems like an improvement since it's threaded and seems to be more secure, but also much more expensive.

EasyWood - 4-prong drive center which is clamped in the chuck. Depending on how long the section that is clamped is, this may be very secure also. Plus, EasyWood rarely sells anything they haven't tested out and is high quality.

I'm just not sure which direction to go. If I'm buying a new drive center, I'd want it to be the best solution, although I realize that any of these probably work and it mostly comes down to what you get in the habit of using.

Anything I'm missing?
 
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I'm just not sure which direction to go. If I'm buying a new drive center, I'd want it to be the best solution, although I realize that any of these probably work and it mostly comes down to what you get in the habit of using.

Anything I'm missing?
What are you turning? I don't use the same drive center for bowls as I do for spindles. I don't think one type is good for everything.
 
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I couldn't find anything on centers by Stuart Batty or even a video that was 20 minutes long on Vimeo at this link.
Please use the Vimeo link the link below

You will need to scroll down to the load more prompt and use this prompt twice to find the drive center video which is 19 minutes and 24 seconds
two further links you may find useful are
The Axminster tools USA site drive centers

and the YouTube link for Aximster drive centres
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDFj2tXxsQ8&ab_channel=AxminsterTools
 
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For smaller spindles and especially shorter pieces, I usually drive them held in my chuck, I do have the Oneway spur drive held in my chuck, I have dropped it once and sharpened it with a fine file, the spur drive should be sharp and go into the wood easily, if not then cutting a cross with a (band)saw will help seat it.

Oneway chuck spur drive.jpg
As for bowl blanks my usual is a faceplate for larger pieces and the woodworm screw for smaller than say 12", if I was to use a spur drive for those than the Oneway Big bite will be my choice.
A saw cut or bench chisel cut in the blank will make this a very positive driver.

Oneway bigbite  spur drive.jpg
I do have and occasional use the Steb centers, they do work nicely, but I could live without them.

Steb center & spurdrive and loose center pin.jpg
There are different way and tools to drive the pieces, just choose the ones that will do the job1thumb.gif
 
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Most of the chuck manufacturers have a spur drive that fits the chuck. One size likely does not fit all. I use steb centers on spindles. I can see that a set of all 3 Elio's would be useful, depending on the diameter of the work. And the Nova drive center, I believe, comes in 2 diameters.
 
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As far as I can tell the Nova Jumbo Drive Center which threads onto the spindle comes in just one size. Nova does sell other drive centers though. In some ways, this drive center seems the most flexible. It can be used as a 2-spur or 4-spur center and threads onto the spindle so it should be solid and stable.
 
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As far as I can tell the Nova Jumbo Drive Center which threads onto the spindle comes in just one size. Nova does sell other drive centers though. In some ways, this drive center seems the most flexible. It can be used as a 2-spur or 4-spur center and threads onto the spindle so it should be solid and stable.
Yes it is very stable and since the spurs are thin they drive into the wood fairly easily. I think they call it jumbo because it is and it is therefore great gif logs over 10 inch.
 
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I dont have any of the chuck mount drive centers. I believe they hold as well, but I envision a couple of issues:

> Interference of jaws with the blank, more work may need to be done around the point location to prevent jaws touching. Some blanks I mount would require significant work for clearance, and I may have to change out large jaws that I plan to use for the tenon or clear a larger area

> I use OW tower jaws quite a bit. I dont think they can be used (too tall) with a chuck mount drive center

I chose the Nova Jumbo over the OW Big Bite due to more flexibility - 2 or 4 spurs, adj center point, no concern with which jaws were on a chuck, would not need a chuck.
 
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Interference of jaws with the blank, more work may need to be done around the point location to prevent jaws touching. Some blanks I mount would require significant work for clearance, and I may have to change out large jaws that I plan to use for the tenon or clear a larger area
Actually the opposite is true for larger bowl blanks. Standard jaws add stability by reducing torsion. This assumes that the teeth of the drive center are about 1/4" deep and a flat surface is resting against the jaws. Clearing a larger area is true only if you are mounting for a natural edge via the bark side. This is easily accomplished with an angle grinder or power plane.
 
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Actually the opposite is true for larger bowl blanks. Standard jaws add stability by reducing torsion. This assumes that the teeth of the drive center are about 1/4" deep and a flat surface is resting against the jaws. Clearing a larger area is true only if you are mounting for a natural edge via the bark side. This is easily accomplished with an angle grinder or power plane.
Not sure what torsional force you are referring to. If you mean the blank reaction to cutting force, ie pivoting around the spindle centerline, the TS is in position to resist this force. I dont use perfectly cut/trimmed blanks, typically cut with a chainsaw, and many times the bark side will go against the drive, so attempting to creat a flat surface to rest on the jaws equally is more work and not easily done with those tools, and so is changing to std jaws on the chuck. The jaws in the way precludes changing blank orientation while roughing. So you may see benefit, I see added work and less flexibility.
 
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I haven't tried the Elio. But for bowls I use a home made drive center with points, and it works great.
Thats a great idea Dave, gonna look at my 3" faceplate and see if it will adapt. I would like to have a better center for big stuff, but looking at some of the ones people have mentioned in this thread , they all look to be $100 or so, I enjoy making my own tools anyhow...
 
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For larger bowl blanks I use the Oneway Big Bite - knock it in with a wooden mallet at about 45 degrees to the grain. If I need to adjust to balance the grain it happens on the tailstock side. Smaller blanks or those really nasty, burly pieces that will probably need adjustments from both ends, a regular two-prong center works well. I do have an Elio drive and use it for the gnarly stuff when I remember its in the drawer. It does work well, allows easy adjustment when needed and seems very secure.
 
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This one is probably my favorite and most used drive. Very quick change from between centers to chuck-mounted. (50mm jaws) No clue who made it, or where I bought it, though.


IMG_20230114_124531153.jpgIMG_20230114_124542607.jpg
 
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I have been using the 4-blade drive center which came with my Powermatic lathe. It has worked well, except that, sometimes it it a little difficult to embed in the blank. I usually can just get mounted, bring the tailstock up and keep advancing the tailstock and shifting the blank till it is solid. I do think, though, that the blades on the drive center are dulling, so my first question is what is the best way to sharpen the blades?

My second question is . . . Are there drive centers available which are superior to the one I have?

I also have a "steb" center, but that probably doesn't work for roughing out larger blanks. Are 2-blade drive centers better than 4-blade for the truing up process? What other types of centers should be considered?
John Nichols made both of these for me. Whenever I'm going to mount a piece with a drive center, I first lightly pound the four-blade drive center into the wood. Then drill for the center post (same size bit of post) less the 1". I then take a wood chisel blade (slightly wider than the drive teeth) and go around to each blade marking on the piece and hammer the chisel into the markings a good 3/4"deep; this allows me when mounting the piece to take a wooden mallard to drive the center into the wood with some ease. I'm then confident that I have a sound bite. As for sharpening, I use a fine file to dress each of the four drives. I hope this helps.
 

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It’s 2 1/4” across the spurs. I haven’t sharpened them, haven’t had the need, yet. Looks easy though since they come out.
This drive threads onto a 1 1/4 x 8 spindle, so even I wouldn’t seat it as I described above! That would put huge loads on your spindle and bearings. For this drive, I use the standard ‘on the floor with a mallet. Just be aware that the body is aluminum, so I use a wood block for cushioning.

My method, for taper seated drive centers only, puts no load on the spindle or bearings. The energy is passed through all of that, and directly to the point where the drive meets the wood.

My disclaimer: We should all do what we feel best for us. I’m just giving a different option, which has been working quite well for me.View attachment 49058
@Marc Banka
I did buy this Nova center. I do have a question though. How far do the blades need to be into the wood to hold a blank securely, especially something like a 14" - 16" blank. I realize the tailstock is there to help support it but it would seem as if there is a minimum depth that the drive center blades need to be in the wood. I tried driving it in with 2 blades removed with the remaining blades in line with the grain, but couldn't get them into the wood more than maybe about a 1/4"; maybe less.
 
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