The multiple work-holding options provided by a four-jaw lathe chuck (sometimes called a scroll chuck) make many turning operations so much easier than using a faceplate. Once you have one, you'll wonder how you ever got by without it.

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four jaw chuck lathe
Barracuda2 System (#CSC3000C)rnPerformance: 5 starsrnPrice: $170rnPenn State Industries, 800/377-7297rnor pennstateind.com

Product overview

The multiple work-holding options provided by a four-jaw lathe chuck (sometimes called a scroll chuck) make many turning operations so much easier than using a faceplate. Once you have one, you'll wonder how you ever got by without it. Four-jaw chucks always have been pricey, though, especially when you add the extra jaws to make it really versatile.

Thumbing through the Penn State Industries catalog a few months ago, however, I stumbled onto a bargain I thought had to be too good to be true: a fully accessorized four-jaw chuck, called "Barracuda2," for only $170. I ordered one to check it out, and the news is good.

Let's start with all the stuff you get:

  • A nicely machined chuck body (A) threaded for a 1" x 8tpi (threads per inch) spindle with a 3/4" x 16tpi adapter (B), operated by a very positive and easy-to-use square-drive T-handle wrench (C).
  • Four sets of jaws (D, E, F, G) that hold objects from 332 " to 4-18 " diameter in external-grip mode, and from 1116 " to 4-18 " diameter in internal-grip mode.
  • A substantial screw center (H).
  • A T-handle hex wrench for the jaw-mounting screws (I).
  • A handy case that keeps it all together.

Evaluation and conclusion

Getting a lot of parts for a little money doesn't mean much if the chuck doesn't perform well, but that's not the case with the Barracuda2. I used this chuck extensively for more than six months, turning several vessels up to 11" in diameter and three small tapered display pedestals. Every time I used it, the Barracuda2 held the workpiece securely, and I felt both comfortable and confident while turning with it.

For bowl turners, there's an extra bonus. Two different sets of flat jaws for gripping bowls by the rim also are available: one with a capacity up to 5" diameter ($25), and another up to 8" ($30). Comparable jaw sets for other chucks run about $85.

Bottom line: For less than the cost of most other chucks with one set of jaws and a screw center, you get a really great little chuck, including all the accessory jaws you'll likely ever need. If you turn stuff larger than 12" in diameter, you should go with one of the more hi-fi chucks on the market. But for most of us occasional turners, the buck stops here.
–Tested by Jan Svec, Projects Editor