Is chatter near live center normal?


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I'll preface this by stating, I'm a brand new turner. I was given a brand new lathe. It's the harbor freight 10x18 that is also sold by rockler and several other companies, I believe.  It has been a great little lathe thus far. However, I've noticed on longer pieces, I get some chatter near the tail stock end. I'm using carbide lathe tools. Pieces are driven by the stock spur center. Vibration lessens near spur center end. Is this normal?

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I haven't used that lathe but I normally have chatter issues when either the tailstock release lever or the quill lock aren't tight (enough).

Can also happen if you're making a spindle and it's too thin in the middle...  that can introduce a bit of vibration.  For that you'll want to do all your shaping on the tailstock end first before thinning out the middle.

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Are you checking the tightness of the tail stock/live center? On all the small lathes iv ever used, the slowly back off as you are turning so you need to tighten it back up every once and a while.

Also carbide tools naturally require more pressure to cut so that can amplify any small chatters. Especially if they have gotten dull or you are taking too heavy of a cut.


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  • 3 months later...

Pulling this out of the archives to ask if you ever got this resolved.  I'm fairly certain I have the same lathe you describe.  There are indeed a few points where the live center may work itself loose:

  • The tailstock slips backwards on the ways.
  • The quill loosens and unwinds.
  • The workpiece compresses at the drive center, live center or both.

I've found it normal to have to re-tighten from time to time.  I haven't burned out the bearings yet and I've certainly not been shy about tightening.  Given all three of the possible points of slippage listed above, one or more of those will give out well before you get to crushing the steel bearings and races in the head stock.

What jumped out at me is that you are using carbide turning tools.  I use a long carbide tool primarily for hollowing the very bottom of bowls and vessels.  For work between centers, I use a cheap set of traditional gouges and skews.  These generally don't chatter unless I'm pushing them too hard or failing to ride the bevel.  I wonder if perhaps the carbide tools (which are essentially glorified scrapers) are perhaps not the best choice for the work you were trying to do?

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I've been turning for a few years. When it come to longer pieces you want to make sure you turn down on the tail stock side first. Also, what diameter are we talking on the piece you're getting chatter. You don't want to over tighten the tail stock as it will cause the piece to not spin true, and will put excess strain on the headstock and tail stock. Can you post a picture of one of the longer pieces so I can better gauge your issue?

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