Wood Turning Blog

Home Made Live Center

When doing Spindle Turning, we all recognize the need for a live center and do away with all that smoke the old dead center produced. We also recognize that the live center has a huge role to play in holding a large variety of different shaped items we love to turn. Some of use like a cup center or a 30° center depending on what we are turning. If we want a commercial product to perform  this task, we are, first of all, looking at an expensive device and we are stuck with maybe 3 or 4 interchangeable centers and that's it. Also most of these options are very small in diameter. What do we do if we want a 4" or larger center to fit the neck of a vase? 

Live Centre

Live Centre 

Well, the solution I came up with starts off with a Morse Taper that fits your lathe Tail Stock  and has a threaded stud that we can work with. Most of us have a chuck to hold drill bits in the tail stock. This chuck has a Morse Taper and a lot of these chucks are threaded onto the Morse taper. So you may already have what you need or they are commercially  available from a supplier like Grizzly or your favorite supplier for lathe accessories.

  • Construction of your Live Centre

Step 1) Order the following pieces.

Items to pick up at your hardware store.

1) A 1/2" pipe union


2) 1/2" to 1/4 Reducer

3) You will need a few inches of 3/8 round stock, I use 2" of it, you may want your centre to have a longer shaft.

  • Items to order from your Bearing supplier.

1) You need 2 bearings that are radial ball. I use a R6 (1604) with a dimension  of 7/8 OD and 3/8" ID. Using this bearing makes the construction process very simple, some of us have a 7/8 Drill bit. If not they are available.

Radial Bearings

2) We also need a thrust bearing to take the force from the Tail Stock. It has a 13/16 OD & 3/8 ID. This bearing comes with side washers with 3 different thicknesses, I use the thinnest ones.

Thrust Bearing

Thrust Bearing  with side washers.

Step 2) 

If you have access to a metal lathe, true up the union so the threads are in the center. I do this by putting a short 1/2" pipe nipple in the lathe chuck, screw the union onto it and clean up the ends and radius of the union. This makes holding it a bit more precise while drilling it  out.

Step 3)

Assemble the Reducer and Union. Once you have them screwed together you will want to run your 1/2" x20 TPI Tap into the  pipe thread to remove the pipe thread taper. Now thread in the your Morse taper. Some Morse Tapers come with a nice short threaded section threaded right up to the shoulder, others don't. You may need to put a few washers on the stud to fill up any un threaded part of the stud so it will tighten up to the shoulder.


Step 4)

Drill out the Union. I have used the lathe with the assembled part above in the head stock and a drill chuck in the Tail Stock. If your lathe will drill a straight hole, you are set, it not use your Drill Press.


I start with a 13/16" drill. Drill a hole 1" deep. Then change to your 7/8" drill bit. If all goes well, you can assemble your shaft and bearings. If your shaft is like the round stock I get here, it's 5-6 thousands smaller then 3/8"  too small to hold the bearings, so you may have to enlarge the shaft a bit with a row of center punch marks. Push on the bearings. You may also like to put a washer between the Thrust bearing and the last radial bearing so you get a bit better support for the Thrust bearing. I also use Loctite 495 to hold everything in place.


OK, this is what you get….


Now you can slip on any number of different ends to do what ever you need to do depending on the project you are working on. I have centers made from 3/4" to 3". Some have 45° ends others have 30°. I also have a few made out of metal that are Cup centers, you can do what ever fills the bill.

I hope you had fun making your first Live Centre. How much did you spend??? Mine cost under $10.00 bucks, but I had the Morse Taper.

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