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Lathe Chuck Lubrication

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  • Lathe Chuck Lubrication

    I have disassembled and cleaned (as far as possible) my 5 inch three jaw and four jaw independent chucks and I'm wondering about lubrication. The four jaw has captive screws in carriers which have been pressed into the chuck body and cannot be completely disassembled. I've had mixed messages. Some say to use machine oil. Others insist that the scroll must be greased. Still others advise using a dry graphite spray lubricant. A machinist friend insists that chain lube is best. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  • #2
    Every manufacturer I am aware of lists a grease that is specifically for chucks--hi-pressure type that is fairly thick so it doesn't fling off while in rotation. I feel like this question surfaces somewhat regularly. I also have no doubt all the lubricants you mention work for their users. Personally, I have tried some generic Mobil bearing grease, light oil (a mineral oil), and the Bison chuck grease. The oil didn't last long on the chuck; the bearing grease collected a lot of swarf. The Bison chuck-specific grease has worked the best. Warning: now for some thoughts I don't know a terrible much of... Graphite lubricant would seem to be the ideal choice. It won't fling off, it doesn't collect swarf. There must be some more technical reasons why I have never seen a manufacturer recommend it. Either it does not have the right high-pressure characteristics or the semi-liquid state of grease is specifically advantageous here. I have read that you loose gripping force quite dramatically if you close a chuck dry. I believe it. So... I guess that is plenty to ponder on! Haha, if you want to just lube, assemble and make chips, I recommend the Bison stuff. It is inexpensive, readily found in the catalogs, and on spec' by more informed sources than me
    Last edited by Arthur.Marks; 01-31-2012, 11:19 AM.


    • #3
      Further to Arthur's response, I just cleaned and lubed 4 chucks. Like you, I was uncertain as to lubricant. Attempting what passes in my case for logic, I used Esso moly grease SPARINGLY. My reasoning was that with a minimum I would catch less swarf, and molybdenum sulfide is as slippery as graphite. It seems to work, if you cant find some of Bison's grease, (oops-chuck lubricant,) they sure crank a lot more smoothly!
      Duffy, Gatineau, Quebec


      • #4
        Moly disulphide dry spray lubricant works for me. Stays put, doesn't collect swarf and lasts for months. Peter
        The difficult done right away. the impossible takes a little time.


        • #5
          I've heard that dry graphite lubricant is the stuff to use ..

          comes in spray cans ..usually used for locks etc ..

          anything else will attrract swarf..then you have grinding paste

          all the best.markj
          Last edited by aboard_epsilon; 01-31-2012, 12:21 PM.


          • #6
            Sounds like the dry moly stuff is good to use on the moving parts of a chuck, I've always wondered what the best lube for chucks was. I see Rocol dry lube is available for me.

            But I've been thinking, can it be used on open gears (like change gears on a lathe) also?


            Problems worthy of attack prove their worth by hitting back
            - Piet Hein


            • #7
              I used Esso moly grease SPARINGLY
              I'd echo Duffy's note on volume...I've only done two and the first one even though I thought I was being a bit stingy..."couldn't get the lid closed"...ended up removing about 1/2 of what I tried to use...


              • #8
                OK here's the deal on lubing chucks.
                1) grease tends to collect dirt & swarf.
                2) light oils fling off leaving your face, clothing and the wall lubed, but the chuck innards dry.
                3) graphite and dry lube doesn't tend to collect dirt and swarf as much, but not the "ideal" lube for the high pressure application.

                hmm. Nothing seems quite perfect does it. That's because nothing is perfect for it as long as you feel like you never want to open the chuck up and clean it up from time to time.

                The reality in my opinion is that chucks simply need to be disassembled, cleaned and reassembled with fresh lube periodically to keep them in good working order. This is not something you see happen often if ever. Usually the chuck only gets attention after a couple months or so of it being sluggish and chunky in everyday use. Quit doing that !

                I used to be as guilty of this as anybody. But several years back I just accepted that the minute a chuck starts acting a little sluggish, I just go ahead and dig into it. Well OK, maybe not that very minute, but pretty soon after I realize it needs it.
                Depending on the chuck, it should only take between a half hour and up to three hours (for a big chuck) to take it apart, clean it up really good with solvent or whatever, blow it good and dry with compressed air, appropriately lube with high pressure grease or whatever the maker recommends (don't slather it thick), then reassemble and enjoy.

                Don't fight it and it's not a big deal. To resist using the high pressure grease which is typically the recommended lube is just being lazy in that you're just avoiding the cleaning up of the thing. Dry lubes and graphite or whatever seem like a good idea for avoiding the collecting of dirt, but stuff is going to get inside the chuck whether you use graphite or silt or silly putty or whatever. In my opinion, that's just a dodge. Chucks simply need to be cleaned up every so often so they work well.

                Ask yourself, IF you could exclude the possibility of dirt getting inside the chuck, what lube would you use? That makes the answer a little more obvious doesn't it? So just use the correct lube and periodically clean the chuck up. For me this still tends to be only once or twice per year. Not a bad investment.
                Last edited by tyrone shewlaces; 01-31-2012, 10:09 PM.


                • #9
                  I take dry moly powder and burnish it into the surfaces of the jaw slots and where I can on the scroll surfaces. Then I add dry moly to a thick HP grease and slather the slots and scrolls well, then run the jaws open and closed with a power drill in the key hole. Disassemble, clean out 90% of the grease leaving a light coat. Chuck runs slick, doesn't sling grease/oil on me, collects very little swarf. I also use foam plugs to keep chips from getting to the jaw slots when I can.


                  • #10
                    Now and then I find a product which works well. One of these is Bostik Top Cote. It's made for lubing table saw surfaces. I've used it on dovetail surfaces on some of my projects, and it works well there too. Spray on, let dry (one minute is lots) then buff a bit. I'm willing to give it a go next time I have the 3 jaw apart.
                    I seldom do anything within the scope of logical reason and calculated cost/benefit, etc- I'm following my passion-


                    • #11
                      My 20 year favorite chuck lube is Dow Corning GN Metal Assembly Paste. It is loaded with extreme pressure lubricant particles and is formulated with just enough oil to make it spreadable. A thin film is all you need on the surfaces in question. It doesn't fling off and doesn't attract swarf. In tubes or aerosol but the aerosol is hard to find.