Oneway Live Center Kit
Beefy, tough stability for your lathe
Text & Photos by Tom Hintz
Turners often don’t think about the live center in their tailstock until it does something obvious to let them know its life is over. In many cases, those aggravating vibrations that cause equally aggravating spirals in the wood can be traced to play in a less than perfect live center bearing in the tailstock. Oneway Manufacturing ( Stratford, Ontario, Canada) once again has the answer in their Live Center Kit (#2064 - #2 Morse taper) that brings greatly expanded capabilities to the tailstock.
The Oneway Live Center exhibits all of the design and manufacturing features we have come to expect from them. The design, machining and finish are all first rate. In fact, the Oneway Live Center appears overbuilt but I suspect that is part of the design criteria to insure a long, vibration-free life.
The cone-shaped adaptors that come with the kit are well made and sized right for maximum versatility on the woodturning lathe.
The heart of the Oneway Live Center is the double-bearing system that is noticeably larger than the factory supplied versions. The Oneway Live Center is available with #1, #2 or #3 Morse tapers (all priced the same) to fit virtually any woodworking lathe. The 2 ¼”-long body is the most obvious difference but look closer and the fully machined, heavy-walled construction show that Oneway is not fooling around. The length of the body allows spacing the permanently lubricated bearings further apart, which greatly enhances the stability of the point. The rigid, machined body encasing the bearings increases this strength even more and insures a longer life of the whole unit. A quality nickel plating on all of the steel parts looks good but is there to prevent rust and corrosion, another life-extending feature you won’t find on mere mortal live centers.
The standard point can be knocked out with the special rod, (included in the kit) allowing the use of lamp auger type bits through the 3/8”-diameter center hole. The forward end of the live center nose is beveled to a sharp edge that “bites” the wood when used in the normal mode. The housing for the standard point is threaded (3/4” X 10 TPI) to accept the included aluminum cones but also allows the user to make their own specialty adaptors from wood. Drill an 11/16”-diameter hole 7/8”-deep and a wooden blank can be threaded onto the Oneway Live Center and turned to the shape needed.
The included knockout rod is also used to lock the Oneway Live Center for installing the aluminum cones. This center turns so freely, there is no other way to thread anything onto it!
Oneway also offers adaptors that screw onto these threads to match most spindle threading so a chuck or faceplate can be installed. This makes attaching objects such as partially turned bowl blanks simple while centering them precisely. Remove the blank, still attached to the chuck of faceplate from the Oneway Live Center and reinstall on the spindle to complete turning without having to turn away substantial amounts of wood to get them centered again.
The Oneway Live Center kit comes with two finely machined aluminum cone-type adaptors. The smaller one is slightly less than 1 ¾” in diameter and 1 7/8”-long. The large, reversible cone has an outside diameter of 3 ½” and can safely accept objects with a maximum diameter of just over 3” inside. This includes square stock with a diagonal dimension of 3” or less. When used with the small end forward, it fits comfortably in opening with an inside diameter between 1 ½” and 3”.
The sizes of the aluminum cone adaptors are far from arbitrary. Since getting this kit in the shop, it became apparent that woodturners at least had a hand in their design because they fit every job that we have had on the lathe.
Both of the cone adaptors are perfectly machined to spin true and to align the wood perfectly as well. The smaller cone fits most peppermill bores while the larger, reversible cone has a nearly endless range of applications including stabilizing goblet-type projects without destroying an edge.
In the Shop
Over the years, I have come to expect a lot from Oneway products and the Live Center kit did nothing to thwart those feelings. In fact, the morning the Oneway Live Center arrived, I was preparing a large chunk of East Indian Rosewood that was to be turned into a peppermill. In addition to being rare and expensive, this wood was being turned for a how-to video and I needed everything to go right the first time. My confidence in Oneway products meant the Live Center Kit was pressed into service immediately.
Though I thrashed the Oneway Live Center through more than three weeks of heavy lathe use, it never whimpered or did anything unexpected. It did keep everything very stable and vibration-free which made turning clean surfaces easier, even on relatively thin spindle work that will exploit the built-in deficiencies of standard live centers.
The smaller cone fits the 1 1/6” bore (relieved for the mechanism) of my peppermill perfectly and made truing and turning that project simple. I had been using a shop-made oak cone on my old factory live center but it was wearing where it met the peppermill blank, forcing me to constantly snug up the tailstock ram. With the Oneway Live Center installed, the tailstock needed no adjustments after the initial setting and the blank turned smooth and true through the entire process.
Later I tried the large bull nose cone on a couple of goblet projects and found that it also ran absolutely true. That makes supporting the already turned end of a goblet to fashion the stem easy, without having to apply substantial pressure. When the delicate turning was complete and the large coned retracted, the edge of the goblet that ran within it required nothing more than a touch-up with 220-grit paper before finishing.
I also tried turning a 3”-square by 2-foot-long piece of oak, the left end on the drive center and other end in the large cone. It centered within the cone easily and stayed true throughout rounding and turning a set of shapes intended to stress test the stability of the wood.
If you have a lathe and do not have the Oneway Live Center, there are better turning days ahead of you. We all know how important stability is to turning a smooth surface. Now, with the Oneway Live Center, we know how to achieve that rock-solid performance. The attachments included mean you can make use of the Oneway Live Center qualities in a large range of turning projects.
The street price of $109.95 (5-1-2006) will seem like an even better bargain when you hold this tool in your hand to feel the heft and see the quality of its manufacture. Use it in the lathe and the long-term value of the Oneway Live Center becomes fully evident.
If you are turning wood without the Oneway Live Center, you need to catch up!
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