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The SuperNova is a great addition to any woodworking lathe.
Click image to enlarge

SuperNova Geared Chuck

Expanding the woodworking lathe capabilities

Text and photos by Tom Hintz

When I bought my Jet JWL-1236 wood lathe, I knew a chuck was an essential accessory. Since my tool-buying will power has never measured much above zero, I did the smart thing and bought the SuperNova chuck at the same time as the lathe. I did manage to hold off using my new SuperNova chuck until the second day of my lathe experience.

   While researching woodworking chucks I discovered there are many, often impassioned opinions about which chuck is best. What stuck out amongst these opinions was a near total absence of negative comments about the SuperNova. At $189.95 (you can do better through some mail order - Internet suppliers) the SuperNova is not the most expensive chuck, but its quality and features rival most of its higher-priced competition.

Instruction Manual

   The literature accompanying the SuperNova is adequate. Parts are a bit vague, but most of the manual has understandable descriptions of procedures, some accompanied by good quality illustrations. I had no problem following the instructions during the assembly, setup and use of the SuperNova chuck.

Adapter

An adapter (arrow) is needed to fit the SuperNova to most common lathes.
Click image to enlarge

   To use the SuperNova chuck with most of the currently available wood lathes, an adapter is required that connects the SuperNova to the lathes spindle nose. In my case, the Jet JWL-1236 required a 1" X 8 T.P.I. adapter.

   It is common for this adapter to be sold as an accessory, with a price tag of $24.95. If stores had to carry pre-packaged chucks for all the various adapter combinations, we would see far fewer of these units in local establishments.

   The adapter, like the SuperNova chuck itself, is precision machined and must be installed properly to insure proper alignment of the chuck and spindle shaft. This is not a difficult process, but it does warrant your attention and keeping the mating parts clean.

   You should know that most of these adapters require a 1 ½-inch wrench for installation. I have a sizeable set of hand tools, but 1 ½-inch is outside the normal size range of most common tool sets so an additional trip to the store was needed before I could install my SuperNova.

Features

The jaws (above) have a lip on the inside and a beveled outer face that greatly enhance the gripping power.
The special "wood worm" screw (above) is used primarily for holding bowl blanks.

   The SuperNova is a geared chuck, meaning that all four of its jaws move in or out with the turn of a single T-handle. This is not only a time saver, but makes centering work pieces far easier.

   The SuperNova I bought, the standard kit, came with a set of 50mm jaws that offer an inside capacity (full open) of 2 5/8-inches and an outside dimension of three-inches. There is one-inch travel to full closed.

   There are a large number of jaw designs available for the SuperNova to accommodate a large range of material sizes and shapes.

   The jaws have a flare on their outside surfaces designed to fit tightly inside a shallow dovetail cut in the perimeter of a recess. The inside surface of the jaws has a small lip that increases the holding power when the jaws are tightened around a shoulder. Additionally, another gripping surface at the center of the jaws, allows them to secure very small-diameter pieces.

   Included with my SuperNova is a device called a "wood worm." It is a specially designed screw with stand-up threads (10.5mm) meant to firmly grip wood when screwed into in a 8mm (5/16-inch) hole. The threads have a ¾-inch depth.

   The wood worm is most often screwed into the face of a bowl blank that will later be dished out to form the interior. Using the wood worm, which has surfaces for clamping it in the chuck jaws, allows you to secure the blank to the chuck while forming the outside surfaces, and to cut a recess or shoulder that can be used to secure the blank to the chuck later for interior work.

   All this apparent holding power comes with words of caution. The instructions accompanying the SuperNova chuck provide size and rpm limitations that must be followed for safe operation. What looks like a small piece of wood will feel much larger if it breaks free and heads in your direction during turning.

Centering the wood in the chuck and turning are easy with the geared jaws.
Click images to enlarge

Assembly

   The SuperNova comes needing little in the way of preparation. The spindle adapter, with its setscrew, and fiber disk (meant to protect the adapter threads) is installed in the rear of the chuck.

   The four jaw pieces must be installed to specific jaw slides for proper operation. Each jaw segment is numbered so they can be installed according to a diagram in the instruction manual. The #1 jaw slide is also marked so you can properly orient the chuck for this procedure.

Use and Maintenance

   Using the SuperNova chuck is simple, and safe, as long as the operator remains within the size and rpm constraints for the particular work being done as described in the instruction manual. The single T-handle needed to adjust the jaws makes getting the work piece in and out of the chuck easy.

   Maintenance of the SuperNova is also easy, consisting primarily of keeping its operating mechanism clean and free of debris. The ring gear that operates the jaw sliders is open in the rear of the chuck. Trying to enclose this mechanism would be futile as fine wood dust would find its way inside eventually. Leaving the back open makes cleaning the SuperNova a simple and quick operation.

The back of the SuperNova is open, making cleaning easy.
Click image to enlarge

Overall Impressions

   The quality machining and materials used to build the SuperNova are reassuring when working over a spinning piece of wood. The ease-of-use and secure holding power makes this a welcome addition to my expanding woodturning inventory.

   The flexibility of the SuperNova, enhanced by the wide selection of jaw sets available, means this is an investment that will not wind up collecting dust on a shelf when my turning moves to another type of project.

UPDATE: Now with more than two years of heavy use on my SuperNova chuck, I can confirm all of the above, and more. This has proven to be a valuable and trustworthy tool in my shop.

   The SuperNova jaws have held even large blanks firm, and the wood worm screw, when installed correctly, also provides a very strong grip on surprisingly large pieces.  

Pricing Link

 The only word of caution is that the chuck can be difficult to remove after being on the lathe a long time and used a bunch. I found that using a strap wrench (Craftsman) makes this task simple and does not risk damage to the chuck or lathe.

   After extended use I remain confident that the SuperNova is a very good buy for anyone who turns wood!

SuperNova - Teknatool International Ltd. www.teknatool.com

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