A wood lathe chuck is a specialized type of clamp used to hold pieces of wood while they are worked with a wood lathe. A chuck of this type is designed to hold the ends of the workpiece and also mount to the lathe itself. A wood lathe chuck is roughly disk-shaped with adjustable jaws arranged radially around the center, allowing it to hold irregularly shaped pieces.
A lathe is a machine that holds a work piece and spins or turns it, allowing it to be carved or otherwise shaped as it turns by holding any one of a wide variety of tools against the piece. A pottery wheel is actually a type of lathe. A wood lathe is designed to hold a work piece at either end, which is often cylindrical or a regular rectangular shape. A wood lathe chuck is used to hold the workpiece and to attach it to the lathe.
An experienced lathe operator will choose a chuck or set of chucks that are best suited for a particular job. A wood lathe chuck has adjustable parts called jaws that can be individually tightened to hold perfectly cylindrical or irregular parts. Most chucks of this type will have three jaws arranged in an equilateral configuration around a center point, but chucks may have four, six, or even more jaws. Different configurations of jaws on a chuck allow the operator to affix a wide variety of stock shapes to a lathe.
Most manufacturers that produce lathes also have a line of chucks made specifically for their machines. Other companies will sometimes produce chucks for popular lathe models. Chucks designed for other types of lathes are not usually interchangeable with chucks for wood lathes. Chucks for use with metal may not be suitable for use with wood and vice versa.
While most chucks operate with a system of jaws, some chucks incorporate advanced design features like collets, which are a type of sleeve that fits around the chuck. This is the type of chuck used on most power drills. Most wood lathe chucks are tightened with a special tool called a chuck key, and normally, each jaw must be tightened separately. Some types of chucks are designed to be tightened by hand rather than with a chuck key, but a hand tightened chuck often sacrifices holding power for convenience.