Last Friday I received a package containing a new spur drive and live center for my vintage Craftsman wood lathe. These two precision components are responsible for holding a blank of wood securely while transferring the torque from the motor and allowing the piece to spin freely.
Sears quit manufacturing my specific model many years ago but luckily all lathe shafts are set up using Morse Tapers. Morse Taper invented by Stephen A. Morse in the mid-1860's is one of several styles of machine taper that are used to connect bits, cutters and chucks to machine tools.
I wasn't quite sure which size taper my machine uses so with a quick online search I learned that the seven sizes of Morse Tapers are easily distinguishable by the diameter of the taper at the widest point. After knocking out my old centers I measured their diameters with a caliper and consulting the chart I easily determined my lathe uses a #1 MT at both the head stock and tail stock shafts. I located the parts at my favorite woodworking online vendor. While the parts were inexpensive at around $20 each they appear well made and will work fine for the small scale work I like to do.
The spur drive (above) has a pointed pin in the very center that is spring loaded. The cone of the pin bottoms out on a pilot hole drilled in the end of the workpiece and then retracts under spring tension to allow the four spurs to dig into the wood allowing transfer of torque.
The live center (above) spins smooth on bearings and supports the turning blank at the tail stock.
Along with the components I also ordered some blanks of various exotic hardwoods that I've never used before. In this series of photographs is a super dense and heavy specimen called African Blackwood. This Ebony like species is known to be one of the hardest and densest woods in the world and I can say without a doubt it is some of the toughest stuff I've ever put a gouge to.
The surface of the wood appears shiny even after just being roughed out by the gouge. I can tell already that the African Blackwood will take on a beautiful luster once I get to the final polishing stages.