Steb vice Prong & Dead Centers - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 09-14-2011, 12:52 PM Thread Starter
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Steb vice Prong & Dead Centers

Choosing a drive center should be about type of turning and wood you normally turn.

Steb and clone drive centers excellent for spindle turning. How much time they actually save is subjective. I have to stop lathe to inspect, remove and install spindle blanks so time saved would be minimal. Your mileage can and will vary.

Four prong centers also excellent for spindle turning, even if have to saw end before installing and hitting with mallet or dead blow hammer.

Two prong centers excel at not needing perfectly even surface to install and offset turning. Great for all between center turning whether working on spindles, bowls, and hollow forms.

Dead center can be used in either head/tailstock and provide lots of advantages other centers do not.

If can afford it get one of each, all have advantages and disadvantages. Still using same prong centers bought twenty years ago. Added a dead center five or six years ago.
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post #2 of 7 Old 09-14-2011, 12:52 PM Thread Starter
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Steb and clone drive centers.

Steb Drive Centers
The Steb center is an invention from England that has benefits for both novice and experienced woodturners doing spindle work. It features a spring loaded center point and a serrated driving ring.
The spring loaded stainless steel center point, keeps the point from drifting when penetrating the wood and allows the work piece to be stopped for inspection at any time without turning the lathe off. This is done by loosening the tailstock handwheel enough to cause the spring loaded point to push the work away from the driving ring. The
Mark the centers on each end of the wood with a center punch. Place the dimple left in the wood against the center point. Next, put the live center point into the other end of the piece. Increase the tailstock pressure until the wood contacts the outer ring and starts spinning. The piece may be removed and replaced.
The Patented serrated ring collar allows the lathe to slip if a catch happens, saving the work piece from damage and the turner's nerves from stress. As the turner becomes more experienced, pressure from the tailstock is increased to grip the wood with no slipping. A work piece should be driven with the least amount of pressure possible to keep whip to a minimum. As the turner becomes more experienced the pressure can be increased for driving larger pieces of wood. The drive ring also keeps the wood from splitting which is very helpful with smaller stock. The Steb center is available in either 1", 1/2", or 1-1/4" diameter sizes for a wide range of applications.

Prices range from $60+ to $75 plus shipping. Low price clones $20 or less plus shipping.

When got into turning Steb centers for professional spindle turners and not as expensive as today. Although more expensive than two and four prong drive centers. Not splitting wood wasn’t considered important feature. Allowing for work piece to be removed and replaced without turning the lathe off biggest advantage of a Step center. Somehow they were better if had a catch too.

If doing production runs of various spindles Steb centers do save time if comfortable with taking off and installing new spindle to work on without turning off lathe.

Today see people buying more $20 clones to handle spindles, bowls, and hollow forms. Only disadvantage need almost square end to grip, cannot be used on funky wood. Few turners have reported quality issues and slippage with cheap clones.

I opted for upgrading four prong drive center that came with lathe. After researching, bought 2 two and 1 four prong drive centers. The biggest advantage of aftermarket prong centers easier to sharpen with a file. Prefer two prong centers because easier set up on end of spindle or bowl blank does not have to be perfectly even. Two prong better with catches, normally does not lose grip, four prong may get some slippage but not always.

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post #3 of 7 Old 09-14-2011, 01:21 PM
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I turn almost everything with a steb center that mounts in my chuck. Bottle stoppers I have a dedicated mandrel for those that they thread right on to. Pens, well obviously a pen mandrel. Everything else starts on the steb center. I turn the outside of the bowl with it between centers and turn my tenon. Remove the steb center and chuck tenon to turn inside of bowl. Quick change to chuck with large jaws and finish off foot of bowl.

That bowl was perfect right up until that last cut...
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post #4 of 7 Old 09-14-2011, 02:03 PM
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I may be the only one who dislikes the steb centers. Well I should clarify that. I don't like the small ones. Then center spring is too strong and causes flex in the spindle which makes it difficult to control tool chatter. For those I use a 3/8" 4 prong drive center. I don't mind the steb centers for larger work but have never had trouble using my 4 prong centers so I haven't spent the money.
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post #5 of 7 Old 09-14-2011, 02:43 PM
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I turn only pens, bottle stoppers and the like so never use either a steb or prong drive center.
For pens I turn between centers with a 60* dead center in the headstock and a 60* live center in the tailstock. For bottle stoppers a dedicated threaded stopper mandrel.
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post #6 of 7 Old 09-15-2011, 08:41 AM
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I use the steb center for most spindle orientation as well as some small face orientation. The multiple sharp points allows sufficient grip without cutting a relief or ďsettingĒ the drive. I find them very useful for small hard items (such as banksia pods). I donít think I have ever used the four prong in spindle orientation since I got the steb.

The four prong I use for smaller bowls/platter type applications up to a max of about 9 inches. Usually over that I go with a faceplate or occasionally the worm screw.

I use the two prong on very soft/wet/punky wood where I need to drive the spurs in deep in face grain applications.

In my flat work days (30 years?) I only used the supplied four prong when/if the lathe was needed.

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. Benjamin Franklin
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post #7 of 7 Old 09-15-2011, 04:27 PM Thread Starter
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That old “saying many roads lead to Rome,” also true in woodturning. We all have our favorite tools, equipment, and techniques for getting things made.

Rude Olinksi first professional wood turner ever seen use a step center and encourage their use. None of the woodturning books or videos watch ever mentioned steb centers. Ernie Conover talks about them in revised edition of The Lathe book. Says cannot live without them.

Ability to stick a steb center in a chuck relatively new concept. Sorby’s revolving steb center for tailstock looks interesting.

Probably more professionals and hobby turner’s use steb centers than can count and that is okay. Have no problem with steb centers. Just don’t think they are perfect tool for every situation.

I do think some vendors not all make false claims in their catalogs and on web sites ads. How does a steb center prevent catches, dig ins, and prevent splitting wood? Some woodturners take those ads as gospel. I have yet to split a good piece of wood with any prong center. No prong centers do not help me avoid catches or dig –ins, but skills help a lot.

“allows the work piece to be stopped for inspection at any time without turning the lathe off.” Biggest benefit for using steb centers period.

I am not saying do not buy a steb center. If think, a steb center will increase confidence & skill buy one.
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