What is a 4 Jaw Chuck? Explained

What is a 4 Jaw Chuck? Explained

What is a 4 Jaw Chuck? Explained

Jaw chucks are work or tool-holding devices that apply a radial clamping force to hold objects.

They aid in holding and rotating workpieces in a stable position so that the machine tool can effectively work on the stock material.

4 jaw chuck is a type of chuck with four separate jaws placed equidistantly. They can hold circular, square, rectangular, or octagonal workpieces. 4 jaw chucks are commonly used on lathes to turn the workpiece during machining operations.

This article discusses the 4 jaw chuck in detail by going through its various aspects like working, classifications, set up, applications, etc.

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4 Jaw Chuck - Explained

What is a Chuck?

Different types of chucks
Different types of chucks

A chuck is a device that radially holds tools or workpieces, primarily used in lathes and drill machines.

Depending upon their work holding technique, there are various types of chucks, such as magnetic chucks, milling chucks, jaw chucks, etc., and jaw chucks are the most popular among them.

What is a Jaw Chuck?

A jawed chuck
A jaw chuck

A jaw chuck is a clamping device that holds objects with its jaws. It is generally attached to a spindle nose for turning applications.

Depending on the machine’s spindle nose configuration, you can attach various types of jaw chucks to it, such as 3 jaw chuck and 4 jaw chuck.

The major difference between 3 jaw chucks and 4 jaw chucks is the number of jaws they provide for work holding.

There are many different mounting options available. Some require special adapters to be mounted on the machine, while others connect directly to the spindle nose.

Also, the jaws can have different configurations in terms of grips, hardness, ID/OD type, etc.

In the case of jaw hardness, soft and hard jaws are the two available options that are differentiated by the type of material used for making the jaws.

You can use hard jaws made of hard metals for holding tough materials with a rough surface finish.

On the other hand, soft jaws are made of softer metals like aluminum and are used to clamp materials that have a smooth surface finish.

How does a 4 Jaw Chuck Work?

A 4 jawed chuck
A 4 jaw chuck

A 4-jaw chuck has four equally spaced jaws used to hold workpieces or tools of various sizes and shapes.

Depending on the chuck's configuration, you can move each jaw separately or simultaneously.

To achieve simultaneous movement, it uses a rotating scroll plate connected to all four jaws. When the scroll plate rotates, the jaws connected to it also move.

For driving the jaws separately, 4-jaw chucks use a screw mechanism where each jaw is connected to a separate screw, and rotating the screw with a tool moves the corresponding jaw.

Note that a 4-jaw chuck with an independent jaw adjustment mechanism is more flexible than a self-centering 4-jaw chuck.

In addition to these, there are many different types of 4 jaw chucks, and each has its own advantages and limitations.

Types of 4 Jaw Chucks

Jaw-independent 4-Jaw Chuck

This type of 4 jaw chuck provides the ability to independently adjust each jaw of the chuck. This ensures higher accuracy than any other type of 4-jaw chuck.

Tough it provides greater flexibility, it increases the work cycle as you'll have to spend more time adjusting each jaw.

4 Jaw Self-centering Chuck

A 4-jaw self-centering chuck works just like a universal 3-jaw chuck. In this chuck, turning the drive gear moves each jaw in unison to the center.

Here the jaws are connected to a single rotating spiral plate. When the spiral plate rotates, the jaws connected to it also move.

4 jaw self-centering chuck is best for holding workpieces with a square-shaped cross-section. On such workpieces, all four jaws can clamp simultaneously.

Compensating 4 Jaw Chuck

Compensating chucks provide the combined functionality of standard self-centering chucks and jaw-independent chucks.

With compensating chucks, you can automatically center the workpiece to the chuck, saving a lot of time for machinists as the jaws don't need to be knocked with a hammer to align properly.

In a 4-jaw compensating chuck, initially, two jaws will hold the workpiece, while the other two jaws contact the workpiece and center it.

4 Jaw Pull Back Chuck

YouTube video
Working of a Four jaw self-centering chuck

Pull-back 4 jaw chucks use a hydraulic-based transmission mechanism to lock and loosen the jaws.

However, it does not provide the ability to individually adjust each jaw.

How to Install, Align, and Maintain the Jaws of a 4 Jaw Chuck?


Installing the jaws is an easy process, but a single wrong step can lead to a tedious re-working task.

In the case of jaw-independent chucks, you can install a jaw on any of the four slots. However, in the case of self-centering scroll chucks, it is important to place each jaw in its respective slot.

Installing jaws on a 4-jaw chuck
Installing jaws on a 4-jaw chuck

Most manufacturers use a numbering system to help you match the jaw with its respective slot.

For example, jaw 1 has to go on slot 1, and jaw 2 has to go on slot number 2, same applies to jaws 3 and 4.


Initially, you won’t get all four jaws aligned to the center (in most cases), but you need to get them properly aligned for the machine to work on the stock with good accuracy.

While mounting the stock on a chuck, it is important to ensure the eccentricity of the stock by using a dial indicator and making adjustments to the jaws of the chuck.

You can also use the gauge line on the chuck face as a reference while fixing the stock.

Setting up a dial indicator on a jaw chuck
Setting up a dial indicator on a jaw chuck (Source: Build Something Cool - YouTube)

You can find your offset from the center using a dial indicator fixed perpendicular to the rotating workpiece.

The dial indicator provides readings for the high and low offset points of the rotating workpiece.

Loosening the jaws corresponding to the low spots and tightening the ones corresponding to high spots will help you adjust the stock for perfect eccentricity.

Then, take the readings again and repeat the process until the stock is perfectly aligned.

This method works well on circular workpieces. But for centering square and hexagonal stocks, you have to use their edges as references relative to a fixed point.

Then you can tighten or loosen each jaw to center the workpiece.


To achieve a long run time for your chucks, you’ll have to properly maintain them by lubricating the moving parts and brushing off the chips.

This reduces the wear of the moving parts and prevents the chuck from rusting.

Applications of 4 Jaw Chucks

4 jaw chuck holding square and octagonal tube
4 jaw chuck holding square and octagonal shape

The jaw configuration on a 4-jaw chuck works best on cylindrical, square, rectangular, and octagon-shaped workpieces. Also, with four jaws, you can grip and hold heavy workpieces tightly.

4 jaw chucks are primarily employed in woodworking and metalworking applications.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Are 4 jaw chucks self-centering?

Yes, 4 jaw chucks are self-centering, meaning the jaws meet at the center simultaneously. They are also available in different configurations like pullback, independent, and compensating chucks.

How to Choose a Lathe Chuck?

You can choose a lathe chuck by matching its fixturing setting and the maximum RPM of your machine. You’ll also have to look at the chuck’s capacity, jaw type, diameter, length, and number of jaws.

What are the disadvantages of using 4 jaw chuck?

Some of the major disadvantages of using a 4 jaw chuck are that it has a long work cycle as you’ll have to adjust each jaw separately and use a dial indicator to center the workpiece. Also, if you are planning to hold hexagonal workpieces, you’ll have a hard time aligning them with all four jaws.

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Hey I'm John. I write about Manufacturing, Metalworking, CNCs and Lasers at Mellowpine. If you have any questions related to CNCs or Lasers, I'd be happy to answer them. Reach me at mail@mellowpine.com

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Hey I'm John. I write about Manufacturing, Metalworking, CNCs and Lasers at Mellowpine. If you have any questions related to CNCs or Lasers, I'd be happy to answer them. Reach me at mail@mellowpine.com

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