First off, in the land of wood lathes, a #3 MT is almost an anomaly. Not many companies offer this size, so just finding one option is a touch daunting.
I wanted a spur drive so that I could reposition a piece for optimal grain characteristics during the roughing out phase of creating a bowl or hollow form. Also, for plates, it’s nice to have the option of not having to grab the drill to attach a face plate or screw chuck.
So, lets see who the candidates were.
The first option that I found was the Sorby Stebcentre at Grizzly. In hind sight, maybe I should have gone with this item for simplicity, but my concern was mainly from what I’ve read about these being used for bowls. From my research, these stebcentres are great, but are intended for endgrain work and not driving a bowl. This does make sense to me due to the design of the teeth on this drive. So, maybe it would have worked just as well as what I’m using now, but I passed on this one due to information I’d read from other users of stebcentres. Regardless, this center has a spring loaded center which allows one to load and unload pieces from the lathe while the machine is running. The piece simply stops turning as you reduce the pressure against the drive. These are about $70 through Grizzly. With this being the first item that I found, I simple wanted to keep looking.
Second we have a slightly different approach with drives that Best Wood Tools offers. After finding the previous option, I was stuck for a while until stumbling across Best Wood Tool’s option of a thread on drive. There reasoning for a threaded drive instead of the traditional MT is that (and I’m paraphrasing) “with a taper, the drive can/will slip under heavy loads.” Now I understand what you’re getting at, but I’m not convinced. If slippage was that much of a concern, I don’t think the MT would be the standard for drill presses, metal lathes, or the wide variety of other machines that have used taper fits since the dawn of time. Personally I’ve never had a MT drive slip in any spindle (even a #1 MT), but if you want a fool proof, never gonna slip on the spindle approach, then a threaded drive will certainly do the trick.
The downside of having a 1 1/2 x 8 spindle on your lathe is that you either have to use a spindle adapter or search and search for tooling to fit your lathe. This would have been the path I took without a doubt until I saw the price of the bad boys. Ouch! Before I get too carried away, let me tell you a bit about Best Wood Tool’s approach. First, they make their drives modular. This means you can buy the spindle adapter with a drive insert, and then just buy the different drive inserts as you need them. These drives are indeed Texas sized. The body of the drive is 2″ in diameter and the drive area measures 1 1/2″ across. That’s some serious real estate. They sure look like a great product, and I get that they’re made by a relatively small shop, but I couldn’t shell out $100 for my spur drive and then another $50 for additional inserts if I needed them.
And third is the Axminster Jumbo Spur Drive. This spur drive comes in either #2 MT or #3 MT. I’m not sure what type of steel it is made of. I had originally thought it may have been electropolished or chrome plated because the drive is quite shinny. Who doesn’t like shiny? I mean, come on people. Anyways, the drive has begun to tarnish a bit on the drive teeth after turning a slew of wet woods. I didn’t notice any tarnishing until I turned some wet oak, which rusted my lathe bed too! I will say that the metal seems to be quite soft. I’d prefer this than for it to be hardened and damage the taper in my spindle, but the back has taken dents quite readily from seating the drive. I also knocked the drive out of the spindle one day too vigorously, which caused it to fall onto the lathe bed and dented the drive teeth rather deeply. However, even with all of this said, I’m still rather happy with the drive center and for £17 ($28.61) you really can’t beat the price. Even after shipping across the pond, I came out ahead price wise.