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Forget figuring out how to secure your workpiece with cumbersome hold-downs. Mount a magnetic chuck to your machine and all you have to do is flip a switch and start working.

Of course you’re limited to working with materials that are attracted to a magnet. In reality that will probably be some sort of steel — does anybody machine nickel? Plus you’ll have to have a flat base for the magnetic chuck to grab.

This 12″x 6″ Cen-Tech magnetic chuck from Harbor Freight gets you started for $99. They precision-grind the steel top flat to 0.002″. Engaging and disengaging the magnet just requires a simple pull of a lever (which is not shown).

Could a reader enlighten us on why it is called a chuck and not a table?

Magnetic Chuck [Harbor Freight]

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19 Responses to Cheap Magnetic Chuck (Table)

  1. Toolhearty says:

    Nickel, no. Aluminum, brass… yes.

  2. Chris says:

    Toolhearty: Unless you’ve got different alloys than I’ve ever seen, aluminum and brass are not “materials that are attracted to a magnet”. 😉


    • JoeP says:

      1. Actually he is referring to the fact that nickel is somewhat magnetic, but is rarely machined…not a major point, but he is correct.

      2. Does anyone know how strong these things are? This is a great idea for me.

  3. Steve says:

    @Chris, toolhearty is refering to the article. “does anybody machine nickel?”

    He is pointing out that he doesnt work with nickel, but does work with aluminum and brass.

  4. Toolhearty says:

    Chris Says:
    Toolhearty: Unless you’ve got different alloys than I’ve ever seen, aluminum and brass are not “materials that are attracted to a magnet”.

    Yes, that was kinda’ my point. I was responding to the question “…does anybody machine nickel?” Most of the stuff I do is in aluminum.

    Cool tool, but I wouldn’t use it enough to justify having one around.

  5. Toolhearty says:

    …and no, I don’t have any idea why it’s called a chuck instead of a table. 🙂

  6. Joe says:

    wikipedia has your answer.

    A chuck is a specialized type of clamp used to hold an object.


  7. fjr says:

    Would it be strong enough to use some steel to clamp down my aluminum or brass pieces?

    Could be really handy used in that way, eliminating lots of bolts and nuts and constantly installing and removing them…

  8. Joe says:

    A Vacuum check could be used to hold non-magnetic workpieces

  9. Doug says:

    @fjr Sort of. At the machine shop where I work we hold non-ferrous pieces needing precision grinding by surrounding the non-ferrous work with slightly thinner ferrous blocks on a magnetic, er, chuck. It works well, but if that magnet ever failed there would be quite a scary show…

  10. DocN says:

    (cracks knuckles)

    1) A “table” does the positioning, a “chuck” does the workholding.

    2) While mag chucks are useful, they are almost exclusively only for surface grinders. Generally speaking, they do NOT have enough holding power actual cutter-type milling.

    People have used them for non-grinder uses, yes; typically as a workholder for things like hand filing or even assembly. But unless you’re taking tiny cuts on a relatively large piece (lots of friction between the work and the chuck, and a low chip load) they’re not recommended for any kind of milling.

    3) As for nonmagnetic work, there are specialized “clamps” that look like a comb- you slide it up tight to the side of the part, and flip on the magnet. The mag pulls the clamp down which wedges itself against the part, holding it surprisingly tightly.

    They’re rare and expensive these days (I’m actually surprised we haven’t seen any Chinese knockoffs yet) but work well.

    And 4) as far as being “ground within .002″ goes, on a surface grinder, you typically mount the chuck and then use the grinder itself to resurface it. That way the top of the chuck is pretty much absolutely flat and parallel to the table motion- unless the machine is worn out, being within .0001” in both directions is common.


  11. Shopmonger says:

    Doc, very true, however I would sayt hat the mag clamp is used more often for non grinding situation than you implied. But yes the most common use is for surface grinding, These are fantastic addition to any shot, holding thing still while working with them is essential. I love mag lock devises … besides they make some incredible jigs,….


  12. Justin says:

    Isn’t that the lever that turns it off and on located right next to the off-on switch?

    You said it wasn’t pictured.

  13. DocN says:

    It’s not a “switch”. The chuck is mechanical, not electric. The shaft on the front is a hub where a handle goes- the handle itself is what’s not shown.

    Moving the handle moves magnetic plates inside- when they’re aligned, the magnetic force is at it’s strongest. When they’re misaligned, the poles cancel each other out, allowing you to remove whatever was on the chuck, without having to slide or pry it off.


  14. Jerry says:

    Hmmm. A wikipedia reference. In this instance, the cited words are pretty well known and true. However, remember that anyone can edit and change the entries. In my OMO (Old Man Opinion), there are many non-factual entries in wickipedia placed there by those who feel they know the answer to something and are possibly just using “old wives tales” as their authority.
    All of that aside – sorry, sometimes I just have to rant about the fact that we all seem to believe, at times, that if we find it on the interwebs, it must be true – the device looks like it could have some use for some folks. Personally, the most use it would likely get in my shop would be as a play-toy for 1/2 hour or so and then relegated to the back of some shelf never to see daylight again.

  15. @Jerry:

    While I partly agree with you about wikipedia, I do think it is an excellent starting point when you are trying to learn about something. You don’t want to take anything there as gospel though. What I like is that the articles are actually referenced unlike most online other sources. You can go back and check the sources and see if they are reputable.

    I have to admit I was being a bit lazy about looking up what a chuck was. I did ask my friend who works with machinists while we were fishing this weekend. He basically gave me the same answer that a chuck is machinists jargon for something that holds a work piece.

  16. Lamont Cranston says:

    Anybody know how much pull this chuck has? Does it have enough force to be useful for surface grinding? Not that the Harbor Freight brand name would cause me any questions……….

  17. Vj says:

    @ Lamont
    This particular chuck may not be good for surface grinding. You need to understand one thing before using a MAGNETIC product, there is no FIT-FOR-ALL-PURPOSE chuck. Each chuck has its own specialty and use. of course a magnetic chuck’s basic purpose is same, to hold ferrous components, but you cant use the same chuck for everything. There are loads of manufacturers (like us) who manufacture chucks which are very reasonably priced and are useful for surface grinding. Also please note that the component you want to grind will basically define the chuck you want to buy. If the components are very small and/or thin, you will require a different chuck that one which is big/think.

    you can see more information in our website http://www.sardamagnets.com or any other manufacturer’s website. we also have commenced a forum where we shall give free consultancy. so you can type in your specific requirement and we shall revert back to you.

    Happy machining.



  18. Dale Uecker says:

    where else are these vices(magnetic chucks) distributed online?

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