Steady rests and follower rests are lathe accessories that hold a long workpiece steady during turning. Steady rests are mounted to the bed and do not move with the lathe. They ensure concentricity, but limit the length of the supporting cut. Follower rests are so named because they attach to the saddle and move along with or "follow" the lathe.
Typically, steady rests are used to provide support for longer cuts. Both steady rests and follower rests are used with cylindrical parts and round stock that cannot be center-mounted in a tailstock. They keep the workpiece from wobbling and ensure that a drilled hole will be concentric with the outside diameter (OD) of the part.
Selecting Steady Rests and Follower Rests
Selecting steady rests and follower rests requires an understanding of mounting requirements. Steady rests mount three adjustable blades in a holder which attaches to the bed of the lathe. These blades, which are usually made of brass, can be adjusted to the diameter of the part to provide support during turning. With small diameter parts, lathe operators may need to remove a blade’s corners to ensure that the blades contact the part, but do not touch each other.
Typically, a steady rest is setup by mounting the part to be machined in a collet or three-jaw chuck. After the blades are set and locked in place, the steady rests can be adjusted to support the free end of the workpiece. A dial indicator mounted on the cross-slide can be used to check the accuracy of the setup. Unlike steady rests, follower rests have a top pad and a rear pad, both of which are usually made of brass. The top pad prevents the workpiece from climbing up. The rear pad keeps the part from being pushed away. Because the follower rest provides support along the outside diameter, the part remains concentric with this measurement. With large-diameter parts, follower rests are often supported by a center. When using a center to support the free end, newer lathes may have a cutout in the tailstock which allows the end to overlap the table. Older machines may require the use of a tailstock spindle extension.