September 14, 2021

Collet Chuck Guide | What is It & More

Chuck definition woodworking

A collet chuck for a wood lathe is a chuck suitable for wooden parts. It enables precise clamping and centering of small diameter dowels and spindles. It clamps and secures the collet so that it remains in position.

After installation, screw the chuck onto the lathe spindle and tighten the cap nut around your workpiece. The collets range in size from 1/8 to 5/8 in 1/16 increments. Collet sizes range from 0.25 to 0.50 inch.

However, you have other sizes to choose from. They are not as sturdy and the motor is not as powerful as the metal one. Wood lathes turn faster, but the cuts are not as precise as the cuts of the metal lathe.

Lathe chuck

A lathe chuck is a clamping tool used to hold the lathe’s rotating tool bits. It comes in a push or a pulled design. The push model is tapered and uses a threaded cup. The bit goes into the socket to make the clamp. 

The pulled version has a threaded part close to the back of the tool. It pulls the chuck in tight by the use of the grooves. The lathe chuck works on both metal and wood lathes. Know the differences between the two and better models. 

The cutting tools have a grip, and the drill bit is firmer. That makes it ideal for harder materials. The wood lathe is more affordable than the metal one. Look at the type of jobs you will be majoring in before you pick a lathe.

What is a collet chuck?

A collet chuck is a versatile chuck that works on multiple applications using several tools. Secure the collet chuck, and it slides over the workpiece and locks it in place. The workpiece stays centered while being rotated and resisting vibrations. However, they are not adjustable. 

The chucks fit workpieces of defined sizes. Collet chucks work better with cylindrical workpieces. Avoid eccentric and other shapes since they do not work well with collets. Collet chucks are for machines with bar feeders since they have a 360degree contact. 

The low-profile design allows the machine to get closer to the chuck face. That gives accurate gripping and minimizes vibration. There is a better tool clearance for small parts, and the chucks are at higher speeds. 

The high-speed operation allows the collet chuck to run at higher speeds with consistency in gripping. You change parts faster, and the gripping force becomes even. That reduces the crushing of parts. It has a better tool life. 

Lathe collet chuck set

Collet chucks hold small pieces for turning. The collets have a tight grip to hold your woodwork with ease. The chuck is interchangeable collets to grip round tenons. The collets work like a chuck in the router. Use pressure for grip around the tenon on your workpiece. The set includes a collet chuck, chuck wrench, and eight collets, and a fitted case.

DIY wood lathe collet chuck

There is an affordable way of making a collet chuck made of wood. It has the power to hold a wide range of wooden jaws mounted in a scroll chuck and turning tops. It is faster to mount on the lathe and change to different sizes. 


Start by preparing a proper layout. Look for a stock for the chuck body. Maple makes a better collet chuck as well as any fine-grain hardwood. Draw two circles on the wood, and they should be bigger than the diameter of your headstock thread. Mark the center of one circle. 


Drill a hole that is big enough to tap your headstock thread where you marked earlier. The tap has to match the headstock thread. Big taps come at a price. You are allowed to have accessories such as quick mount jam chucks, square drives, and light-duty faceplates.

Clamp the wood to your workbench and tap. A wooden handle makes a big, industrial handle that takes a big tap. Keep the tap vertical. 

Cut the circles out on your band saw.

Mount the tapped circle on your lathe and wind it on till it makes contact with the spindle facing. Avoid jamming it on hard. Take a small bowl gouge and true up the face as you make light cuts. If your headstock has an unthreaded portion on the spindle, use a side-cutting scraper to turn a recess. Allow the circle to fit and true the second face. Mark it for easy identification as you take the right face to glue the other half. 

Glue up

Apply glue on the second face and clamp it to the untapped circle. Give it time to cure.

Make the stub morse taper gauge. Look for a drive center or tail center in good condition and fit it your way. Look for small pieces of wood and C-clamps. Glue the smaller pieces to the larger ones and space them apart. Allow the glue to cure. 

Make a collet

Look for a small piece of hardwood. You may as well use a maple of 3 inches in length. It has to be long enough to turn a cylinder smaller than the diameter of the headstock. Mount the piece between centers and turn around. Leave a diameter of a bigger size. 

Make a stub morse taper

Mark it an inch from the tailstock end. Set a caliper to the diameter of your taper. Use it to cut the diameter of the mouse taper. Use a skew to turn the end of the collet to a tenon.

Hold it and the skew in different hands. Test the fit. If it does not fit, cut the length of the tenon. Rotate the gauge more parallel to the tenon and test the fit. Cut where it starts to get too tight till the tenon fits. You are allowed to test with a gauge and take a skew if you cannot manage to hold the skew while testing. 

Drilling and Shaping the Collet

Mount and turn to fit the inside. Remove the collet from the center and the drive center from the headstock. Allow the collet to sit. True the collet by taking light cuts. When the collet fits, taper it over its length with your skew. 


Mount a drill chuck in your tailstock and a drill of the stock size of your choice. 

Drill slot stops

Lock the indexing head and adjust the tool rest. Mount a 1/8 inch bit in a drill and drill through the collet. Turn the collet 90 degrees and drill another hole that stops the collet from splitting. 

Cut on Band Saw

Cut slots to the drilled holes in the collet using a hand saw. Cut a Vee notch on a short piece of wood and use a table saw with the blade tilted to 45 degrees. Cut out a notch in one side, past the center of the V. Clamp the jig to your band saw table so that the blade lines up with the bottom of the Vee. Slide the collet up the Vee into the tool blade to cut the slots. Shape the Chuck Body.

Collet for lathe

A collet is a subtype of chuck that comes as a collar around an object being held. It holds wood or metal. A strong clamping force is executed on the item when it is tightened by tampering with the outer collar. 

Small collet chucks

Small collet chucks have a straight shank and a small diameter lock nut. It gives better clearance when the machine restricts spaces like cavities. The mini-chuck can also be on a bugger collet chuck. The chucks are from alloy steel, and the surfaces are precision ground.

Metal lathe collet chuck

Metal lathe chucks are for hard materials. They come with more powerful motors than wood lathe chucks. That ensures precise cuts. It is not a handheld tool, and the lathe tool incorporates itself into the machine in use. The lathe chuck is heavy, and you are allowed to use it on any wood project. 

David D. Hughes

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