Cheap alternative to buying a collet chuck: Help a fellow turner

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Forum topic by dpoisson posted 12-21-2011 11:00 PM 7267 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View dpoisson's profile


190 posts in 3150 days

12-21-2011 11:00 PM

Topic tags/keywords: collet chuck turning

Howdy fellow LJ’s, So, being the frugal person that I am, I (foolessly?) figured that I could forgo buying a 100$’ish (at which point, it will cost more than the lathe itself) collet chuck and instead purchase a Beall tap for 18$ to make a hardwood version of a collet chuck. I also wanted to make mandrels that can screw into my lathe for use when turning game calls.

Unfortunately, nothing on lee valley’s website said anything about grain orientation and use of the Beall tap. Having now read those instructions, it would seem that using the tap on end-grain is a big no-no.

With this in mind, turning a spindle a 6” long piece of wood (about 1” long by 1 3/4” thick for the tap area, 1” long cone to go from 1 3/4 to 5/8th (I don’t recall the exact size of the hole in calls) and about 4” long rod with an o-ring or two to keep the call in place) can’t really be done anymore: Can’t it??

It would seem that what I originally wanted to do seems pretty hard to accomplish now. If not impossible.

Is there something I-am missing? I am still fairly new to turning…so I was hoping someone to give me a quick way to getting this done.




5 replies so far

View Bertha's profile


13551 posts in 2929 days

#1 posted 12-21-2011 11:05 PM

I hate buying chucks, too. Luckily for both of us, serious turners seem to be upgrading all the time. See if you have a local turner’s club and put the word out there. You might be pleased at the response. Good luck!

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 3234 days

#2 posted 12-22-2011 08:31 AM

If you are going to be putting things in less than 3/4 in, the ER32 collets are awesome. Penn State Ind. has one as does J.R. Beall. Making a mandrel to fit and have a stub to put in the collet.

Yes, the tap is intended for cross grain and not end grain. But remember, you can laminate pieces and have the end be crossgrain. You can also inset a plug of crossgrain into a piece. Drill and tap a block. Thread it on the spindle. Turn it to diameter and stick it in a matching hole on the piece. You are making a wooden threaded insert.

You can also buy a metal nut to fit the spindle and epoxy it into a block.

The easy and cheap way to do what you are talking about would be to make a cup for the headstock and tailstock and hold it the workpiece in place with the tailstock (trapping it by friction) If you are taking good cuts with sharp tools and not just scraping, it doesn’t take that much force to keep the workpiece in place. If it moves, a drop of hot glue or double sided tape does wonders. The fancy way to do what you want would be a vacuum chuck but that gets expensive real quick.

Here is what one looks like for doing a bowl:

Same thing, just a different shape.

Chucks are great for what they do but they are not the magic solution to all workholding for the late. They have some serious drawbacks as well. On my metal lathe, I am most happy when I don’t have to use one. I have a cheap 4 jaw chuck for my wood lathe that scares me. 500-1500 RPM spinny steel jaws and hand tools are not a good combination.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View dpoisson's profile


190 posts in 3150 days

#3 posted 12-22-2011 08:37 PM

Thanks for your answers!

Unfortunately, I do believe I will offer it up for trade very soon for a type A pen mandrel or something equivalent and when I do need a chuck, I’ll buy myself a set of collet chuck.




View Troutsman's profile


16 posts in 2598 days

#4 posted 01-07-2012 08:42 AM

Hello Fish,

I have been trying to figure out the cheapest solution to the same problem and I believe I figured it out. This product is sold at Hut Product and Craft Supply USA for about $7 + shipping.

This set of bushings are placed on to a regular pen mandrel and fit inside the drilled hole. They are made from PVC and with the right amount of pressure will swell when tightening the mandrel nut. This allows for just enough room to work on the ends as needed for the calls.

The only other snag I have run into is the tone board that is not drilled all the way through. I believe I have found a solution for this as well. This is pulled from Woodworking dot com.

I hope this helps,


View Darell's profile


435 posts in 3830 days

#5 posted 01-07-2012 09:57 AM

Buy the book “Fixtures and Chucks for Woodturning” by Doc Green. One of the many things he does in the book is show you how to make your own collet chuck. The book is full of information that you’ll likely find useful.

-- Darell, Norman, Ok.

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