Using a Drill Chuck in the Headstock

Monday 9 July 2018

I am sure most turners have a Jacobs chuck, or drill chuck in their tool kit, it is a simple and versatile tool, but I wonder how many people get the most from theirs?

Drill chucks are available in a range of sizes from small, with a maximum gripping diameter of just 6mm (1/4in) to large which grip up to around 13mm (1/2in). They also come in keyed or keyless versions. I use one with a key as these tend to be more readily available and are usually less expensive than the keyless type. In my experience it is usually worth spending a bit more on drill chucks as cheap ones often run out of true, which is a real pain and can lead to holes drilled to sizes other than you originally intended.

Draw bar drill chuck

In an ideal world drill chucks would all have a draw bar on the back to secure them into the headstock of the lathe – this is basically a long threaded bar that allows a nut to secure the chuck into the taper through the headstock of the lathe. In reality most do not have these. In fact, I do not have a drill chuck with a draw bar. Don't worry; there are a few simple steps you can take to safely get the most from your drill chuck. I say safely because I'm sure most of you have experienced the moment when the Morse taper fitting comes loose from the headstock. This can be frustrating but at worst this can be dangerous, risking fingers and loss of blood!

Step 1

The first step I take when fitting the drill chuck into the headstock is to ensure the Morse taper is clean then secure it in place properly. I do this by giving it a light tap – not a whack – just a tap. A deadblow hammer or a mallet and a wooden shield can be used. As you do this, just watch where the Morse taper enters your headstock spindle and you will notice a tiny movement in the taper as it seats home securely

Step 2

As a second security measure, place your toolrest close to the drill chuck in such a way that, should it come loose, it will only come out as far as the toolrest. This allows you to safely press the stop switch without worrying about trying to catch or dodge a falling drill chuck, which may contain an expensive drill bit or delicate piece of work

Step 3

This method works equally well whether you are drilling on the lathe, as above, turning work, or sanding on the lathe using a power sanding arbor fitted to the drill chuck. Having the rest in such a position not only provides security, it also keeps it out of the way when you present the work to the sanding pad. It can also be done this way when using buffing wheels in a drill chuck, which is a simple, but effective, safety method

Step 4

Turning delicate components in a drill chuck is easy. Remember, most drill chucks hold from around 1mm up to around 13mm (1/2in), although different sized ones are available. Imagine how many sets of scroll chuck jaws you would need to buy to successfully hold this range of sizes. The drill chuck is a handy and inexpensive piece of kit to have and can save you a lot of money and time