Shop-made collets for turning tools

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Blog entry by TheDane posted 12-05-2020 03:17 AM 608 reads 3 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

You can use ordinary brass plumbing fittings to make your own collets for tool handles. The advantage of using this type of collet is that there are no set screws to damage the shanks on your tool shafts.

I use these with Thompson Lathe Tools … unhandled tools from other toolmakers may work as well, I just have not tested them.

I found the parts needed in the plumbing department at a local farm & home supply. Some stores have similar fittings, but the ones I found are ‘lead free’ and have a different sleeve … I couldn’t make them work.

(For 5/8” tool shaft)
5/8” Compression x 1/2” FIP adapter
Pipe nipple: 1/2” x 1-1/2”

(For 1/2” tool shaft)
1/2” Compression x 3/8” FIP adapter
Pipe nipple: 3/8” x 1-1/2”

(For 3/8” tool shaft)
3/8” Compression x 1/4” FIP adapter
Pipe nipple: 1/4” x 1-1/2

Remove the nut and sleeve from the adapter and tighten the nipple to the adapter. Chuck it up on your lathe and turn the flats off the adapter (good use for a carbide tool). Use a skew to cut some grooves in the portion of the adapter you just turned down (to give the epoxy something to bond to).

Here are the parts for my 1/2” collet:

The parts should look like this (note: the sleeve has been slotted per the instructions below):

Bore a hole large enough to accept the nipple and adapter in the end of your handle about 1-1/2” deep. The hole should be as snug as you can make it.

Coat the inside of the hole and the adapter/nipple liberally with epoxy and seat in the hole. Let it dry overnight.

Note: You can make your epoxy go further by mixing in some ‘epoxy filler’. I use West Systems 404, a high-density epoxy thickening additive developed for maximum physical adhesive properties in hardware where maximum strength is necessary. Any dealer that carries West System epoxy products should be able to get it.

Install the copper or brass tube you will use for a ferrule on the tool handle and epoxy it in place

The adapters have a small shoulder inside … once the epoxy is cured, you’ll need to bore that out (I leave a tenon on the butt end of the tool handle so it can be remounted on the lathe). Drill deep enough so the tool shank doesn’t bottom out. You may also need to enlarge the hole a bit to accommodate the tool shaft …the steel used in Thompson’s tools is actually .015 oversize and the shank that fits into the collet is machined so a common drill bit (3/8”, 1/2”, or 5/8”) can be used to bore out the collet. I used a dowel with a slot cut in it and some coarse grit sandpaper to allow a couple of thousandths clearance for the tool shank.

Use a Dremel, Fordham, or other tool to cut a slot all the way through one side of the compression sleeve. This allows the sleeve to compress around the tool shaft when you tighten the nut, but release it when you loosen the nut.

Put the slotted compression sleeve in the adapter, screw on the nut and insert the tool shaft. If it doesn’t fit, use the dowel and sandpaper to slightly enlarge the hole. You want a snug fit.

When the tool shaft goes in all of the way to the shoulder on the shaft, use an adjustable wrench to tighten the nut and get busy!

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

8 comments so far

View MrWolfe's profile


1669 posts in 1363 days

#1 posted 12-05-2020 03:26 AM

Thanks for this very practical tool instructional.
I will be trying it soon.

View bushmaster's profile


4135 posts in 3523 days

#2 posted 12-05-2020 05:10 AM

great idea. will have to try this.

-- Brian - Hazelton, British Columbia

View oldrivers's profile


2725 posts in 2807 days

#3 posted 12-05-2020 01:09 PM

Excellent idea/ solution, was in industruale Maintenance for many years and this will work wonders. Thanks for for sharing. I use Doug Thompson turning gouges, scrapes, etc. Good

-- Soli Deo gloria!

View sras's profile


6345 posts in 4369 days

#4 posted 12-05-2020 06:29 PM

Neat idea Gerry!

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View Ken90712's profile


18067 posts in 4429 days

#5 posted 12-06-2020 04:13 PM

This is brilliant, thx for sharing.

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View JD77's profile


136 posts in 929 days

#6 posted 12-06-2020 06:51 PM

Thanks for sharing Gerry.
I used a 3/8 compression fitting for a marking gage using a steel rod from an old printer. I also had to cut the compression sleeve to get it to squeeze down, but is has been working great.
I recently made a tool handle for some 3/8 square stock and had to come up with another way to clamp a square profile. I ended up using a flare fitting with a good bit of butchering. I’ll post my project as soon as I get the tap for the screw for the carbide cutters.
May I include a link to your blog? You did a pretty good job of explaining how to do it.


View TheDane's profile


6012 posts in 4903 days

#7 posted 12-06-2020 10:31 PM

May I include a link to your blog? You did a pretty good job of explaining how to do it.

Be my guest … if it will help somebody, I’m all for it!

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View mafe's profile


13334 posts in 4329 days

#8 posted 12-09-2020 12:55 AM

Really clever.
Thanks for sharing.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect.

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