Tap it...

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Review by dmann posted 04-02-2009 04:47 AM 6307 views 2 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Tap it... Tap it... Tap it... Click the pictures to enlarge them

I picked up a new Nova lathe at the Woodcraft sale last month and have been adjusting to the new spindle size. I sold all my old faceplates with my old lathe I am slowly gathering accessories for the larger spindle size of the new lathe.

This gave me a perfect excuse to spring for a Beall Spindle Tap. Using this tool you can tap threads into a block of wood and thread it directly on your lathe spindle. Previously I could only create cusom chucks by clamping a block of wood in my scroll chuck and customizing from there. While this is simple to do sometimes having the additional rotating weight and size of a scroll chuck was inconvenient. Also trying to get the chucks aligned after removing from the scroll chuck was almost impossible.

It is pretty simple to use, just takes a little patience and planning. If you’ve already got wood prepared you could probably do this start to finish in 10 minutes or less. Here is my process:

1) Prepare the chuck material

I have tried two materials so far. First was a 1.5” thick by 5” round piece of Brazilian Cherry. The second was a set of oak boards that I laminated with glue. Position the laminations at 90 degrees for strength and to reduce warping.

2) Drill a pilot hole

Use a Forstner bit that is 1/8” smaller than your spindle size.

I bought the 1 1/4” tap so I use a 1 1/8” Forstner bit to drill the pilot hole. You can drill this on the lathe or on a drill press, I did mine on the drill press since I was planning on truing up the block once it was on the lathe.

3) Position chuck material and tap on the lathe.

If you can lock your spindle, lock it.
Position the piece against your headstock. I created an insert for my scroll chuck with a 1 1/8” tenon to insure correct alignment.
Position the tap in the pilot hole.
Bring up the tailstock to apply a little pressure.

4) Start threading!

Note: This is all done with elbow grease – the lathe is only used for alignment.

Once everything is positioned slip a 14mm wrench on to the indent on the spindle tap.
Slowly push forward 1/2 turn. Take up the slack using the tailstock crank.
I usually keep one hand on the wrench and one hand on the tailstock crank.
Continue this process until the end of the tap is close to your custom tenon.

So far I have created 2 useful chucks, the first of many I am sure.

1) A vacuum chuck with a dried block of brazilian cherry and a 4” pvc connector pipe. Total cost $8.
2) A 5” diameter jam chuck out of some 5/8” oak boards that I laminated. Total cost $4

The only drawback I can see right now is that there is a practical limit of how large you can make a chuck. I am probably going to stick to 6” or less in diameter. Remember these threads are in wood so they won’t be as durable as threads in a metal faceplate.

The taps are available for popular lathe spindle geometries, a full list is here:

-- David / Durham, NC

View dmann's profile


82 posts in 4577 days

4 comments so far

View GaryCN's profile


475 posts in 4705 days

#1 posted 04-02-2009 05:51 AM

I’m very new to the lathe, and have only turned a few handles. Can you explain photo 3 a little more.
I must be this “1) A vacuum chuck with a dried block of brazilian cherry and a 4” pvc connector pipe. Total cost $8. ’ but I have no idea what you are talking about. I did order one of the taps they do not cost much under
$30 with shipping.My lathe is the Steel City Mini, I purchased a Nova chuck for it. I’ve had it for about 3 weeks
and have not used it very much.

-- Quando Omni Flunkus Moritati

View peruturner's profile


317 posts in 4133 days

#2 posted 04-02-2009 07:09 AM

that is going to be my next tool buy for sure,it saves a lot of work puting faces plate screws,lol

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4061 posts in 4834 days

#3 posted 04-02-2009 03:23 PM

Really great tool, as are most of J.R. Beall’s inventions. I found this article instructive of more options that can be achieved with lathe tapped fixtures.

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over two decades.

View dmann's profile


82 posts in 4577 days

#4 posted 04-03-2009 03:45 AM

GaryCN : Photo 3 will be used as a vacuum chuck. It is a 5” diameter by 2” piece of brazilian cherry that when hooked up to a vacuum pump can hold items on the lathe via suction.

Here is a link a commercial vacuum chuck made out of aluminum.

Here is a link to William Noble’s very complete paper on vacuum chucking.

Douglas thanks for the link, there are some great ideas there. And that homemade red lathe at the bottom of the page is a trip, he could probably turn something 8 feet in diameter on that sucker.

-- David / Durham, NC

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