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A Quick Tip for Setting Lathe Tool Bit Height

By Don Wiederhold

Here is a quick way to set up your tool to the centerline of your lathe.

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I use a 1/2” diameter drill blank that I ground a notch in. I took my time with it and ground exactly halfway through, leaving the final thickness 1/4” (Photo 1).

To use this for setting tool height, place the notched piece into the lathe’s chuck, with the lathe in a high speed or neutral. Now, bring the tool up under the flat on the blank. As you raise the tool, rock the chuck back and forth a bit until the tool is in solid contact with the blank and the chuck can’t be rocked (Photo 2).

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Now you can tighten the jam nut on the toolholder and you are ready to start turning.

In the past, I have bought 1/2” diameter cutter blanks with a notch just like I made, and I originally planned to just purchase one. Unfortunately, I could no longer find a source for anything larger than 1/4” diameter and I felt that would be too small.

I hope this tip helps someone out. It’s a simple one, but really helps to speed things up when setting new tools.

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