Step 13: Chuck Construction

Picture of Chuck Construction
Because I like to do things the hard way, I made a chuck from scratch instead of buying one from Amazon. This chuck looks like a really nice one, but I couldn't justify the $170 dollars when I thought I could do it for under $2.

The basic idea of the chuck is to hold the work. I chose to make a 4 jaw chuck because I can hold square things as well as round things. I started by cutting a 5" circle out of some thick MDF to the best of my ability with a jigsaw and then drilled a hole in the middle. I fitted the hole in the middle with a tee nut. Using the same method as the pulley, I threaded this piece onto the shaft and secured it with a nut. Using a very steady file and a moderate speed, I smoothed out the edge of the disc to make it uniform. By holding a pencil up to the disc, you can draw circles on the disc, so I made one near the outside edge.

Next I drilled and tapped carefully lined up holes in aluminum angle. I secured the four pieces of angle evenly spaced around the circle I drew. Through the other hole in each piece of angle, I put a screw. Look at the first photo to see the completed chuck. Basically a piece of wood can be secured in the center of the four jaws by uniformly tightening the four screw, kind of like a Christmas tree stand.

The first picture shows the finished chuck. The second picture shows a side view to show how the shaft needs to end inside the chuck. The third view shows the mounted chuck from an angle.
arvevans4 months ago

While this is an intriguing project, it does cause some interesting thoughts.

1) Reversing the L-brackets might allow grasping and turning larger pieces.

2) Since the backing plate is wood, it might also be possible to make the whole chuck from wood. Replace the L-brackets with wood blocks and thread the clamping bolts through these blocks.

3) A metal or wood shield around the outside might make this a bit safer by minimizing chances of human contact with spinning bolt heads and brackets.

4) Could be made in 3-jaw and 4-jaw versions (6-jaws for more clamping power...?.

lenny256 years ago
I really like this intructable, I admire your DIY attitude.I would like to make something like this as well, so thanks for all the great ideas. But i'm also going t be honest with you and say that chuck looks verrry dangerous, To me it just does'nt seem solid enough. I've been hit in the face with a piece of wood that shot off a circular saw, it missed my eye by a centimeter. It was not a fun experience, certainly one i never want to repeat.

I am not questioning the rigidity of the chuck but your experience with the circular saw would have been kick back or something similar tools are dangerus, I don't see how this has anything to do with this,something else has affected you so you pass on with that opinion to any other so called "dangerus".

Like I said I am not questioning whether or not this is safe but your accidents have influenced your thoughts on totally different tools

I agree. This is a great Instructable. I am making a wood lathe for my son and will use this chuck design.. I think it would be ok very very slow speed turning of soft materials... But I would stongly suggest that the body of the chuck be made of steel and permanent screws be loc-tighted in place.   I know this makes manufacture a  little more complex.. but that is what our creativity is for.. Thanks for the great Ideas.

Lathes have always fascinated me and I long to have a metal cutting lathe and have been scouring the internet for deals over the last month. I was in the process of looking for ways to convert a rudimentary wood lathe into a passable light duty metal lathe when I stumbled upon a picture of your lathe chuck (cool idea). Isn't it funny how we think we need the best of the best immediately while other people make do with the most rudimentary of things? Check out this Moroccan foot bow lathe.


triumphman7 years ago
Nice job! I have one suggestion- your chuck can only take a piece of wood stock the size shown between each angle of metal. I was thinking if you drilled their holes shaped like a capsule (about 3 or 4 drill holes long) if it fits, maybe smaller. The bolts could be moved in or out to take different size pieces of stock. Or cut a slot in the metal(even better) to allow the L shaped holders to move in and out to do the same thing! Utilizing bolts and nuts under the circle chuck to allow for adjustments. It would only mean loosening and tightening of four bolts.Whatever way works without the chuck brackets getting loose.Allowing the wood stock to fly out. Ouch!!! But hey thats what makes woodworking fun. Right? Do it yourself is very rewarding (to a point). Let me know what you think! Also what is that white plastic stuff and where can I buy it? Thanks. As ever Triumphman
catwood (author)  triumphman7 years ago
well the way it is now, it can fit 2x2s. If i need to hold smaller things, i could use longer screws to reach farther in. If i need to hold larger things, i could reverse the angle to make them a wider diameter. Just having one precise hole means its easier to get the piece centered too; just count how many turns the screw goes in. The white stuff is UHMW. I buy mine at Interstate Plastics, but its expensive. Some other material would probably work just as well.