Lathe Cutter Centering Tool

by NeverDun, published

Lathe Cutter Centering Tool by NeverDun Sep 11, 2015
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12629Views 1328Downloads Found in Machine Tools


This is a tool for adjusting your cutters to the rotational axis of your lathe. This will help to prevent breakage from facing with a tool set too high, or poor surface finish with the tool set too low, or too high.


The part is meant to be printed on it's back, with the bubble trough facing up. To complete the assembly you will need:

One 608z skateboard bearing (readily available)

One 5/16 steel shaft about 3 inches long. I cut two circlip grooves to hold the bearing in place, but two O-rings will work just fine, and will aid in dis-assembly and flat storage.

One 9x40mm long spirit level. I just found these online, and they come in packs of 10:

One 10-32 x 1 inch socket cap screw with jam nut (a 10-32 cone point set screw works excellent as a precision alternative)

The bearing should be a light press fit into the printed part, and the spirit level pops in by hand as well. The 10-32 threads I used a tap for, and a similar metric size should work just fine too.

To tune it to your lathe, set the flat on the bottom of the tool on your lathe cross slide parallel to the chuck face. Turn your adjusting screw in until it just barely contacts the cross slide. LIGHTLY tighten the jam nut. You are ready to rock! If you are super picky, you can face the end of your screw before calibrating.

IGES and STEP files are supplied for those who want to modify for a different Spirit level ETC.

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I am a toolmaker by trade 1967 edition. If I didn't know how to center a tool in the lathe, without any help/tool, I would have failed my apprenticeship!

Yep, we used to teach tool centering without tooling. But students are often un focused and forgetful, and tooling is expensive. This tool has saved my shop hundreds of dollars in broken tooling, and takes away any excuses about not understanding the tool setup process. We aren't an apprenticeship program. We teach engineering students machining basics, so they don't design things in a vacuum. Maybe for a vacuum, but not in one

The bubble from this item at Harbor Freight is a perfect fit, though a bit of work to get out without breaking it.

Good looking out! I'll have to grab one next time I'm there and pull it out. If that works, it will definitely make that part quicker to get. Thanks for the help.

Very nice work! I paid like $30 for a similar tool from Edge Technologies, made in solid red-anodized aluminium... The damn vial was just superglued on though, and eventually fell off! (Apparently they fixed it in later versions with a metal retaining clip.) But still, if I'd had a 3D printer back then, I surely would've done something like this instead!

By the way, you can also find plenty of bubble level vials on Amazon. You can either just straight up buy a bunch of vials, or buy super-cheap little plastic T-levels and use them to get the vials, two at a time. Just search "bubble level".

That's a good idea, I don't know why I never considered Amazon. I try to source things that are easy for people to get and won't disappear a week later. Especially if they are critical for the operation of the part.

as a machinist this is the best thing I've seen on this site so far.

Thanks for the support! I hope it prevents un-necessary tool breakage in our shop by the newbs.