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Lathe Tool height


Premium Member
Today’s quick fun little projects. Should be self explanatory.

To set the tool height. You can make this bar height gauge. You can use a dead center in the tailstock and then turn the tool post around and set the height. You could use a height gauge. You can scribe the work with a Center scribe and set it that way. Anybody got another quicker way?


I turned a couple of dead centers with no MT taper. I use them to turn between centers without having to mount a face plate. Found them handy for setting tool height. Chuck one up and set the tool to the point.
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Ultra Member
Premium Member
Here is the ruler method Tom is talking about if folks haven't seen it. Its very quick & accurate for the most part. You bring the cutter up to the work & lightly trap a thin rule against it. Now look at it from the end. The ruler should be perpendicular to a horizontal datum, say the top of your compound. Or parallel to some vertical datum, say an edge of your tool post block. Your eyes are amazingly accurate do equalize gap differences. Be careful you don't crank the tool against the ruler especially if its carbide.

In practice the tool may have to be tweaked a smidge from zero. Regular cutters, not so much. But I've noticed parting tools like to be slightly one side or another, probably related to stock material, deflection under load or funky insert nose geometry I haven't quite figured out yet. Not a lot off center, maybe +/- 5-10 thou but it can make a difference just by trial & error.


I use the ruler method you describe except I don't use a ruler so to speak, I use a small aluminum thread indicator that sits on the top of the lathe at all times but any small flat piece of aluminum will work I use alum so the cutter tip isn't harmed in any way.


Active Member
I'm often tempted to buy one of these https://www.edgetechnologyproducts.com/pro-lathe-gage/
But because I have limited funds (like everyone else) and I'm cheap, I use other in house ways. I often use the stainless ruler method held up with the tool point to asess how close to centre height I am. Seems to work.
I've got that exact one.. In pieces.. Because they decided to hot glue (probably something else but that's what it looks like) the level bubble onto the holder.. Which doesn't hold up. -1 in my books.


Well-Known Member
If you have a bar of steel or aluminum you can make a very accurate tool height setter. I use mine all the time. I'll look for a video to describe it. It uses the front flatway and is just a precisely sized bar customized for your lathe...
- I think mine took about a half hour to get right.