Installing a Drill Press Chuck

Properly installing a drill chuck on your drill press requires you to pay attention to a few simple details.  Done well, your chuck will be accurate and will stay put until you remove it.

Drill presses and many other machine tools use Morse tapers to enable the user to attach a wide variety of attachments to the machine via an arbor having a Morse taper to fit the machine and an opposing taper to fit the accessory to be attached. For a drill chuck this opposing taper is typically a Jacobs taper.  An accurate arbor is very important so buy one you can trust; Albrecht and Jacobs make good ones.

Fitting a male arbor taper into a matching female taper produces interference-fit joints that are very tight and accurate.  Once their contact surfaces are brought into intimate contact they will lock as long as their surfaces are burr-free and clean.  Since these tapers are ground to a high degree of precision they are also self-aligning.  When installed correctly the arbor will go in straight and stay there unless someone beats them out of alignment with multiple blows from a hammer during or after installation.

To install an arbor:

1.  Wipe the arbor and socket with a clean rag.  Don’t bother with solvents for now – we don’t want a lock yet.

2.  Inspect the socket and arbor and completely remove any burrs found with a diamond coated tool or fine file.  An Eze-Lap diamond hook sharpener works really well for removing burrs from a chuck taper.  Note that even new chucks and arbors can have burrs so don’t assume its okay because it is new.

If you gently spin the arbor in the socket any burrs will usually produce a bright line that is clearly seen.  If the bright line is on the arbor then the burr is on the chuck taper, and vice-versa.  Work on that burr until it is gone.

Smoothing a burr so the defect lies beneath the surface of the taper will not prevent a good fit as long the rest of the taper is untouched.

3.  Once all the burrs are gone use OOO steel wool or a Scotchbrite pad and lightly go over the taper and arbor to remove any invisible dirt or superficial oxidation; do this even with new arbors and chucks.

4.  Now use lacquer thinner or acetone on a lint-free rag (clean old T-shirts work) and clean the socket and male arbor surfaces; after this do not touch these surfaces with your hands.  Rubbing alcohol contains oil and won’t work well on tapers.

5.  Retract the jaws of the chuck into the body and place the nose of the chuck on a solid, clean, flat surface like an anvil or smooth level concrete, not your wooden work bench.  A sheet of paper laid down first will prevent marring the nose of the chuck.

6.  Slide the male arbor end into the chuck’s socket with a gentle twisting motion and it will self-align.  You can cock an arbor when pushing it straight in – trust me.

7.  Position a piece of wood over the end of the arbor and use a steel hammer to deliver a single firm tap straight down onto the end of the arbor.  You do not need to hit it with an overhand, powerful blow – just a firm tap, please.  With the chuck sitting on an unyielding surface this simple tap is all that is necessary to seat the arbor.  Try to resist hitting it more than once. If the arbor and socket were clean and burr-free that arbor will stay in there until you take it out, and it will run true.

To install the chuck into the drill press you must do the same prep work as above.  Move the table out of the way so you can work.  Slide the chuck (jaws still retracted) and arbor into the socket with a gentle twist and, protecting the nose of the chuck with a piece of wood, deliver a single firm tap to the nose of the chuck.

Your chuck is now installed and should stay there until you need to remove it.  When you do need to remove it, it will come out easily.

Now let’s go make some chips!

September 2010

5 thoughts on “Installing a Drill Press Chuck”

  1. I would like to know how to remove the arbor as the chuck come off leaving the arbor in place.

    any help would be appreciated


  2. Hi Gary,
    I assume you mean the arbor is stuck in the quill of the drill press. Most drill press quills have a slot in them and the end of the arbor is visible through the slot. A wedge is used to push the arbor out. If you don’t have one they are easily made from 1/8″ thick mild steel. Cut a piece 1″ wide X 4-1/2″ long. Measure from one end and mark a line at 1-3/4″ across the piece. Draw a line from one side of the line to the far side corner to lay out a wedge. Cut on the line and you’ll have a wedge. Deburr and stick it in the quill slot and tap the arbor out. Hope this helps.

    Rob has a photo of this arbor that he didn’t publish but should have on file. Rob?


  3. How does one go about finding a replacement arbor… are there standard sizes? The reason I ask is because I bought a used Central Machinery 34 Inch Floor Radial Drill Press, and I think it has a wrong arbor in it. If I put a bit in the chuck and try to drill something the whole chuck spins as soon as I put any pressure on it, and the arbor falls right out of the quill. When I measure up inside the quill it is about 1/2″ longer than the arbor, so I don’t think the fit is right.

  4. Hi Rob,
    Your machine should have a No.2 Morse Taper arbor in it and the arbor that came with the machine should fit. I suppose it is possible for the factory to ship a machine with the wrong arbor but I haven’t heard of it before.

    Quite often, there is a burr or some contaminant that is preventing a good fit, which explains why the chuck is falling out of the spindle. I’ve seen this so many times that it is the first conclusion I jump to.

    I suggest wiping the arbor and quill taper with a clean rag and then lightly spinning the arbor in the quill taper to see if you can see a burr mark on either one. If you do, then clear that burr completely. If not, then it may just be grease or oil in there.

    Wipe both the taper and arbor with lacquer thinner or acetone, then use a scotchbrite pad and scour them lightly, then clean them again with lacquer thinner. You can then try seating them again by twisting the arbor into the taper until it seats; cover the chuck with a piece of wood and give it a good tap with a hammer. That should seat the arbor well. If you did a good job of cleaning the arbor and taper that chuck should stay in there until you take it out.

    As for how you find a replacement arbor, you need to know the spindle taper of your machine and the taper of the chuck. Your machine has a 2MT, while the chuck taper, usually a Jacobs taper, depends on the model chuck you have. Once you know the chucks Jacobs taper size you can buy a Jacobs, Albrecht, or some other arbor with a MT2 taper on one end and the appropriate JT on the other and it should work fine.

    I find Jacobs arbors to be acceptably accurate, while Albrecht arbors are amongst the finest you can buy. Both makes can be found at any industrial supply house (Enco, Travers, MSC, etc) or on eBay.

    I hope this helps. If not, please let me know.


  5. my drill lists a spindle of JT 2 – 1/2 and my chuck has no name and dies not have jacobs normal ring (mine is smooth). The drill is dated in 8/1983 put out by “U. S. Industrial Tools” (very common footprint, close to lincoln). Probably made for ten different brand names. Would I have to change the spindle with a Morse taper?


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