Collet Racks


Resident Half Fast Machinist
We use a lot of different types of collets in our shop. We have racks for the R8 collets that fit our manual vertical mill and the 5C collets we use on a lot of different machines and fixtures. The one thing we don't have is an organized storage system for the ER type collets we use in our CNC mill toolholders. We use three sizes of ER holders - ER16, ER32, and ER40. We have collets in each size for inch based tools, metric sized tools, and taps.

We had 5" Brazilian Cherry flooring put in our house over a period of years. I saved what was left from the bundles and also a lot of the scrap. I've used it to make utility box covers for all the switches and outlets in the house and other similar projects. I decided to use it to make some ER sized collet racks. I needed to laminate two or three pieces together to get a thick enough slab. The flooring had grooves on the bottom, I wanted it flat for a good glue bond so I used a 4 flute 1-1/2" diameter HSS end mill in our vertical milling machine to cut about 0.1" off.

The ER16 collets required a 5/8" hole so I used a spade drill. I set the depth stop on the quill for the right depth so I didn't need to drill all the way through and glue a bottom board on like I had to do for the larger sizes. I used holes saws to make the racks for them. I glued a third board to the bottom of those and then milled it off until the bottom was 1/4" - 5/16" thick.

After the glue was dry on everything I finished the ends and sides with the end mill and then put a bevel around the top edge with a 1/2" drillmill. A drillmill has a 90* point and can be used for spotting, drilling, milling and beveling. I figured the bevel would prevent chipping or splintering during use. To finish the project I got some spray urethane and applied it after a light sanding.

Tomorrow we will go through our collet collection and start using these.

ER16, ER32, and ER40 collets

Using a 5/8" spade drill to drill the ER16 rack.

Using a hole saw to make the holes for the ER40 collets.

The four racks for the larger size collets getting a bottom board glued in place,

Milling off the bottom board to reduce the height and weight.

The racks after a coat of spray on urethane.


Notorious member
Nice job, Keith! There's something weird about carbohydrate foam dust all over a Kurt milling vise, but it the machinery does the job quite well, doesn't it?

A light wipe with a fine foam sanding pad and another coat of urethane would really make those shine.

Jeff H

NW Ohio
Those are NICE.

I lucked into some scraps of 1" and 2" thick, gray PVC sheet where I worked over 20 years ago and have made my reloading blocks from it. They're nice when done, but making them is not fun. The chips are hideous. One 1/2" hole, 7/8" deep for a 30/30 case, drilled with a reground spade bit produces long, gangly, grabby chips that "blow up" to about 1,000% of the original volume, and they don't break down in the compost with the rest of the sawdust.

If I ever need to make more, I'm incline to follow your lead. Yours are prettier too.


Well-Known Member
Keith, those are almost too pretty for a machine shop. They would look right at home next to my big Gerstner cherry machinist's chest.

Other thing I was thinking is, I've worked in 5 motion picture industry machine shops, and during layoffs, 4 job-shops outside the industry. No matter how big the inventory of NC machinery, all had manual Bridgeports or at least Bridgeport clones and most had at least one Hardinge toolroom lathe.
Love the Bridgeport EZ Trak. It is the "jack of all trades" mill.


Resident Half Fast Machinist
We couldn’t operate without our manual mill and lathe. Totally indispensable. Our mill needs a new head, for about $6k I can get a bolt-on replacement. The ways are still in good shape.

I won’t cut wood on our CNC lathe or mill, it always screws up the coolant no matter what I do. And without a better dust collection system I won’t do any more woodworking than necessary in the shop.


Resident Half Fast Machinist
Spent an hour this afternoon sorting out the collets and putting them in order in a rack. I had more than I thought so I can see the need to make a few more racks. I sprayed them with a couple more coats of urethane over several days, not perfect but good enough to ward off greasy fingerprints and shop schmutz.

This basic inch sized set is on the shelf by the manual mill, we have an ER32collet tool holder with an R8 shank.

Here are the racks on the CNC side of shop. The two light colored racks came with the collet sets, it's some kind of Chinese whitewood.


Notorious member
Sweet. Nothing like making stuff to help get your poop in a group.

A little tip for machinists working with the carbohydrate foam stuff: If you want to prevent blowing the corners off at the end of a pass, clamp a sacrificial scrap board to the end of the workpiece to support the end of the work and cut through both. The sacrificial board will blow out as the cutter clears it but save the grain on the workpiece.


Well-Known Member
For folks who don't understand why getting something machined costs so much. If those collets in Kieth's racks are not name brand they likely average out at around $33.00 ea. If they're a name brand it's more like $45.00 ea.


Resident Half Fast Machinist
Yeah, I just ordered an ER40 tap collet for a 7/8" tap. Right at $40 for a non-name brand.


Well-Known Member
Reminds me of a story my father told me.

In the early '60s he was second in command in "The Model Shop" (prototype machine shop) at one of the top 5 aerospace companies. They had received a new engine lathe several months earlier, but the purchase of the "tooling package" had been denied. They had received the bare bones lathe. I think he said it was a LeBlonde.
Dad tried to get the department head to press the higher ups for the tooling package, but the guy was afraid of making waves. The new lathe sat in the shop under a nice cover for several months until the boss went on vacation.
As Dad was now in charge of the shop, he sent invitations to several of the suits who had been in on authorizing the lathe purchase, to come down and see the new lathe in action.

With the higher ups crowded around him, Dad showed a simple print of a landing gear part and started the demonstration.
He said, this part can be machined from this piece of material. First I would place the material in a three jaw chuck, but since we don't have one of those, I would have to wait until another machine was not in use and do that.
Then, I would face off the end of the piece to make is square and perpendicular to the length. In order to do that on this machine, I would also have to have a toolpost and the accompanying tool-holder. Then, as you can see, we need to drill a hole in the end of the piece, but since we have no drill chuck for this machine...
At that point one of the suits said, wait a minute, why did we buy this machine, but not the accessories to use it?
My father explained that lathe and tooling package were on the same purchase request and the "request for quote". The money was allocated for the lathe, but was denied for the tooling package.

Three days later the tooling package showed up.
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Well-Known Member
Govt acquisition sucked then, and sucks even worse now! Ended my Army time as an Acq Officer. Three of my five sons are contractors. NOTHING has improved in over 50 yrs!


Resident Half Fast Machinist
Here is the latest purchase - an ER40 tap collet for a 7/8" tap - and a carbide spiral flute tap in 7/8"-14. I bought two taps, if you get two you won't break the first one, if you only have one it will fail on the next to last piece on a Friday afternoon. The two taps and the tap collet set me back about $140.

The bottom of the ER40 collet showing the square drive hole along with a 7/8-14 spiral flute tap.

Here is the tap in the collet.

Here is a closer look in bottom of collet. The square hole provides a positive drive without depending on friction.
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Active Member
We finally got a new building to replace the two trailers we had been working out of for years. Ok, new building but no furniture. Salvaged the ancient desks and chairs. Then started checking out the dump where all the old furniture was located. At least once a week we scrounged a desk, or chair and filing cabinet. Why you say??. No money allocated for new furniture. And this was a multi million dollar company. And none of the higher ups ever noticed the scrounged furniture. Frank.