After watching Mary fiddle with the shrunken presser foot screw, I tapered the tip as a guide into the hole:
A hint-and-tip (which I cannot, alas, find again) suggested making bushings to simplify trimming screws in the lathe. A rim on the bushing aligns it with the front of the jaws, the screw threads into the central hole with a jam nut locking it in place, then you can turn / shape / file the end of the screw just beyond bushing with great support and a total lack of drama.
For the moment, I just aligned the screw in the tailstock drill chuck, crunched the three-jaw spindle chuck on the screw head, backed off the tailstock, took unsupported sissy cuts, and it was all good:
Gotta make those bushings!