Turning a Handle

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How do you make a handle or knob for a cabinet or other project? Paul takes you step by step through his process for turning a handle on the lathe. These make great handmade additions to many projects.

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39 Comments

  1. James May on 25 October 2018 at 10:50 am

    Please don’t stop the spindle with your hand. Makes me nervous.

    • wrstew on 25 October 2018 at 2:52 pm

      Paul’s hands are surfaced like shoe leather from a lifetime of hand work. The surface of the large chuck he is touching is polished steel. Time in videotaping is precious. Waiting for a quickly revolving spindle to coast to a stop is waisted. It is not an unsafe practice if you know what you are doing. Don’t do same if you are uncomfortable, and then only with care.

      • Bob Blarney on 25 October 2018 at 8:44 pm

        Given that sleeves and other clothing are secured away from the hands, it is not unsafe to slow a lathe equipped with a handwheel (which Paul’s lathe does not have). I think the danger of slowing the spindle with the chuck is an unsafe practice.

  2. Gary Mercer on 25 October 2018 at 1:49 pm

    After turning a knob for a plane, how would you drill the through hole (centered) for the screw?

    I am thinking of making handles for Birdcage Awls, and also need to bore a partial hole centered in the handle after turning. How would you do it?

    I presently do not have a lathe yet, but the lathe I am looking at comes with a face plate, a spur drive, and a live center for the tail stock. Are there other accessories I should look at getting for the lathe?

    • wrstew on 25 October 2018 at 2:47 pm

      A couple of chisels and you’ll be making handles

    • Ed on 25 October 2018 at 3:21 pm

      Keep in mind I’m still a novice turner, but with that said: I’d bore the hole on the lathe. That way, everything is on the same axis. On my lathe, the headstock and tailstock are both #2 Morse Tapers (MT2). I bought a MT2 Jacobs chuck, and this is what holds the drill. Some put the chuck in the tail stock and others put it in the headstock. It depends upon your preference and upon what you are doing. If you put it in the headstock, which is my preference most times, you really should use a drawbar. A drawbar is a threaded rod that reaches through the spindle and screws into the chuck. When you withdraw a drill when boring, there is a chance that the chuck may be dislodged from the spindle. The drawbar keeps it in place and, more importantly, keeps it from being flung if it comes loose. The point is that, when you select a chuck, I suggest you confirm that it is drilled and tapped to accept a drawbar. If you select one with an appropriate thread, it is easy to make your own drawbar from some threaded rod and a handle that you turn on your lathe.

      In brief- Find a jacobs chuck with a taper that matches your lathe and make sure it can accept a drawbar. I know I’ve not described the procedure itself. I’m sure you can find that elsewhere.

    • Michael177 on 8 December 2018 at 3:03 pm

      An easy way would be to make sure you get a lathe with a tailstock that can accommodate a Morse taper. Then you can get a Jacobs chuck attachment and drill in the dead center with a fostner bit with your handle on the lathe. Otherwise, the hole could be drilled prior to turning the handle and lined up as the center of the handle by centering the hole in the tailstock.

  3. David B on 25 October 2018 at 3:12 pm

    If you use something called a “Jacob’s Chuck” in the tailstock of your lathe, you can put a drill bit in it, and crank it through the center of your work. Alternatively, you might try a drill-press if you own one and are able to center the knob accurately on the bed. I turned a knob recently and used the first method and it worked perfectly.

    • Gary Mercer on 25 October 2018 at 10:55 pm

      Thanks Ed and David for the quick response. I’ll make sure I can get the Jacobs chuck to add to the lathe.

      What do you think about adding the Nova style chuck? The 3 jaw or 4 jaw? What are the benefits/drawbacks?

      • Ed on 25 October 2018 at 11:26 pm

        My turning instructor encouraged us to NOT get a chuck and to learn the alternative methods even if they are slower because you understand the lathe better in the end. So, I’ve never purchased one.

  4. Dennis Brickley on 25 October 2018 at 10:57 pm

    Hi Paul
    It is a good idea to remove the centre from the tail stock when it is not in use
    It can give you a nasty cut if you catch it with your elbow

  5. ted clawton on 26 October 2018 at 6:36 am

    May I voice my opinion? I understand that Paul et al. have made the business decision to include a (very) small number of machines, specifically lathe and bandsaw, and I read Pauls explanations of why and that a lathe really isn’t that bad since you’re holding the tool. I would never try to question another business’s decision, since I’m sure they made it after much thought and research. I have no idea how many subscribers that I do or don’t represent, but I did not enjoy this. It was Paul who convinced me to go the hand tool route. I will not be buying a lathe or bandsaw in the foreseeable future. If I wanted to learn machine techniques I would go to [insert about a gazillion internet woodworker names here] to do so. In a few short months I have been convinced that I prefer the cordless router, and have been very pleased as I watched my hand-skills grow based explicitly on what I’ve learned from Paul’s videos. We all have finite time, finite time to create, to educate, to make videos. I respect Paul and team for their decision to include the lathe and bandsaw in their video collection, but I hope that you choose to not devote too much of your finite time to them. There’s just too much that you can continue to teach us about the dying art of hand-tool woodworking to spend too much time on machines. I have a friend my age who also recently began woodworking. He uses Kreg, and biscuits, and a cabinetmaker’s litany of machines. When I showed him even the simple (by Paul’s project standards) pieces I’ve been able to make by hand tools only, he was truly impressed. That’s not so much a testament to me as it is to Paul. He had considered dovetails a “lost art” and “old school”. Now, I think he has a different perspective. I know I do. Paul, I hate that I come off like the guys who complain about too-simple-projects, and, again, I respect your decisions and research on your audience. I just wanted to add my 2 cents. I know you can’t please everyone, and I’m sure you’ve made your decision on sound reasoning; I’ve watched enough of your videos to trust that. I just hope that once I catch up with all your existing projects that I won’t be left with mostly machining videos only. Thank you Paul and team.

    • Joseph SellersTeam Member on 26 October 2018 at 1:43 pm

      Hi Ted,

      My dad (Paul) only uses a lathe occasionally, but there often isn’t a substitute for it when making things like rounded handles. Lathes have been around for a very long time, and there are pre-electric lower-tech options for lathes, but these options often take up quite a bit more space than the electric models. I wouldn’t read too much into his lathe use. That lathe is one he has had for ages and has used occasionally throughout even if it hasn’t appeared much in videos.

      The bandsaw is a different story. We found that about 50% of our viewers have bandsaws already. Bandsaws can help make the building process shorter and easier without removing the creative and enjoyable side, but we have shown over the years and through dozens of significant projects that it is possible to build furniture without the bandsaw. What we are going to seek to do is accommodate everyone whether they have a bandsaw or not. We might just show one or the other in a particular project but we will try to point viewers in the right direction for the alternative.

      • Ed on 26 October 2018 at 2:29 pm

        @JOSEPH do you think we could talk your father into showing us how to sharpen a skew for the lathe? I’d really like to know whether the standard convex bevel technique that we use for our bench chisels works. My turning instructor admonished us to never use a hollow grind or convex bevel, but to keep the bevel flat. Since I’m still struggling to learn the skew, I’m unsure whether my catches are a sharpening issue or control issue, so that’s why I’d like to hear Paul’s opinion. It would be *so* much easier to sharpen with a convex bevel than a flat bevel. I’d like to have his opinion, as an experienced turner and as someone who uses convex bevels on bench tools. To be clear, I’m not asking about whether the edge is straight or curved, but am asking about whether the bevel can be convex rather than flat.

        Thank you for the lathe and bandsaw videos. I think you’ve got the right balance between hands-only and supporting some of us who have a couple power tools. I think Ted is generally right, that the focus should be on hand methods, since others cover the machine space, but Paul sharing his unique perspective now and then on tools is helpful. I still hope he’ll do a bandsaw tuning demo at some point!

        • Joseph SellersTeam Member on 1 November 2018 at 10:34 am

          I spoke with my dad about this. The steel is very hard on turning tools and usually works best to be sharpened on mechanical grinding wheels. So, I doubt a sharpening tutorial by us on this would stand out very much from readily-available advice.

          Just so you know, my dad’s sharpening technique for turning tools doesn’t borrow very much from his hand-tool sharpening technique at all.

          • Ed on 1 November 2018 at 10:51 am

            @joseph , Thank you for asking about the sharpening. It was more helpful than you might realize!



        • Joseph SellersTeam Member on 1 November 2018 at 10:35 am

          Oh, and bandsaw videos are on their way!

          • jeffdustin on 18 January 2019 at 4:15 pm

            I want a belt foot powered lathe video so bad.



    • Bob Blarney on 26 October 2018 at 2:42 pm

      Ted, a lathe is possibly the oldest human-powered ‘machine’ tool in existence, dating back centuries BCE. There are enthusiasts who make and use treadle lathes in this day and age as well, so in this sense they are very much ‘handtools’.

      That said, I migrated from the electrically powered tool world to the handtool world after I broke my wrist a few years back and was leery of using my radial arm saw and other tools with fast-whirling blades. I discovered that for the kind of woodworking that I like to do, that using handtools and a bench is often just as efficient and in some ways more efficient. Furthermore handtools produce little noise and especially airborne dust, and they are inexpensive to maintain after acquisition. But I still use the power tools for many operations. My advice is to be eclectic in your pursuit of your craft.

  6. Keith Walton on 26 October 2018 at 11:54 am

    Pail just wanted to turn a knob for his cabinet. What do you think he uses to replace broken chisel handles? It’s part of what he considers woodworking. Also, if he left out the lathe section, everyone working on the cabinet would’ve asked how he went about making the knob, and some would’ve wanted to see it. He is not a one on one coach. There will be some content that not everyone of us needs. Take what ya need, leave the rest.

  7. Bob Blarney on 26 October 2018 at 2:16 pm

    It’s not quite “Health & Safety”, but I’d advise removing that live center from the tailstock when it’s not needed. It can be quite painful to bang into it with an elbow or arm.

  8. Michael Barnes on 26 October 2018 at 5:08 pm

    Is this not the same video that was published a month ago as part of the bathroom cabinet series?

    • Philip Adams on 31 October 2018 at 10:05 am

      Hello Michael, it is indeed. We though we would put it her to make it much easier to find and access.

  9. robertFlowers on 29 October 2018 at 1:53 am

    Idea for a new video for How to sharpen lathe tools Paul’s way .

  10. beach512 on 30 October 2018 at 12:26 pm

    Great video. It appears simple but I like that all the steps were covered on exactly how to do. Thanks for covering this with the usual level of detail.

  11. jeffdustin on 12 November 2018 at 9:24 pm

    Darth Paul!

  12. George Knotek on 18 November 2018 at 12:23 am

    Thanks for another great instructional video. I am interested in knowing where I can find a dust mask/helmet like the one used in the video. It looks like it is perfect for those of us with beards.

    I need one for my son who creates a great deal of dust building sets for the theater where he has to rely on power tools in order to work quickly. I have not been able to find one that compact here in the states.

    Thank you.

    • Ed on 18 November 2018 at 2:25 am

      Trend makes one that looks like Paul’s. If you don’t need a face shield and are just looking for a particulate filter for use with a beard, you can review a product called Resp-o-rator. I’ve used neither, but one of my teachers used and liked both. I don’t think either is NIOSH approved, so you’ll need to investigate and decide about that.

  13. steve on 21 November 2018 at 1:48 pm

    Hello,

    Many years ago Tony Soper’s Bird Table Book featured a wooden bird bell which you could fill with hot liquid beef dripping and seeds and hang from a bird table for the blue tits. They have long been unavailable. It was turned and I wondered how you might set about making one. It was eventually replaced by a ceramic version (which I have ) but I think the original dated back to the early 1960’s.

  14. Robert Foster on 30 December 2018 at 7:55 pm

    Greetings,
    Does Paul use his lathe to make replacement handles on chisels, gouges, and other tools? I ask because I have inherited a large wooden box of carving chisels and other tools. They were packed away in 1955. Many of the handles are broken and most are cracked from drying out. The steel of the tools looks to be in good shape but I need to replace a lot of handles.
    Does he cover handle replacement in any of his books? Any ideas for where I can look for info on how to make them? Wood selection, handle style or type, seating the chisel in the wood, and so on?
    Any info and help would be great.
    Thank you!

  15. Roman Marak on 25 July 2019 at 3:27 pm

    I realize I’m a little late in the day, but I’m looking for a lathe very similar in design and size to what Paul is using in this demonstration . Since most of what is available in the states is either larger and more elaborate or to small without the additional expense for an extension bed and also more elaborate than I believe I need for both furniture and architectural repair and restoration
    In advance I thank you for any help you can offer in my quest.

    Roman

    • Izzy BergerTeam Member on 29 July 2019 at 11:42 am

      Hi Roman,

      Paul says:
      Mine is an old Record Power make and it works fine but there’s nothing fancy about it. I think it depends on the size you want and what lengths you’re likely to be turning between centres. With some lathes, you can take the tail stock off, make a holder for it from wood and fix it to the actual bench top to increase the length then the only consideration would be if the lathe was powerful enough to drive what you envisage making. It know this lathe was sold in the US two decades ago so it could be that you will find one on eBay USA.

      Kind Regards,
      Izzy

      • Joey Goodwin on 31 July 2020 at 1:28 pm

        I would like to purchase a mini-lathe for small projects like the tote handle. I’ve done a lot of research and still can’t decide. I was curious if any of you used a mini and if so what would you recommend? Thanks.

        ~Joey.

        • Izzy BergerTeam Member on 3 August 2020 at 9:19 am

          Hi Joey,

          Paul says:
          You don’t need to spend very much on a mini- lathe, I have the cheapest one available on the market here in Britain and it works very well.

          Kind Regards,
          Izzy

  16. Scott on 15 September 2021 at 2:28 am

    Lovely video and conversation. I would give up most of my woodworking machines if I needed the space, but I would never give up my bandsaw and lathe. The bandsaw is too useful and compact, and so too can be a (mini) lathe. Nothing can parallel the lathe in its function, and it requires a markedly different discipline/sensibility toward wood. I think many galoots would agree.

    I hope you post more lathe videos from time to time if it works its way into future flat-work projects.

    Cheers!

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