Custom Wooden Pull Handles #1: How to make custom Drawer Pulls

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Blog entry by bohnsai posted 09-28-2010 03:34 AM 25385 reads 23 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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This blog is to show others how I created all the Walnut Pulls on my Clothes Hamper Hider

I searched the Lee Valley and Rockler (among others) catalogs for hours trying to find something I liked for the furniture piece but didn’t find anything that suited my fancy. I found some maple and cherry handles that looked like they might work but I wanted walnut for contrast. Would you believe it? Walnut pulls don’t exist!

So I decided to make some of my own. I went ahead and bought a couple of the cherry handles from Lee Valley to “reverse engineer” how to make them.

I knew I’d need about 28 in all, but I wanted to be sure I had plenty to spare in case one broke in progress or after the fact. I started with 42, only 36 survived :-(

So step 1:

Figure out how big you want them to be and what diameter you want. I went with 9/16”. Anymore would have been too overpowering for the piece, any less, an understatement. The cherry ones from Lee Valley were about 3/8 I believe. Way too small.

I planed a bunch of Walnut down to 9/16” and cut some blanks the width and height of the pulls I wanted. Oh and it is imperative that the thickness be slightly less than the diameter otherwise you’ll be doing a lot of sanding later.

I apologize, I got a little carried away before taking pictures so my “blanks” already show some of the next steps so please ignore that fact ;-)


Step 2:

Now, after getting mildly discouraged at how much more work you still need to do, it is time to figure out how to turn these into handles.

The first jig I made serves dual duty, first it is to predrill the screw holes, and then drill some retaining pin holes. But more on these later.

Now after drilling these holes, I knew I would need a few of these drilled blanks to serve as parts for later jigs.

Step 3: Lets give this baby curves. Inside first.

This one is quite easy in fact. The very sharp curve on the inside I figured could be done with a forstner bit. Here is the jig for that.

Step 4: Outside Curve

This is the most simple of all operations but one of the trickier to set up. I figured out what the diameter of the outer curve would be and made a pivoting jig to use with the bandsaw. Being over cautions I used some toggle clamps, and found out I didn’t need them. However they made good “handles” and kept the fingers away from the blade. Here you can also see what the retaining pins were for. They are simply split pins I picked up at the hardware store.

Step 5: Now it gets tricky! Routing the outside edge.

This jig took some brain power to come up with but I think the pictures show how it works. The retaining pins hold the blank and a template in place while the toggle clamp holds down the template. The jig is then free hand routed on a router table.

Be sure to get the bit dead center of the jig. This operation has to be done in two passes. The first router pass starts just to the left of center of the pull and move the jig to the right. Next flip the pull over in the jig and route the other side. I made the mistake of trying to shape one from the very left side but the router grabbed the end grain and ripped the blank right out of the jig. Fortunately, the jig was still in one piece but the pull was trashed. First casualty.

Step 6: Inside curves

Deceptively simple. Another Band Saw jig.

Hey! Now it’s starting to look like a pull. But what about those sharp inside edges?

Step 7: Inside Radius.

Taking a look at the pulls I bought, I noticed the inner radius was not complete but looked like two smaller radii. This makes better sense as it makes for a tougher pull and I was not about to try this next step out with the bullnose bit!

WARNING! This next step is not for the faint of heart! The next jig requires the bit to be pretty high above the table so either make sure you’ve got a bit with a mile long shank (as mine did) or a collet extender.

The next jig utilized some pins that fit into the predrilled screw holes. The pull is then clamped into place with the toggle clamp and help laterally by the pins. Still, there is a huge potential for kick back and breakage. (Remember, I started with 42, 3 were used for jigs, only 36 lived through this ordeal).

You must set up the jig so that there is still a bearing surface for the bit to ride on on the inner surface. This is also a two part operation, fortunately I was able to shape the pull from left to right in one pass, flip over the pull, and shape the other side.

Step 8: Finish!

I sanded the pulls down to 320 grit, oiled, and spray lacquered them on (you got it!) another jig which held all the pulls in the air by their predrilled screw holes.

So that’s it for making custom wood pulls. The great thing is that I didn’t have to make any “sacrificial” jigs so the next time I want some larger sized cherry, maple, or anything else pulls, I’ve got the jigs already made.

It only took 1 (long!) day to get all of these made, while also making the jigs at the same time. However, I probably spent a good part of the previous day trying to figure out all the steps needed and sketching the jig designs. This was definitely a challenge but worth every bit!

Hope you enjoy!

-- You're not a real wood worker until you've been to the Emergency one year...wait a minute, this isn't right.

16 comments so far

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3276 posts in 3947 days

#1 posted 09-28-2010 04:35 AM

This is a great tutorial. It’s probably more work than I would ever consider, but if the local liquidator runs out of 4 for a $1.00 drawer pulls, I might attempt it!

Thanks for sharing.


-- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

View sras's profile (online now)


4965 posts in 3364 days

#2 posted 09-28-2010 05:18 AM

That is a well thought out process. Several good ideas here. Thanks for sharing!

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View Alexey Khasyanov's profile

Alexey Khasyanov

217 posts in 3107 days

#3 posted 09-28-2010 06:12 AM

First-rate work, nothing extras.

Thanks for sharing.

-- Rev 22:21

View Houtje's profile


311 posts in 3206 days

#4 posted 09-28-2010 06:28 AM

This is a very nice blog,thanks for sharing it


View BigTiny's profile


1676 posts in 3123 days

#5 posted 09-28-2010 02:14 PM

A lesser craftsman would have settled for what was available in the stores. Only a dedicated purist would go so far as to build his own pulls. My hat’s off to you!

Thanks for a very interesting sharing.

-- The nicer the nice, the higher the price!

View Mary Anne's profile

Mary Anne

1058 posts in 3443 days

#6 posted 09-28-2010 02:32 PM

Classy looking pulls. Thanks a lot for the well written tutorial. Now I know how! :)

View SPalm's profile


5325 posts in 4117 days

#7 posted 09-28-2010 02:49 PM

That is sweet. My kind of jigmanship. I love it.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View swirt's profile


3546 posts in 3206 days

#8 posted 09-28-2010 02:57 PM

Nice process. Thanks for documenting it so well. Great results.

-- Galootish log blog,

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 3218 days

#9 posted 09-29-2010 04:57 PM

Good tutorial, I enjoy handmade hardware.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3350 days

#10 posted 09-30-2010 03:41 AM

great toturial and picturebook we realy do like pictures on L J :-)

now we just need one for unplugged handtool workers…...LOL

take care

View bohnsai's profile


35 posts in 3041 days

#11 posted 10-01-2010 02:38 AM

Thanks all for the comments! This was probably my most ambitious project as of lately.

-- You're not a real wood worker until you've been to the Emergency one year...wait a minute, this isn't right.

View Deborah's profile


3 posts in 3078 days

#12 posted 10-18-2010 04:29 PM

Beautiful pulls! Your photo documentation is especially good. I’m a visual learner, so the more I can see, the better I understand a process. Thanks for sharing this with us!

-- Deborah, North Carolina

View skeezaroonie's profile


23 posts in 2928 days

#13 posted 03-10-2013 04:41 PM

Excellent! I googled making drawer pulls and yours comes right up. I have been thinking of making some pulls from bois d’arc. I’ve done a couple of one-off handles with it and the results are stunning so I was looking for exactly this sort of idea to springboard me to coming up with a way to make a repeatable set. Many thanks for the great article!

-- Most men pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it. -Soren Kierkegaard

View Dausien's profile


7 posts in 2483 days

#14 posted 04-15-2013 03:33 PM

Very good description, I will definitely try this.

View jimmy meeker's profile

jimmy meeker

135 posts in 2231 days

#15 posted 04-04-2014 12:35 PM

great job . but a lot of work went into making these

-- jrm123

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