"Methods to My Madness: Designing and Carving a Cane" #3: Shaping the handle

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Blog entry by mpounders posted 11-11-2010 05:53 PM 6577 reads 2 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Handle Designs Part 3 of "Methods to My Madness: Designing and Carving a Cane" series Part 4: Laying out and carving the leaves »

It is usually easier to drill any holes needed in the handle before you actually start shaping it. I just clamp it up and use the drill press to drill my holes…. the one in the shaft is usually drilled with a cordless drill. I like to use a 5/16 or larger threaded rod to join the handles to the shaft. Some people prefer wooden tenons and use it as part of the design with an exposed wedged tenon. You do have to carve or shape that tenon on the shaft unless you use a wooden dowel. I prefer the threaded rod for a little added strength and weight…. I might bend it if I try hard enough, but it would be hard to break! The steel rod can also be bent slightly if needed to adjust for a crooked hole in the shaft…..epoxy fills up any gaps or looseness later on.

Now I mark my centerlines all around the handle and I will draw rough circles on the ends to give me an idea of when I have it roughly rounded out. I will be shaping this down, making a radius from the centerlines on top and bottom to the centerlines on the sides of the handles.

I use a combination of power tools and traditional gouges and hand tools for carving. Whatever makes the boring parts go quicker… sanding…like roughing out…like bandsawing! You can pretty much use whatever means you prefer to get it to a certain stage. But you will notice that I “carve” with the rotary tool just like I do with my knives. I bought a cheap rotary shaft tool with variable speed foot-pedal control from Harbor Freight for $50 and added a Foredom 44t handle that will allow me to use the large 1/4” burrs and bits for roughing out carvings. My favorite roughing out bit is the large carbide bit shown in the handle… it may be a mill end router bit? The large flame-shaped carbide burr is also useful, but doesn’t leave as smooth a surface as the other (and it clogs up more, especially with slightly green wood). The sanding drums are also important. I cut roughly to shape with the bits, and then refine and get the smooth flowing parts with the drums.

Now for something completrely different (for me anyway)! Let’s see if I can get a video to work that may demonstrate what I am struggling to impart.

Wow! It works! I may not be as stupid as I look (or sound)! Feel free to use knives, Dremels, sanding drums or whatever you find will work for you. I am told that an oscillating spindle sander does a bang-up job, but I have never had the opportunity to play with one. A little tip I picked up was to leave my sanding drums extending a bit out over the end of the drum. This allows that part of the drum to flex a bit and makes it more useful for shaping some contours.

Please feel free to ask any questions you might have if I have skipped over a detail that concerns you. I am pretty much just winging it on this as I am working on my current cane project. Thanks for looking!

-- Mike P., Arkansas,

10 comments so far

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4324 days

#1 posted 11-11-2010 06:44 PM

Thanks for sharing this great video.

You’re about as good as a video producer as you are a carver.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View Bob N's profile

Bob N

131 posts in 3952 days

#2 posted 11-11-2010 07:51 PM

Still tracking this Mike…. Thanks!

Great video…. hope you do more!

View dustbunny's profile


1149 posts in 3320 days

#3 posted 11-12-2010 12:48 AM

Love the video, great work !!
Still following….


-- Imagination rules the world. ~ Napoleon Bonaparte ~

View Maveric777's profile


2693 posts in 3102 days

#4 posted 11-12-2010 02:45 AM

I too enjoyed the video. Thanks for sharing Mike and look forward to seeing more…

-- Dan ~ Texarkana, Tx.

View Dez's profile


1166 posts in 4102 days

#5 posted 11-12-2010 04:57 AM

Good video and how-to! I will be waiting for the next installment. Where did you find your Foredom handle? It looks like it will run as much or more than the HF flex shaft grinder.

-- Folly ever comes cloaked in opportunity!

View TJ65's profile


1378 posts in 3075 days

#6 posted 11-12-2010 06:45 AM

Hey thanks, you did great with the video thing and it wasn’t that boriing either!! :-)
Love the size of your bits, Compared to the small dremel ones I am using, they look huge!
Enjoying your series too.

-- Theresa,

View mpounders's profile (online now)


875 posts in 2920 days

#7 posted 11-12-2010 04:39 PM

Yeah, I bought the Foredom handpiece specifically to take the larger burrs and it did cost almost as much ast the HF ginder! (I got it form Smokey Mountain Woodcarvers for $40 something). The HF grinder comes with a 3 jaw chuck that handles anything smaller that 1/4” and the Foredom has 3 different sizes of collets. So, for less than $100, I got a foot pedal controlled grinder and two interchangeable handpieses, which does come in handy when I am switching back and forth between bits. My thinking was that the grinder was really cheap, but I can buy 5 of them for the price of a foredom. Or, if I am successful enough to buy a foredom (or mastercarver) I will already have extra handpieces that I can use with the new grinder! So far, it has not failed and I really like the foot pedal control, despite the lower RPMs compared to my Dremel.

-- Mike P., Arkansas,

View Rustic's profile


3253 posts in 3621 days

#8 posted 11-19-2010 03:56 AM

Hey Mike Love the Video. I have a dremel type tool (Toughtest) is it possible to add a foot pedal without having to modify anything? ust plug and go. My toughtest has a variable speed adjust on it.

--, Rick Kruse, Grand Rapids, MI

View mpounders's profile (online now)


875 posts in 2920 days

#9 posted 11-19-2010 04:51 PM

I’m guessing no on the footpedal speed control…. at best it just wouldn’t work and at worst, it might damage your tool. You could use a deadman on-off type foot pedal to just turn it on and off and use the variable speed on the tool to adjust the speed, but all this is really kind of wasted unless you are using some type of flex-shaft with your dremel…... the controls are right there on the machine in your hand! I still use my dremel for some things, but you’ll probably pay $20-$30 for a footpedal of any type….for another $20 you get the HF tool. Here is a link to it. HF flex shaft

-- Mike P., Arkansas,

View Rustic's profile


3253 posts in 3621 days

#10 posted 11-20-2010 04:26 AM

thanks a bunch

--, Rick Kruse, Grand Rapids, MI

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