Turning a Tool Handle

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Blog entry by thewoodwhisperer posted 06-07-2012 03:06 PM 9376 reads 4 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’ll be the first to admit it: my turning skills are weak. Every time I visit my friend/mentor David Marks (an amazing turner), he reminds me that I could use his help. That’s about the point that I find myself heading into his wood shed to admire his extensive collection.

It’s not that I don’t like turning. I find it quite relaxing. I just never seem to find the time or motivation to really dig into it. I have so many things I want to accomplish outside of turning that the lathe always seems to take a backseat.

Now all that said, I still think every woodworker should own a lathe and know how to use it. I may not be making beautiful bowls and elaborate vessels, but I can certainly turn just about any furniture part I need. I can also try something like making a tool handle for the first time. So that’s what this video is all about. It’s a quick look at the process I used to create a tool handle for my workbench’s leg vise pin. Guild members have already seen this footage as it is another excerpt from the Roubo Guild Build.

Think of all the things in your shop that have wooden handles. What happens if they break? How nice would it be to have a nice custom-designed replacement ready to go in minutes?

The process begins with a small block of wood. I find the center-point and drill the appropriate diameter hole to the desired depth. This part of the process will vary depending on what you are making a handle for. In my cases, a simple 3/8” hole is all I needed.

To mount the blank, I tap a spur chuck into the other end and insert the assembly into the lathe. The live center is then inserted into the 3/8” hole and snugged up. Applying too much pressure here could split the blank so be cautious when you do this. I then bring the blank into round with the roughing gouge.

In order to maintain the integrity of the tool, it’s a good idea to add a ferrule to the end. The ferrule holds the wood together so that the tool doesn’t break apart the handle during use. Not so much of an issue with a leg vise guide pin, but certainly a consideration for just about any other tool. I use a copper coupling from the hardware store, cut in half, as my ferrule. There are lots of options for something like this so don’t be afraid to get creative.

The ferrule slides over a small round tenon on the end of the handle blank and the ferrule itself gives us the dimensions we need to make it. I use a parting tool to create the tenon. Once the diameter of the tenon matches the inner diameter of the ferrule, it’s time to attach it to the handle blank.

I remove the handle from the lathe and put a little CA glue around the tenon. The ferrule slides in place and a hammer helps seat it firmly into position. The ferrule should “bite” into the shoulder of the tenon for a nice snug fit.

Once the glue is dry, I take the handle back to the lathe and begin giving it the desired shape. There’s a lot of room for creativity here but I just went with something very basic. Remember, the primary goal is a handle that feels comfortable in the hand. It is almost automatic that a handle that feels good, will also look good.

Once the shape is established, I sand the surface smooth and add my finish: General Finishes Wood Turner's Finish. Or as I like to call it, “WTF?” The finish goes on easy and dries quickly. I applied about 5-6 coats in just a few hours! I then cut the handle to release it from the lathe and finished off the cut end. A little sanding and some finish does the trick.

And that’s how I made a tool handle!

Original Post:

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9 comments so far

View lew's profile


12102 posts in 3779 days

#1 posted 06-07-2012 03:17 PM

Nice handle, Mark!

I like the shape and proportions.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Sirgreggins's profile


299 posts in 2260 days

#2 posted 06-07-2012 04:09 PM

Nice Marc. I spelled it right hahaha

View Belle City Woodworking's profile

Belle City Woodworking

355 posts in 4041 days

#3 posted 06-07-2012 04:36 PM


Bob is your Uncle!!!! great job on the bench and the handle!


-- Formerly known as John's Woodshop - and NO not the one from Ohio!

View murch's profile


1380 posts in 2649 days

#4 posted 06-07-2012 04:51 PM

Sweet bit of turning. I love making my own stuff.

-- A family man has photos in his wallet where his money used to be.

View Ken90712's profile


17563 posts in 3213 days

#5 posted 06-07-2012 05:31 PM

Nice job Marc. It looks great and what a great bench you have. I so wanted to do that but my shop just is not big enough. Blondie has Ok’d tearing our garage down and building a 2 story one so the I’ll have a whole floor as a woodshop. working on plans now How fun!

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View SPalm's profile


5320 posts in 3906 days

#6 posted 06-07-2012 05:43 PM

Nice. Thanks for the inspiration.
Always nice to watch a long enough & short enough video. Perfect.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View eddie's profile


8565 posts in 2638 days

#7 posted 06-07-2012 10:05 PM

thanks marc i got a lathe i got a year ago and haven’t used it, didnt know how to just went so cheap i bought it this may be the perfect time and project to learn thanks,great video

-- Jesus Is Alright with me

View Roger's profile


20928 posts in 2828 days

#8 posted 06-08-2012 01:43 AM

tis a gr8ly designed handle Marc. Very nice

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

View amagineer's profile


1415 posts in 2621 days

#9 posted 06-08-2012 06:40 PM

Time to dust off the lathe and make something. Thanks for the nudge.

-- Flaws are only in the eye of the artisan!

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