Turning Drawer Pulls and Cabinet Knobs

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Blog entry by Glen Peterson posted 03-13-2011 03:38 PM 9813 reads 4 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Yesterday I turned knobs for a couple of projects. One was a the lathe tool cabinet I posted several weeks ago and the other is a router table I’m trying to complete. The knob are relatively easy to turn. I based them on an article by Phil Lowe that appeared in the Sept/Oct issue of Fine Woodworking simply called Turned Drawer Pulls. Phil is one of my woodworking heros. I’ve taken a couple of classes from him including a weekend of turning with my daughter two years ago, which was my introduction to woodturning. He runs the Furniture Institute of Massachusetts. It’s a great school and learning at the feet of a master is truly inspiring.

Anyway, back to the knobs… I essentially followed Phil’s recommendations with one important difference. The knobs I turned were “endgrain.” This means that the grain runs parallel to the lathe’s bedways and the face of the knobs is the endgrain. The other option is turning face grain knobs on a face plate, which is typically for larger knobs. For smaller end grain knobs, Phil recommends attaching the knobs to the door or drawer by turning turning a tenon on the bottom of the knob. The tenon becomes a through tenon in the drawer front which is secured to the drawer by wedging the tenon from the back. In my case I made the tenons to about half the thickness of the drawer/door face and 3/4” in diameter. I inseted and glued them into 3/4” holes which are 3/8” deep. I then screwed them from the back.

The process is rather straightforward. Only very basic tools were needed: Parting tool, spindle gouge, 4-jaw chuck, calipers, ruler, center finder.

Step 1. I turned a length of cherry around 2 feet long into to a cylinder just a bit larger in diameter than the knob diameter. I then measured out the knobs which were about 1 3/4” long including about 1/2” for the tenon. I oversized the knobs to give me some wiggle room. I simply marked them out and turned the tenons for each of the nine knobs I was making. I also turned a 1” fillet just about the tenon. The fillet is about the width of my parting tool. The fillet will be the base of the know that sits against the drawer front so it’s important that the bottom of the fillet is square to the tenon and dead flat.

Step 2. Cut the knob blanks apart at the bandsaw.

Step 3. Insert the tenon into a 4-jaw chuck. I use a Oneway Talon with spigot jaws. I used the tailstock to hold the knob blank securely and squarely in the jaws. I then marked the blank to indicate the low point of the scotia (the asymetrical cove), the high point, and the end of the knob.

Step 4. Turn the knob. Each is basically just a fillet, a scotia, and a bead. When the knob was nearly finished I removed the tailstock and gently turned the end of the knob. I then sanded to 320 grit.

By the last few knobs it was only taking about 10 minutes per knob including sanding. I found it rather difficult to get all of the knobs exactly alike. This was my first effort at production turning (if you could call it that).

Here are several knobs in a line. I’m not unhappy with the results but you can see the variations between the various knobs.

The knobs for the router table are a bit smaller than those on the wall-hanging cabinet. I just thought the big cabinet doors would look better with wider knobs. These knobs were very basic. Next time I’m going to try the fancier variations Phil suggests in the article.


-- Glen

3 comments so far

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27249 posts in 4986 days

#1 posted 03-13-2011 04:05 PM

Glen, these look pretty good and are an excellent way to personalize your cabinetry. Plus I am sure you had quite a bit of fun turning them. I am currently working in a lathe deprived shop and can see the fun and advantages that having this tool gives. I needed some knobs this past week to finish off a cabinet I am making. While I would have loved to have made my own, I had to buy them since I do not own a lathe. This is a tool that is definitely high on my list.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View mafe's profile


13204 posts in 4253 days

#2 posted 03-13-2011 08:09 PM

That is too cool, now even I can do that.
Thank you so much for the blog.
Best of my thoughts,
Ohhh yes and I still love them.

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect.

View WoodLov's profile


4 posts in 3613 days

#3 posted 03-17-2012 03:01 PM

Excellant Knobs Glen. Came out well for a first time effort

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