Turning a Skew Handle

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Blog entry by Glen Peterson posted 03-14-2011 12:07 AM 2442 reads 1 time favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch

My wife gave me an Alan Lacer skew for Christmas. I made an oak handle for it this afternoon and posted this Skew Handle in the projects section. It ended up being an easy and quick turning project, but I couldn’t figure out an easy to make it on my own. In any case the Alan Lacer 1 3/8” skew is a monster. The shaft is a 1/2” x 3/4” x 3” inch rectangle. I couldn’t think of an easy way to make the mortise in the handle for the tool shaft. I had dinner with my friend and turning guru Corey Anderson and of course he knew the solution. I felt like an idiot because I consider myself a pretty good problem solver.

Here’s a pictue of the unhandled skew.

Step 1: Prepare the blank. I had a nice piece of QS oak left over from a recent project. Cut the blank to approximate length, mill it to rough width and thickness, and cut the handle blank in half lengthwise. Then route a mortise into the end of each half for the shaft. The mortise in each half of the handle is half the width of the shaft. Use a chisel to pare the ends of the mortise to square off the routed corners.

Step 2: Glue the halves back together and clamp. I used regular yellow glue and left the clamps on for about an hour.

Step 3: Make a rectangular block from scrap exactly the same size as the mortise. I made it a little oversized in term of width and thickness and used a block plane and lots of test fittings to get it exactly right. Use a mallet to seat the blank into the mortise. Square off the end of the handle and the scrap.

Step 4: Find the centers and mount the handle blank on the lathe as usual. Rough the blank into a cylinder, make a tenon for the ferule. I use a vernier caliper to accurately measure the ferule and to turn the tenon to rough size. I then test fit a few times until I’m satisfied with the fit of the ferrule. I used a spindle gouge to put a very gentle cove into the middle of the handle and turn the rounded but end. Finally use a skew to clean up the handle and sanded to 400 grit.

Step 5: Drill a pilot hole into the scrap in the mortise. Put a screw into the hole and use a pair of pliers to pull the scrap out. Use 2 part epoxy to glue the shaft into he handle and the ferule onto the end of the handle. The purpose of the ferrule is to strenthen the end of the handle and prevent the tool shaft from breaking thought the wood. In this case it’s really necesary as the shaft is very thick and there isn’t much wood around it. Without the ferule I could see the handle breaking during use.

The finished tool.

Step 5: Add a finish of your choice once the epoxy dries, which should take five minutes according to the label. I will give it several coats of Waterlox Original.


-- Glen

3 comments so far

View Mark Shymanski's profile

Mark Shymanski

5623 posts in 4877 days

#1 posted 03-14-2011 01:00 AM

One of those answers that seems so simple once someone shows the answer to you LOL! That is a fine looking skew chisel, well done.

-- "Checking for square? What madness is this! The cabinet is square because I will it to be so!" Jeremy Greiner LJ Topic#20953 2011 Feb 2

View MayflowerDescendant's profile


414 posts in 3951 days

#2 posted 03-14-2011 08:03 AM

Great job on the skew chisel handle. Yup, had situations like that too!

Appreciate the care and detail that went into explaining this challenge. It takes time to lay it all out, but really makes a difference / paints a complete picture for those who are interested.

Thanks for sharing.

-- Glen - Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

View Don Johnson's profile

Don Johnson

739 posts in 3945 days

#3 posted 03-14-2011 12:40 PM

When I started as an apprentice (54 years ago) we were issued with a set of tools, including some handle-less files.

To fit them to ferruled handles, we heated the tangs in the forge, then pushed the red-hot ‘spike’ into the handles – coughing on the clouds of smoke that were emitted – until they were nearly all the way in. After removing the files and cooling them, we re-inserted them and bashed the handles on the bench until the file was all the way in.

I have to say that some of the files didn’t go in dead straight, producing some odd looking tools, but most of us managed the assembly OK.

Since then I have always assumed that this was the correct way to fit files to handles, but perhaps it is too crude for ‘fine woodworking’ – perhaps Mads can give an opinion (LOL)

-- Don, Somerset UK,

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