Making a Wooden Tool Handle

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Blog entry by woodshopmike posted 01-07-2014 02:42 PM 1499 reads 0 times favorited 1 comment Add to Favorites Watch

Today I’ll walk you through making a handle for a tool that has a square tang.

This could be achieved in a similar fashion to the metal handle I made, but now I get to tell you how to turn your own handle. When selecting stock, you want to pick out a piece of straight grained hardwood. I used a piece of Maple that was 3×3 and 18” long. Remember, this is a tool. My approach to making tools is to not get caught up in how your tool looks, but rather how well it works. Don’t waste time and effort on beautifying a tool when you could use that extra time to make more bowls. More bowls equals more money!

Start out with a spindle roughing gouge to knock off the corners and get the piece running true. I used the spindle roughing gouge almost exclusively to shape this handle. Also, one thing I did for this handle was to make faster passes on the wood to create a helical texture on the handle. This effectively creates a better surface for gripping the tool. Remember, this handle isn’t meant to be very smooth, as this would remove some gripping ability. I normally turn two bulbs on a handle and leave a bulge at the end so that I can feel the end of the handle without looking. Also, turn a recess at the tool end of the handle to accept a ferrule to reinforce the tool holding end of the handle.

The tang of this tool is just under 5/8”. I placed a drill chuck with a 5/8 forstner bit in the head stock and put my spur drive in the tail stock. I set the lathe to its slowest speed, advanced the quill slightly to apply pressure to the head stock, held the handle with my right hand and turned on the lathe with my left hand. Once the lathe was running, I grabbed the handle with my left hand and began advancing the quill with my right hand. During this process, I kept one hand on the handle at all times.

Once the hole was drilled, I made a dowel 5/8” in diameter and as long as the hole was deep. This piece will fill in the open space above and below the tang of the tool. I then cut out the center of the dowel with the band saw. I used a clamp to hold the dowel while I was cutting it. This required two cuts because the material being removed was approximately 3/8” in thickness.

To assemble the tool, you absolutely want to have the ferrule in place before setting the tool in the handle. For this size tool you would have a terribly hard time fitting the ferrule over the business end since it is substantially larger than the ferrule. Now that you have the ferrule set (glue if necessary), test the fit of the spacers and tang in the tool handle. This needs to be a press fit. Too loose and you will need to either use lots of epoxy or remake the spacer. I did not require any glue for this tool. It is a very tight press fit and has worked flawlessly. If this ever begins to loosen, I’ll add ample amounts of epoxy or CA glue.

Another option would be to drill a hole through the handle and tang. Then drive a split pin or dowel through both items, tying them together.

My method of assembly is to align the spacers and tang with each other and then start setting them into the handle. I wiggle the tang and spacers farther into the handle and use a separate block to drive the spacers into place, as they will not sit as deeply on their own. I will also place the business end of the tool on a scrap piece of wood and hit the opposite end of the tool with a mallet.

The scraper used here is a 1 1/4” Thompson Lathe Tool. This is a beefy piece of 10V steel. I am here to tell you that this line of tools is top shelf and you will not be disappointed if you decide to follow my advice to invest in them.

Let me know if you make your own handle and how it turns out. As always, don’t hesitate to contact me with questions or suggestions. Thanks for reading and happy turning!


1 comment so far

View MarkTexas's profile


5 posts in 902 days

#1 posted 08-10-2019 10:49 PM

Nice tutorial. Thanks for posting.

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