Making a Tool Handle... From Pipe!

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Blog entry by woodshopmike posted 01-09-2014 07:08 PM 2109 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Want a handle for your turning tools without the big price tag? I’ll show you how and have a bit of fun in the process!

I was able to find all of the necessary components at my local Home Depot to make 2 handles. Interested? Here’s what you need to get going!

Determination to save some greenbacks
A tool for which to make the handle
1/2” pipe nipple (I used 18” and 12” long pieces)
A 1/2” cap for one end of your pipe… I mean handle
Two 1/4-20 set screws per tool 1/4-20×1/4, 1/4-20×1/2
3/4” ID hose to provide grip. I used braided vinyl, but you can use whatever you like.
Nylon spacer (This one is optional)
5/16 set screw (Only if you buy the spacer)
BBs! Don’t shoot your eye out!

Alright, ready to make a tool handle? 1/2” pipe is “supposed” to have a nominal ID of 5/8”. Mine did not. Apparently, the manufacturer didn’t get the memo. So, I had two options here. I could either put my piece on the wood lathe and free hand the cut or take it to my friend’s shop and borrow his metal lathe. I chose the latter. Here I’m using a boring bar to open up the ID of my pipe.

After boring the ID to just the right size, I drilled and tapped two 1/4-20 holes for my set screws. Sorry, no picture. I got too excited to finish up my new toy!

Note: Don’t be like me and tap the threaded section of your pipe. No, my drill didn’t break, but there is barely enough wall thickness for your set screw to bite into. However, just one set screw is holding my 5/8” gouge just fine.

Now, back at the home shop I brute forced the vinyl hose onto the pipe. This kinda looks like a snake shedding in reverse huh? This was by far the most time consuming part of the whole process. I would recommend a heat gun and petroleum jelly.

Here I’m making a bushing for my 3/8 detail spindle gouge. I’ve turned the OD of a piece of cherry so that it will be a press fit into the pipe. I’m now drilling out the bushing to accept the tang of the gouge. I drill this slightly undersized as to have a good snug fit. After this, I drilled the holes to allow my set screws to lock the tool in place.

Now, I make a pilot hole with an awl. This allows me to drill the hole in the right spot. Novel, I know… The last picture is running the set screw into place before inserting the tool. Trying to start the set screw through the hose with an allen wrench proved futile.

Back out the set screws before installing the tool. Oh, the face? Yeah, I was goofing around after a long day at work. I didn’t think my wife was taking the picture yet…

At this point you will add the spacer and BBs, if you opt for it. What is the spacer for? Good question. The spacer isolates the BBs from the tool. This way you can remove the tool for sharpening or to switch tools without your BBs running all over the floor. Also, the 5/16 set screw is just threaded into the spacer to close the hole. You could always just turn a small cylinder to fit the ID of your pipe and forgo the $1.96 to buy it at HD. You may notice the tool I’m using is from Thompson Lathe Tools. I will go into further detail about these tools in another post, but let me just say for now that they are AWESOME!

To buy a premade handle for your new lathe tools, it’s gonna cost you at least $45 for a decent one. My total for this project with tax was $37.86. When you consider that the most expensive item was the hose at $18.50 and I bought 10’, I’d say this was a pretty good project. Just take a look at comparable handles and you’ll see that you can’t even buy one for the cost of materials to make two. That works for me!


3 comments so far

View Dave Smith's profile

Dave Smith

22 posts in 3096 days

#1 posted 01-09-2014 10:19 PM

Ingenious! :)

-- Thanks! Dave ...

View nashranch's profile


46 posts in 3511 days

#2 posted 01-10-2014 02:48 AM

Custom made is always better..Good Job

View woodshopmike's profile


226 posts in 3116 days

#3 posted 01-10-2014 03:41 AM

Thanks guys. Glad you like it!


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