Prior to the holidays my 13-year-old son Carter and I turned and finished over three-dozen handles for bottle openers, cheese planes, and pizza cutters. A sample of each is shown below.
The great thing about these three different projects is that each uses the same turning-between-centers technique and nearly identical homemade drive spigots. See the hardware descriptions for these three projects: bottle openers, cheese planes, and pizza cutters. As an example of the instructions supplied with each piece of hardware, see the pizza cutter process here.
In addition to the basic instructions supplied with the hardware, here are a few tips we learned (sometimes the hard way) in making small production runs of these handles:
Tip 1. To drill holes in the center of each blank (we used scrap figured stock), I built a right-angle support, shown below, for my drill-press table. Each support has a base as long as my drill-press table, making it easy to clamp the drilling support to my drill-press table. For the handles that were all the exact same size, we simply clamped a handle to the support uprights, clamped the support base to the table, and drilled the holes. For the slightly irregular-shaped handles, we marked diagonals on each end of each blank, and then moved the support to center each handle blank directly under the brad-point bit. Painters tape on the bit ensures the right depth hole.
Tip 2. For the headstock drive spigot, it is important to use very hard wood and not make the tapered end of the spigot too long. The first few times around, I pressed a bit too hard on the handle blank when turning it round and broke off the end of the spigot in the handle blank. The illustration of the spigot chuck (supplied with the hardware) with the pizza cutter handle mounted, shows the spigot going into the handle almost ½”, I found this much too long, and prefer a spigot only about 1/8” to ¼” long as shown below. It’s also important that the hole in the handle fits snugly on the spigot. If not, the hole in the end of the handle that receives the hardware will not be centered.
Tip 3. I like using the open end of a wrench, as shown below, to size the tenons on the ends of the pizza-cutter and cheese-plane handles so the metal ferrule of each fits snugly onto the turned tenon. A wrench also comes in handy when sizing the end of the bottle opener. You want the wood handle of the bottle opener to fit flush with the outside diameter of the bottle-opener base.
Tip 4. Since we had so many handles to turn, we couldn’t wait hours between each coat of finish. After I turned a handle to shape, Carter would take over with the sanding and finishing, allowing me to work on other non-turned projects. To keep the finishing time to a minimum, I taught him to “push” the finish process by putting on a coat of finish (used Minwax Antique Oil Finish), letting it sit for a few minutes, before turning the lathe on at a slow speed, and using a clean cloth, as shown below, to heat and fast-cure the finish. This allowed him to put on and build up three coats of finish in less than 15 minutes. Then, I’d take the handle off the lathe, turn another one, and he’d repeat his sanding and finishing process, allowing us to make (and finish) 2 to 3 handles and hour.
Whether you turn just one or two of these for yourself, or dozens for friends and families like we did, all three of these projects are quick-and-easy to make, and the recipients love them! Plus, learn to turn one, and the others are turned in nearly identical fashion.
Marlen @ WOOD
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