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Thread: Handle making setup?

  1. #1
    Senior Member JKerr's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2011

    Handle making setup?

    Gonna have a go at making some handles and replacing a few on my set up. Is there one piece of equipment that is completely essential and I'd be daft to attempt this without? Or with a bit of patience can I get by doing this mainly by hand?

    The only "power" tool I have in my possession is a POS dremel knock-off that I bought for like $30 for grinding the bolsters off my Sabs.

    At first I'll probably practice on my CCK, Tojiro and maybe my sabs then I'll look at replacing some ill fitting wa handles (both AMMs) and my good cleavers.

    Cheers in advance,

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Salt Lake City, UT
    I have done a few completely by hand, and its possible. But...if I were doing it again and was minimalist in my power tools, I would start with a bench top belt sander. Even just a cheapo 1x30 will save you lots of hand sanding.

  3. #3
    A powered Sander would be my must-have. It will certainly help open up some more traditional, less-homespun looking designs, but will require practice to get used to. For functional, pretty handles, just get creative, be patient, and buy nice wood.

    Are you doing pins? I wouldn't be confident enough to drill pin holes without a drill press, but then again, I'm shaky.

  4. #4
    Belt sander is not a necesity.

    To get you started you need :

    drill and drilling bits
    sandpaper, and to make it as fast as possible, start your progression by grit 40
    vice on a table would make it easier, but I dont have it, so if I have to catch something, I just clamp a piece of 2/4 to the table, and clamp stuff right onto it.

    So what I did on my first handle, I just rougly cut wood, sanded the ends where it should get connected, glued it and clamped and threw to 80 degrees C oven.
    After a quarter good glue is dried.
    Then I became to think which end is where, and I use plane to roughly set the shape, its fast and that way theres minimal sanding.
    When I have nearly shape I want, I start sanding it. Papers 40/60/100/150/320/400 and here i repeat few times after wiping handle with damp cloth.
    You could go higher with grit, but 400 and felt to polish does the trick for me.

  5. #5
    How much are you willing to spend? In general, the better the equipment, the less steep is a learning curve (though equipment alone won't compensate for the lack of skill). Making things by hand is possible, but a combination of power tools/hand tools would be my preference.

    Essential two pieces of equipment is a disk sander with a tilting work table (it can run you from $100 to $900 with VFD) and a drill press. The rest you can get by with hand tools.

    A quick advice, in the beginning save your best woods for the last. An assumption that your first dozen of handles will be great, is probably wrong (I guess it would depend what great means to you)


    "If thereís something worth doing, itís worth overdoing.Ē - An US saying.

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  6. #6
    much more awesomer
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    What about for slot-cutting?
    Unskilled flunky

  7. #7
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Cardiff, UK
    I used to use chisels and a block plane to shape, having a power sander is much easier though. If going the hand tool route Japanese style pull saws leave a lot less clean up. Also consider using rasps for shaping, good ones are very sharp and controllable.
    Big thing to watch with wa handles is making sure your tang hole is absolutely in line with the handle, which is much easier to do with a drill press.
    Good luck with it

  8. #8
    You can drill a few holes side by side and then use a handle broach to shape the tang hole.


    "If thereís something worth doing, itís worth overdoing.Ē - An US saying.

    If my KKF Inbox is full (or not), please contact me via Email:

  9. #9
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Cardiff, UK
    Quote Originally Posted by Marko Tsourkan View Post
    You can drill a few holes side by side and then use a handle broach to shape the tang hole.

    Bottom 5 pics here show a broach

  10. #10
    Iím in somewhat the same boat. Iíve been collecting blocks of stabilized wood, horn etc., but as yet I havenít taken the plunge. I have a collection of miscellaneous tools, and access to a friendís wood shop, though Iíd eventually like to build my own set up.

    Iím only interested in making Wa handles at this point. With the tools I have access to, tell me if the following approach makes any sense. (heckÖ.feel free to tell me Iím daft if this doesnít make any sense!)

    For a Wa handle, with say wood body, nickel spacer and buffalo horn ferrule: I was going tos tart by cutting the corners off the block on a band saw, then turn the block into a round dowel on a lathe. I was thinking Iíd join the wood to the ferrule in a round mortise and tenon fashion. IE turn the wood dowel at one end into a smaller diameter tenon. Iím not sure the best way to mortise the buffalo horn, but I was thinking of using a drill press for that.

    Iíd cut the nickel spacer with a simple hand coping saw, fit it onto the wood block, followed by the horn ferrule and epoxy everything together. I would then use a bench top sander to shape the handle..IE the disk to flatten the top and bottom, and the belt to shape the handle into an octagon shape.

    Finally, I was thinking Iíd stand the handle on end, and again use the drill press to make tiny pin holes side by side for the tang, and use a gouge to finish the hole. One issue is I need to find a clamp or fence of some sort to make sure the hole is plumb. My friends press just has a table.

    Any of this make sense?

    My other question is what to do when the ferrule is also wood. Do you still attach the two pieces mortise and tenon style, use pins, or is just the tang, along with epoxy, enough to keep the pieces of hood attached?

    Thanks for any help!

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