Tips and Techniques


Tool Handle Tutorial ~ Tom Young


Described here is one way to make a tool handle.


Any dry hardwood is acceptable for a handle. Select stock with straight grain, especially for the tool end of the handle. Use the strongest grain orientation for this area.

Take a look at your existing tools and pick a handle you like to use as an example.

Select your stock and cut it to length. Mark the center points. I prefer to use a scroll chuck, so turn a tenon to fit the jaws.

Turn a blank into a cylinder 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter.


Use a Jacobs chunk mounted in the tail stock to hold a drill bit of the appropriate size.

For round shank tools, the depth should be at least 1/4 the length of the tool.

For tang style shanks, drill stepped holes to accommodate the tang. The hole should house the entire tang. When drilling, plan for wood-to-steel contact, but rely on epoxy and shims for rigidity and support.

Mark the depth of the hole using a piece of masking tape.


Every wood turning tool handle must have a metal ferrule to reinforce the joint between the handle and the tool’s shank or tang. Brass, copper, or steel fittings make excellent ferrules. They are available in various sizes.

Brass ferrules are available from wood turning supply businesses.

Most commercial tools have a ferrule between 3/4 and 1 inch in diameter.

As a general rule, 1/4 inch of wood between the tool shank and ferrule is sufficient.


Select a ferrule and turn a tenon on the end to match the ferrule’s length and inside diameter.

If using copper couplings, strive for a friction fit.

Use the tailstock to press the ferrule onto the tenon. If the tenon is longer than the ferrule, use another ferrule to seat the first one.

If you are using a threaded fitting, allow enough wood to thread on the ferrule. Use a wrench to tighten the ferrule. The nut will cut its own threads.


Several drops of CA glue can be used on a slightly loose fit.

Once seated, turn the tenon to match the ferrule. Face off the ferrule’s outside edge with a scraper or gouge.

Always fit the ferrule prior to turning the handle.

If the ferrule is too loose, you can start over without wasting the turning blank.

Brass and copper can be turned with your HSS tools.


You can use a file to round of the corners or just use your scraper or gouge to turn off the nuts and threads of a ferrule.

If desired, sand to a fine grit to polish the ferrule.

Brass and copper will tarnish, so consider coating the ferrule with a finish to keep it from tarnishing.

Lacquer or CA glue are easy to apply, dry quickly, and work well.

Drill the hole for the tool shank.
depth cuts

Take a look at your existing tools and pick a handle you like to use as an example.

Lay out the dimensions of the handle. Using a parting tool, make cuts equal to the diameter desired.

For safety, allow room for a bulb over the part of the handle that will house the shank. This allows maximum strength.

Use a spindle gouge to rough turn the wood to the desired diameters. Then make fine cuts to refine the shape.

Sand until you are satisfied.

Embellish handle by turning beads or cut grooves for wire burning.

It is convenient to apply the finish while the handle is still mounted on the lathe. A good choice of finish is a Danish type oil or tung oil.

Turn whatever curve you wish the handle to have on the back end and part it off.

Sand and finish the back end of the handle off the lathe.

The glue you use depends upon the tightness of the fit between the tool and the handle. If the fit is tight, press the tool into place. You can wick thin CA glue around the shank, or skip the glue altogether. The friction fit will be sufficient.

If the fit is loose fitting, use epoxy as it is gap filling and very strong.

I also buff the handle. I have never hand a problem of the tool slipping in my hands due to a too fine finish.

It is your choice, plain, pretty, or in between. Experiment to find the right balance of sanding and finishing for your taste.

fnished handle
cutting shims For tools with tangs, such as skews, scrapers, roughing gouges, and parting tools, we have to use a different technique.

There will be some space around the hole we must fill in to strengthen the mounting. We can do this by filling with epoxy.

An alternative method is to turn a dowel the diameter of the hole.

Cut a section about 3 inches long and put it in a wood hand screw clamp.

Mark lines down the middle the width of the tang.

Take it to your band saw and cut just inside the line to about 1 inch. This is a safe way to make ripping cuts on a band saw.

Remove it from the clamp and cross cut the dowel so you end up with 3 pieces. Discard the middle piece and you are left with two half round sections. You will glue these shims on either side of the tang. Sand the flat sides of the half rounds to achieve a snug fit.

finished tool
Scraper with Finished Kamani Handle

Updated January 26, 2016