Tools to Make a Roorkee Chair

Gathering the tools and materials necessary to make a Roorkee chair might seem intimidating because of some of the unusual operations (riveting?). I think the list of necessary tools is pretty manageable and reasonably priced – nothing too exotic. When students ask me for recommendations on what they should buy, here is my list. I have found this set of tools to work very well. Make substitutions at your own […]

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Handles for Turning Tools

Handles for Turning Tools

Customize their fit for comfort and performance.

By Alan Lacer

Decades ago, woodturning tools came without handles, and turners would simply fashion their own. This makes perfect sense, because a handle that fi ts and feels “right” gives a turner confi dence. And who better to custom-fi t the handle than the person who’ll use the tool?

Turning and installing your own handles is a great exercise in designing, turning to fairly tight tolerances, and drilling wood on the lathe. To get started, you can buy tools unhandled (still an option) or remove their commercial handles (really easy).


Use strong, dry wood

Select stock with straight grain, especially for the tool end of the handle (use the strongest grain orientation for this critical area). Traditional hardwoods, many exotic woods, and even local woods that you harvest and dry yourself are all good options. Do not use weak woods such as pine, poplar, butternut, willow, spruce and fir.

Make sure the wood is dry. If you have any doubt about the moisture content, let the handle stabilize for several days (or longer) after roughturning and drilling the initial hole.

I make each handle unique, by using diff erent woods and fi nish colors, so that I can immediately identify each tool. I normally start with stock that’s 1-3/4" to 2" square (Photo 1). The length of the blank depends on a number of factors, including personal preferance and the tool itself. Figure A (below) lists handle lengths that work well for me. It’s always better to make a handle too long, rather than too short.


Ferrule stock

Every woodturning tool handle must have a metal ferrule to reinforce the joint between the handle and the tool’s shank, or “tang” (Photo 2). Hardware stores and salvage yards are good sources for ferrule stock. Copper couplings (used to join copper pipe and tubing) are some of the best. They’re available in a variety of diameters and each one can be cut in half to make two ferrules. Choose a diameter that allows plenty of wood between the tool’s shank and the ferrule, usually at least 1/4"–if there’s any question, go with a larger diameter.


Make a handle

1. The fi rst step is to drill a 3/8" dia. x 3/4" deep pilot hole for the tang in the blank (Photo 3). Note: If the tang is smaller than 3/8", match the pilot hole’s diameter with the tang. The end you choose for mounting the tang should have straight grain and be free of checks and knots. Clamp the blank in a vise and use a hand-held drill.

2. Install a live center with a cone in the tailstock (see Sources, below). The cone will automatically center the pilot hole when the blank is mounted on the lathe. If you don’t have a cone-type live center, turn a tapered piece of wood to fi t into the blank’s pilot hole and protrude about 1/2" beyond it. When you mount the blank, center the live center’s point on the protruding end.

3. Turn the ferrule end–or the entire blank–to round, using a spindle roughing gouge.

4. Turn a tenon on the end to match the ferrule’s length and inside diameter–go for a driven-on fi t. Slightly taper the tenon’s end to help get the ferrule started. Drive on the ferrule, factory end fi rst, all the way to the tenon's shoulder (Photo 4). This orients the ferrule’s rough-cut end with the end of the tenon. Turn down this rough edge after reinstalling the blank on the lathe. If the edge is very rough, use a mill fi le, off the lathe.

5. For safety, turn a bulb over the part of the handle that will house the tang (Photo 5). This provides maximum strength in the event of a catch or dig-in.

6. Turn the blank to a diameter slightly larger than fi nal size. Then use a detail/spindle gouge to round the back end of the handle.

7. Turn the gripping area of the handle into a shape that you like (Photo 6). Be sure to test the grip with the hand that you will use to control the tool. As the gripping area nears perfection, shape the transition to the bulb to create the optimal feel and balance, but beware of making any portion too thin.

8. Finish-sand the handle and ferrule to 150 grit, with the lathe running. Turn off the lathe and sand with the grain to fi nish the job.

9. Remove the tool rest to drill the tang hole (Photo 7). For round-tang tools, the hole’s depth should be one fourth to one third of the tool’s length. For fl at-tang tools, the hole should house the entire tang—almost to the tool’s shoulder. Mount a Jacobstype drill chuck in the headstock (see Sources) and install an ordinary tapered-point bit (other types of bits won’t enter the pilot hole accurately). Place the handle’s pilot hole against the bit, bring up the tailstock, and lock it. Advance the live center to engage the center hole on the waste end of the tool handle. Put on a fullface shield and set the lathe’s speed between 400 and 600 rpm.

10. Turn on the lathe and check to see that the handle runs true. There should be little or no “ghosting” at the ferrule end. If you see ghosts, stop the lathe and re-center the drill bit in the pilot hole. Once all is running well, take two simultaneous actions to drill the hole: Grasp the spinning handle about halfway back with one hand while cranking the tailstock’s handwheel with the other. Go slowly. If you feel too much resistance, slowly back out of the hole, to remove chips.

11. If the hole must be made larger, to accommodate round tangs that are larger than 3/8" dia., simply repeat the drilling operation, using the appropriate larger taperedpoint bit. Drill stepped holes to accommodate tools with fl at tangs. Drill the small dia. hole the full length of the shank; drill the larger hole only as far as necessary.

12. Finish the back end of the handle off the lathe. Simply cut off the waste with a handsaw and then sand.

13. Set the tool into the handle. This step is critical. I’m a fi rm believer in using epoxy to anchor the tool, so start by pouring a generous amount into the hole. Drive the handle onto the tang (Photo 8). Stop about every quarter of the way to check for alignment—sighting the tool and handle much as you would sight a gun. Look for misalignment left or right and up or down. Tap the tool with the mallet to make corrections.

14. My favorite tool-handle fi nish is the one that comes from hard use: sweat, dirt, wear–and maybe even a little blood. A pure oil fi nish is another option, but any fi lm-forming fi nish (including wipe-on oil-varnishes) will make the handle too slick.


(Note: Product availability and costs are subject to change since original publication date.)

Oneway Manufacturing,, 800-565-7288, Live Center with Cone (#2 Morse taper), #2064.

Packard Woodworks,, 800-683-8876, Jacobs-Style Keyless Chuck (#2 Morse taper) , #111022.

Fig. A: Suggested Handle Lengths

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker August/September 2010, issue #149.

August/September 2010, issue #149

Purchase this back issue.

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1. Choose straightgrained hardwood for the handle. Use brass, copper or steel fittings to make the ferrule, which reinforces the joint between the tool and the handle. Copper couplings make excellent ferrules.

2. Turning tool shanks (or “tangs”) are either round or flat. Both types mount in holes bored in the end of the handle. Flat-tang tools require stepped holes to accommodate their tapered shape.

3. Start by drilling a pilot hole for the tool's tang in one end of the handle blank. Then use a cone-shaped center to mount the blank on the lathe, so the pilot hole will be centered when the blank is turned round.

4. Drive on the ferrule after turning a tenon to fit. This ferrule is a copper coupling that's been cut in half. If the tenon is longer than the ferrule, use another ferrule (the other half of the coupling) to drive the first one home.

5. Turn a bulb directly behind the ferrule, to provide the greatest support for the tool’s tang. Most of the handle’s shaping can be done with a spindle roughing gouge.

6. Shape the handle to fit your grip, gradually and selectively reducing the diameter, until it feels just right. Remove the handle often, to check the way it feels in your hand.

7. Install a chuck in the headstock to drill the tang hole. With the lathe running at slow sped, simultaneously grip the handle (so it doesn’t turn) and crank the tailstock, to carefully drive the handle onto the spinning bit.

8. Drive the handle onto the tang, using a waste block to protect the edge. Check frequently to make sure the tool and handle remain properly aligned.


CNC "Woodturning"

CNC "Woodturning"

By Randy Johnson

A rotary indexing head allows a CNC machine to create 3-dimensional shapes in the round. It’s an accessory that can be added to most CNC machines. Some companies even make it as a stand alone machine. A rotary indexing head looks similar to a standard woodturning lathe, but its approach to shaping wood is quite different. In fact, it’s more like milling than woodturning. One of the best features of a rotary indexing head is its ability to create shapes that aren’t easily turned on a standard wood lathe, such as this hexagonal chisel handle. Intricate round relief carvings are also possible. Because it’s CNC based, a rotary indexing head is capable of great precision and easy repeatability. However, since the shaping is done with a router bit in small increments (as small as 1/50" per pass), the milling process can take a while to complete. Machining this chisel handle took about 2-1/2 hours, but its unique shape was intriguing to design and mill. It also makes an attractive addition to my tool box.

You need to think a little differently.

Think flat

CNC turnings usually start out as a flat design, so the first step is to “unwrap” the cylindrical profile. CNC design software uses a variety of drawing tools that assist this process. One tool automatically calculates the flat design’s width, based on the maximum diameter you specify for the turning. Another tool takes complex shapes such as the hexagonal cross section of this handle and converts it into the flat shape.

Click any image to view a larger version.

Think round

The design software converts (wraps) the flat design into its cylindrical shape to give you a preview of the final piece.

Think parts

Each part of a CNC turning is created separately. The parts are then joined to create the final design. The basic steps used to design this chisel handle appear below.

Basic Parts Creation

Each 3-dimensional part is created using a line drawing of its cross section to extrude (or “sweep”) the shape along a path. The tapered tenon and the round pommel are extruded across the width of their designs, while the body of the handle is extruded along the length of its design. The handle’s contoured hexagonal body is created using three different cross sections and a software tool (or “gadget”) that automatically unwraps the hexagonal shape into its corresponding flat shape.

Parting tabs are added to the ends of the final design to connect the part to the unmachined ends of the billet. The tabs are created using the same drawing tools used to create the tapered tenon and the round pommel.

Basic Machine Steps

Step 1: Create a cylinder

The first step is to round off corners of the billet to create a cylinder. The CNC design software includes a gadget that automatically calculates the cutting paths needed to remove the corners, based on the dimensions of the square billet and the finished diameter of the cylinder. To create the hexagonal chisel handle I started with a 2" square billet and rounded it to 1-3/4" diameter using a 1/4" dia. bullnose bit. Rounding this 22" long cylinder takes about 20 minutes.

Step 2: Rough rout the shape

The same 1/4" bullnose bit roughs out the handle’s hexagonal shape. In this case, the cutting passes are programmed to run the length of the cylinder and remove a 1/8" deep x 1/8" wide a strip of material with each pass. The last pass leaves 1/32" of material to be removed in the next step. Roughing out this shape takes about 25 minutes.

Step 3: Finish rout the final shape

The final (finishing) pass removes the last 1/32" of material and leaves a smooth surface. To do this, the 1/4" bullnose bit is programmed to “step over” each previous pass by only 1/50". This tiny step-over leaves a surface that’s easy to clean up with 180 grit sandpaper. This finishing pass takes about 50 minutes to complete.

Step 4: Add details

The surface of a CNC turning can be embellished with additional details, including lettering. For this chisel handle I combined a 60° V-bit and a script-style font to create a look similar to metal engraving or laser etching. These finely detailed 3/4" tall letters demonstrate the precision of a CNC’s operation. Routing them takes only a minute.

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker February/March 2012, issue #158.



Turn a Roorkhee Leg with One Tool

Turn a Roorkhee Leg with One Tool

I am the last person in the world who should teach turning. I stink at it. I’m slow. I don’t do it enough to become proficient at it. But even I can easily turn a leg for a Roorkhee chair using just one turning tool – a full-size Easy Rougher from Easy Wood Tools. (Standard Continue reading»

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Turn a Roorkhee Leg with One Tool

Turn a Roorkhee Leg with One Tool

I am the last person in the world who should teach wood turning. I stink at it. I’m slow. I don’t do it enough to become proficient at it. But even I can easily turn a leg for a Roorkhee chair using just one turning tool – a full-size Easy Rougher from Easy Wood Tools. Continue reading»

The post Turn a Roorkhee Leg with One Tool appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.


Turning Wood: Socket Chisel Handles

Turning Wood: Socket Chisel Handles

Here’s a 1-2-3 system for getting a perfect fit.

By Tim Heil

High-quality socket chisels— such as the Stanley Sweathearts and Lie- Nielsens—are making a big comeback. Why would these companies choose the socket style? Well, it’s all about you, the user. If you’re not satisfi ed with a handle’s shape, you can change it. If you want a diff erent wood—no problem. Th e handle of a socket chisel isn’t glued or fastened to the tool, so you just remove it and make your own.

Truth is, woodworkers have been doing this for years. In the age before plastics, when a wood handle on a socket chisel split or mushroomed, replacing it was easy. But not all were fixed. Today, there are loads of wonderful old socket chisels going for a song, merely because they have busted or missing handles.

I’m a turner with a thing about handles— I just love making them. Screwdrivers, awls, ice cream scoops: If it’s got a handle, I’ve got to make my own.

When I first turned handles for socket chisels, I would make a few crude measurements of the socket and just go at it. If the taper on the handle’s shank wasn’t quite right, I guessed where it was off and tried again. While this method works OK, I’ve since found a measuring system that’s much more reliable. Following these steps, your shank should fit tight right away.

First, turn a cylinder that’s an inch or two longer than the length of the handle you’re going to make (of course, the full length includes the shank). Th e narrow end of the shank will most likely be a small diameter (anywhere from 1/4" to 3/8"), so I prefer using a cone-shaped revolving center in the lathe’s tailstock. Th is gives me more room to maneuver the parting tool when cutting the shank’s taper.


Measure the socket

Start by wrapping a small piece of notebook paper around a pencil, forming a cylinder (Photo 1). Push the cylinder all the way down into the chisel’s socket (Photo 2) and let the paper unroll into a cone. (You may have to help it a little bit.) Once the paper has fully conformed to the socket’s taper, put a couple of pieces of tape on the paper, to hold its shape. Th en draw a line on the cone, following the top of the chisel’s socket (Photo 3). Remove the cone—you’re all set to take three measurements.

First, set a divider to the distance between the pencil mark you made and the end of the cone (Photo 4). Transfer that distance to the handle blank (Photo 5). Second, set a caliper to the diameter of the cone at the pencil mark (Photo 6). Turn the blank to this diameter, immediately to the right of the mark indicating the shank’s length (Photo 7). (I fi nd it easier to do this if I start roughing out the shank at the same time.) Th ird, reset the caliper to the diameter of the cone’s end (Photo 8). Turn the end of the shank to this diameter (Photo 9), then form a straight taper up to the end of the shank.


Test the fit

If all has gone well, the shank should perfectly fi t the socket. Just to be sure, perform a simple test. Rub a piece of chalk on the inside of the socket (Photo 10). Turn off the lathe, pull away the headstock and push the socket onto the shank. Twist the chisel a few times and remove it (Photo 11). If the fi t is correct, most of the shank will be coated with chalk; if it’s not, the chalk will show you the high spots that need to be removed. If the fi t is too loose, your best bet is to cut off part of the shank and start over from the beginning. Don’t worry—the turning goes pretty quick.

Once the fi t is OK, lengthen the shank by about 1/8" (Photo 12). (Notice the small gap between the end of the socket and the end of the shank on the handles shown on page 30.) Th is gap allows you to drive the shank tight into the socket. Th e end of the handle shouldn’t butt up against the top of the socket. If it does, the handle could split when you strike the chisel.

Turn the handle to any shape you wish (Photo 13). Th ere’s really no right or wrong here; traditionally, chisel handles came in many diff erent shapes and sizes. If your work requires you to strike the chisel hard, you may want to put a ferrule on one or both ends of the handle to prevent it from splitting. Turn off the lathe from time to time and test how the handle feels. When you’re done, part off (Photo 14). To install your handle, just drive it into the socket with a mallet. With a tight fi t, there’s no need for glue. When you apply fi nish to the handle, don’t put any on the shank. If the shank is too slippery, it won’t stay seated in the socket.

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker February/March 2012, issue #158.

Click any image to view a larger version.

1. Chisel sockets come in many different sizes, so you’ll need to take some measurements before turning the handle. Start by cutting a piece of notebook paper about 4” square. Roll it up around a pencil.

2. Push the paper cylinder all the way into the chisel’s socket. Let go of the paper—it will unroll to form a cone. The cone will be exactly the same shape as the socket.

3. Stick one or two pieces of tape on the cone to hold its shape. Mark the cone at the end of the socket. Remove the cone from the chisel.

4. Set a divider to the distance between the pencil mark and the end of the cone.

5. Mark this distance from the tailstock end of a blank you’ve roughed out.

6. Set a caliper to fit the cone at the mark you drew at the end of the chisel’s socket. This will be the major diameter of the handle’s shank (the part that fits into the socket).

7. Turn the blank to the major diameter, just to the right of the pencil line. Rough out the rest of the shank’s taper.

8. Reset the caliper to fit the end of the cone. This will be the shank’s minor diameter.

9. Turn the end of the shank to the minor diameter, leaning the parting tool at about the same angle as the rough taper. Cut a straight taper between the major and minor diameters.

10. Check the fit of the shank in the chisel’s socket. First, coat the inside of the socket with chalk dust. Then turn off the lathe and pull away the tailstock.

11. Push the socket onto the shank and twist it a few times. If its taper is correct, the full length of the shank will be coated with chalk. If it’s not correct, only the high spots will be coated.

12. Once the taper is correct, lengthen the shank about 1/8" to the left.

13. Shape the rest of the handle as you wish. Stop the lathe and remove the handle from time to time to test how it feels.

14. Part the handle from the blank using a spindle gouge. (My gouge is very short, from turning so many handles!)


Turn a Green Wood Bowl

Turn a Green Wood Bowl

By Alan Lacer

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Making a functional object directly from raw material in its natural state is incredibly satisfying. Just ask any potter. For woodworkers, green woodturning captures that feeling. You literally start with a log and end up with a beautiful bowl.

If you’ve never turned green wood before, you’re in for a treat. Green wood is easier to turn than kiln-dried wood. It cuts cleaner and produces very little dust. To top it off, the wood itself often costs nothing.

1. Cut green bowl blanks in lengths that are equal to the log’s diameter, plus one inch. Start by lopping off a short section to eliminate any end checks. Mark a line through the pith where the log will be split into two bowl blanks.

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5. Screw the faceplate into what will be the opening of the bowl. The screws should penetrate the wood at least 1" for initial rough turning.

6. Rough the bowl with a bowl gouge. Point the flute in the direction of the cut and keep the bevel rubbing on the wood. The tailstock adds support.

9. The bowl is now mounted with the base towards the headstock. Cut the bowl’s height so the pith is removed. Use the gouge in a scraping fashion with the bevel facing away from the wood and the bottom edge scraping.

12. Start the hollowing process by drilling out the center of the bowl. The hole gives a place for the tool to end each cut and eliminates the need to constantly check the depth. Use a 5/8" to 1" dia. bit mounted in a Jacobs-style chuck. Drill to a depth that is 1/2" less than the finished depth will be.

15. Establish the bowl’s final depth with a heavy scraper. Use the scraper for the bottom and a little up the sides. Scrapers cut poorly across end grain, so rely on the gouge for cutting most of the bowl’s sides.

21. Cut away the waste block where the screws were fastened. Refine the final shape of the base and the bottom third of the bowl with light, finishing cuts.

22. Undercut the bowl’s base to create a rim for the bowl to sit on. This looks better than a flat bottom. Watch the bottom mark (made by holding a pencil on the mark made earlier) so you don’t cut too deep.

24. Sand the bowl after it has dried for 4-5 days. Use a soft foambacked disc mounted on the lathe with a drill chuck. Keep the bowl moving to avoid creating flat spots. Start with 100-grit and work through 220-grit.

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker September 2007, issue #130.

September 2007, issue #130

Purchase this back issue.

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