Handle Turning


Handle Turning:
John Hawkswell looks at some eye catching handles and makes a magic wand, plus a magnifying glass and letter opener.

John Hawkswell looks at some eye catching handles and makes a magic wand, plus a magnifying glass and letter opener

It took a visit to the Sultan’s palace in the old quarter of Istanbul to realise handles could be raised from the mundane into objects of interest and, perhaps, even beauty. Back in the workshop I decided to experiment. Of course, lacking a spare horde of diamonds and other precious stones humbler materials were used and some of the results are shown here.
The letter opener and magnifying glass would make a pleasing gift. The mix of timbers used to produce both blanks makes an attractive handle, which is simple to construct. Budding witches or wizards need a convincing magic wand to impress their mates. Aside from Halloween, this is the season of parties so the wand described here could be a timely present with some brownie points for the donor. A magic wand project encourages the woodturner to be really creative offering the possibility of off-centre turning or perhaps a bead bonanza, or embellishments carved on the turning. This design came after trying several different ideas and proved a lot of fun to make. Breaking the job down into separate assemblies made life easier.

Information and plans
Tools and resources
• Roughing out gouge
• Continental-style gouge
• Diamond parting tool
• Large oval skew chisel
• 10mm spindle gouge
• 6mm spindle gouge
• 4.5mm, 5mm and 6mm drill bits and Jacobs chuck
• Pin jaws
• Light pull drive
• 20mm steb centre
• Drill
• Pyrography machine
• Various G clamps
• Small pieces of sycamore (Acer spp.), or lime (Tilia vulgaris), yew (Taxus spp.) and walnut (Juglans spp.)
• Abrasives down to 320
• Titebond original wood glue
• Liberon kitchen and bath varnish

1. Glue a 5mm wide strip of walnut or mahogany (Khaya ivorensis) between two 300mm lengths of lime or sycamore, allowing a bit of waste to facilitate sawing. Cut the blank into 13 pieces at an angle of about 60°. The first two pieces are 24mm wide, the next pair are 22mm wide and so on. The last three pieces will therefore be 14mm wide. A homemade stop ensures accuracy. A diminishing ‘V’ pattern helps to produce a more potent-looking wand. It is a good idea to number each piece

2. Glue the pieces in pairs. It is worth taking care to align the ‘V’ pattern in each case. If they are not quite aligned it does spoil the effect. Once glued, the pairs can be assembled and glued in the correct sequence

3. Trim the edges of the blank along the pencil line as shown, draw a line to bisect the ‘V’ as shown in the red. This is a guideline to determine the centre points at each end of the blank. Mount between centres and rough down to a cylinder. With the cylinder held in a chuck drill a 6mm hole in both ends to house the spigots from the hilt and tip assemblies

4. Remount between centres and using a roughing gouge produce a gentle taper. This slope can be undulated to emphasise the ‘V’ pattern. Finish with a 25mm skew chisel. Alternatively, use a spindle gouge
for the whole operation

5a. The handle is turned as follows. At each end mark three centre points approximately 5mm apart and mount the blank between centres, starting with centre ‘A’. Rough to a cylinder and turn a ball at the headstock end. Next, remount the blank using centre ‘B’. Turn down the speed of the lathe and gently form the first half of the handle. The midpoint is indicated by a pencil line. This is the stage reached in the photo. Next, remount the blank using centre ‘C’ and form the other half of the handle. Return to centre ‘A’ to form a 6mm spigot to fit into the hilt or guard


6. Parts forming the tip assembly: from the left we have the spotted walnut tip, then the sycamore connector and finally the walnut washer

7. To make the spotted walnut tip pierce the walnut with 5mm sycamore dowels to suggest potent spell making ability. Glue the dowels to the blank. Cut the walnut blank overlength

8. Mount the blank in the chuck. Drill a 4.5mm hole to take the glow light. Reverse the cylinder in the chuck and drill a 5mm hole in the other end to take the spigot on the connector. Turn a 3mm wide bead and part off to form the walnut washer. Now reduce the diameter down to size

9. Mount a piece of lime or sycamore in pin jaws and turn a 6mm spigot. Form the hilt using a parting tool and a 6mm spindle gouge. Undercut the hilt with a parting tool. Reverse the work holding the spigot in pin jaws or in a collet chuck. Then drill a 6mm hole to fit the spigot on the end of the handle. Assemble the components together to make sure they are a good fit, then give the entire wand a final sand. When satisfied glue them together. A sander sealer or an oil-based finish may be applied at this stage but it is worth considering something like Liberon’s bathroom and kitchen varnish. There is very little darkening of the wood with this water-based product and it does not compromise the contrast between the dark and light timbers

10a. To lend an aura of mystery to the wand symbols are burnt on the handle using a pyrography machine

10b. Believe it or not the words spell ‘magic wand’ in runic scrip

11. And here is the finished wand ready for some serious spell making. When darkness falls a glow light can be fitted into the hole made at the end of the tip. The light is secured in the tip with an interference fit and is easily replaced. Red and blue glow lights are also available

A few strips of wood can produce a striking handle for more mundane objects such as this magnifying glass and letter opener.  To make this particular pattern, strips measuring 150 x 24 x 5mm are required.
The timbers used are walnut, yew heartwood and sycamore and they are glued together in the following order: walnut, sycamore, yew, sycamore, then back to walnut. This pattern is repeated until the blank is long enough. When the glue is set cut a diagonal segment to prepare the blank for turning.

Fun with handles

Top tips
• Do not be tempted to make the end of the wand sharp. A sharp point has the potential to cause a nasty injury.
• A simple metal bar which has been drilled with various commonly used diameters makes easy work of making accurate spigots. Mount the wood in a chuck and turn slightly over size. Then, with the lathe turning slowly, run the metal bar along the dowel. If you meet resistance stop, reduce the diameter with a skew chisel and try again.
• When turning a taper on the lathe try using the toolrest as a guide by positioning it to the required angle. If the toolrest is moved as close as possible to the workpiece it is easier to produce a consistent taper. 


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