Pizza, Beer & Beards. What could be manlier than the preceding list? Right. Crafting wooden handles for the tools used in the aforementioned manly pursuits! To truly personalize your facial grooming, suds and pizza pastimes, I suggest that we head out to the shop for a little wood turning! Our esteemed sponsor Rockler Woodworking and Hardware sent us a nice selection of turning kits to try out this week. I must say I thoroughly enjoyed the process and think you will too. And if you end up with some wood chips in your beard, or some finish on your shoes, just know it’s for a good cause!
Taking Stock of the Kits
The three kits were: a pizza cutter, a bottle opener and a cool custom razor handle. Let me say, as a wood turner, I’ve used many turning kits in the past, but none from Rockler Woodworking and Hardware.
I was first struck by the weight of these kits. They seemed much more substantial than what I’d used before. The hardware was high end (the pizza cutter is stainless steel) and the quality was striking. They even seemed to include clear and simple directions. (Not that I’m into directions or anything…)
Selecting Your Wood
I decided to make all three kits from some walnut I had on hand in the shop. I figured it would give them a matching set look. As with any tool handle you want to have the grain running the length of the handle for added strength.
The blanks for the pizza cutter and bottle opener were the same size and turned in identical fashion. Start with a blank 5-7” long (depending on your preference) and 1 ½” square.
Drilling at the Lathe
I used my 4 jaw chuck to hold the blank on the lathe and drilled from the tail stock. This ensures you get a dead centered hole.
The hole is 1/2“ as per the directions. Following directions is not the manliest thing I’ve done, but it worked out well for me this time. (Shh. Don’t tell my wife!)
Next, it’s simply a matter of driving in the threaded insert.
The Allen wrench was provided in pizza cutter kit, but any 5/8” Allen wrench will work. I epoxied the hardware in because of it’s unequaled holding power, and I sorta like the smell!
Making a Manly Mandrel
Can we start turning yet!? Soon. The last thing we need is a means of holding the workpiece, (again to the directions). They suggested cutting a 5/8 bolt with a hacksaw and placing in a Jacobs chuck and mounting the piece on the end. So, I brutally attacked a harmless carriage bolt and discarded its head. With two nuts added on to provide a positive stop it held like a charm.
Time for Turning
Yes. Now we turn. Turn whatever shape you like. This is the freedom of woodturning. There are no requirements or measurement, just make it as you want. I added a bump in the middle which gave the handle a nice grip in my hand.
Sanding on the Lathe
As I’ve said before, sanding sucks. But sanding on the lathe is a bit less hassle. NEVER wrap your hand around the piece or you might end up with missing digits. Apply pressure from underneath and move the paper back and forth briskly along the work piece. Then power off the lathe and take a dozen strokes up and down the handle with the grain to remove any circular marks left behind.
I like shellac as a finish, and I use it on almost everything. But handles are a different matter. Lacquer, polyurethane or clear enamel are better choices for a tool handle that will be in a kitchen. Water is the enemy of wood and a thick film finish will help protect them better.
Simply screw the tool handles into the included hardware!
As for the razor handle, it is a different animal. It is turned like a pen and as such you need some special pen turning accessories.
7mm pen mandrel
Bushing for this kit
These are not included but are necessary to complete this handle. If you are setup for pen turning, you should have no issues with this kit.
A 7mm hole is drilled in the ¾” square blank and an included brass tube is glued in place. After the glue dries, you use a barrel trimmer in a hand held drill to square the tube to the blank. At that point you can mount it on your pen mandrel.
You need a set of bushings (round metal gauges on either end of the blank) to hold the blank and give you a reference for its final size.
Turn it down to size, sand and finish. Once dry you simply press the included end hardware pieces in place with a vise or clamp and screw the razor head on. Again a very nice heavy kit with quality hardware. I used walnut and finished it with CA, but polyurethane or lacquer would be just as good.
I think they turned out great, but then I’m a bit biased. These kits were well made and with good, clear directions. You supply the wood (or other material for that matter) and you could be using said tool in less time that it takes to wait for your pizza delivery guy.
I’ve had a lot of good things to say – nice hardware, clear instruction and a basic process. Are there any downsides to these kits? I would say they tend to be more expensive than other kits I’ve used. It seems to me they’re worth it. Is that extra cost worth it to you? I’ll let you decide.
Where to Buy
Stainless Steel Pizza Cutter Kit : Rockler.com $19.99
Mach 3 Razor Handle Kit: Rockler.com $8.99
Pewter Bottle Opener Kit: Rockler.com $8.99