Wood Turning

Starter projects for woodturners

When you’re getting started with woodturning, it’s natural to look for projects that are easy to complete while still teaching basic lathe skills. Workshop projects like chisel handles are a great place to start, but when you’re ready to make items suitable for use in your home, utensil handles are a great project for new woodturners.
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In this video, I turn a couple of handles for kitchen tools. Starting with some birdseye maple, I turn two styles of handle. One uses a mandrel (essentially a rod used to support the work from inside), while the other is simply turned between centers.
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In both cases, the process is simple: I use a roughing gouge to true up the work, then switch to a spindle gouge to create a graceful curve that will fit comfortably in the hand. To make the piece look more finished, I check the size of the collar using a set of calipers, then bring the end of the handle down to that size using a parting tool. From there, you can simply taper the handle to that diameter using the spindle gouge.
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Handles may not be glamorous, but they teach some important skills. You can use handles to learn about turning between centers, using mandrels, sanding and finishing on the lathe, establishing and reaching critical dimensions, and of course the use of tools. There’s no reason why you could not also use carbide tools for these projects, but they do present a good opportunity to learn how to use traditional turning tools. If you use a dense tropical hardwood for your handles, you’ll also get a great lesson in sharpening your tools!
These handles are a great way to improve your skills at spindle turning and get more comfortable with your tools. They don’t require a huge time or material investment to get started, so a mistake isn’t as disastrous as it would be for a more involved project.. Each of the handles I made in the video took about 15 minutes from start to finish, not including drying time for the lacquer.
I made these handles for specific kits from Chefwarekits, which are very high quality and make excellent gifts for friends and family. You can also make new handles for existing tools if you’re looking for an inexpensive way to get started. Even a dollar store vegetable peeler looks like a high-end implement when it’s sporting a handmade hardwood handle.
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed the video!

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