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JOEL Joel's Blog

How To Make Handles for the Gramercy Tools Spoonmaker's Draw Knife


The project took about a 40 minutes
The project took about a 40 minutes, not including the glue drying, and I am really happy with the result

The spoonmaker's draw knife has been a rousing success. People like the fact that it's nimble; it can dive into concave curves; and it can work with very little clearance on small objects: all synonyms for being agile. However, sometimes you need handles. We've been threatening to offer a handle kit for quite some time; now we're ready to deliver. Traditional drawknives have a long tang on each side of the blade that goes through holes in each handle and then gets riveted at the end to prevent the handles from pulling off when you pull the draw knife towards you. The Handle Hardware Kit contains two aluminum bolsters that fit over the draw knife's handle holes (left and right handed); two each of 4" long 10-32 screws and washers (for attaching a 3-5/8" handle to the bolster); and a 1/4-28 screw and washer for clamping the bolster to the draw knife. The result is rock solid. The kit doesn't include the actual handles, but they are easy to make with just a few tools you probably already have.

Because the handles are screwed tight against the bolster, they cannot move, split, or bend the long screw. The bolsters, which are made of unfinished aluminum, are entirely designed and produced at our Brooklyn location. There are a million ways to make handles. You can turn them on a lathe, you can chop them out of a stick, etc. While I did make a pair of handles on our prototype treadle lathe, most people don't have lathes handy (not yet anyway) - and most people need something that needs very few tools, ones you are likely to already have. Here are the tools and supplies I used in making these handles: I used the draw knife itself. I also used a wide chisel. A narrower chisel, a utility knife, or even a small hand axe would work just as well. I also used a saw to cut the stock to length and some glue. In the example below, I had some half-inch poplar scrap. I also used a little 220 grit sandpaper to give a nice satin finish to the aluminum, but 320 or 400 would work just as well. It took me about forty minutes of actual work for the entire project. I was planning to make a more formal looking pair of handles, but these work just fine and I like the way they feel in my hand.


  1. Using sandpaper of 220 or finer grit, go over the faces and edges of the bolster, going in one direction, back and forth, to give a nice satin finish to the aluminum. This step is optional and I actually did it after I was done.

  2. Using wood of about ½” thick, lay out two pieces each 1” wide and 3-5/8” long. Draw a centerline down the middle of one side of each piece. Needless to say, the handles should be adapted to what you think is the right size for you.

  3. Using a chisel or knife, carve a “V” or “U” groove centered around the centerline of each handle half.
    The key to forming the handles is chopping a
    The key to forming the handles is chopping a "V" or "U" shaped groove in each handle half and then gluing the halves together. I used a chisel to do this but a knife would would fine too.
    When both halves of the handles are sandwiched together, the 4” screw should easily fit and move easily.
    After I chopped the groove
    After I chopped the groove, I cut the pieces to length (3 5/8") and width (1"). I could have cut them beforehand but I didn't. The square in the shot is a frill; I mostly eyeballed everything.

  4. Glue the halves together, forming a hole in the center.
    Before I glued the halves together
    Before I glued the halves together, I made sure that the handle screw fit closely but freely in the grooves I chopped out.
    While the glue dries, you can clamp the halves together with some tape. Try not to get glue into the hole. Run the screw in and out of the hole before the glue sets to ensure that the hole is clear.

  5. After the glue dries, use your drawknife and any other tool you like to remove any excess wood that doesn't look handle-like.
    I pared away a lot of the waste to produce a rough square tapered handle.
    I pared away a lot of the waste to produce a rough square tapered handle.

    I could have roughed out the handles with a knife or the drawknife
    I could have roughed out the handles with a knife or the drawknife, but I happen to have a wide chisel which worked well. Any reasonably wide sharp chisel will do the trick.

    I used a chisel to remove most of the waste, taking the square stock and turning it into a tapered square from both ends. Then using the drawknife, I softened the tapered square into an octagon by chamfering all the sides.
    Final shaping of a handle using the drawknife. The handle was solidly clamped by attaching it to the bolster and clamping the bolster in my vise.
    Final shaping of a handle using the drawknife. The handle was solidly clamped by attaching it to the bolster and clamping the bolster in my vise.

    Without big handles
    Without big handles, the draw knife is really agile and I used it right up to the edge of the bench to make chamfer on the handles.
    A square or rectangular section handle, with octagonal sides, tapered front and back can be easily made using your drawknife. Rasps might also be a useful assisting tool, although the crisp edges you get from the drawknife look boss even if a rounded edge is a little more comfortable. Many people like having a pear shaped bulge at the end of a drawknife handle for the pull stroke, but this is your choice. A great way to hold the handles while shaping them is to just attach them with the screw and washer to the bolster and then clamp the bolster in a vise or clamp.

  6. While some people recommend using no finish at all on the handles so that the handles can absorb sweat and be less slippery, we like at least a thin coat of linseed oil, Bees’ Wax Spray or another thin finish to help keep the handles clean.

Making handles from a single piece of wood.

  1. Take a piece of wood around 1” square and drill a 13/64" or #7 in diameter all the way through. 13/64" is an odd size and longer than a typical drill bit. 7/32" will work too. Most drill bits aren’t long enough to go all the way through, so the trick is drilling a hole using a shorter bit going from both sides so they line up well enough for a long screw. If you have a drill press, careful layout and a guide fence makes this eminently doable. If you don't have a drill press, the key is using a 13/64" drill bit on the bolster side and drilling a larger 1/4" hole from the other side. This gives you a little play for misalignment.

  2. Once the hole is drilled, you can shape the handles by hand, or if you have a lathe, you can easily turn them to shape.

For longer handles: If you want a longer handle, just carve a larger hole in the handle halves or counterbore the end holes in the handle.

For shorter handles: For shorter handles, either trim the screw or get shorter 10-32 screws.

To attach the handles to the shave:

  1. Screw the handle to the bolster using the included 4” 10-32 screw and washer.

  2. Assemble the handle to the drawknife hole. The bolsters are handed with a right and left side.

  3. Clamp handle assemblies to the drawknife using the included ¼-28 screw and washer.

In use, as you pull down on the handles, they will wedge together to the drawknife. To remove the handles, first pull the handles in the opposite direction so they release from the wedging action. Then unscrew.

What surprised me about this project was how solid the handles felt in use and how easy the handles were to make, even without the means of drilling a long hole. Interestingly enough, in trying to figure out how to make handles without drilling the long hole, I backed into the historic solution. Round handles made on a lathe are a simple industrial process, but not easy without the proper tools. In the early days of woodworking, when people bought tools unhandled, octagonal handles were a typical solution as described in The Joiner and Cabinet Maker. Having made both types of handles, I would say that for onesie - twosie handle making, the chisel and drawknife method is easier -- unless you are already set up for working with a lathe. If you include the setup time, both methods took around the same amount of time.

I am overdue reporting on our progress with our treadle lathe. We got home from Amana and started making changes for the next prototype. This next model will be totally welded and be pretty close to production. Kris is almost done with a more rigid frame design, and he sorted out wheels and transport. I have been working on the draw knife handle kit with only sporadic work on the lathe, but now I go into full lathe mode to design an aluminum tool rest and tailstock. The cast iron ones we have on the first prototype are just too heavy to be convenient. We also have to finalize drawing with tolerances and other information so that they can be put out to bid and production. More on this as it develops.

Join the conversation
10/19/2023 Sue Tolleson-Rinehart
What a wonderful explanation -- thank you! I shall make handles for my wee drawknife using your clear and complete instructions. I love the blog! Hope all of you are well -- best wishes, Sue TR
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The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the blog's author and guests and in no way reflect the views of Tools for Working Wood.