How to Turn Pulls Without a Lathe
Create custom knobs using your drill press
Synopsis: You can make authentic looking Shaker knobs without a lathe. All it takes is a drill press, a tenon cutter, and a few rasps and files. The process is simple and surprisingly quick. Christian Becksvoort starts with square blanks, uses a tenon cutter to make the tenon, and then “turns” the knob with the tenon inserted in the drill-press chuck. Now you no longer have to settled for manufactured Shaker knobs, even if your shop is not equipped with a lathe.
When I started making furniture on my own, I had only a tablesaw, bandsaw, jointer, and drill press— no lathe. One of my earliest projects was a seven-drawer chest. What to do about knobs? I wanted authentic-looking Shaker mushroom knobs in graduated sizes to match the drawers. But commercial Shaker knobs were available only in small and large, and they were crude approximations of the real thing. By necessity, I soon discovered how to make goodlooking knobs without a lathe. All it takes is a drill press, a tenon cutter, and a few rasps and files.
The process is simple and surprisingly quick. Start by making square blanks 21 ⁄2 in. long and 1 ⁄8 in. to 1 ⁄4 in. thicker than the largest diameter of the knobs you’re making. The only critical dimension is the tenon, which must be precisely 1⁄2 in. dia. to fit a 1 ⁄2-in. hole snugly. I don’t recommend making knobs with tenons smaller than 1 ⁄2 in. on the drill press, because they could snap under the pressure of rasping and filing.
Pinpoint positioning. To locate the tenoning jig, put a brad-point bit in the drill press and align its tip with the centerpoint of a pull blank.
Quick, clean tenons. Make the tenon at least 11⁄2 in. long, so there’s plenty of tenon for the chuck to grip and…