Lee Valley & Veritas Woodworking
Lee Valley 35 Years  
  Volume 7, Issue 6 - July 2013    
Make Knobs and Pulls Quietly
Make Knobs and Pulls Quietly
Mission-Style Knobs
Making pyramid pulls (square pulls with bevelled tops) is certainly a skill-building project for someone who has never made handles using only hand tools. You'll need a piece of hardwood (1"x1"x4") and a plastic sheet (a margarine container lid, for example).
1. Make a plastic template based on the full-sized knob pattern given below.   Tracing the template
2. Use the template to mark out the knob details on all four sides of the blank (shown).  
3. Shape the ends into a rough pyramid using a rasp, saw, or low-angle block plane.  
  4. Use a shooting board with an adjustable fence set at 75°. If your shooting board has a fixed fence, make a wedge and tape it to the fence (using double-sided tape) for a 15° cut on each end.   Making a 15° cut on each end
  5. Clean up the rough ends on the shooting board using a low-angle plane to form the pyramidal caps.   Cleaning up the rough ends
  6. Clamp the blank in a vise and use a half-round needle rasp or a double convex detail palm plane to carve out the waste.   Carving out the waste
7. Use the template to put the line marking back on the grooved side (shown).
8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 on each side of the blank to finish cutting out the waste.
  Tracing the template
Use a round file and a dowel wrapped with sandpaper to remove any coarse marks on the waist.
  10. Cut the pulls off of the blank.
Profiled Pulls
If less is more, then sometimes plain is inviting. The sides of this simple pull are tapered with a profiled edge. The edge profile can be a plain chamfer or a bullnose. It may look simple, but cutting the bevels on a short piece can be a challenge. To make such a pull, start with a piece of hardwood measuring 1/2"x3/4"x4" to 5".
Mark out the desired edge profile and the side bevels (10° to 15°) on the ends.   Cutting out the bullnose
2. Clamp the blank in a vise and cut out the bullnose with a block or apron plane. Overlap the cuts to ensure an even profile along the body, and plane with the grain for a smooth surface. Run your fingers over the profile to check for evenness (shown).
  3. Turn the blank upside-down, clamp it and plane subtle chamfers on the bottom edges. This will provide visual depth when the handle is mounted on a flat surface.   Using a jig to hold the blank
4. To plane the bevel, first make a jig to hold the blank (shown). Simply cut a slot in a piece of 1/4" stock (MDF, for example) that's the same width and length as the pull.
  5. Clamp the jig onto the workbench and place the bullnosed blank in the slot. Use a smooth plane or a low-angle smooth plane (for shorter blanks, use a block plane) with a well-honed blade to create the bevel on both sides.   Creating the bevel
  6. Here's a trick to help you cut the bevels precisely. Adjust the blade so that it cuts only on one side of the edge. Orient the blank so that while you plane, the cutting edge creates the bevel without flattening the bullnose profile.
  7. Reset the smooth plane for finish work, and give the pull a final planing on both sides.
  8. Mark a bevel on each end and trim them with a handsaw.
Making fancy knobs and pulls with hand tools may take more time, but you relive the feeling of satisfaction every time you touch those inviting handles.
Knob template
Text and photos by Charles Mak

Charles Mak is a businessperson and enthusiastic hobby woodworker, teacher, writer and tipster. He works part-time at his local Lee Valley Tools store.

Further Reading
Fortune, Michael. "4 Custom Pulls That Please the Eye." Fine Woodworking. Nov./Dec. 2008: 75- 81.
Harrold, Jim. "4 Shop-Made Handles." Woodcraft Magazine. Oct./Nov. 2010: 26-31.
Pekovich, Michael. "2 Classic Pulls." Fine Woodworking. Nov./Dec. 2011: 60-63.
Rogowski, Gary. "Handle With Care." Popular Woodworking. Feb. 2012: 36-39.
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