Marking the knob details on the blank.

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” × 1” × 4”) and a plastic sheet (a margarine container lid, for example).

  1. Make a plastic template based on the knob pattern given below.

  2. Use the template to mark out the knob details on all four sides of the blank.

  3. Shape the ends into a rough pyramid using a rasp, saw, or low-angle block plane.

Download a PDF of the plastic template plan here...
Left: Using a shooting board. Right: Forming the pyramidal caps.

  1. 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.

  2. Clean up the rough ends on the shooting board using a low-angle plane to form the pyramidal caps.

Left: Carving out the waist using a rasp. Right: Putting the waist-line marking back on the grooved side.

  1. Clamp the blank in a vise and use a half-round needle rasp or a double convex detail palm plane to carve out the waist.

  2. Use the template to put the waist-line marking back on the grooved side.

  3. Repeat steps 6 and 7 on each side of the blank to finish cutting out the waist.

  4. Use a round file and a dowel wrapped with sandpaper to remove any coarse marks on the waist.

  5. Cut the pulls off of the blank.

Cutting out the bullnose.

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” × 3/4” × 4” to 5”.

  1. Mark out the desired edge profile and the side bevels (10° to 15°) on the ends.

  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.
Jig that holds the blank.
  1. 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.

  2. 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.
Creating the bevel on both sides.
  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Reset the smooth plane for finish work, and give the pull a final planing on both sides.

  4. 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.

Text and photos by Charles Mak

Charles Mak, now in retirement, is an enthusiastic hobby woodworker, teacher, writer and tipster. He formerly worked 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.

Tools for this Project

Veritas Right-Hand Shooting Plane

Veritas Right-Hand Shooting Plane

From: $419.00

Veritas Standard Block Plane

Veritas Standard and Low-Angle Block P...

From: $185.00

51W0610 - Shaping Rasps, set of 5

Special Italian Shaping Rasps

From: $17.95

05P5491 - LH Shooting Board

Veritas Shooting Board


00B7120 - Pair of Jigs

Drawer & Cabinet Jigs

From: $9.40

09A0499 - Clamp-On Swivel Vise

Clamp-On Swivel Vise


05P5485 - Veritas Shooting Board Fence

Veritas Shooting Board Fence


33K9112 - Set of 3 Leather Thumb & Finger Guards, Large

Leather Thumb & Finger Guards


88N1402 - One Dozen Mechanical Pencils

One Dozen Mechanical Pencils


02G1403 - 1 1/4" x 3/4" Red Oak Pyr. Knob

Squared Wood Pyramid Knob


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