markhochstein

Making your own custom screwdrivers

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--== If you decide to make your own screwdriver, please post a photo or a link to a photo. I'd really like to see what others come up with. ==--

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I've been wanting to make my own set of wooden handled screwdrivers for several years but I was never able to find a source for screwdriver shafts. In 2008 while attending the Woodworking In America conference in Berea, KY I had an opportunity to chat with Rob Lee, the owner of Lee Valley, a supplier of premier quality woodworking tools. I told him that I though they should make a turning kit for screwdrivers and that I was sure many more woodworkers would be interested in creating their own screwdrivers. He wrote the idea down in a little notebook and said that he'd pass it by his product guys when he got back. I didn't think too much more about it. Then, this summer a Lee Valley catalog arrived in my mailbox and inside the from cover was a Screwdriver Turning Kit, exactly as I had requested with three each for phillips, blade and square drive. I immediately went to my computer and ordered all nine shafts.

After the shafts arrived, my next stop was the hardware store to find some brass compression fitting nuts to use as ferrules. The shafts are sized metrically, but they work out to even 1/64th" measurements. The compression fittings however do not come in that large of a range so the middle sized shafts have a slight gap around the shaft, but the large and small shafts are dead-on.

Let me preface this post by saying that I am a complete newbie at turning. In fact, this whole process was kind of a trial by fire. I am not trying to say that that this is "the" way to build these screwdrivers, it's just the way I chose to do it. I decided to document the process to make it easier for those who may decide to undertake this endeavor themselves.

Here's what I started with. I had a chunk of 8/4 Jatoba that I had been saving to make some turning tool handles. I ripped in into 1 1/2" wide pieces to maximize the yield. Then I turned all the pieces round on the lathe. I recommend against doing this. As it turnes out a 1 1/2" cylinder in about the hardest thing to hold on a lathe - at least with my equipment. None of my chuck pieces would close down to 1 1/2". I recommend leaving your stock square and securing it in the chuck and then turning the portion you need. One other learning point was that I really cut my stock too short which lead to problems trying round over the top end of the handle.

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As you can see, the shafts have two "wings" that have been stamped out from the shaft to keep in from rotating in the handle. For most of the shafts you can just slip the ferrule on over the end of the shaft, but for the two largest blade shafts the blade is too large so I had the cut two small slots to clear the "wings" so that I could slide the ferrule on from that end of the shaft before installing it in the handle.

Step 1: Round the stock and then turn a tenon on the end that just allows the compression nut to thread onto the tenon.

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Step 2: Drill the hole for to match the diameter of the shaft. Measure the distance from the bottom of the wings to the top of the shaft and add in the length of the tenon. Drill the hole that deep so so that the wings will be fully enclosed in the handle.

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Step 3: Thread the compression fitting back onto the tenon. This is your last chance to adjust the fit. You should be able to thread it on by hand, but not too easily. It's really important to get this fit perfect. After you have it on, slide your live center up into the ferrule.

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Step 4: Use a parting tool to set the diameters that you want key parts of the handle to meet. I set the widest part of the handle, the narrowest, and the widest part of the thumb flare.

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Step 5: Turn the handle shape you desire. The brass can be turned using normal turning tools. I found the the smaller the tip of the tool, the easier it was with the brass. I used a small spindle gouge.

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Step 6: Sand and finish your handle. I chose to finish my handle off of the lathe. I used four coats of Deft spray lacquer. It dries quickly and retains a nice shine. In addition, the laquer works well on the brass and will keep it from tarnishing.

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Step 7: Unscrew the ferrule by hand and set it aside. Insert the shaft into the hole until the wings just come into contact with the wood. Orient the wings so that they are running perpendicular to the grain. Mark the location of the wings on the wood. The wings on my shafts were not quite centered which is why I marked them.

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Step 8: Cut a kerf thru the remaining part of the tenon. Be sure not to go into the finished wood.

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Step 9: Make a kerf inside the hole to allow the wings to seat. I tried my first handle without doing this and it split badly. To make this kerf I ended up using a jigsaw blade. You can see my makeshift tool in the next photo. I just fashioned a quick dowel and then cut a kerf down the middle to hold the jigsaw blade. It's not pretty, but it worked. I had to grind the back side of the jigsaw blade down to fit in the hole for the small and medium shafts.

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Step 10: Insert the shaft into the hole. It should required a decent amount of pressure and maybe even a few mallet blows. For this reason I did not use any glue. The shafts are plenty secure without it and now I have the option of cutting the handle off at a later date to re-handle them. If you are installing a blade shaft make sure you have the ferrule on the shaft before installing it.

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Step 11: Re-install the ferrule.

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Congratulations! You just made your first screwdriver!

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Very Nice!!! Your handles are so close to one another, you'd swear you used a duplicator!!! That is something to be proud of.

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Very nice. God knows I need a set of nice screw drivers. The decent ones I have are all mismatched and a set I was given are so cheap, I've already broken a couple. But, the one thing I would want different from yours is hexagonal or octagonal handles.

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Nice work, Loogie. I noticed those kits when they came out and thought they could make nice screwdrivers, but I don't know how to turn wood. Would be cool to use different woods for the different drivers for easy identification.

Nice work and good suggestion to Lee!

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Very Nice!!! Your handles are so close to one another, you'd swear you used a duplicator!!! That is something to be proud of.

Thanks Ben, but they're not really that close. When they're all in a line it's easy to see the differences. Still, I'm happy for a first try. Lots of lessons learned too.

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Very nice. God knows I need a set of nice screw drivers. The decent ones I have are all mismatched and a set I was given are so cheap, I've already broken a couple. But, the one thing I would want different from yours is hexagonal or octagonal handles.

I have an antique screwdriver that is round that I love. That's what I patterned the handles after. However, if I decide I want something different, a quick trip to the belt sander and another coat of lacquer will fix it.

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I've been wanting to make my own set of wooden handled screwdrivers for several years but I was never able to find a source for screwdriver shafts. In 2008 while attending the Woodworking In America conference in Berea, KY I had an opportunity to chat with Rob Lee, the owner of Lee Valley, a supplier of premier quality woodworking tools. I told him that I though they should make a turning kit for screwdrivers and that I was sure many more woodworkers would be interested in creating their own screwdrivers. He wrote the idea down in a little notebook and said that he'd pass it by his product guys when he got back. I didn't think too much more about it. Then, this summer a Lee Valley catalog arrived in my mailbox and inside the from cover was a Screwdriver Turning Kit, exactly as I had requested with three each for phillips, blade and square drive. I immediately went to my computer and ordered all nine shafts.

Loogie, I went to Lee Valley online and noticed they still sell the screw driver shanks. I also noticed that they sell brad point drill bits as shown in one of your pictures, but more importantly they are selling the brass ferrules as well.

Thanks for the great pictures to clarify the handle making procedure.

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They've been selling the ferrules all along and I ordered them, but they're kind of chinsy. I wanted a more refined look.

Thanks for the heads-up Loogie. The picture was quite small, but I could still tell that they didn't look as nice as your ferrules. Of course the handles Lee Valley showed may have biased my opinion. They weren't very good looking compared to your driver handles.

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When you really have to torque on these, how do they handle?

For some reason, the handles being round seems like a disadvantage when you need a good grip.

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In looking at the pictures of the drivers from Lee-Valley, are the tips laser etched like Wera drivers? Looks like there's something different there. The laser etch is fantastic for holding a screw and not camming out

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Very nice! I remember making a screwdriver in junior high metal shop, and it was nothing like this. Plastic handle on the lathe, basic steel stock sanded down into a flat driver shape, then heat treated, and four days of words I wasn't supposed to know putting the thing together. Broke after a year of service.

Looks like I'm going to Lee Valley very very soon. (And thanks for the steps!)

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Nice job on the handles , they came out great looking .Thanks for the tutorial on them , this well help make my go at it so much easier.

They've been selling the ferrules all along and I ordered them, but they're kind of chinsy.

I agree with this 100% , I ordered a few sets last winter , I'm finally getting around to putting them together , I couldn't believe how cheap looking those ferrules are . The compression nut looks so much better.

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Nice job on the handles , they came out great looking .Thanks for the tutorial on them , this well help make my go at it so much easier.

Good! That was the whole point of documenting it. I'm glad it will help someone.

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Loogie-

Fantastic thread! I am planning to dust off the lathe today and start working on my turning skills with my son. He is 9 and has made some beautiful pens.

I bought the same screwdriver set from LV last month, and have planned to make that one of my 1st projects, after a little more practice.

This info is awesome and I'll be referring back to it! I'll let you know how I make out.

thanks again all for the info

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Very nice handles and documentary. Now you need to make one more for that jigsaw blade saw.....

Tim

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Thanks guys!

Torch, I wanted to wait until I'd spent some time using these before I replied to you question about the round handle shape. I can say definitively now that I have no problem with the round handle shape. I have torqued screws down hard enough that the driver cam's out of the screw, but the handle has never slipped in my hand. Having said that, my hands are nice and dry too, not sweaty like they would be if I was working outside on a jobsite. Then again, I don't intend to ever work that hard in my shop :-) I think that if I have to twist the driver any harder than I'm doing that I'm probably using the wrong tool.

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I made two sets of screwdrivers from LV's kits, one for myself in Beech, and one for my Father-In-Law for Christmas, in Walnut. I turned my own ferrules, too. They are nicer than any I could buy, and a better gift than the usual, a bag of licorice allsorts. Thanks for making the suggestion, Loogie, great idea!

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Those are beautiful screwdrivers, very nice.

Thank you. They are equally nice to use. I'm starting to get the itch to make another set. This time I may have someone machine some thicker brass ferrules for me. That would allow me to change the size/shape of the handle near the ferrule.

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I made mine like you did, with HSS tools on the wood lathe, but I started with 3/4" brass rod. I was able to make a slight but noticable taper on them, and I drilled each one specifically for each driver, to minimize the gap around the shaft.

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I made mine like you did, with HSS tools on the wood lathe, but I started with 3/4" brass rod. I was able to make a slight but noticable taper on them, and I drilled each one specifically for each driver, to minimize the gap around the shaft.

How about some pictures. How did you cut the slots for shaft "wings" on the two largest flat bladed drivers?

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How about some pictures. How did you cut the slots for shaft "wings" on the two largest flat bladed drivers?

Sorry, Lee Valley owns the rights to those photos. In the slotted drivers case I drilled my ferrules to slip over the wings, as that is the smallest diameter, as opposed to the Philips or Robertson where the head is the smallest. I used a rubber o-ring inside the ferrule to hide the base of the wings and give a cleaner look. If you're looking to cut for the wings in the ferrule, I'd do it the same way I cut them in my handles. I'd measure the diameter of the driver shaft, locate the centre on the ferrule, then I'd drill two 1/8" holes, centered on that diameter measurement. After turning the ferrule, drill for the shaft, leaving behind two grooves for the wings 1/16" tall.

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