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Turning with Temple: Gavels with Threaded Handles

by Temple Blackwood
Castine, ME

Note: click on any picture to see a larger version.

The following summary presents one workable process of turning a gavel on the lathe and threading the handle using a standard threading kit:


Prepare two square blanks of proportional sizes for the head and an elongated handle. The sample shown is a 5" 2X2" for the head and an 11" 1X1" for the handle. The finished gavel will measure 3.5"X 1.5" at the head and an exposed handle of 7.5" with a .75" threaded shank.

Begin by mounting the blank to be turned for the gavel head between centers firmly with adequate room for waste at both the drive and live center ends.

Round and smooth the blank before establishing the centerline. You will find it convenient to include a "V" cut at the centerline. This will be an attractive design feature that also centers your drill bit for the threaded hole for the handle. Using a compass, dragging the point in the "V" cut, mark the two end-points and other profile high-points equidistant from the centerline. Mark other decoration beads, shoulders, and coves you might plan for your design.

Plan and turn your design to include a slightly convex swell on each hammer face. Avoid making a fragile edge from side-to-face that might chip out when the gavel is used, and examine the wood carefully. If the wood is highly figured, plan few decorative features; if the wood is only lightly figured, using several classic pronounced beads and deep coves will make the piece more interesting and thus more pleasing to the eye.

Cutting with the long point of the skew in the "down" position, cut the hammer faces smoothly convex leaving small head and tailstock pins to withstand sanding, friction polishing, and waxing. Part off by skew-point cutting the tailstock tendon to the smallest size that will still hold; then reduce the headstock end carefully to the same size (typically about 1/8" or less). Stop the lathe and saw to completely sever that pin. Using a bench chisel at a wooden bench, clean up both ends by hand. Avoid placing your hand in any possible path of the chisel. Hand sand and briskly rub the friction finish to complete the gavel head.

Look carefully at the gavel head to decide where the most interesting grain will show when the hammer is lying on its side. Then find the least interesting point at the center circle, mark, and drill with the proper size bit (check your threading kit for the proper size). If using a drillpress, the safest method is to make a "V-block" to secure the blank. If using a hand drill, firmly lock the headstock before drilling, and be sure to drill into the center at 90 degrees or the handle will angle from the head and ruin the turner's hard work.

Thread the drilled hole with the starting cutter followed by the finish cutter. This will thread the hole the entire length.


Check your handle length against the completed gavel head for a pleasing dimension. Usually the handle length is between two and two and one-half times the head length. For the purpose of this sample, the head is 3.5", the handle will be 7.5" exposed plus a necessary 2.5" (extra length needed for the threading process).

Mount the handle blank, turn to round and smooth, mark the 2.5" for threading. The extra length is necessary for accurate threading with most kits and will be trimmed back after the threads are cut. Turn the exposed handle to a pleasing shape of smooth tapers, with small beads, and coves to accentuate the end and to make the transition between handle and head. Sand smooth, and finish with the friction polish and wax.

Turn the threading shank to the proper size that in this sample was 0.5" (note the ½" open box wrench makes a perfect sizing tool that is critical to your threading success). Lightly wax the shank to lubricate its passage through the thread cutter.

Part off at the tail stock; hand sand and finish the bottom feature.

Threading: Apply the thread-cutting box to the shank and while pushing firmly and consistently on the shank, twist the handle into the box as far as possible. Back the shank out gently. Remove the wooden guide from the thread-box. Very carefully re-insert the handle shank by twisting the new threads onto the exposed cutting edge to the guide beyond. Continue threading the shank its full length. Avoid trying to exceed the limits of the cutter, and after gently backing the completed threads out of the box, carefully complete the final (and partially exposed) threads with a well-sharpened hand chisel.

Measure the depth of the threaded hole in the gavel head and cut the handle threaded shank to slightly less length carefully and squarely across the threads.

If your wood is especially figured or you find an attractive complimentary piece of wood, consider turning a sound-block to accompany your gavel.

Assemble the completed gavel and use it liberally at the next family or community meeting. An attractively boxed threaded gavel with head, handle, and sound-block make an especially handsome gift to honor leadership and achievement.

You can email Temple at

Take a look at Temple's Website at .

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