Project: Turning a Garden Dibbler
by Curtis Turner
Round Rock, TX
Note: Click on any picture to see a larger version.
It's spring time and for many, thoughts turn to gardening. A helpful garden tool is a dibbler. This tool is used for making perfect holes in the soil for planting seedlings. I recently turned a dibbler and wanted to share that project with you.
If your lathe has been in hibernation over the winter, this makes for a good warm up project. This simple project can be completed in an hour or less.
The inspiration for this project really had nothing to do with spring or planting. It came about as I was pondering how to making a tapered reamer. A tapered reamer is commonly used by chair makers to taper a pre-drilled hole in the chair seat.
While thinking about how to make a tapered reamer, it struck me that a reamer was very similar to a garden dibbler. So, by adding a handle to a dibbler it would look like a mini-reamer (without the blade)! The handle on a reamer is used to twist the tool into the pre-drilled hole. It also occurred to me that by adding a cross grain handle, the dibbler would be easier for small hands, arthritis, or those with other hand ailments to twist the dibbler into the soil.
In this case, the wood I selected was cedar elm. This blank was 2" x 8". I turned the blank down to round and marked out my transitions. The tools I used to turn this project were a
Spindle Roughing Gouge
Spindle Spindle Gouge
, and a
Next, I set up the
to drill the 5/16" hole.
Is this over kill? Yes, but I like using the Drill Wizard. The hole could have just as easily been drilled free hand. I drilled the hole before I shaped the handle. I did this so I could turn away any tear out created by the drill bit.
Next, I alternated between turning the taper and the handle. I did this in stages to help me see how the form was developing. Again, this was done freestyle and not following a pattern. I turned a slightly blunt end on the tip. I did not want a sharp pencil-like point, which would be more likely to break.
I also added a burned line in the groove. I did this by using a steel guitar string wrapped around two wood handles. I increased the speed of the lathe while I held the handles and applied the wire into the groove. This created friction and burned a line. This burned line serves no real purpose other than adding a decorative element to the piece.
Finally, I used a thin saw to cut off the waste from both ends.
The large diameter is just under 2" and the cone is about 4" in length. I lightly sanded to 220 grit. Next, I cut a short length of a 5/16" oak dowel for the handle. The dowel was a bit oversized. I reduced the diameter slightly and rounded over the ends. I accomplished this by gripping the dowel in a chuck with
The #1 Jaws are perfect for holding small diameter stock. I sanded the dowel to fit. I applied a few drops of
in the hole and inserted the dowel. I did not apply a finish to the dibbler.
If you are a gardener or know someone who is, this garden dibbler is sure to get the garden started. I hope you enjoy the spring weather!
Curtis is a former President of
Central Texas Woodturners
, a member of the
American Association of Woodturners
, and a member of
Fine Woodworkers of Austin
. Curtis teaches and demonstrates nationally for Lie-Nielsen Toolworks. He also teaches for TechShop. He owns a studio where he teaches and works. Curtis lives in Central Texas with his wife and four young children. Take a look at his website at