Recently we replaced the stock black plastic handle on our espresso machine with a hand carved wooden one.  Carved with a whittling knife and then shaped further with power tools, this wooden handle is pretty straight forward and easy to make.  A similar process to this could be used to replace many other daily use plastic knobs, levers and handles with the comfort and beauty of wood. 

As many daily espresso drinkers will tell you, the process of making coffee in the morning is more than a merely a procedure   For me it's a ritual, and on some days, an obsession.  As such, many espresso makers seek to improve their experience of making espresso drinks by modifying their machines, even if only in ornamental ways like replacing the portafilter handle.  Was there anything wrong with the old factory made plastic handle?  Absolutely not - check it out in the last picture in the photos above.  Why make it better?  In the words of my friend randofo, simply because we can.

Step 1: Materials

My friends have a small fruit orchard on their property and have accumulated a rather large pile of branches from pruning their trees every year.  Orchard prunings are a great source of small diameter branches of a lot of nice species - that's where these short pieces of wood came from.  The orchard contains pear, apple, persimmon and cherry trees.  It's hard to say exactly what kind of wood this particular handle was made from since they were all just in a big pile and I'm not very skilled at fruit tree wood identification.  Any hardwood will work - chose something you like.

The hardest part of the whole project was probably removing the old black plastic handle.  Held on with a long bolt inside of the handle, it was extremely difficult to remove using a socket wrench since the hole in the handle where the bolt was located was so small that it did not allow the socket to fit inside.  I have heard of thin-walled socket heads, which might have fit down the small hole, but I don't have any at my shop.  No matter, I simply cut off most of the handle exposing the bolt much closer to the source, thus making it easy to get the socket head on to remove.

Once the old handle was off, we gathered up a hand saw, the wood and some whittling knives and set out to select a piece of wood that had a sufficient diameter to accept the mounting shaft on the portafilter.  We came up with the candidates in the photo above.

To continue with the project we also ended up using:
  • angle grinder with sanding disk
  • random orbital palm sander
  • sand paper for hand sanding
  • chisel and drill press to cut the mortise in the handle
  • "Good Stuff" rub on varnish
<p>Wow. Epoxy on. Okay. I was waiting for the &quot;fashion an end plug page,&quot; but that is certainly more simple. Looks nice! I will be doing this for one of my spare portafilters for my 1976 Gaggia Baby Primavera (US market version).</p>
very nice! I love wood tools!
Very cool! My favorite thing about having a wooden handle on my portafilter is the way the wood feels, it's just much nicer than a hunk of plastic. <br> <br>My guess from the choices you listed for the wood is persimmon, as far as I know it's the only one of the four with dark heartwood.
Wow, this is incredible! <br />Amazing work and a perfect Instructable. <br /> <br />Also, do you think I could use bamboo instead? <br /> <br />GM
Are you envisioning a hollow piece of natural bamboo? Sure - you'd just have to fill the end with something if you didn't want a hole in the end of your handle. You could also laminate sheets of bamboo plywood (plyboo) together to form a block, then carve that down to shape. I bet the exposed cellular like structure of the plyboo would look very cool.

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Bio: I've worked for Instructables off and on since 2006 building and documenting just about everything I enjoy doing. I am now the Creative Programs ... More »
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