Introduction: Sturdier Dryer Door Handle
This is a handle I made for the door on my wife’s three year old Whirlpool* clothes dryer. It is made of 1/8 inch and 18 gauge steel welded together and fastened to the door with #10-32 screws. The original handle was molded plastic held in place with snap on tabs. The handle always felt as if its mounting tabs would break and it would separate from the dryer door every time my wife opened the door. It finally did a couple of weeks ago. The new one looks very much like the old one, and my wife loves it. This Instructable will show how I made this replacement handle and how I found a better way of mounting it.
*The same door handle is used by Kenmore, Roper, and some others. Replacement plastic models are available various places on the Internet from appliance parts sites and from Amazon. If I bought one of those, it would likely break again in three years or less. This should last longer than the dryer.
1/8 x 3/4 inch steel bar
3/4 inch electrical metallic tubing (EMT or conduit)
10-32 threaded rod or sacrificial machine screws, nuts, lockwashers
Step 1: The Framework
I measured to broken plastic part (second photo) and cut pieces of 1/8 x 3/4 inch steel bar to duplicate the footprint of the original plastic handle. I welded the pieces together. As seen in the second photo, I ground the welds flush. In the second photo you can see the snap on tabs on the plastic original. Several tabs have broken off. Some of the tabs broke off months ago. My wife nursed the handle along until it fell off completely.
I rounded the corners on my steel part with a grinder to fit the contours of the plastic part. I used the tubing in the second photo to mark the outline of the curve I wanted. It is faintly visible.
Step 2: Remove the Door
The plastic handle is designed so it can be snapped into place as the last thing that goes onto a new dryer. Removing and disassembling the dryer’s door will allow fastening the handle on with machine screw studs. See the first photo. It shows one of four small flathead sheetmetal screws that hold the front half and the rear half of the dryer door together. The hinge mounting screws also help hold the halves together. Do not worry about removing any of these screws, yet. See the second photo. Remove the screws that mount the hinges to the frame of the dryer and lift the door from the dryer. Set it on a work table. Remove the hinge screws and the hinges from the door, itself. Then remove the four screws holding the door halves together.
Step 3: Stud Mounts
The image shows the pattern of holes in the door into which the original handle mounted. Cover what will be the backside of the steel framework for the handle with masking tape. Position the frame for the handle over the mounting holes. Align it carefully. Tape it to the door to keep it from moving. Use a marker to outline the position of the holes. (The smaller center hole is not needed.)
Drill and tap inside the hole markings for 10-32 threaded posts. Cut the threaded posts and screw them into the holes. Leave them a turn or two from fully turned in. Weld in the hole so the screw studs will not rotate in their threads in the future. Grind the welds smooth and flush.
I made washers from pieces of 1/8 x 3/4 inch steel bar about one inch long each.
Step 4: Continue Making the Handle
Cut a piece of 3/4 inch EMT to the approximate length shown in the graphic. Mark it with straight lines and cut it into quarters with a hacksaw. A power bandsaw makes the work easier. I like to lay the tubing on a table and slide a thin board up to it. Then I just move a marker resting on the board down the length of the piece of tubing. A little variation in the cut will be filled with weld bead and body putty.
I very casually braced the quartered piece of EMT in a way that fits. Tack weld it so it stays where it belongs.
Step 5: Add Two More Pieces
I added two short pieces of EMT and tack welded them in place.
Step 6: Finish the Job
I cut a flat piece of 18 gauge steel to fit the open area between the pieces of EMT. The EMT is also 18 gauge. I used spring clamps to hold the flat piece in place to get at least one good tack weld. Then I was able to position and manage the remaining tack welds.
Weld where the EMT quarters meet the 1/8 inch frame. Try to get good penetration in the 1/8 frame so the handle will not pull apart later. You will grind quite a bit of this welding away for a smooth appearance. The ideal would be to weld from the underside. To do that drill or cut away some of the 1/8 inch frame from the underside inside the handle so the edge of the 1/8 inch steel forms an accessible corner with the quartered EMT and put a good tack weld there. Do that enough places to be sure the assembly is solid. Grind the welds smooth so they are flush.
Complete all welds where parts are only tack welded together. Grind them smooth.
I decided simply to pull the MIG gun trigger multiple times to close the openings on the corners. It did not take long and it really was the simplest way to close the openings, much easier than trying to form a corner that has curves in two directions and then weld those in place.
Grind all welds smooth to form the handle and make it look as finished as possible. Make any necessary adjustments to the shape of the frame corners.
I used a flap disc to smooth imperfections.
Step 7: Finish and Assemble
Smear body putty over the welds and any grinding marks. Sand the body putty smooth. Prime and paint the handle to match as well as possible.
Use nuts, lockwashers, and the washers you make to mount the handle. Align it carefully, and tighten the nuts on the screw studs.
Put the front and rear halves of the door together and begin inserting screws. Mount the hinges. Be careful to get the hinge pins on the front side of the door.
I used masking tape to hold the small hinge mounting screws to a longer Phillips screwdriver. After the screw catches in its hole, but screwdriver pulls away, bringing most of the masking tape with it. With one hand align the hinge over its mounting holes and catch the top screw of the upper hinge with the screwdriver in the other hand. Place a screw into the bottom hinge. Tighten all of the hinge screws when finished.