Introduction: Wooden Drawer Pulls - Made at Techshop

About: I'm a teacher first and a maker close second. I currently teach woodworking, CNC and laser cutting / engraving at several makerspaces in the San Francisco bay area. Humanmade, The Crucible, and Clayroom. In ad…

Here is a set of wooden drawer pulls I made for a chest of drawers, made of the scroll saw in Techshop's wood shop.

Last year I made a nice little chest of drawers - she's not pretty, but she's quite functional. It was my first furniture project after taking a wood-joinery class at Techshop. But it had one little problem - there wasn't a good way to open the drawers. I originally meant to make face-plates for each of the drawers, and handles, but time got away from me and so I've been using handle-less drawers for several months now. It's time to stop the madness!

Today I decided to forget the face plate, and just made some wooden handles for my drawers  on the scroll saw. This is a quick little project that shows another very useful aspect of the scroll saw - cutting out 2 different profiles to create compound 3D shapes.

Step 1: Tools and Materials Used

Tools used

  • Scroll saw (DeWalt)
  • #6 crown-reverse blade (Olsen)
  • Sandpaper - 80, 120, 220 grit
  • Drill-press mounted drum sanders, coarse (80 grit) and fine (120 grit)
  • Combination square (for layout)
  • French curves (for layout)
  • Power drill (for mounting)

Materials used

  • Walnut
  • Spray shellac
  • Spray lacquer
  • #8 screws (for mounting)

Step 2: Size & Draw the Handles

Instead of using a printed pattern, I decided to try and free-hand these handles. I started with the size of my hand - I tried gripping a ruler, to see how much room my hand needed to grip the handles. I measured ~4 inches across and 5/8 inches deep. Each of my blanks was ~1 inch square around, and I cut each blank to 5 inches long, to allow a little room on the sides for mounting to the drawers.

Next, I drew my design directly onto the blanks. I used both a combination square and french curves to draw the outline for the handle shape. I only drew on one of the handles, then based all the others off the first.
  1. I divided the handle into thirds, both along its length and width - these served as basic proportions for me to draw symmetrical curves. Drawn in pencil
  2. I used two sections of my french curves to draw a clean arc across the handle's length, and make a rounded transition at the sides. Also drawn in pencil.
  3. When I was happy with the lines I took it to the scroll saw, but it was hard to see the pencil lines under the bright lights. So I went back and drew over the pencil lines in dark ink, and erased all the guide-marks from the combination square.

Step 3: Cut Out the Handles

Cutting out the handles

  1. I started with the upper arc and made the cut in one pass, cutting right along the line.
  2. Next, I cut out the inside scoop. The only tricky part about this was the tight corner - I always get nervous that I'm going to cut straight through my piece, or veer wildly off the line. But like I've said before in my other scroll saw instructables, I get my best results using a quick, confident motion - thinking is the enemy. The blade I was using was small enough to neatly turn on a dime within the corner.
  3. With my first handle cut, I decided to trace the shape directly to the rest of the blanks, instead of re-drawing the shape again. I knew this was bound to introduce some error (the pencil line being slightly smaller or larger than the original) but I decided to try it anyway.
  4. I cut the rest of the blanks, and indeed, most of them were a bit larger than the original, but not as much as I expected.
*Safety note: When cutting close to the edge of a piece, it can be difficult to support the whole piece against the vibration of the saw blade. In this situation, I just took my time and cut very carefully when finishing each of the handles. My thumb got very close to the blade, but I didn't feel in much danger taking it slowly.

Step 4: Sanding & Finishing


I started sanding the handles on the standing belt-sander. This worked okay, but since this sander is set up with 60 grit paper, and moves very fast, it was taking away too much wood too quickly, plus it was leaving deep lines etched in the surface (see close-up 2nd picture).

But then I remembered I have a drum sander set that can be mounted in the drill-press, so I switched to that instead. This drum sander has 2 grits of paper - 80 grit and 120 grit. They also leave lines etched in the surface, but they are much less noticeable because they travel WITH the grain of the wood. The drum sanders were able to get everything except the very tight corners - but I finished those up with sandpaper.

For the final pass I switched to manual sanding. I used scraps of sandpaper to get into the tight corners, and then used 120 grit to soften all the edges, and finally gave everything a 220 grit sanding.Also, by the end of my sanding it was hard to tell which handle was the original - I had removed just enough wood from all of them to even out the sizes.


To finish the handles I started with a spray shellac to seal the surface, then switched to a satin spray lacquer. I sprayed these in a make-shift spray booth made out of a cardboard box. After spraying 1 layer of shellac on all sides, and 3 layers of lacquer, I rubbed them with #0000 steel wool.

Step 5: Mounting

To mount the handles on my drawers, I used a combination square to measure and center the handles on the drawer faces. I then used an F-clamp to secure the handle to the drawer front while I drilled a hole.

I used 0.75 inch #8 screws to mount the handles  - my drawer fronts are 0.5 inches thick, so this just gave ~0.25 inches of hold inside the handle. This worked, but just barely - slightly longer screws would have been better. To compensate for this I drilled extra-deep countersunk pilot holes for each of the screws, giving them a little more bite. With the clamp still in place, I drove each of the screw into the handle - then repeated the process with the rest of the drawers.

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Participated in the
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