Easy T-Nut Project Knobs

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About: Jack of all trades, master of none! Check me out on YouTube!

I remember the first time I laid my hands on some Rockler project knobs. I remember thinking, "They make these things? I'll own hundreds!" That was 15 years ago. As the YouTube train started picking up speed, I started realizing that nothing was off limits, that anything could be made. Project knobs probably don't fit into the category of difficulty like, say, a homemade bandsaw would, but so many people seem to overlook how fantastically simple they are to make. In this instructable, I plan on giving you some very basic information on just how simple, how versatile and just how ridiculous it is to pay for these things. Besides, there's nothing like using a project knob in a project and thinking, "I made this."

Material List:

  • Block of wood
  • T-Nut (There are MANY to choose from in both metric and SAE)
  • Bolt (same as above)
  • #6 Pan head screw (Screw that's flat under the head)

And that's it!

Tools Needed/Used

  • Drill
  • Drill bits

And honestly, for a rudimentary, functioning knob, that's all you need.

More detailed knobs

  • bandsaw or scroll saw
  • metal file
  • sanding drum (used to make notches)

Step 1: Drilling the Hole, the Basics and Sizes

Okay, so this is going to be the quick and...clean? way to make this (assuming the dirty way is the much more difficult approach? (darn colloquialisms!)).

You can take any shape and make it a handle. In the example from the video, I used a nice round 2" piece of wood about 1/2" thick. I found and drilled out the center using a 3/8" drill bit for a 5/16" t-nut.

Fitting the T-Nut into the handle

A quick rule of thumb for t-nut sizes: Always drill a 1/16" larger hole than the t-nut size. So if you buy a package of 3/8" T-Nut's, you better have a drill bit that's 7/16" in diameter. Need a gnarly 1/2" t-nut in a 6" block of wood? You better make sure you're drill can chuck a 9/16" drill bit. Going larger, in this case, isn't necessarily a good thing, it borders on being bad as those spines that protrude need strength in the wood and by making that hole for the barrel too big, you're making it weaker.

Step 2: Marking / Drilling Out the Splines

After our center has been drilled out, drop the barrel (the outer wall of the thread) into the hole and take a small hammer and gently tap the top of the t-nut, allowing the prongs to leave marks in the wood knob. You could very easily hammer the t-nut in, but you'll more than likely split the wood, especially if you go into the end grain.

Instead, make the marks, pull out the t-nut and find a drill bit that's as wide as the splines on the t-nut. You can either find the exact depth you'll need to make by measuring the spline and sticking a piece of tape on your drill bit at the height of your spline, or you can drill right through. I prefer to drill straight through.

Drilling and Marking Spline Destinations

Step 3: Taming Those Splines!

We're not done! If we choose to stop now, yes, that knob will work, but there will come a time when that t-nut pops off. And if it's not secured, you could cause the splines to bend, making the t-nut useless (I've done it before many times). So instead of letting those splines run loose, let's saddle them down with a well placed screw. Giddy up!

Throwing the Screw Saddle On

As you saw in the video, I pulled out the t-nut after I had made sure it fit, and fitted it into my vice. I used a round file to grind a small semi circle to my t-nut allowing me to add 1, 2, or even 3 (if you're as OCD as I am) screws that will pass through and secure it to the wood. Of course, you'll want to make a pilot hole to reduce splitting the wood.

Now there's another option that will probably never give you any problems, and that is adding a bit of epoxy to the t-nut and bypassing the screw and the file altogether. Epoxy can be messy and a bit more expensive, so I usually stick with basics. The advantage, though, of using epoxy is that you'll have a lower profile on the top of the knob where a screw might get in your way, especially if you are screwing the face of the t-nut up against whatever you're securing.

Step 4: Shapes And...Customization!

The last thing I wanted to add is a few shapes you can use to make your knobs. Sizing these examples I've given you depends on whether or not you are a print ninja and able to zoom in and out. There's probably an instructable somewhere to do that...hmm...

Really, the most beautiful thing about making knobs is how perfect you can make them for your application instead of hoping your local hardware store has the right size or shape. In the case of a studded knob, you can also very easily determine thread counts for bolts as well as bolt lengths.

Step 5: Creating a Knob With a Neck

UPDATE 6-11-19

When I started this instructable, I had high hopes that I would be able to reference back to it in the process of making other instructables. I'm adding this step to help with my drill press clamp, but it's a beautiful knob that can be used in many different applications.

To create a knob with a 'neck':

  1. we'll first need to take the included pattern and glue it onto a block of wood of equal size. You may take the shape and resize it however you want but make sure that the drill bit you use (I recommend Forstner bits) fit inside the rims of the knob.
  2. After each 'rim' has been drilled out, take the knob over to the bandsaw where you'll cut on the lines of the provided pattern.
  3. Now it's time to round each of the corners. This is totally and completely up to you and may be completely unnecessary, but it does give it a nice feeling when it's all smooth.
  4. Next we'll trim out the inside. However thick you choose to make the knob...you'll use that thickness with a drill bit or, again, I suggest a Forstner bit.
  5. Cut a dowel to the length that you want the neck to be. I find that 1 1/2" works really well with a 3/4" thick knob, but it is totally up to you. We'll glue the rod into the hole that was drill in step 4.
  6. Next we'll drill a small hole through both the knob and the 'neck' laying the knob on its side. This will help to ensure that it (the knob separating from the neck) does not move if the glue somehow fails.
  7. We'll now add another hole through the top the full length of the neck. This hole will be the size of the outer diameter of the barrel of the t-nut.
  8. Once this is done you can either mount the t-nut to the top or to the bottom. If you choose to mount it to the bottom, I would recommend using epoxy as any screw you place into the t-nut could become problematic to whatever the bottom of the knob rubs against. If you choose to screw a t-nut onto the top, you shouldn't have any problems.

Here is a complete process of each step in motion:

Making a Knob with a "Neck"

Step 6: In Closing...

Thank you! If you made it this far, you're part of my favorite people category! Leave me a comment and be sure to check out my youtube page (and subscribe!) where nothing is ever the same. If you have a suggestion or comment on what to make or do next, throw it at me!

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    5 Discussions

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    HorusCok

    2 months ago

    Handy knobs, indeed. When I make these for my jigs, I seat the T-nuts by pressing them into the wood using a vice. I've found that pounding them in, even using a block, tends to bend the prongs and can split the knob. I rarely have issues with the t-nuts coming loose, but I always orient them to pull into the knob when tightened.

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    Catfishy

    3 months ago

    Very nice presentation!
    I am personally a total advocate for promoting the idea of making things on a budget. You have totally made my day with this idea. I have proudly voted for your in the "Make A Tool" contest.

    1 reply
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    Make_ThingsCatfishy

    Reply 3 months ago

    Wow, thank you! Yep, I'm as cheap as they come and would rather make things myself.

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    Alex in NZ

    4 months ago

    Neat idea for stopping the T-nut splitting the wood. Thank you for sharing it :-)

    1 reply
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    Make_ThingsAlex in NZ

    Reply 4 months ago

    I'm sure I'm not the first to think it up, but it's quick and keeps it from falling out!

    Thanks Alex!