Stupid Easy T-Nut Project Knobs

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

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: 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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    2 Discussions

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    Alex in NZ

    14 days 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 13 days 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!