I used this cast iron skillet on my grill for the first time last week as a surface for my new salt block (Merry Christmas to me!). When I took it off the grill and onto a table, I realised that the skillet's handle was also cast iron, and therefore insanely hot. I managed to get it off, but my thick leather work gloves now have a hole where the handle burned through.
This made me realise I needed a wooden handle to eliminate the risk of burning myself in the future and save on gloves, so I got to work. First, a few safety notices, disclaimers and such:
a) Safety first. Always wear eye and ear protection. Use a breathing mask when sanding.
b) I did some research before beginning this project and found that it is not generally recommended to put wood of any kind in hot, enclosed spaces (e.g. an oven), as it may release gases which may combust or explode.
c) This handle will only be used on my grill, well away from open flame and direct heat.
d) I used pine, as that is what I had lying around. I realise this is not the best choice, but this is only a proof of concept. If the POC works, I'll think about making a handle with some better hardwood.
d) My phone has survived a dip in the river, multiple falls and a screen replacement. This has allowed debris to enter the camera lens, which explains the subpar pictures. Apologies for that!
Step 1: Cut Wood to Size
I decided to use a single piece of wood as I do not know how wood glue will react when heated and I decided it best not to risk it.
I cut my piece of wood to be the approximate size of my hand.
I placed the skillet on top of my piece of wood and drew the outline of the handle. I used a speed square to draw the verticals down on the cross-section of the wood. I then measured the thickness of the skillet's handle to centre it on the cross-section of the wood block.
Step 2: Create the Cavity on Your Wood Block
I clamped the block to my workbench (I know, a vice would have been better, but I don't have one) to allow me to drill the cavity from above. I used this particular drill bit to "carve" the cavity from my block of wood. I think they're called "wood reamer" bits, but you can also use a regular drill bit and a small chisel to hollow out the cavity.
This will take several passes, and you'll need to empty the cavity of saw dust several times.
Try to get a snug fit, but don't worry if it's not too tight. Remember, metal expands when hot, so make sure to leave a bit of room for expansion.
Step 3: Reduce the Block of Wood
I cut off some excess wood from the tail end and rounded off the edges with a rasp. This is not meant to be a piece of art, in any case!
Step 4: Sand Your Wood to Eliminate Splinters
I cheated a bit here, but you can, too! I used this sanding drum attachment for my drill to make my life easier, but you can just as well use a belt sander, random orbital sander, or good old elbow grease.
As I said, this is not meant to be a piece of art, but feel free to sand away to your heart's content!
Step 5: Mark and Drill Pilot Holes
Place the cast iron handle on top of the wooden block and outline the inside of the handle. Drill a pilot hole to drive a screw through later, in order to secure the skillet to the wooden handle.
Countersink the top of the hole to be able to drive the screw under the surface of the wood. We wouldn't want to be burned by a hot screw!
Step 6: Fix Your Handle
I used another scrap piece of wood to hammer the wooden handle in position. Expect a bit of resistance, but make sure that the skillet's handle is in all the way.
I fixed the wooden handle with a screw. The second pilot hole was a bit off centre, so I ended up not using it.