Custom Screwdrivers

A wood lathe is a gift machine. It’s a “create a wood shaving disaster” machine. And it’s a quick-win machine. While making these screwdriver handles I verified all three of the above statements.

A few months ago I made a video with Wayne Brown on the topic of “burn out” with woodworking as a hobby. In that video Wayne talked about how he reignited his woodworking fire by getting a lathe and turning a few quick-win projects. If you’re in a slump or you just want to knock out a bunch of items quickly I’d suggest looking into getting a lathe if possible.

There are a LOT of easy items that can be made on a wood lathe and given as a gift. For smaller spindle type projects a small amount of wood is all you need. This allows you to give a gift that has its greatest value in the fact that it’s created by you rather than having the value in the actual cost of a purchased item. I’ve given quite a few gifts made on my lathe. All of which required minimal time and material investment and EVERY one was received very well due to the fact that the gifts were hand-made.

In this video and article I’ll walk you through my process of cannibalizing an inexpensive Task Force screwdriver from my local Lowes to make a custom multi-function screwdriver to give as a gift. Note that there are ready-to-go turning kits you can purchase through Woodcraft, Rockler, and a few other places online. My route of cannibalizing a Task Force screwdriver is the most convenient and least expensive for me. I don’t have a local Woodcraft or Rockler and buying it locally means I don’t have to wait for shipping.

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We need the metal bushing that is inside the handle. Luckily it isn’t glued in place so removing it only requires a chisel and a mallet to break open the handle. DON’T use a really nice chisel for this. I haven’t tried it but I think you could probably get away with using a flat head screwdriver to break away the plastic. The bushing is easily removed with a little bit of the plastic handle out of the way.

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For the handles I chose to use purple heart. The blanks I had were a little too small to turn a proper size tenon for my chuck so I used a drill bit to center the tailstock side and then tightened down the chuck as best as I could. A counterbore hole is required for the bushing and tool insert. First a 9/16” hole is drilled to a depth of about 1”.

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Then a 7/16” hole is drilled to a depth of about 3 7/8”.

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After replacing the drill chuck with a live center in the tailstock I cut a tenon for the tool ferrule. A tight-fitting ferrule is needed so the wood won’t split when the bushing is installed. In this case I’m using a 3/4” PEX crimp fitting. It’s nothing more than a copper ring with what I think is a anti-corrosion coating of some kind added. If you don’t like the darker color of the ring it can be sanded off easily. I use these PEX fittings simply because they are all a consistent length and are precut. You can save even more money by purchasing a piece of copper tube and cutting ferrules from it.

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The roughing gouge is by far my favorite turning tool. It’s so versatile. With a really sharp edge it can be used for shaping as well. My goal was to have a simple handle with a thumb stop.

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After the thumb stop and a slight taper is cut I used the parting tool to establish my overall length.

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Followed by a little more work with the roughing gouge. I wanted to just slightly round over the butt end of the handle. In the last image you can see a couple different shapes for this part.

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Then sanding. I hate sanding. Luckily I had a nice steady breeze blowing from my right to left while I was turning. I got covered in the larger chips, of course, but the breeze kept the dusty stuff away from me which was really nice.

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For a finish I used HUT Crystal Coat. Super easy to apply and it works well.

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It’s a friction finish so after it is applied you need to use a paper towel or a piece of brown paper to heat up the finish and make it shine.

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The handle is done. A parting tool can remove it from the lathe.

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The bushing will be a tight friction finish and probably won’t require any glue at all but to prevent it from moving when the handle expands and contracts due to seasonal changes I did apply a bit of CA glue to the inside of the counterbore. Just a little bit of glue…you don’t want any glue below the bushing.

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And here is the end result. I started with six purple heart blanks and six screwdrivers. I ended up with only 5. I screwed up the last one by experimenting with the handle design and I cut too deep in one spot. Murphy’s law was kicking my butt the entire week in the shop.




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