Turning Archive 2004
Mike Schwing from Maryland
>A few months ago I asked for suggestions regarding making my own handles. I was frustrated with the standard handle(s) that came with my tools, as I was running out of handle on deep work and desiring a bit more mass. I wound up buying a Kelton large tool handle instead. Here's what I think about it.
First, a bit about me and what I turn with will help - I'm a short guy (5'5") with a tall lathe. (PM 3520a). At first I thought this was going to be a problem, but as it turns out, the combo is perfect. I also use the Ellsworth grind almost exclusively and am now getting into hollowing as well, both tools mostly require a horizontal approach. This all comes together great for me as the tool approach, the height of the lathe, and the lack of my height wind up putting the tool handle in my armpit very naturally, and giving me great control over the tool. I also like to work off of the end of the lathe whenever possible as opposed to standing aside it.
That out of the way - I bought the large Kelton tool handle designed for their hollowers. The tool is a 2 piece job, and it totals out just under 24" in length, with the smaller, 5" section joined to the longer one via a 1/2" diameter steel rod. When the extension is not used it can hold a 1/2" diameter tool. Both the extension and tool steels are secured via two allen screws.
The business end of the Kelton hollower accepts a 3/4" or 5/8" tool steel and the handle is hollow the entire way through. This allows you to vary the protrusion of your tool steel from the handle to affect a different tool balance. Again the tool steel is held in place with two allen screws, but they protrude from the handle about 4mm, something that generally annoys me. They don't get in the way but they're always on my mind. They do, however, aid in knowing which way the tool flutes or cutting edge is facing if you align the flutes with the screws.
For use with my Ellsworth grind tool steel the handle is absolutely marvelous. The additional weight of the handle makes the tool move more smoothly, keeps vibration down, and doesn't tire my hands out. When used in shear scrape mode, the add'l heft is a great bonus as is the add'l length, as I can rest the handle on my thigh and move along the workpiece much more smoothly and controlled. I do not normally use the extension with the bowl gouge, but have found that when hollowing the extension is invaluable.
I've also discovered something you hollow form guys probably already know - an Ellsworth grind gouge in the long tool handle is GREAT for hollowing once you reach the max diameter of a workpiece, better for me than a typical hollowing scraper type tool, and you don't need to see the gouge in action to avoid a catch - the little allen screws point to "up".
Overall I'm VERY pleased with this handle. Its comfort rivals its utility. The ability to modify the tool balance and weight is priceless, and the ability to have a gouge in each end of the tool is a great feature. I've never felt like I wanted to modify the grip's diameter or material, it feels very natural.
I don't think I'd like it quite as much if I couldn't rest the tool handle in my armpit easily, the weight might tire my arms out prematurely.
I'm definitely glad I bought this tool vs. making one myself.