Making a Turnscrew, Part 1

I spent a few hours sweeping and cleaning in the shop, it needs a lot more work, and I have some major reorganizing plans in the works.  More about that another time — but suffice it to say I have some new shop space in the offing that I can dedicate to woodworking.  Before that I have a lot of cleaning and organizing, and at least two dump runs in front of me.  I’ll leave that until next year (tomorrow).

One of the back burner projects I’ve had in mind for a while is to make a turnscrew — basically a fancy screwdriver.  I saw one on eBay earlier this year that was stunning, it had neat filework along the sides.  I should have saved a picture of it because now that I want to make one I can’t find a really nice looking one to emulate.  This one is for sale on Jim Bode Tools:

Turnscrew for Sale at Jim Bode Tools

Turnscrew for Sale at Jim Bode Tools

The basic elements are a rounded, bulbous wooden handle (some had flats to keep them from rolling away), a flat blade that generally tapers in width and thickness from the handle to the tip, and s metal ferrule on the handle.  I had most of the junk I needed to make one laying around.  A piece of 1″ wide by 1/8″ thick hot rolled 1095 high carbon steel, a small block of wood for the handle and a bit of plumbing leftover for the ferrule.  The dowel will be part of the mounting setup.

Parts for the Turnscrew

Parts for the Turnscrew

I started by stripping off the mill finish on the steel and daubed it with some blue dykem (layout fluid).  While that was drying I drilled a 3/8″ hole in the handle and chucked it up in my lathe.  I’m really liking this lathe, best $75 I’ve ever spent.  I just eyeballed the shape, checking it with my hand periodically to make sure it was about the right scale.

Roughed In Handle

Roughed In Handle

I sanded the handle up to 400 and slathered it with oil/varnish mix and left it to dry.

I laid out a centerline on my steel, then striped in layout lines for the tank and blade.  The tang is 3/8″ wide (to fit into the 3/8″ hole I drilled) and the blade tapers from the width of the ferrule to about .300″ at the tip.  I used a belt sander with a 50 grit belt to hog off the material.  You could use a hacksaw or bench grinder.

Layout the Blade

Layout the Blade

Here are the main parts laid out for a glamor shot.  I’m liking it so far.

Main Parts Mocked Up

Main Parts Mocked Up

The handle feels great in my hand.  I’m not sure what the wood is, some sort of figured hardwood turning block I got at the wood store.  It’s lighter and finer-grained than Walnut, but darker than Maple.  The color is going to look good with the copper fitting.

This Needs Several More Coats of Oil Finish

This Needs Several More Coats of Oil Finish

I used the belt sander to begin to taper the thickness of the blade, then switched to a slow speed disc sander with 180 grit paper .  I need to do just a bit more on this still.  It’s not absolutely necessary, but I think it improves the look in a (very) subtle way.

Tapering the Blade

Tapering the Blade

I’m not sure about the final finish on the blade.  Maybe a sanded satin finish, although a blued finish would be nice.

Almost-Finished Blade

Almost-Finished Blade

I have several things left to do still.  Filing the slot in the copper cap, fitting the tank and dowel fillers into the handle, adding the filework decorations, heat treating the blade and shaping the tip to fit a screw.  I should be able to finish this up in a couple of hours tomorrow.

Categories: Uncategorized | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “Making a Turnscrew, Part 1

  1. I’m jealous of your metal working skills. I’m looking forward to seeing the final product.

  2. Very cool. I’ve wanted to make a fancy turn screw for a while now but never was sure what type of steel to use or how it should be heat treated. I really like the handle.

    • I think any hardenable steel would work fine for a turnscrew. It’s not a cutting tool, you want it tough but not hard like a knife or chisel. 1095 will get hard enough to make a chisel, but I’ll temper it. In fact, I’m thinking about a heat blue color for the final finish (about 600-700 degrees) which should also be about the right temper.

      PS: I’m a total hack on the lathe. I just wave the cutting tool back and forth until I get close to what I want.

  3. Great first project for 2013. I get a lot of my must do right projects from pics too.

  4. Cool. I have never seen a flat screwdriver called a turnscrew. I wonder when the name went from turnscrew to screwdriver. I am always interested in the history of naming tools.

    Thanks for sharing,
    Dave
    Traditional Skills Blog

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