Questions Answered – How to Make the Paul Sellers’ Handles

Hello Paul…

I would really appreciate it if you could send some pictures of the handle from your toolbox. I made a drawing from the video for a drawing asignment and my tutor has never seen anything like it before, so he found it difficult to mark the project. He asked if you could please send a couple of pictures of the finished article, and if possible construction photos so he has a better idea of what the finished result will look like.

Many thanks for the videos. I’m really enjoying the plane construction.

Andy Evans

Making My Handles

DSC_0126Some years ago I grew tired of round handles and drawer pulls and knobs. Mass-made, they seem inexpensive, yet the cost is at the expense of something we might not at first count the cost of. Why would I spend all the time I do, often weeks, on a nice chest or cabinet and then down grade the quality by buying none-work from a machine. Yes, there is a place for manufactured hardware, but in some cases it’s worth expending a much more effort to create handles that parallel the quality of the main item.

Several of you asked for more detail on making the handles to my tool chest and I did take the sequence of shots I needed to teach others to make them a couple of years ago. You can adapt what I am giving here to develop your own types of handles large or small. Though they are pretty permanent, they can be changed to another style later if you change your mind. I show a through dovetail that shows the edge of the dovetail on the front edge, beneath the top beaded piece, but this can also be a half lap so you don’t see this. It’s a quick adjustment and takes little extra effort.

Start with your wood of choice. the image above shows a sapele handle, but I have used every type of wood through the years. I liked the idea of wedging the tenon through from the back and even flaring the sides of the mortise so that the tails become wedge-dovetailed. that works to really make it impossible for the pull to ever turn lose of its mortise. that said, you can also dispense with the tenon and dovetail and simply screw the handle to the drawer if you prefer. Also, I have made large handles for the side of a chest and made the same style with two tenons through.


You need 1 piece of wood 13mm1(/2”) by 13mm (1/2”) by 50mm (2”) long for the stem that will become the tenon passing through the drawer front. I left my section longer than needed to give me something to hold onto and cut it to length later. The second piece starts at 13mm (1/2”) by 5/8” (16mm) by 50mm (2”) long for the inner section. The two beaded sections top and bottom are 1/8” by 3/4” (or slightly more) by 57mm (2 1/4”) long.

DSC_0077Measure from the front edge a distance of 3mm (1/8”) and draw a mark on the wide face (16mm). This gives the start point for the radiused front face of the inner section. DSC_0078I used a tin can and this is quickest and simplest – a plate or saucer will work too. Draw the radius onto the blank. You may want to mark both sides but this is not really necessary. Once cut to length you are ready for shaping.DSC_0076


DSC_0081Use a 1” bevel-edged chisel bevel up to shape the front radius. Follow closely to the line and this will reduce further refinement with the file. It’s also important to develop fine motor movement and hand skill too.


DSC_0084Refine the arc with a 250mm (10”) flat single-cut file. If you don’t have one. wrap sandpaper around a flat batten and use as a file.


DSC_0095We now make the dovetails on the stem piece. Mark the 16mm distance from the end of the stem and, using the knife, square the line across one face and half way onto the two adjacent faces.


DSC_0099Use a marking gauge to set the distance exactly half way through the piece as shown.


DSC_0102With the depth marked, make an incised cut into the knifewall. this creates a step down into which the saw will sit. Do this only on the wide face only and not on the sides as this is unnecessary.


DSC_0105Saw down to the gauge line taking care not to go past the gauge line.


Saw down the gauge line on the waste side (the part you will remove) of the line. Or, if the wood is straight-grained, split off the waste with a chisel.


You are now ready to cut the angled dovetail to each side of the half lap.


DSC_0106Measure in from each side 2mm at the shoulder line as shown. This is not a critical size and could be 3mm. It will never be seen. Where the mark intersects the shoulder line, draw a line to the outside corner as shown.


Chisel into the knife wall on the side and then cut down to the mark with the small saw.DSC_0109


DSC_0110Chisel into the cut from the corner, making certain to keep the chisel square to the work. Make the cut straight, registering the face of the chisel as closely as possible to the line. repeat to the opposite side.


DSC_0111With the stem completed you now have the template around which to transfer the dovetailed shape onto the corresponding piece. Use a sharp pointed knife to trace the dovetails onto the inner section. Use the shoulder to register against and make certain it stays hard and tight against the piece. Angling the knife slightly will make certain of a tight fit, but not too much. Continue these lines half way down on the face but use a pencil.


DSC_0112Use the same marking gauge with the same setting used on the stem piece to set the depth of cut and mark onto the inner section.


Chisel into the dovetailed shape to create the step down for the saw cuts.


DSC_0115Saw down the knife walls to the gauge line.


DSC_0117Remove the waste with a 6mm (1/4”) chisel and test fit the dovetail in the recess.


DSC_0120You can now glue these two parts together and set aside to dry.


To shape the beaded top and bottom sections, clamp one piece against the assembly in the vise with the back edges flush. Use a scrap of wood 3mm thick (1/8”) as a scribe piece. With a sharp pencil, trace a parallel line onto the beaded piece.DSC_0085


DSC_0087Use a chisel to shape the arc, working from the high point and down toward the extreme of each end. Work carefully to minimize undulation.


DSC_0092Use the same piece to trace around for the second piece. this guarantees they are both exactly the same. repeat as above.


Use sandpaper to round over the edges to form the bead on each bead piece. I find it best to put sandpaper on a hard, flat surface and pull the piece to the sandpaper in an arcing motion. On the arc of the front edge I just use my fingers to press the paper along the arc.


DSC_0125DSC_0126Check for fit and glue in place. leave to dry for a couple of hours.


To fit the handle


DSC_0128Find the position you want in the drawer door or box side. You may have one centred or one either side of a drawer front.


Find the centerline and measure 6.5mm (1/4”) to one side, or half the width of the stem and mark with a pencil. place the stem against this line and ark the second guide line position. This will guide your gauge lines shortly.


DSC_0129Use a marking gauge to establish top and bottom cut lines so that the gauge lines are the width of your stem apart. use the same method t transfer the lines to the inside of the drawer.


DSC_0132Use a knife to cut through the surface fibres and establish your knifewall lines. Again, do the same to the inside of the drawer. Remove the waste wood with a 12-13mm chisel. work from both sides toward the centre.

I like to create a slightly wider inner wall cut at an angle so that the wedges flair the sides of the stem piece. This is not absolutely necessary as the compression of the fibres caused by wedging creates a good tight and even dovetailed effect anyway.


Check for fit and seating and trim as necessary.

Mark and cut the stem to length and then cut saw kerfs to each side of the stem, ensuring that the orientation is as shown. Wedging the other way can split the drawer front.


Cut wedges from a blank. This can be any wood of choice.


DSC_0163Apply glue to the mortise and the tenon stem. Also the back of the assembly so that the large area is glued to the front too.

DSC_0156Hold the handle from the outside and drive the wedges into the saw kerf. These do not need hard driving. Just enough to tighten against the walls of the mortise.DSC_0059

10 thoughts on “Questions Answered – How to Make the Paul Sellers’ Handles”

  1. Paul Thank You for the step by step procedure and the additional pictures, this is most helpful. I really like this type of handle and in my opinion I think it add’s class to the drawers and no doubt this is a strong handle. I am actually going to make one as practice for my drawer I am adding to your Bench.


  2. thanks paul .very well instructed but i hate to remind you that you promised to tell us how to also fit the veneer and cock bead to the drawer fronts . i still have just a coat of sanding sealer on my chest , i live anticipation .thanks again kind regards david

    1. Thanks for the details, Paul. I second David’s motion… I too am looking forward to seeing the veneer and cock bead work done.


  3. Paul,
    Your are amazingly generous with your time.
    This is a wonderful tutorial on a small detail. They say the devil is in the details. In this case, the details adds elegance where too often there is only perfunctory functionality.

  4. These handles are superb! Thank so much for the tutorial…

    Your chest has a lock for the lid. Have you ever done a locking mechanism for the drawers?



  5. Andy in Germany

    Many thanks for this Paul, will pass it on to my tutor. Hopefully I got the drawing right…

  6. Thank You very beautiful I can see a resemblance to the shaker box. The top and bottom give that same graceful and practical use.

  7. Hi paul how are u. Ive watched ur videos on u tube and read some of ur blogs. I must say that u r very talented and skilled. U have now inspired and motivated me. However the question i have to ask u is how can u get paid for the time consuming and meticulous work by hand. U must have a very select and special clientel. U r a true master. They dont make them like u anymore. At my older age im going to try and put out stuff like urs. Lol. Thanks much and a response would be deeply appreciated.

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