How to Make a Knob Stick

Andrew Jones and Clive George
Saturday, 1st March 2014

From Stickmaking: A Complete Guide, learn how to make a simple knob handled stick.

The knob stick has a small handle which can be left in a natural form or given a more stylized head.

A knob stick is a shank with a lump of wood at the handle end taken from a branch, a root or the trunk of a tree. Whilst it is important to ensure that the lump of wood from which the knob handle will be shaped is large enough for the purpose, the beauty of a knob stick is that, because the handle is relatively small and straightforward to produce, suitable shanks are easy to find. It is also the case that they can be made from sticks which were originally intended for a more ambitious project, but which went wrong at some stage in the making. I have salvaged several good knob sticks from intended Cardigan sticks (see Chapter 4) which developed a fault or were flawed.

Shaping the handle

As to the shape shape of the knob, it can be left more or less in a natural form with minimal shaping or tidying up (see right), or a more stylized, rounded shape can be produced as I have done here.

In the first case, it is sufficient to dress the handle into a satisfying shape using a knife and sandpaper, whilst retaining its natural appearance. For a more stylized version, it is necessary to reduce the original lump of wood into something resembling a 2.5in (64mm) cube (see 1 - below). A panel saw is perfectly adequate for this purpose although access to a power band saw makes the job quicker. Take care not to damage the bark when sawing the handle into its preliminary shape and remember to protect the shank with some form of sleeve if it is being held in a vice whilst being sawn.

When the cube has been formed, draw the outline of the handle on to two opposite sides of the cube as in 2. Some suggested profiles for knob handles are shown in 3. Your choice of these, or such other variations as you desire,can be scaled up on a sheet of graph paper to finished dimensions (see 4). Using carbon paper, transfer the selected shape to the cube, taking care that the outlines are in alignment with each other and with the shank. Remove surplus wood with a coping saw to give the rough shape,and then use a wood rasp or power file to remove all the sharp edges and produce a more rounded shape. In its finished form, this should not be perfectly circular, but have sides similar to a flattened sphere. Continue the shaping process until you are satisfied that the handle is symmetrical and sits well in the hand, using medium and then fine abrasive paper to refine the shape.


Finishing the stick

The stick now needs to be cut to size, 36in (920mm) overall being the usual general purpose length. Once this has been done, fit a ferrule, then clean and varnish the stick as described in Chapter 2. 

This is an extract from Stickmaking: A Complete Course (Revised Edition) by Andrew Jones and Clive George, published by GMC (£16.99, available from or from our Green Shopping site

Further resources

The art of spoon carving

Razor edge combi blade carving kit

How to make a backpacking wood gasier stove

Seasonal rhythms and the pleasure of wooding

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