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Rolling Pin with Rotating Handles

Part 2: Bushings and Handles

Part 1 describes a method for making the body of the rolling pin. This part illustrates the methods I use to make the bushings and handles.

Making the Bushings

Here’s the sequence of events. Cut blanks 1.5” long from a 7/8” diameter dowel. Drill a 1/4” hole all the way through each blank. Mount the blank between a mandrel and a cone center to turn it to the final diameter of 3/4”. And that’s it.  

Step by step:

1.  Either purchase a dowel 7/8” or 1” in diameter or turn one from any convenient hardwood. Cut the dowel into 1.5” blanks.  

It may seem logical to start with a 3/4” dowel since that is to be the final diameter of the bushings. This is not a good idea because the hole you drill through the blank will seldom, if ever, be exactly on center. The idea is to drill the hole first and then center the blank on the hole to turn it to its final diameter of 3/4”.  

2.  Drill the 1/4” hole in each blank. You can do it on the lathe if you have a chuck that will grip the blank, or you can do it on a drill press in a manner similar to drilling a pen blank. In a pinch, you can drill the hole with a hand-held drill if you devise a means for holding the blank and aiming the drill.  

3.  Turn a mandrel for mounting the blank between centers. Mount a short piece of scrap spindle stock in a chuck and form a 1/4” tenon about 3/8” long on the end. The blank should fit snuggly over the tenon.

4.  Mount the blank between the mandrel and a cone center. Turn it to its final diameter which should provide a fairly loose sliding fit in the hole at the end of the body. And that’s it.

If you anticipate making several rolling pins, you might consider making a slightly more elaborate mandrel that will speed up the process dramatically. Instructions are given at the end of this article.

Making the Handles

Considerable leeway exists for the design for the handles. Mine tend to be rather simple and are about 3” long with a maximum diameter of about 1”. You can make them larger in diameter, but be aware that if you get them too large, your fingertips will tend to drag along the dough.

And the sequence of events is:  Place a blank long enough for two handles between centers and turn it to a uniform diameter slightly greater than 1”. Cut a groove at the center of the blank wide enough for two tenons and a saw kerf. Remove the blank from the lathe and cut it into two parts.  Install one of the blanks in a scroll chuck and drill a hole so that the handle will screw onto the threads of a 1/4” bolt. Then mount the blank on a shop-made screw chuck (threaded mandrel) and shape it to your liking.

Step by step:

1.  For handles 3” long, place a blank 6.75” long between centers and turn it to a uniform diameter (more or less) somewhat greater than 1”. Turn a groove 3/4” wide and 1/8” deep at the center of the blank. This groove will become two tenons in the next step.

2.  Remove the blank from the lathe and saw it into two parts. Make the cut in the middle of the groove so that each half has a tenon on the end.

3.  Mount one of the resulting blanks in a scroll chuck. Then using a Jacobs chuck in the tailstock, drill a hole to a depth of at least 1.125” in the end of the blank. Deeper is OK. Make the diameter of the hole 0.228”, which is the diameter of a #1 drill bit in a set of number drills.  

The objective is to obtain a hole so that the handle will screw onto the thread of the 1/4” bolt without having to tap the hole in the handle.

If you don’t have a #1 drill bit, try using a 7/32” (0.218”)  or a 15/64” (0.234”).  Do a test fit even if you have the #1 bit because drill bits sometimes tend to drill holes that are slightly oversize.

4.  Screw the blank onto a threaded mandrel having a 1/4-20 thread. Bring up the tailstock for support and then proceed with shaping the handle. Pull the tailstock back out of the way to shape and finish the end. (Details of the mandrel are given farther down in this article.)

5.  After sanding, you may wish to apply an oil and wax finish to the handle before removing it from the lathe.  

Here’s an alternate method you can use if you don’t have a scroll chuck that will grip a tenon 1” in diameter.  

1A. Select blanks whose diameter is somewhat larger than the 1” suggested above so you will be able to correct any wobble that results from the hole not being drilled perfectly straight in the next step. Cut the blanks to a length of 3 3/8” using a saw that will give a square cut across the ends. If you are dealing with square stock, do not turn it round at this time. Clamping and holding the blanks will be easier if they are left square.

2A.  If you have a drill press, use it to drill holes in the blanks as described in step 3. Clamp the blanks securely for the drilling operation.

If you do not have a drill press, clamp a blank to the corner of a work table and use a hand-held drill. Aim carefully.

3A.  Screw the blank onto the threaded mandrel. Hopefully the end of the blank will seat squarely against the bearing surface, even if the axis of the blank is slightly askew. Bring up the tailstock and let the point of the cone center engage the blank where it wishes rather than to try to force the blank into alignment. With luck, you will be able to turn the blank to round and end up with a trued-up blank that is at least 1” in diameter. Then proceed as described above.

Assembly – Putting the rolling pin together

1.  First, make sure the bottom sides of the bolt heads are smooth and free of burrs.

2.  Apply paste wax to the bolts and to the ends of the bushings. (Johnsons is good.) Be careful not to get the wax on the outer surface of the bushings.  

3.  Insert a bolt through a bushing and then screw the bolt into the hole in the handle. Leave from 1/32” to 1/16” space between the head of the bolt and the end of the bushing. Be sure the bushing spins freely on the bolt.

4.  Apply 5-minute epoxy to the outer surface of the bushing. You don’t have to coat the entire surface. DO NOT apply epoxy to the inside of the hole in the body of the rolling pin.

5.  Insert the bushing/handle assembly into the hole in the body. At all costs, you must avoid getting epoxy on the head of the bolt, and you must not let a blob of epoxy get pushed up between the body and the handle.

Start the bushing into the hole while rotating the bushing to distribute the epoxy. Watch for epoxy to get pushed up on the end of the body. Wipe away any that appears with a sliver of paper towel wet with alcohol – without removing the bushing from the hole.  

When all but about 3/8” of the bushing is inside the hole, stop and look carefully all around the bushing for any stray epoxy. Remove any that you find. Finally, push the bushing all the way into the hole. You may use a thin blade of a knife (a box cutter blade is good) to move the bushing the last fraction of an inch.  

Then, keeping the whole assembly level, hold it up to a light and check for a space between the handle and the body equal to the space you left between the bolt head and the bushing in step 3 above. You should not be able to see the end of the bushing, and you should not see any epoxy on the bolt or in the space between the handle and the body. If you do, try removing it with the edge of a thin piece of cardboard soaked with alcohol.  

If somehow epoxy gets to be everywhere and you can’t confidently remove it, pull the bushing back out completely and very quickly clean off all the epoxy with a paper towel soaked in alcohol. Also, thoroughly clean the inside of the hole in the body. Then give it another try, but this time, use less epoxy.

Threaded mandrel for turning the handles

Using a threaded mandrel for the handles allows you to finish the entire handle on the lathe. That is, you can pull the tailstock back and shape the very end of the handle to completion. Some time and energy is required to make the mandrel, but it is worth the effort if you plan to make several rolling pins.

Step by step:

1.  Put a short section of a spindle blank 1.625” long between centers and true it up to a diameter of about 2”. Form a shallow tenon at each end.  (If necessary, change the diameter so that the tenons will fit your chuck. The diameter suggested here is for a Oneway Talon or a Supernova2.)

2.  Remove the blank and install it in your chuck. Use a 1” Forstner bit or turning tools to form a recess about 1/4” deep on the end of the blank.  

3.  Reverse the blank in the chuck. Drill a 7/16” hole to a depth of about 5/16”. Then drill a 1/4” hole all the way through the blank.

4.  Shape the profile of the mandrel.  Remove it from the lathe.

5.  Put a washer on a 1/4” bolt and stick it through the hole. Thread a nut onto the bolt, and then tighten the bolt in order to pull the nut down into the 7/16” hole until it seats. If you run out of thread before the nut seats in the hole, place a washer or two under the head of the bolt and try it again.  

6.  Cover the head of the bolt with epoxy.  And that’s it!

Do you really need a threaded mandrel?  No, not if you only plan to make one or two rolling pins. You can use a mandrel similar to the unthreaded one used for the bushings, but tailstock support will be required. This means you will have to finish the ends of the handles off the lathe after turning the ends down to a small nubbin.

An improved mandrel for turning the bushings.

With a slightly larger blank and a couple of extra steps, you can make a mandrel that will speed up the bushing-making process. Here’s the idea.

Add a cove so that a thin disk having a 3/4” center hole stays on the mandrel and spins with it. Then, to check the diameter of the bushing, simply stop the lathe and see if the ring will slide over the bushing. When it does, you are done. This avoids having to move the tailstock or remove the bushing from the lathe in order to check the diameter.  

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