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This article was published in the Fall 2007 edition of Woodturning Design. 

Whisk as 9 page pdf




I bought a Drill Wizard from One-Way a while back—how could a jig-head like me resist?  The Drill Wizard mounts in the tool rest banjo and holds a portable drill.  It has linear bearings and an adjustable stop, letting you drill holes at a precise angle and depth.  One of the first projects I tried after I bought the Drill Wizard was a whisk.  Using it, in conjunction with the indexing feature, let me drill mounting holes for the whisk wire in a turned wooden handle.


The Drill Wizard is a very nice tool—but rare.  For that matter I had to make some warrantee voiding modifications to make it work on my One-Way 1018.  But once I had the idea for making the whisk I came up with another, decidedly low tech, method to drill the holes.  The whisk is a nice project:  it looks good, you can actually use it for something, it doesn’t require an expensive kit, and it makes a fine gift.  This article will tell you how to make the whisk and a couple of jigs to help drill the holes accurately.  Along the way it will show using an inlay material you probably haven’t used before—nutmeg.

Drill Jig

Before the Drill Wizard there were drill guides.  The better ones have a post that fit in the tool rest banjo and hardened inserts that fit in the post to guide the drill.  I have one—somewhere.  They work reasonably well for medium size drill bits, but aren’t suitable for the small holes to mount the size wire used in a whisk.  So rather than have the drill bit guided by a hardened insert, I decided to try holding the drill bit in a guided pin chuck.  It’s not sensationally accurate nor exceedingly durable, but works well enough to make a whisk or two without a capital investment.

Start with the Wire

Since this won’t be a universal purpose jig, it’s best to start with the wire at hand.  I recommend some 0.051” spring temper bright finish stainless steel wire.  You can get ¼ pound (36 feet) from, stock number 89085K16, for $16.74.  Cut off a small piece of the wire for test purposes.  Select a scrap piece of the same kind of wood you’ll use for the handle.  Drill some ½” deep test holes in end grain with prospective drill bits until you find the right size.  Aim for the snuggest fit you can still easily insert the wire into while holding it with pliers.


Select a piece of steel rod that will fit into your tool rest banjo.  It needs to be long enough to hold the pin chuck at lathe center height when mounted.  Find a pin chuck that will hold the drill bit you’ve selected.  I don’t recommend doing this sort of thing with Starrett quality tools, use a cheap import instead.  Measure the diameter of the long knurled tail section.  Pick a drill somewhat smaller than that diameter.


Center punch the steel rod a half inch or so from the end and clamp it securely in your drill press.  Drill thru the rod with the drill bit somewhat smaller than the pin chuck body diameter.  Check to make sure the hole you got is reasonably close to the hole size you intended—you shouldn’t be able to insert the pin chuck.  If your drill bit was dull and gave you an oversize hole, try again with a smaller drill on the other end of the rod.


Insert a drill chuck in the headstock of your lathe.  Tighten the head of the pin chuck and insert the head of the pin chuck into your drill chuck.  Bring up the tail stock into the back end of the pin chuck to steady the pin chuck and keep the drill chuck from vibrating out of the headstock.  Turn on the lathe at a slow speed and file the knurled portion of the pin chuck with a flat file.  Check your progress frequently by backing off the tailstock and testing the fit by attempting to slide on the hole in the steel rod.  When I first made the fig I tried for the snuggest, most accurate fit.  This turned out to be a waste of time, as the fit wore quickly and wasn’t accurate enough anyway.  Just aim for something that moves easily without being really sloppy.


Fig01:  The pin chuck mounted between a drill chuck and tailstock centers for filing to fit the hole drilled in the steel rod.


Fig02:  Testing the fit of the pin chuck in the steel rod.


I mounted a scrape piece of wood on my lathe and rounded off the end to test my jig.  I mounted the jig on my lathe, adjusted it to center height, and tried drilling 12 equally spaced holes.  Then I looked at the results.  At least one hole (see the arrow in Figure 04) was noticeably off, and the fit was getting sloppier.  So I planned on using guide marks for drilling the holes in the actual whisk.  With guide marks at the whisk end, the jig only has to be accurate enough to hold the drill at the correct height.


Fig03:  The set-up to test the drilling jig.  A short test turning is chucked in the collet chuck.


Fig04:  The test results.  The hole indicated by the arrow is noticeably off.  You can see this is the same piece I used to test nutmeg as an inlay.

Preparing Nutmeg Inlay

A while back I flavored something with nutmeg.  I had grabbed a whole nutmeg and used a microplane grater.  When I thought I had added enough, I happened to turn over the nutmeg and look at it.  Wow, it was really pretty.  What could be more suitable for inlay in a kitchen tool than something edible?  I tried using some for inlay.  While softer then wood, it did work, and survived several washing by hand cycles.   I easily obtained the nutmeg from my kitchen drawer.  While I don’t know where my wife got it from, if you can’t get whole nutmeg at your local grocery, it is available online.  You can, of course, use another inlay material or omit the inlay.


I attached the nutmeg to a piece of 3/8” dowel and held the dowel in my collet chuck.  If you want to use a 4-jaw chuck instead, substitute a bigger waste block you can easily hold in your chuck.  Insert the dowel (or other waste block) in your chuck and turn the end flat and true.  Remove it from the chuck.  You should plan on using at least two nutmegs, so prepare two waste blocks for inlay and maybe one for practice.  Sand a dowel sized flat on the stem end of the nutmegs.  Apply some Cyanoacrylate glue to the flattened end of the nutmeg and spray some accelerator on the dowel end.  Align and press together, then set aside to cure.  If you want more time to align the nutmeg you could use hot-melt glue.


Fig05:  The nutmeg and dowel at the top of the picture are prepped for gluing.  The nutmeg and dowel on the bottom are ready to mount for turning.

Making a Thin Parting Tool

A standard parting tool will waste a lot of nutmeg.  If you have one of those 1/16” wide mini-parting tools, then use that.  If you don’t have one, you can make a light duty one that is even thinner.  Find an old used metal cutting reciprocating blade and grind off the teeth.  Wind some duct tape on the back half of the blade for a handle.  Sharpen the nose end and you’re done.  Please remember this is a light duty tool for cutting small stock.  The reciprocating blade is not as stiff as a manufactured parting tool, and the duct tape handle won’t protect you from the tang of the blade if you have a catch in large work.


Fig10:  A homemade thin (0.038”) parting tool.


Mount a nutmeg via a waste block in your chuck.  You can use your tailstock to support the nutmeg while roughing to round.  Turn the lathe on and use a spindle roughing gouge or skew to turn the center portion of the nutmeg round.  Reduce the diameter to ½”.  The nutmeg is pretty soft, so it will be more accurate to stop the lathe to measure with calipers.  Face off the end of the nutmeg that’s less than ½” diameter and get the tailstock out of the way.


Fig06:  The set-up for turning the nutmeg.  The nutmeg is glued to a dowel mounted in a collet chuck.  The tailstock adds some support until the nutmeg is turned round—but don’t crank it in far.  The tailstock center didn’t spin.


Fig07:  After turning the nutmeg to ½” diameter and facing the end.


Use your fingers to support the nutmeg while you cut off slices with the parting tool.  You’ll get smaller tear out nubs in the center if your fingers apply only trace pressure to the end.  They’re just there to catch the offcut so you don’t lose it.  Go ahead and practice a bit.  Once you’ve got the technique down, start making slices in earnest.  I didn’t measure them, but aimed for slices a little less than 1/8” thick.  Rather than counting 6 slices, cut up two nutmegs, that way you can pick out the best ones.


Fig08:  Cutting the inlay sections with a thin parting tool.  Don’t apply pressure to the end with your fingers, as they’re just there to catch the offcut.

Fig09:  The inlay sections obtained from two nutmegs.



I tried soaking a whole nutmeg in Minwax Wood Hardener and letting it dry overnight.  While it hardly turned the nutmeg into ebony, it did make it less crumbly.  The wood hardener seemed to mute the colors a bit.  You could also try protecting the nutmeg inlay by letting thin Cyanoacrylate glue soak in to completed slices.  Using Tagua nuts in a dark handle would also be attractive.


Mounting Tenon

Select a suitable wood.  Any washable wood will do, but the nutmeg inlay looks best against a light colored wood.  I used pear.  Mount a turning square that is at least 1-1/4” x 1-1/4” x 6-1/2” between centers on your lathe and rough it to round with a spindle roughing gouge.  At the tailstock end turn a ½” long tenon to match the chuck you plan to use.  I used a ¾” diameter tenon mounted in my collet chuck.  This size would also work with #1 jaws in a 4-jaw chuck.  (If you have neither, you could start with a turning square that is 1-1/2” x 1-1/2” x 8” mounted between centers.  Instead of roughing to round, use pommel cutting technique with a skew to turn a partially round 2” tenon on one end and mount that in a 4-jaw chuck with tailstock support, and then rough to round.  You need the extra length to leave full diameter shoulders at the chuck end.  If you don’t have a 4-jaw chuck either, you can glue the tenon into a waste block screwed to a faceplate.)


Fig11:  The pear turning square after mounting between centers, roughed to round, and having a tenon turned for mounting in the collet chuck.


Mount the tenon in your chuck and bring up the tailstock for support.  True it up with your roughing gouge, then reduce an inch or two at the tailstock end to 1” diameter.  Use a skew (or a spindle detail gouge if your skew skills are under-practiced) to round or dome the end slightly.  Leave a nub for continued tailstock support.


Fig12:  After mounting in the collet chuck and turning the end down to 1” diameter.


Fig13:  The end has been rounded and a ¾” diameter circle marked on the end.  A nub is left for continued tailstock support.

Drilling Holes

Mark Holes

Since the make-shift drill jig won’t be accurate enough when used alone, you need to mark the hole locations.  Start by marking a 3/4” diameter circle with a pencil on the end while the lathe is running.  Temporarily slide the tailstock out of the way.  If your tool rest has a sharp edge that you can bring right up against the end of handle you can use that to mark the radial locations without worrying about parallax error.  Mine doesn’t, so I made a jig—must have taken 4 minutes.  Cut a 4” wide piece of scrap ¾” sheet goods at a 30° bevel so that it is as long as the center height of your lathe.  Check the height against your tailstock.


Fig14:  Testing the marking jig for proper height against the tailstock.  The jig is simply a 4” wide piece of mdf with a flat bottom and beveled top cut to lathe center height.


Using your tool rest or jig, lock the lathe at each of 12 equal divisions using your indexing head and mark the location of the drill holes by tracing radial lines. 

Fig15:  Using the marking jig to trace radial lines to mark drilling locations.



Fig16:  After marking the hole locations.

Mount Jig

Chuck up the correct drill in your modified pin chuck.  Leave a little more than ½” of drill sticking out.  At least with cheap pin chucks, (the kind I have) you’ll need to tighten the head with a pair of pliers to prevent the drill bit from slipping.  Insert the pin chuck into your drilling jig and then insert the post of the drilling jig into your tool rest banjo.  Adjust the tool post height so that the drill is at the lathe center and then lock the tool post in the banjo.  Move the pin chuck as far as possible into the drilling jig.  Move the banjo around until the drill is just short of the ¾” diameter line, and perpendicular to the domed surface at the line.  Lock the banjo position securely. 


Fig17:  The Drilling Jig is locked in location.  The drill bit, when the pin chuck is fully retracted, is just short of the handle, and perpendicular to the face.  You can see masking tape on the post—that’s there to cover up wrong size holes.


Attach a portable electric drill to the end of the pin chuck so that the face of the drill chuck is ½” from the drilling jig.  Tighten the electric drill chuck securely so it won’t slip—this is your drill stop.  Locking your indexing head at the same 12 equally spaced divisions, drill the 12 holes, hand guiding the start of the hole at the mark to insure accuracy.  After drilling the holes remove the drilling jig and bring the tailstock back up to support the handle.


Fig18:  After attaching the electric drill to the drilling jig.  You should be able to see that the distance from the drill to the post is less than the length of drill protruding from the pin chuck.  The less (rather flexible at this diameter) drill protruding the greater the accuracy, but if you use the pin chuck face as a stop instead of the electric drill chuck the drill bit may break.


Fig19:  The handle after drilling all the holes.

Basic Shape

Start the lathe and reduce the diameter of the handle past the bead location to 1” if you haven’t already.  Hold the pattern in Drawing 1 on your tool rest to mark the location of the bead.  (You could just fold the magazine page over…but it would feel more artisanal to copy the Drawing, glue it to thin stock such as matt board, and mark the ordinal points with a triangle file.)  Use your skew to make V-cuts at the marks.  Round the bead with your skew, or use a detail gouge if you think the drilling work was too much effort to risk. 

Drawing1:  The pattern for the handle.



Fig20:  The bead locations have been marked.

Fig21:  After cutting the bead with a skew.




Use a skew, or the tool of your choice, to cut a gently concave contour from the face of the handle to the base of the bead.  Use your pattern to mark the 1-1/8” diameter shoulder near the end of the handle.  Cut to the 1-1/8” diameter with your full size parting tool and calipers so that the right side of the cut is on the line.  Return to the skew (or choice) and cut a convex contour from the fat part of the handle to the shoulder.  Then cut a gently ogee shaped contour from the maximum part of the handle to the base of the bead.

Fig22:  After cutting the contours to the base of the bead.  The location of the shoulder has been marked.  This picture also shows the difference surface quality left by an aggressive cut with the spindle roughing gouge on the left and finishing cuts with the skew on the right.


Add Inlay


To mark the positions for the 6 nutmeg inlays, first mark a line at the maximum diameter part of the handle with the lathe running.  Then turn the lathe off.  Use the indexing head and your tool rest or marking jig to mark 6 equally spaced locations on that line.

Fig23:  Using the marking jig to indicate locations for the inlays.



Remove the handle from the lathe (had you bought the Drill Wizard you could drill inlay holes right on the lathe).  Mount a ½” Forstner bit in your drill press.  Clamp a V-block to your drill press table so that it is centered under the drill bit.  Put the handle in the V-block so that the inlay marking line is centered under the drill bit.  You can make a quick stop by placing a small clamp across the V-Block.


Fig24:  The set-up for drilling holes to mount the inlay.  A V-block has been mounted centered under the drill bit.  A mini-clamp serves as a stop.


Adjust the depth stop of your drill press to drill holes the depth of the thickness of your inlay.  Hold the handle against the stop with a location mark directly under the drill bit and drill the first hole.  Rotate the handle to each of the other 5 locations and repeat drilling.


Fig25:  After drilling all 6 inlay holes.


Remove the handle from the V-Block and remove any sawdust from the inlay holes.  Add a generous amount of thick Cyanoacrylate glue to the bottom of a hole and push one of your nutmeg inlays into the hole.  Repeat for the other 5 nutmeg inlays.  Wind a rubber band around the inlays to keep them in place while the glue cures.  If you notice any gaps or inlay crumbles, fill them with some of the thick Cyanoacrylate glue.  Set the handle aside to let the cure well.


Fig26:  The nutmeg inlays have been glued in pla ce.  A rubber band “clamps” them in place until the thick CA glue sets.


Remove the rubber band and remount the handle on your lathe.  Use a skew and make gentle cuts to smooth the inlay area.  Blend into the surrounding contours if necessary.


Fig27:  After the inlay has been turned flush with the handle.

Finish Shape

Use the pattern to mark the location of the handle end stub.  Cut down to ½” diameter with a full size parting tool and calipers.  Reduce the diameter of the handle end stub to ½”.  If you want to be able to hang the whisk from a peg, drill a 1/8” hole for a thong about ¼” from the end.  Use the point of your skew to round or dome the transition from handle to stub.  Then cut a gentle concave contour from the end of the handle to the transition.  Cut a cove with a spindle detail gouge from the handle shoulder to the domed transition.


Fig28:  The end stub has been turned.


Fig29:  After turning a cove to make the transition between the shoulder and stub.


Remove the tool rest and turn on your dust collector to start sanding the handle.  Start with the grit appropriate for the surface condition your cutting tools left.  There’s no point in getting obsessive about sanding to ultra high grits for a tool handle that will be washed.  (I used 180 and 320 grit and 3M 7448 non-woven abrasive).  Turn off the lathe and dampen the handle with a wet paper towel—this way the handle won’t turn instantly to fuzzy when you wash it the first time.  Speed up the drying by holding a dry paper towel against the turning handle.  Then sand again with the finer grits.


Fig30:  After sanding with 180 and 320 grit abrasive, dampening, then sanding again with 320 grit and a 7448 pad.


Cut off the nub at the tailstock end using your skew or detail gouge.  Without applying much lateral pressure, sand where the nub was cut off.  Then cut off the handle at the headstock end with a skew or parting tool.  Sand the end of the handle by hand (unless you’ve indulged in the luxury of a pneumatic cushion drum sander).


Fig31:  After removing the tailstock nub and sanding the end.


Fig32:  The completed whisk handle.

Adding Wire


Cut 6 lengths or wire 17” long.  Clamp the end of a wire in a vise.  Do your best to straighten out the worst of the curve by hand.  Then take a small scrap block of hardwood.  Cut a double kerf slot with your band saw about 2” deep cutting with the grain.  Slide the slot over the wire at the vise end, compress the slot with a pair of tongue-and-groove pliers (commonly called by the copyrighted name of channel-locks) and pull the block to the other end.  By experimenting slightly with the angle you hold the block relative to the remaining curve you should soon get the wire fairly straight.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  Repeat with the other 5 wires.


Fig33:  Using a slot in a scrap block and pliers to straighten the wire.


Line up the ends of the wire together at one end and tape them together with masking tape.  Tape them together another time or two in the middle so they don’t flop around.  Trim the untapped ends of the wire so that the wires are progressively 1/8” shorter (17, 16-7/8, 16-3/4…).


Fig34:  The wire taped into a bundle so that the wires can be trimmed to final length .


Set up a glue station.  You need a non-serrated pair of pliers to avoid marking the wire.  If you don’t have a pair, wind some duct tape over the jaws of a pair of ordinary needle-nose pliers (not lineman’s pliers as I used the picture, the jaws are too big for all but the first wire).  Put a piece of masking tape down to protect your work surface and put a dollop of thick Cyanoacrylate glue on the tape.


Fig35:  The gluing station with handle, wire, CA glue on masking tape, and pliers to fully seat the wire into the holes.


Select the shortest wire.  Dip one end into the dollop of glue and insert that end into one of the holes in the handle.  Grab the wire just above the handle with the non-serrated pliers and make sure the wire is inserted all the way to the bottom of the hole.  Dip the other end of the wire in the glue and insert it into the diametrically opposite hole.  Again, seat the wire fully with the pliers.


Select the second shortest wire, dip in glue, insert and seat into a hole next to the first wire.  Then do the same for the other end in the diametrically opposite hole.  The second wire will cross over the first.  Repeat with the rest of the wires, always picking the shortest remaining wire.


When all the wires are glued in, use a paper towel to clean up any glue that went astray.  Then set the whisk aside to allow the glue to cure.


After the glue has cured, coat the handle with mineral oil, allow the oil to soak in, then wipe dry.  Add a loop of cord or leather thong for hanging if you wish.  Last, enjoy using it or giving it away—gifts to cooks, after all, often pay off delicciously.


Fig37:  The completed whisk.


Fig38:  A detail picture of the inlay.

Materials and Tools

0.051” spring temper bright finish stainless steel wire:, 89085K16, $16.74


1-1/4” x 1-1/4” x 6-1/2” turning square


Fig36:  Visual tool list.  On the top row from left to right are CA glue, 180 abrasive, 320 abrasive, and a well used 3M 7448 non-woven pad.  The bottom row from left to right has a homemade thin parting tool, spindle roughing gouge, full size parting tool, skew, spindle detail gouge, lineman’s pliers for cutting wire, tongue-and-groove pliers and slotted block for straightening wire, and non-serrated pliers for inserting wire.


David Reed Smith turns and tinkers in his basement in Hampstead , Maryland .  This article, with perhaps some additional pictures and variations will be available sometime after publication on his website:  He welcomes comments, questions, and suggestions via email at: