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How to make a wooden brush handle without a lathe or drill press

While watching videos on making bent wood rings, I realized that it should be possible to wrap wood veneer around a dowel core and create a perfect socket to accept a brush knot. A 1" dowel is 25mm, which is ideal for a 24mm knot.

Steps: cut a brush core from 1" dowel rod. Cut 6-10 strips of wood veneer, making them about 10-15mm "taller" than the height of the dowel piece. Looks like 10mm is ideal for my preferences. Sand a taper into both short edges of each veneer piece, so that when wrapped, seams are minimized. Using CA glue (super glue), wrap the dowel in the wood veneer. A steam source helps soften the veneer and make it bend without risk of breakage. Using a rotary tool and/or other abrasives, shape and finish the handle.

This is a tedious process, but here's what's possible:

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Not bad for not having a lathe or drill press. The handles above are arranged in the order I made them from left to right. The fifth one was painted with artist quality watercolor paint before finishing with Tru-Oil.

Here's the three middle ones with the veneer stock they came from (you can see how the Tru-Oil deepens and darkens the color a bit):

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I chose a shape for these that would be simple and maximize the amount of wood grain visible.
Another picture, including the most recent handle of the bunch, and knots in each:

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The knots are all from APShaveco, from left to right: Synbad bulb, 2BED fan, cashmere fan, faux horse bulb. All are just resting in their sockets; they're not glued in yet. The handle on the right was made with nine layers of veneer, three each of light, medium, and dark colors alternated continuously. A nice banded appearance resulted.

The purple (beet!?) colored brush got the honor of the best knot of the bunch, a G5C:

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I shaved with this one today for the first time, and other than having some paint run off the bottom of the handle due to not enough layers of Tru-Oil, it worked great. I am adding more layers as we speak. Let me know if you have any questions about how this works. I haven't seen this approach anywhere else and enjoyed making it work. Good projects to all.
 
Some further details about the steps:

Sanding the leading and trailing edges of each veneer strip to minimize "bumps" caused by seams when wrapping the veneer:
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Work on a waxed paper surface to prevent super glue from sticking to everything. Make the veneer strips as perfectly rectangular as possible, or they won't wrap evenly. A T-Square is essential. Remember, the Prime Directive of all super glue is to get you to the Emergency Room looking rather sheepish. Keep your fingers moving and never let your guard down!
Start with gluing just the first edge indicated by the bottle in the picture:
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To promote even wrapping, I start the gluing with the veneer edge standing upright on its edge.
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After adding glue, (not pictured here, for the sake of snapping a photo safely), hold the work piece over a steam source to steam the opposite side of the veneer. It will curl in the direction you're bending it.
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The grey striped brush just after finishing the wrap process, before sanding and shaping:
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The beet colored brush in the shaping process, before painting (with stacks of unused 8"x5" veneer in background):
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The banded brush right before first layer of Tru-Oil (the remaining dowel rod makes a great jig for holding pieces):
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Enjoy!
 
That is a fantastic project. Very Informative post on your innovative salutation. It gives me an idea or two. Thanks for sharing. I hope the veneer layers hold up well. As long as they were glued adequately and finished well I don't see they wouldn't. What are you gluing the knots in with?
 
I wish for a lathe for you. You have talent and a lathe is fun. I have never been a fan of Superglue. The beet color came out awesome. Wax can make a nice finish on wood - but I don’t think I have ever seen it in a moist environment. Keep up the good work. Great to be thinking outside the box.
Thanks so much! I'd love to have one one day. I was trying for violet and boy, did it turn out looking like a beet! The Tru-Oil finish seems to dry pretty hard and clear, so we'll see how it holds up in moisture. It could totally fail, but this was still fun. The materials were incredibly cheap as well. I'm surprised the method worked out this well. Usually my "workshop" ideas are hilarious disasters.
 
That is a fantastic project. Very Informative post on your innovative salutation. It gives me an idea or two. Thanks for sharing. I hope the veneer layers hold up well. As long as they were glued adequately and finished well I don't see they wouldn't. What are you gluing the knots in with?
Yes, the veneer layers could fail specularly! It will be fun to see what happens over several uses. But I think they are glued very securely in place. When sanding them back, they seemed very well adhered. I am hoping the Tru-Oil keeps the water out.

I only glued one of the knots in so far--the G5C in the beet colored handle. I used silicone for starters since this is my very first brush assembly. I have epoxy on hand if and when I get more confident about what works well for me.

Thanks for your compliments! I hope it spurred some fun ideas for you.
 
I've used silicone in many brushes and they have held very well. I use 2 part epoxy I some especially if requested on a custom handle for someone else. I will be using silicone on all mine from here on out unless I start having failures. Which I doubt.
 
Here's the next handle I made using this veneer process, and it gave me such fits! So I set it on fire.

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What happened? First off, I got all fancy, putting in extra detail work using the drum sander bit on my rotary tool. Then I thought I should paint the thing blue, but I didn't like the way it came out. So I sanded all the paint off, essentially re-doing the entire handle. But I couldn't get those last little bits of color out, because they had soaked in really deep due to capillary action. When I would wet the piece with a solvent to see what the finished product would look like, I just wasn't happy.

So it hit me, why not try torching it with a kitchen torch, which was a finish option I had in mind anyway for a future handle. The torch worked well, although in some places, more of the veneer burned off than I expected. Further sanding both pre- and post-oiling . . . and here's the final product. I think it's really interesting. The back side of it is even darker.

For the photo, I test-fit a Synbad knot in it. The variations in fibers seem to match well. Then again, the Synbad knot looks incredible in any handle I've seen it in.
 
The next two handles in this series:

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I thought it would be interesting to make some travel-sized handles. I made the lighter one first and it came out great. The photo doesn't show all the shine and shimmer of the wood grain. On the dark one, it was difficult to keep the outer layer from chipping away, as you can see. I used many layers of Tru-Oil to help permeate and stabilize/strengthen it, which gives it a glossier look than I might like.
 
Probably my last editions of this method for a while:

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I like the banded effect and the ergonomic shape. I had enough of the black wood veneer left over to do two with this single black stripe in the center. By actually sanding into the dowel in the middle, it creates more of a "waistline" and adds some shape via the curved wood grain. These will be gifts to friends of mine who introduced me to the hobby.

I think this is about as far as I can take the visuals and shape with the materials and tools I have. I may do another handle with mostly a deep red veneer, assuming I can overcome its tendency to resist bonding with superglue.
 

FarmerTan

"Self appointed king of Arkoland"
Probably my last editions of this method for a while:

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I like the banded effect and the ergonomic shape. I had enough of the black wood veneer left over to do two with this single black stripe in the center. By actually sanding into the dowel in the middle, it creates more of a "waistline" and adds some shape via the curved wood grain. These will be gifts to friends of mine who introduced me to the hobby.

I think this is about as far as I can take the visuals and shape with the materials and tools I have. I may do another handle with mostly a deep red veneer, assuming I can overcome its tendency to resist bonding with superglue.
Beautiful work my friend. Just gorgeous.
 
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