In simpler days, soda jerks
quickly and efficiently dished perfect
servings of ice cream with sturdy
wooden-handled scoops. Today, if
you have a little turning skill, a small
block of wood, and
the metal parts
(see Sources, below), you can create a classic ice
cream scoop that will make you the
envy of jerks everywhere.
Select a block of dried hardwood
about 1-3/4" square and 6" in length.
The handle must be strong enough,
so stay with domestic hardwoods,
such as cherry, hard maple, walnut or
yellow birch. Exotic woods such as
purpleheart, black palm (used here),
bubinga, rosewood and goncalo
alves are also good choices.
Drill a 3/8" dia. by 1-1/4" deep
hole for the scoop’s stem. If the end
of the blank is properly squared, this
operation is easily performed on a
drill press (Photo 1). Another option
is to mount the blank on the lathe
and turn it to a cylinder, using a spindle
roughing gouge. Then replace
the tailstock center with a drill chuck
to drill the hole (Photo 2).
Mount the drilled blank on the
lathe with the drilled hole facing the
tailstock. If you have a cone-type live
center (Photo 3), simply run the cone
into the drilled hole. Another option
is to turn a tapered wooden plug
that fills the hole and provides a surface
to engage the tailstock center.
The plug should protrude about 1/2",
so you can remove it when you’ve
finished turning the handle.
If the blank you’ve mounted is still
square, turn it to a cylinder, using a
spindle roughing gouge.
Fit the brass ferrule to the blank.
The ferrule is 1" long, so mark that
length on the blank with a pencil.
Turning the correct diameter is a bit
trickier. Start by turning the tenon to
match the outside diameter of the
ferrule (Photo 4). Before you use the
outside calipers for any lathe work, be
sure to round the ends.
Next, create a short taper on the
end of the tenon. Keep checking
with the ferrule until it just starts to
go on. Turn the ferrule a few times
around the tenon to create a burnished
surface. Then, when you start
the lathe you should be able to
“see” the diameter you are targeting.
I try to achieve a very tight driven-
on fit. If the tenon is longer than
the ferrule, you may need another
ferrule to drive the first one home.
Another option is to turn the tenon
to a slightly loose fit and glue on
the ferrule with epoxy. If you use
epoxy, wait for several hours before
completing the turning.
Shape the handle with a spindle
detail gouge (Photos 5, 6 and 7). This
is an organic process: Remove the
handle frequently, to see how it feels
in your hands—the perfect shape is
the one that feels right. Most of my
handles end up about 5-1/2" long,
with maximum diameters near 1-
5/8". Switch to the skew chisel to finish
shaping the rounded areas
(Photo 8). For information about
using this versatile tool, see “Rockin’
and Rollin’ with the Skew” (AW #137,
If the ferrule’s tenon protrudes,
use either a skew chisel (long point
down) or a thin-kerf parting tool to
turn the end flush with the brass
When you’re satisfied with the
handle’s feel and appearance, sand
it—and the ferrule, too—to at least
220 grit (Photo 10).
Cut the handle from the waste.
I usually remove the blank from the
lathe and separate the handle by
sawing with a coping or Japanese
saw. Then I finish sanding the end of
the handle by hand.
Apply the finish (Photo 11). For the
best protection against water and
washing, use a film-forming finish
such as a gel varnish or polyurethane.
Wipe on at least three coats, lightly
sanding between coats with 320 or
400 grit sandpaper, 0000 steel wool,
or a very fine abrasive pad, such as
white Scotch Brite. For a more natural
look, use pure tung oil or even boiled
linseed oil as the finish. Again, apply
at least three coats and wait until the
finish is completely dry before using
Glue the metal scoop into the handle
with epoxy (Photo 12). Use a rag
dampened with lacquer thinner or
acetone to remove any epoxy that
squeezes out. Prop the scoop upright
for about one hour for the glue to set,
and allow at least one day before use.
Tips for Using
Before you attack that frozen ice
cream, immerse the scoop’s business
end in a cup of hot water for a couple
minutes. Use the side of the scoop to
dish the ice cream—don’t dig in with
the front, like a shovel. If you’re serving
a gang of kids, or a gaggle of soda
enthusiasts, dip the metal in the hot
water periodically, to keep it warm.
When you wash the scoop after
your ice cream social, don’t submerge
the wood handle for more
than a couple seconds, and don’t
ever run the scoop through a dishwasher.
Following washing, towel the
scoop dry and then leave it out to
air-dry, so any remaining moisture
Note: Product availability and prices are subject to change.
Rockler, rockler.com, 800-279-4441, Brass
Ice Cream Scoop Hardware Kit (includes
scoop and ferrule), #29848.
Oneway Mfg., oneway.ca, 800-565-7288, #2MT Live Center with
Cones, #2064; #1MT Live Center
with Cones, #1100; Talon Chuck,
Packard Woodworks, packardwoodworks.com, 800-683-8876, #2MT 12" Keyless Chuck,
#111022; #1MT Keyless Chuck,
This story originally appeared in American Woodworker April/May 2009, issue #141.
April/May 2009, issue #141
Purchase this back issue.
Click any image to view a larger version.
1. Use dense hardwood for the scoop’s handle. Start by drilling a hole
for the scoop’s stem in the end of the handle blank.
2. Another option is to drill the hole on the lathe. This method requires
turning the blank to a cylinder and then replacing the tailstock center
with a drill chuck. The mark left by the tailstock center locates the bit.
3. Once the hole is drilled, you have two options for re-mounting the
blank: A cone-shaped live center or a small tapered plug. The cone centers
itself; the plug fills the hole, so you can mount a standard live center.
4. Turn a tenon to house the scoop’s ferrule. First, match the ferrule’s
outside diameter. Then carefully reduce the diameter until you can
drive on the ferrule.
5. Shape the area behind the ferrule with the spindle detail gouge,
working from large to small diameters. I like to start with a wide,
6. Reduce the diameter behind the flange to create the neck. From
this point on, remove the handle often to check how it feels in
7. Start to shape the end of the handle. Be sure to leave sufficient
waste, so you don’t whack into the chuck.
8. If you are comfortable with a skew chisel, use it to finish shaping
the handle’s rounded areas. You can shape the entire handle with
the spindle detail gouge, but the skew leaves a smoother surface.
9. Trim the end of the tenon flush with the ferrule. Use the skew chisel
long-end-down or a thin-kerf parting tool.
10. Finish-sand the handle. Start with 120 grit; if turning marks remain,
drop back to 100 grit. Sand to 220 grit, or further if you still see
sanding scratches. Sand the brass ferrule to the same grit.
11. For a finish, I wipe on polyurethane or pure tung oil. I think
tung oil looks better, but polyurethane provides somewhat
12. Install the scoop. Work a generous amount of epoxy into the hole.
Insert the scoop’s stem and bed its collar against the end of the handle.