If you're looking for an easy-to-make
gift for someone who loves to
cook, here it is: a custom-made rolling
pin. There’s something about this
humble tool that really appeals to
the imagination. Once I got started
making rolling pins, I couldn’t stop. I
took a dozen different ones to a charity
auction, and guess what outsold
While you could make a rolling
pin from one long chunk of wood,
my rolling pins have separate handles.
When you grip the handles, the body
of the rolling pin is free to rotate. Of
course, that’s not a new design, but
I’ve played around with handles quite
a bit. Sometimes I make them from
different species than the body or add
ferrules just for show. I like to make
the rolling pin’s body from a visually
striking wood and the handles from
wood with less figure or a more subdued
All of my handles are made in the
same, simple way (see below). An ordinary
carriage bolt passes all the way
through them, and the carriage bolt
is epoxied into the rolling pin’s body.
You might ask, “How do you keep the
epoxy from squeezing out and gluing
the handle, too?” Well, I’ve got an
elegant solution for that—as you’ll see
A lesson in centering holes
You don’t need advanced turning
skills to make a rolling pin, but you
may learn a valuable lesson: how to
center a turning on a drilled hole.
If you’re new to turning, you
might think that’s easy. You just turn
a part, such as the handle, then drill a
hole all the way through it. But that’s
not the turner’s way.
A turner aims for precisely centered
holes (in this case, to make a handle that
doesn’t wobble). Here’s how it’s done.
You turn the parts to rough size first,
then drill the holes on the lathe—not a
drill press. Then you insert conical centers
in both holes and turn the part to
completion. That’s how the holes end up
being perfectly centered.
You’ll need three accessories to make perfectly centered holes: a scroll
chuck, a Jacobs chuck and a live center
with a large, conical tip. Many types
of these items are available in woodturning
Make the body
Start by making the body of the rolling
pin. You’ll need a chunk of wood
that’s 10" to 12" long and at least 2-1/2"
square. Turn it into a rough cylinder
Mount one end of the body into
the jaws of a scroll chuck and install
a Jacobs chuck in your tailstock. Put
a 7/16" dia. bit in the chuck (I use a
spade bit and cut short its shank).
Drill a hole about 1/4" deep (Photo 2).
Using a 5/16" bit, drill a second hole
exactly 2" deep (Photo 3). Turn the
wood around and drill the same holes
in the other end of the body.
Next, make a jam chuck (Photo 4).
Th is is simply a short, round piece of
wood with a cone turned on one end.
Use a hard wood, not a soft wood,
so it won’t crush in use. Mount the
rolling pin’s body between the jam
chuck and a live center. Turn the
body to final diameter—about 2-1/4"
(Photo 5). As the name implies, a jam
chuck drives the wood by friction
alone, so take light cuts.
On the live center end, use a detail
gouge to give the end of the body a
dome shape (Photo 6). Turn the wood
around to shape the other end. Sand
and you’re done.
Make and glue the handles
Rough out two handles from blanks
that are 6" long and 1-1/2" square.
Shoot for a diameter of about 1-3/8".
Mount one handle in the scroll
chuck and drill a 5/8" dia. hole about
1/4" deep into its end. Next, drill a
5/16" hole as deep as your bit will go
(Photo 7). Replace this bit with an
extra-long one and continue drilling
the hole at least 4-1/2" deep (Photo 8).
Make a mark 4" from the end of
the handle, then part off the handle
at the mark (Photo 9). The deep hole
you drilled should have passed all
the way through the resulting piece.
Repeat the same procedure with the
To true each handle, mount it
between the jam chuck and live center.
Both handles should be similar in
shape and size, of course, so I use a
story stick to mark major and minor
diameters, then turn the handle down
to these dimensions using a caliper
(Photo 10). Finish shaping the handle
by eye (Photo 11).
Use 5-minute epoxy to glue the
handles. You won’t need much. First,
insert a carriage bolt through one
handle, then fill the threads of the
bolt with epoxy. Push the bolt and
handle into the rolling pin’s body
(Photo 12). If all goes well, you
shouldn’t see any excess glue come
out of the joint. If there is any excess,
it should well up into the 7/16" hole
and stay there.
Click any image to view a larger version.
1. Begin by roughing out the body of the rolling pin, slightly
oversize. Next, mount the blank in a scroll chuck and install a
Jacobs chuck in the tailstock.
2. Drill a 7/16" dia. hole approximately 1/4" deep into the end
of the blank. I use a short spade bit for this operation.
3. Drill a second hole precisely 2" deep with a 5/16" dia. bit. Mark
this depth with a piece of tape on the bit. Repeat the same
procedure on the opposite end of the blank.
4. Turn a cone-shaped jam chuck larger in diameter than the
7/16" hole you drilled in the end of the blank. Leave the jam
chuck in the scroll chuck.
5. Mount the blank between the jam chuck and a cone-shaped
live center, so it's perfectly centered on the drilled holes. Turn
the blank into a true cylinder.
6. Form a dome on both ends of the cylinder. You're done with
this part of the rolling pin.
7. Rough out two blanks for the handles, then mount one in a
scroll chuck. Drill a 5/8" dia. hole about 1/4" deep, then drill a
5/16" dia. hole as deep as your bit will go.
8. Continue drilling the hole with an extra-long 5/16" bit.
Make this hole at least 4-1/2" deep.
9. Use a parting tool to cut the handle 4" long. Repeat the
same operations on the second handle.
10. Mount each handle between the jam chuck and the live
center. In order to make identical handles, lay out their end
diameters with a caliper and a parting tool.
11. Shape the handles any way you want and sand them
12. Slide a carriage bolt through a handle and coat its threads
with epoxy. Push the bolt into the rolling pin. If any glue
squeezes out, it will pool in the 7/16" counterbored hole.