Using bottle opener with a turned handle

A bottle opener is a relatively simple and infinitely customizable woodturning gift, requiring some simple hardwood stock and opener hardware.

My son Dan will turn 21 years old soon. I'm not going to buy him that Honda Ridgeline he'd like, so I decided to do the next best thing: make him his very own bottle opener in his college team colors. What more could a young man want?!

Supplies You Will Need

This bottle opener project can be created in less than a day, but first it requires the purchase of a metal bottle opener gadget. If you don't already have one, you will also need a 7/32" drill bit.

Wood Selection

Select a solid piece of hardwood, with strength to the grain and preferably with a nice grain pattern. I hereby give you permission to shop for lumber! For Dan's opener, I used a chunk of ash, 6" long by 2" square. The maple handle is shorter in length but about the same diameter. The walnut opener, shown in the images for the turning process, is about 7" long by 1-1/2" square.

Of course, the handle of these bottle openers can be made in any size and length you want. A few years ago, I made a 14"-long one for a friend. I was defying him to not lose it! (I also drilled a hole in the end and looped a length of leather through it so he could hang it near his refrigerator.)

Drill the Hole

Drilling hole for bottle handle hardware
Before you mount it on the lathe, drill a 7/32" diameter hole, which will fit the hardware after you finish the project.

Before you turn the body of the handle, drill a hole in one end. In order to ensure that the brass part fits at 90° to the handle, make sure your stock is square so that it sits at 90° on the table of your drill press. Draw an "X" on each end, and punch a hole in each center with an awl.

The hole needs to be 7/32" diameter and at least 1" deep. I usually drill somewhat deeper, just to make sure I end up with enough depth after the object is turned. Use a wood clamp to hold the wood securely and horizontally while drilling.

Another way of drilling the hole would be to put the 7/32" bit into a Jacobs chuck that is mounted in your lathe's tailstock. Put the wood blank into a four-jaw scroll chuck, attached to the headstock. Drill the hole by advancing the tailstock while the lathe is running at a slow speed. (Of course, you could turn the entire handle mounted this way after the hole is drilled. Just make sure you have a long enough length to allow for holding it in the chuck.)

Mounting on the Lathe

Bottle opener handle on lathe
Depending on your hardware, mount the piece on the lathe, marking out the center hole to keep the stock in line.

Now that the hole is drilled, mount the wood blank between centers on your lathe. To make sure the hole was centered on my lathe, I drew a small circle, centered around the hole and positioned the rim of my safety drive onto that circle.

Parting off walnut bottle opener handleThe author suggests parting the bottle opener's handle off the lathe while it is still running.

Turn whatever form you desire, but leave a bit of wood on the butt end of the opener so that you can clean up that area after you've finished turning.

Cutting off nib on bottle opener handle
To finish the bottle opener handle construction, take a sharp chisel and remove the nib created by the lathe.

Your method and equipment may vary from what's shown in the photos. If you use a spur center, you must deal with the prongs, at least with one end of the wood. It's probably best, then, if you mount the wood with the drilled hole at the tail stock. It would be helpful if you had a cone center for your tailstock. A cone center allows you to center the hole, which, in turn, centers the stock. Leave a small amount of wood at the headstock, spur-center-end, then cut it off with a small hand saw when you’ve finished turning.

I parted the walnut handle off the lathe while the lathe was running, and I left only a small nub on the butt end. This I cleaned up with my skew chisel and sanded quickly with a sanding pad in my drill press.

Mounting on the Lathe

Finish on turned bottle openers
For the walnut handle, the author preferred to use an oil finish base, and lacquer for the maple.

I usually apply finish before I attach the metal opener. For the walnut handle, I used several coats of oil. The maple handle received several coats of lacquer.

Attach the metal opener to the handle by gently screwing the tang into the hole. It should be a snug fit with the threads cutting into the wood. For a more permanent connection, use a small amount of epoxy.

Appropriate Use of the Project

I happened to have a bottle of IBC root beer in my refrigerator. Of course, I'm sure Dan will be enjoying his own brand of brew on his birthday in an appropriately adult fashion.