Question on handle material

C Craft

Well-Known Member
I wrote this, this morning and thought I had posted it. When I came back to see replies, there was none. Evidently I never posted it!! De de de, you are now entering the twilight zone, were we find C Craft, just following along behind the little animals!! thK60XM78N.jpg

Now back to the question at hand..................… :p

Have any of y'all ever bought the turning blocks you see on eBay?? They are basically for those wanting to turn a wooden bowl.

So I am wondering if you bought those turning blocks. I saw one ironwood block for 6 x6 x 3 #15. Not sure what the #15 means. It could be just the number given to the block or maybe the grade!!

That is way cheaper than buying what is normally sold as block-size handle material. So please excuse the very crude drawing. I need a drawing program!!
Untitled.pngThis block was 3" tall by 6" x 6". You could easily end up with 10 handle sized pieces, depending what you want/need for your handle material! So I can't be the first guy to think of this. Has someone else tried it? What would be the pitfalls of such a process other than, you can't see what you are going to end up with till you cut up the block??

John Wilson

Well-Known Member
I buy turning blocks often. It’s way cheaper. The risk you run is that the grain or figure isn’t oriented right to get a bunch of good scales from it, but often it’s just fine.

Chris Railey

I have bought several blocks that same way. A little saw magic and you have some nice useable material. From what I have seen attaching the word “knife” to something increases its value or price...But “turning” or “lathe” does not seem to have as big an effect on price. The only pitfall I could see is that sometimes people will glue up a block for turning. As long as you are sure its a one piece block, wood is wood. Checking the moisture level is also a good thing to do before you use it but you already know that part.

Gene Kimmi

Chris mentioned moisture and that is the only problem I could see with a larger block. If the moisture is higher inside the block and you cut it into smaller pieces, they may want to warp as the block dries further. I would want to cut the blocks oversize to account for a 1/16" to an 1/8" of warp.

C Craft

Well-Known Member
Thanks for the insight into what might be a problem. I was looking at piece of Ironwood and the one I was looking at several views of the block. So being an old carpenter I am checking out the wood and the grain from every available angle.

That is when my brain went into overtime, $65.00 for the block and I could potentially get as many as 10 useable cuts out of said block. Even if I have to throw away piece or two...…………o_O I can't buy that many blocks of Ironwood for that price. In fact I have seen one block of Ironwood knife material, go for that price!!

Thanks guys!!


Well-Known Member
I picked up a piece of Asian ironwood burl for turning and was able to get enough out of it for 4 knives. I think it only cost $24 shipped. I agree with Chris, as soon as "knife" is attached to it, it would have been more like $65.

J. Hoffman

Dealer - Purveyor
The highest profit margin for someone cutting figured wood is pen blanks. The smaller the piece of wood the higher the cost. If you can buy big blocks you are much better off. Also don't forget to look at the thinner side of the block. Often times it's nicer and you can get more scales from it.

C Craft

Well-Known Member
Thanks, again guys! I knew I could not be the first one to think of this!! Y'all were just keeping it on the down low!! th9RHHRWUM.jpgSorry for messing that up!! th94JH875Q.jpg

Doug Lester

Well-Known Member
I re-cut bowl and spindle blanks on my band saw. You're right what you are looking at will give you several blocks and/or scales. It's also the cheapest way to book match scales. If you are worried about moisture content you can get a moisture meter, probably from the same outfit that is selling the turning blanks. The biggest problem that I see is that it's easy to load up on turning blanks not realizing how much handle material you're stocking up on. Kind of like who dies with the most toys wins.


C Craft

Well-Known Member
The biggest problem that I see is that it's easy to load up on turning blanks not realizing how much handle material you're stocking up on. Kind of like who dies with the most toys wins. Doug
And the problem with that is.......................... ? Security we have a problem, individual doesn't want to collect toys...........th0GFT1NKZ.jpg

C. Killgore

Well-Known Member
I must say, I've done this same thing. Buy bigger chunks (or whole burls) and resaw them down. I would reiterate what was said earlier about moisture meter. A lot of turners who do bowls, prefer to rough out the bowl when the wood is still green (wet). Then they coat it in something like Anchorseal and let it dry for a while before coming back to it and finishing it. As a knifemaker, you want your wood to be dry.

So you don't really know if what you're getting is sopping wet or dry as bone. Could always ask ahead of time. But if it is wet and you resaw it into knife blocks, it might be a good idea to get some Anchorseal to coat the blocks with. This slows down the drying and helps prevent cracks ("checking").

And of course, you can run into bark inclusions and the like when cutting up blocks. I went a little crazy one time and thought I'd get a CT scan of a block of burl wood to see the best way to cut it in order to get around the bark inclusion that I was pretty sure was inside of the block. (but also mostly just for the fun of it)

Collecting wood can become a whole hobby in itself, lol. I have an outside storage shed filled with enough knife blocks to last me a few lifetimes. :p

Here it is... just for fun... I animated it going through the slices. You can see the bark inclusion starting around 16 or so

One Armed

Well-Known Member
I haven’t purchased the bowl blocks, as I don’t use much wood at a time. But I have settled on using Lignum Vitae exclusively, and always purchase the turning blanks when I do. Typically they are 1.5” squared x 6 or 12, etc. long. And you are correct....,it’s MUCH less expensive like this!