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Tips from Old Millrat - James D. Thompson


Lee Valley Knife Rivets on Perfect Handle Tools


A while back I wrote a small tutorial on replacing the scales of a Perfect Handle screwdriver. My rivet method then was to use 1/8 diameter brass rod. I was never really happy with that method.

I recently ordered 50 of each of 2 different sizes of knife handle rivets from Lee Valley. The total cost was close to $20 including shipping. Not a major expense.

When I went to use them I found that there was a small problem. The diameter of the body of both sizes is the same. But if you want to mix the 2 sizes, there is the problem of different size heads.

You need to mix them because there is a limit to the thickness that they can span. For intermediate thicknesses I use a long female half with a short male half. You can also cut both halves to make a shorter rivet. Here is a picture of the nasty looking little critter I started with.

First thing to do is to remove the scales and save them if possible so they can be used for a pattern.

I grind down the head on one side, then I punch the rivets out.

Next I mark the outline of the old scales onto the material I want for the new scales. In this case a remnant of Brazilian Rosewood.

I cut and fit the new scales to fit into the handle. I use epoxy to secure one side, then I drill from the inside out to make sure I have the hole centered in the handle. Then I epoxy the other scale onto the handle and drill through that using the first holes for templates.

In the next picture you can see that I have fastened the rivets through the scales, and I filed the scales to rough shape.

You can see that I reduced the size of the rivet head on one long female rivet half to match the diameter of the shorter half. The second rivet from the left is unaltered. The third one has the head diameter reduced.

How to reduce the size of the head?

I have a drill chuck that goes into my wood lathe. I just hold a file against the head while it turns. But I have also done it by chucking a rivet into a drill chuck on an electric drill and holding the spinning rivet against a rotating wheel on my bench grinder.

It is necessary to make some sort of a counterbore so the heads of the rivets will be flush with the finished surface. I ground down a 1/4 spade bit. However you do it, it is worthwhile learning to do this. I think these rivets make the P/H handles look great.

The next picture shows 2 finished screwdrivers. The upper one has ebony scales while the lower one has scales of Brazilian Rosewood. The rivets on the smaller ends are the short rivets. On the larger end I had to mix 2 sizes to get the correct length.

After all the filing and sanding is done I use a buffing wheel and compound to polish the entire tool. Then I use Kiwi boot wax for the final finish. But any kind of wax will be fine. I really like the looks of this method. Now I have a dozen more to do.

James D. Thompson
June, 2008

Related Info:

Woodworker's Guide to Wood Collection only $79.99 at Shop Woodworking

Millers Falls Tools

Goodell-Pratt Drills

MF No. 2 Hand Drills


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