Last Sunday the beech handle of my go-to spatula (or “pancake flipper” to some of you) fell off in the middle of making pancakes for the family. The handle had just been stuck on a makeshift tang, and the mortise in the original handle was all soft and enlarged from ten years of regular use. So I determined to make a new handle for it.
I had several wood options, but I chose a piece of black walnut, mostly for the sake of appearance and workability. I also find that my walnut cutting boards hold up very well to repeated washings, so I have high hopes for the longevity of this handle.
The first step, though, was to re-grind the tang to a square tapering to a point. This will allow the tenon to penetrate the bottom of the mortise and stick into it firmly, while also resisting rotation. I got the idea from old tang chisels, which have metal tangs designed the same way.
The next step was to square up my stock, mark the location of the ferrule, and bore the mortise. I used three different size drill bits to drill a stepped hole to roughly match the tang’s taper.
Then I used a block plane to turn the square profile of the handle into an octagon. I also tried to make the handle slightly tapered from top to bottom, which I find is a very comfortable handle profile.
The most exacting part of the whole process was shaping the end of the handle to fit the ferrule. I used a paring chisel to slice into the grain around the handle, and then I used the chisel to remove the chip.
There was no good reason for the profile to be perfectly round, as it would be hidden under the ferrule. I got it pretty close to octagonal and then friction-fit it onto the handle.
I am fairly confident the handle would stay on all by itself, but just to be sure it will hold up to heavy use in the kitchen, I put some J-B Weld epoxy on both the tang and the mortise. Then I clamped the spatula in a vise and gently tapped the handle home.
Just in case the handle went on crooked, I left the handle a little bit over-sized so I could adjust it by shaving it down. As it happened, the handle wasn’t on quite straight, so once the epoxy had cured, I used a spokeshave to re-shape the facets on the handle just a smidge. I also rounded over the end so as to be comfortable in the hand. Then I sanded the handle and applied a coat of Danish oil.
The whole project took perhaps 45 minutes. The spatula is now back in its kitchen drawer, waiting to flip pancakes again on Sunday morning.