Victorian Door Knockers

Monday 9 July 2018

The inspiration for this article came from the TV programme 'Victorian Farm' and in particular when they renovated a blacksmith's forge. The presenters made one of the old Victorian door knockers out of steel and I thought that a similar thing could be made out of oak (Quercus robur) using some simple techniques. I didn't manage a lion's head on the knocker but there is no reason why this piece can't be carved and decorated. In addition to the turning tools pictured below, you will also need a 150 x 25mm (6 x 1in) round blank of English oak and an 89 x 89 x 230mm (3 1/2 x 3 1/2 x 9in) piece of the same timber, plus a roll of gaffer tape.

Tools used: 3mm (1/8in) parting tool, 12mm (1/2in) skew chisel, 10mm (3/8in) spindle gouge and 15mm (5/8in) bowl gouge with double bevel

Step 1

The first step is to take your oak blank and with a 'V' shape, mark the edge of the large piece to ensure later alignment. Use a bandsaw to rip this piece lengthways, into three sections, the cuts being 32mm (1 1/4in) from one edge and a further 32mm (1 1/4in) from that same side. Glue these pieces back together by inserting newspaper between each section. Spread the PVA glue onto the wood evenly and to each of the four edges. The newspaper is then laid onto that glue and then a further application of adhesive is spread on this side of the newspaper before putting the next section of wood back onto the piece. Repeat this step for the next joint

Step 2

Clamp the piece together, and have two clamps on one side with a third facing in the opposite direction to ensure a thorough grip. Set the piece aside to cure and move on to the round blank that will form the ring

Step 3

Drill a suitable sized hole in the centre of the round blank for your screw chuck and fasten on. Using a bowl gouge, trim the diameter to 125mm (5in). Mark a circle at 108mm (4 1/4in) on the face of the wood. The piece is purposely too thick and so on the face side, make a spigot for your scroll jaw chuck. This centre piece, with Velcro attached, will make a sanding disc. Using a gouge, roll the front edge over and continue round and in. You are trying to create a half ring between the edge of the piece and the 104mm (4 1/4in) mark

Step 4

Now start to roll the left edge nearest the headstock taking the roll as far as possible

Step 5

Sand the ring as far as possible, then fasten pieces of gaffer tape – or equivalent – so that it holds the finished part of the rim to the centre section. Turn the piece around and fasten the spigot into your chuck on the lathe. You can now finish this side of the ring, but take care when breaking through. The gaffer tape will stop the ring falling off and getting damaged against the headstock and chuck. Flatten the face if you are going to make this a sanding disc. Sand and shape the inside of the ring, going through the necessary grits until you achieve the desired finish

Step 6

Back to the glued-up piece. Trim the length to 180mm (7in) but ensure, by cutting, that each end is square and flat. Glue a packing piece to each end and let it dry. We now need to drill two holes. These should be slightly larger than the diameter of the ring and have centres, midway along the length, level with each other and 21mm (7/8in) out from the paper joint in the middle of the piece

Step 7

After rounding off the blank, we need to create a sphere with the widest diameter level with the centre of the holes. Use callipers to measure the diameter of the piece and then mark this measurement lengthways, using the centre of the holes as the centre point of the measurement. Using a 3mm (1/8in) parting tool, reduce the diameter at those two outside lines to 25mm (1in)

Step 8

Turn the sphere section as round as possible. Whilst doing this, you will gradually be peeling back the edges of the holes – this is intentional. I tend to use a skew but you can use whichever tool you feel comfortable with

Step 9

Part down at the sides of the sphere you have created and allow the sphere to be further rounded, until you are left with two beads at each side. On the outer side of each set of beads, turn half a cove and part down to about 25mm (1in). Then sand through the grits, as necessary

Step 10

Part each end as narrow as possible and then remove from the lathe by sawing the ends

Step 11

Part the newspaper joints by using a Stanley knife blade and a small hammer. Tap a little here and a little there rather than just hitting one place. You do need to be gentle but you will be surprised as to how strong these joints are

Step 12

You now have two halves with one of these split for putting the uncut ring into the predrilled hole. For the piece on the left, we will saw the ring in two and join with glue and piano wire or needle

Step 13

With Velcro glued to the centre of the ring that you cut earlier, using loop-backed abrasive, sand and clean the joints. Changing the paper as necessary, sand each end of the piece

Step 14

Drill a screw hole through the piece for the uncut ring and screw to the door. Pass the ring through the centre 'hole' and glue back the outer piece to contain the ring. You then just need to lay the ring over the open hole and first, ensuring that there is free movement, re-glue the front of the ring, sanding and blending as necessary

Step 15

For the alternative method, take the solid piece with the drilled hole in, and decorate and finish as you wish. There are no other glue joints on this piece so we need to split the ring rather than this piece. Using a fine tooth saw, cut through the ring so that you have two half circles

Step 16

Drill the centre of each end – four in total – with as fine a drill bit as you have. This should be exactly in the centre but 0.5mm either way should not make too much difference. Glue a short length of piano wire or a short sewing needle into both ends of one piece. Because the ring has been cut in two, we need to hide the bottom joint. With the spare piece of timber that was cut off, drill a hole through it, slightly bigger than the diameter of the ring – so as to allow for the curve in the ring. Then just turn a small sphere or any other object that you prefer

Step 17

Slide one half of the ring through the hole in the main piece and slide the small sphere over the other half. With your preferred adhesive glue the ends and then fit together, the piano wire seating in the hole in the other half. Set aside to dry but with the joints at each side rather than in position through the hole and sphere

Step 18

When the adhesive has dried, apply epoxy resin over the joint that will go through the sphere. You need sufficient glue to stick the sphere to the ring so that this is the 'knocking' bit at the bottom. The ring must be allowed to move freely in the main section of the knocker