Weekend Projects - Walnut Ostrich Feather Duster Handle archive

Friday 10 April 2015

This month, Steven Russell offers some great gift suggestions for family and friends. Why not try turning your own ostrich feather duster complete with walnut handle?


Dust never sleeps in my house! No matter how many times I clean, dust seems to magically redeposit itself on every surface in sight. Fortunately, there are numerous products that can be used to keep dust at bay. Two traditional cleaning tools are feather dusters and dusting brushes. Most commercially produced feather dusters have plastic handles that often break easily. Although some dusters are available with wooden handles, their mass-produced "no-frills" style is visually unappealing. Luckily, if you have a tuft and a bit of timber, you can turn your own unique duster handles.

Turning duster handles is a great way to sharpen your spindle turning skills. The handles can be simple functional designs made from scrap timbers, or more elegantly executed artistic styles turned from exotic timbers, inlaid with alternative materials. Dusters are fun projects to turn and can serve as a creative springboard for explorations with new materials and techniques; they also make great gifts for family and friends.

Typically, two types of ostrich feathers are made into tufts: grey and black. The black feathers come from male ostriches and are softer and more expensive than grey feathers. In recent years, the availability of ostrich tufts has been limited. Since I still have lots of requests for custom dusters, I located an online supplier for the higher quality black feather replacement heads. If you prefer, you could purchase a feather duster at a local merchant, remove the handle and insert the tuft into the handle of your choice.

Chinese hog's hair bristles come in various sizes and are prized for their ability to sweep surfaces without producing static electricity. They are used widely in industrial cleaning.


Turning dusters is a good way to use up scrap turning squares, such as juniper, mesquite, walnut and ash. You can use any of these blanks mentioned, or a blank of your choice. Take a walnut blank which measures: 38 x 38 x 305mm before turning


Round over the square blank at 3,000rpm with a 15mm spindle roughing gouge, cutting towards the headstock. I used a revolving ball bearing centre in the tailstock, fitted with a cone centre tip. Once the blank is turned to a cylinder, use a micro skew chisel to turn a slight dovetail on the lower end of the blank


Mount a scrap piece of white ash in the chuck and use this to turn a recess with an interior dovetail to hold the blank during turning


Thick set cyanoacrylate is used to secure the blank into the turned recess and is set with an aerosol activator. Brush tufts can vary in size, so it is handy to have a set of Forstner bits on hand to ensure a properly drilled hole. Drill a 17mm hole into the end of the blank, 20mm deep with a Forstner bit at 500rpm. This socket will hold the end of the tuft when the project is finally assembled


Perform the initial rough-out of the outer tuft receiver socket with a 10mm Irish ground spindle gouge


To define the beads behind the socket, use a 6mm Irish ground micro spindle gouge


Remove bulk waste wood with the 20mm spindle roughing gouge, ground with a 45° front bevel. Keep going until you remove the last of the waste wood on the end of the handle with the 20mm spindle roughing gouge


Turn the middle bead with a 6mm Irish ground micro spindle gouge. The Irish wings allow excellent visibility when you are turning delicate beads


To define the top of the handle, turn three graduated small beads and a round ball terminus, using 6mm and 5mm Irish ground micro spindle gouges


Hand-sand the piece using 600 grit in the direction of the grain, then apply Myland's cellulose sanding sealer to the surface. Remove extra waste around the top of the ball terminus with the 6mm micro spindle gouge, leaving a small nub which will be removed after finishing


Use aluminium oxide paper backed abrasives to sand the handle using 240, 320, 400 and 600 grit abrasives at 3,000rpm. Then, apply three coats of spray lacquer 15 minutes apart. No sanding is necessary between coats


To cut back the surface of the cured lacquer and increase its luster, I use EEE-Ultrashine, but you can just as well use an equivalent product. This is a fine abrasive suspended in a wax base and is applied to the handle at 3,000rpm. Once the handle finishing is complete, apply Renaissance microcrystalline wax - or a similar product - and buff. The next step is to part a small nub using a 1.5mm parting tool


Use a small coping saw to remove the last 1.5mm of nub, which will allow you to free the handle


Feather and brush tufts can be secured into turned handles with PVA, epoxy, or thick set cyanoacrylates. Do not use polyurethane adhesives, since they foam during curing. Use Titebond II adhesive, if this is available to you, to secure the brown drab ostrich feather tuft into the receiver socket


The completed walnut ostrich feather duster measures 430mm long, with a 150mm exposed feather head

Briony Darnley

Tagged In:

steven russell , Weekend Projects

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Tools Used

19mm spindle roughing gouge
10mm spindle gouge
5mm and 8mm micro spindle gouges
8mm micro skew chisel
1.5mm ultra thin parting tool

Diagrams Click an image to enlarge

Handy Hints

1. To stiffen ultra thin handles on feather dusters, split the handle into two sections and use a router to cut a half round slot in each half. Glue a steel, or brass rod into the recess and apply adhesive to the remaining mating surfaces. Reassemble the handle and clamp until the adhesive has cured. Finally, turn in the normal fashion
2. If you are turning up-market handles and want the recipient to be able to replace feather tufts without damage to the handle, simply glue a turned wooden disc to the bottom of the tuft. Attach a heavy duty hook-and-loop disc to the bottom of the wooden disc and attach the mating surface to the inside bottom of the receiver socket. When mounted this way, the tufts can be easily removed for cleaning, or for replacement
3. Forstner bits are recommended for drilling the tuft socket, since they produce a flat-bottomed hole. If you do not have Forstner bits, you can use a scraper, or even a standard twist drill bit to bore the hole
4. To prevent tearing the end-grain on the top of the handle when you have finished turning and you are ready to part off, turn the tenon down to 3mm. The remainder can be easily sawed into with a small coping saw, or any other fine-bladed saw
5. To add an extra bit of elegance to your feather dusters, consider making a matching protective cover. These can be easily made from rigid clear plastic tubing. Cut a section long enough to completely cover the exposed feathers and buff the tubing to a brilliant lustre, using a plastic polish like Novus 20/20, or similar. Turn two small wooden rings - with a slot turned into the centre for attaching the clear tubing - from the same timber you used for the handle and glue the tubing into the slot in each ring. To use the cover, drop the handle through the tubing and pull it down until the feathers are compressed inside the tubing

Supplier Details:

Chinese hog bristles - brushes - and basting tufts
Craft Supplies USA
Tel: (001) 800 551 8876
Stiles & Bates
Tel: 01304 366 360
Turners Retreat
Tel: 01302 744 344
Premium black ostrich feather duster heads
Feather Duster Depot