Making Your Own Knobs From Scratch

Before you can begin constructing your knob you should think about what look and style will be best for the furniture upon which it will be mounted and the room where it will be displayed.  There are endless possibilities and combinations.  The main components you need to think about are the type  of knob, the type base (and if you want one), and how it should be mounted.  Also, it is important to note that you should take into consideration the functionality of the finished product – if you are using these for kitchen drawers, you may want to consider durability, and ease of use; on the other hand if these are going on as decorative knobs on furniture in your living room, you may want to consider how it will look with the theme of the room.
marble knob

a.  What material do I want my knob to made of?

You can choose knobs to be of any material – the more common knobs that you can purchase are wood, acrylic, glass or metal.  However, you can make a knob out of almost anything, like marbles, rocks, and even seashells just to name a few different items.

b.  Do I want to buy a pre-made or unfinished knob, or do I want to make my own?

ceramic knob

If you are interested in putting your own personal touch to your knob, you can begin from scratch or from an unfinished starting point.  There are various types of unfinished knobs that you can decorate yourself and add your own finish, wood and ceramic are common.  If this is the route you would like to go, check out our post on how to do it.

c.  What size do I want my knob?

Again, here it is important to take into consideration if the knob is functional or decorative.  In addition you want to think about the size of the knob in terms of the piece of furniture it will be mounted on.  It is also important to keep sizes in mind when you are buying your screws and bases and when you are picking out your drill bit.

d.  Do I want or need to use a base and if so, what type of base do I want to use?

knob base

There are various types of bases and finishes, from shiny chrome to dark oil rubbed bronze; and each will give an entirely different look to the finished product.  Depending on your choice of knob and what look you desire, you have to consider whether you should use a flat or stemmed base, which will depend on what object or material you are using to make your knob.

Once you have decided the answers to these questions the fun can begin.  Here are a few examples the different base considerations you should keep in mind.

knob base
A.  Round or Curved Knobs

One of the simplest knobs you can make is by merely picking an object, like a marble and gluing it to a base for a ball knob.  You will want to get an epoxy glue to do the job, as regular glue will probably not hold up for very long.  This base will hold balls from a half inch to an inch in diameter.  The object does not necessarily have to fit perfectly, but use your judgement to make sure it looks good, and that there is enough contact with the base to keep it from falling off.

B.  Non-Round Object

knob base

If you have chosen an object that is not round or will not fit on the base for a ball, then you have to decide between a stemmed base, flat base, or a flat base with a hole.  what you can do is simply drill a hole in the object and then you can glue it to a stemmed base.  Again, regardless of which base you choose, you want to use an epoxy glue.

knob insert


C.  No Base

If you do not want to use a base for your knob, you can use a threaded knob insert and then the knob will be directly against whatever furniture you install it on.

The Gap Between the Cabinet Door & Face Frame

We get this type of call often and recently a customer sent us some pictures of the problem he was having. So, we thought we’d make it a post…

What gap & why the gap is there?

We usually get this question from customers that have just bought and installed euro hinges. Most notably, compact hinges like the overlay, face-frame hinge below shown installed in the second image.

Euro Hinge

Installed Euro Hinge

This particular customer was nice enough to take photos of his problem.

Cabinet Gap

From the top view you can see that the hinge has created an uneven and unsightly gap.

With the door in the open position, you can see that the gap between the door and the face from is minimal.

The gap is created by a 3/16″ factory setting at the side of the hinge. This is standard for face frame cabinet hinges. This gap is usually intended to be offset by door bumpers that are typically used on the other side of the door. Door bumpers are usually either felt or plastic and are around 3/16″ high, so the door sets evenly after the bumpers are on.

The purpose of the gap is to allow clearance as the door swings open so that the hinge side of the door does not scrape the front surface of the face frame. You can see in the customer’s photo that there is almost no space between the edge of the door and the face frame when the door is fully open.

Alright…BUT IT’S UGLY!

Usually this gap is only noticeable by those who are installing the door below eye level so that they are looking at it from above. As you can see by the customer’s photo, the drawer or false drawer front has not yet been installed. When the drawer front is installed it will prevent anyone from seeing the gap from above as it prevents a straight down perspective. The same is true for doors directly below the counter top overhang. Before the counter top is installed, the gap is noticeable. Afterwards, no one will ever have the perspective to see the gap.

My point is not to make an excuse for some sort of shoddy hinge engineering, but to point out that this “problem” is typical. The Liberty Hardware compact hinge used by the customer in this example has the same configuration and produces the same 3/16″ gap that is standard for Blum, Grass, Salice, and most other major hardware manufacturers. So, on installed cabinets, evidently no one really notices.

Is there anything I can do about the gap? It’s driving me nuts!!

If the gap is really driving you crazy, there are a few ways to minimize the gap. You can’t do away with it all together (the door would tear up the face frame if there was gap at all), but you can make it smaller.

The first and easiest way is to purchase the nifty (but a tad more expensive) 6-way adjustable compact hinge. The reduction in the gap using this hinge will be minimal, but maybe enough to satisfy some.

The second way would be to use a euro hinge designed for cabinets without face frames and use the adapter plate that makes it fit a cabinet face frame. This will give you a closer fit, but some homeowners object to the mounting plate sticking out the back and getting in the way.

The third way is something I recently read about on Woodworking Talk. Participants there have techniques for nipping out space for the mounting portion of the plate to recess further into the cabinet. They also discuss a few other workable alternatives. It is a good short series of posts by knowledgeable woodworkers about this situation. Gap Discussion

And finally, here are a couple of other links that reference this topic:

Sawmill Creek

Woodworkers Hardware

Making Your Own Knobs – Painting a Ready-to-Fire Ceramic Knob withUnderglaze

1.  Decide on Your Design

Unless you are painting your knobs all one color, you may want to sketch a few different designs on a piece of paper before you begin your project.  Ideally, you will want to use a compass and get a good estimate of the size of the area you will be working with.  It is best to draw designs to scale so that you know what kind of detail is possible.

2.  Draw Your Design on Your Knob

create your design

The great thing about unglazed ready-to-fire ceramic knobs is that you can draw your design right onto the knob.  Make sure and use a pencil.  If you make a mistake you can just erase it with a regular eraser.  In my opinion it would be best to use a 0.5 mechanical pencil.  Here I used a 0.7 mechanical pencil and the lines are a little thicker than ideal.  In addition, there is more smudging when you erase with thicker lead; however it still will work fine for my purposes.

In order to be consistent, I used a ruler to make my design. This may be time consuming, but in the end it is worth it because you will have clean lines and if you are doing more than one, then they will all be same.  Another great bonus of drawing your design directly on your knob is that you do not have to erase them once you’re done drawing.  Just make sure to paint along the lines and cover them with paint, it also helps to draw lightly.

3.  Painting

When you choose your colors keep in mind the overall look of the finished product.  You will most likely want to use complimentary colors and keep the general color scheme consistent – using only warm colors (e.g. reds and yellows) or cool colors (e.g. blues and greens).  On the other hand, depending on what look you are going for you can use your knobs as accenting tools and use opposite colors to give some interesting contrast.  Opposite colors are those that are 180 degrees apart on the color wheel; common examples of opposite color pairs are: blue and orange, green and red, purple and yellow.

Once you have picked your colors, get your work station ready.  Get an old cup for rinsing your brushes, some paper or plastic to cover your working area, a palette (or a paper plate will do) and keep a lightly moistened paper towel nearby so as to dab away any mistakes.  While you paint use hard, flat, brushes for straight lines.  As you can see the color gets much lighter as it dries; in addition the color of the paint will change pretty dramatically once it is fired – most noticeably it will be much richer.  You should put 2-3 coats of underglaze.  Make sure that each coat is completely dried before applying the next or else some of the not-fully-dried paint may “stick” to the fresh paint and expose the clay.

You can choose to paint the whole knob with a base coat first and then draw your design and paint it.  However if you do this and make a mistake drawing, then when you erase it you have to be careful because you could easily erase some of the base coat.  This may not be an issue if you are painting that area of a different color, but if not then it may end up being a noticeable “spot” on your knob.  When you are done with the underglaze, you may wish to put a clear overglaze as a final coat.  This is not necessary, but makes your knobs shiny and also helps a bit to make your work last.

Whether or not you should put clear overglaze is more of a style decision – would some glisten on your knob look better on the finished product or not?  Here is a piece that uses the contrast the different look and shine the overglaze gives the final product.  On the left the overlaze was used while on the right it was not.

4.  Firing Your Knobs

Once you have finished painting the last step is firing your piece.  As mentioned in the Introductory blog, if you do not have a kiln many local artists or ceramics shops are willing to fire pieces for free or a minimal fee.  These knobs should be fired at Cone 06.

Making Your Own Knobs – Intro to Finishing a Ready-to-Fire Ceramic Knob

There are two options of ready-to-fire ceramic knobs, glazed and unglazed.

Unglazed
Glazed

The difference between the two is that the unglazed has not had any paint applied to it, so the glazed knob is shinier and softer.  The color of the unglazed knob is the color of the clay; glazed knobs usually come in white or clay colored (when it’s been coated with a clear glaze).

The unglazed option allows for you to paint the knob any base color, the glazed knob is already coated with base and you can paint a design right onto it.  To paint these ceramic knobs you can use acrylic paint or glaze, both can be purchased at an arts store or online.  If you use acrylic your project is finished as soon as your paint is dried.  On the other hand if you use glaze you will have to fire your knob in a kiln.  You must use a kiln, which is a special oven for firing clay, a regular oven cannot do the job.  If you do not have access to a kiln, you may be able to find a pottery shop, a local ceramics studio or ceramics artist which will be willing to fire your pieces for you.  Regardless of whether you are using acrylic or glaze you will want to get a few different sizes of brushes, making sure to get smaller ones if you plan to paint a lot of detail.  Also, make sure you to get medium soft or harder brushes if using underglaze as it will make it much easier to apply the paint because it is not as thick as acrylic.

You may want to keep in mind that if you use glaze, the paint will be fired onto your knob – meaning it will be set on the clay.  On the other hand if you use acrylic, which is a plastic-based paint, it will be superficially set on the clay.  What this means is that the durability of  your work is affected, with fired glazed knobs lasting longer than acrylic painted knobs.  However, if your knobs will be mostly decorative and not will not be handled too much, acrylic will work just fine and then you do not have to worry about finding a kiln if you do not have one.

Almond Color Glazed