Making An Ice Pick

I have to admit that for this project I was inspired by Jimmy DiResta. I’ve never thought of an ice pick before seeing his videos, it was a thing of the past, from a time when ice came in blocks and pretty useless in our world today. But, with his brass ice pick, Jimmy demonstrated lots of uses for ice picks from self defense to marking to punching holes. He actually has a funny series titled 100 uses for the ice pick.

I wanted to make my version of an ice pick with wood handle and sheath and a threaded brass ferrule to keep them together. First thing and the one deciding on the success or failure of the project was turning the brass part from two simple pipe fittings. This was done on my “new” watchmaker’s lathe and was challenging because I don’t have a lot of accessories for the lathe and also because the parts were different diameters with only a small portion where the brass was continuous on both pieces. In the end it worked out but the walls of the female thread part are thinner than I was expecting.


To compensate for the lack of a chuck or collets for the lathe and to try to maintain a degree of accuracy I ended up turning the brass between centers, using a method I’ve seen on clickspring’s videos: First turn a shaft between centers to the diameter of the hole in the fittings then attach the fittings to it using a few drops of CA glue. After the turning is done the glue can be weakened by heating it and the part removed from the aluminum shaft.


The threads on the fittings were too many to be of practical use for the ice pick, it required a lot of turns before getting free of the sheath, so I removed them on the lathe until only a couple of threads remained, which allowed unsheathing in less than a turn. Unfortunately this also removed the perfect alignment of the two parts. They still have a nice fit together but it’s not the invisible seam as before removing the threads. The joint still looks good on the finished pick and the practical aspect of it compensates for the small seam.


After I was done with the brass I made the actual pick from a very ugly but also very hard screwdriver. It’s from a car emergency toolbox and it’s made from great quality steel. First I sharpened it on the bench grinder using a drill to turn it then I sanded and buffed it on the lathe. Pretty straightforward process so I won’t go into many details here. Feel free to ask questions in the comments if you want something cleared.


The wood part is made of zebra wood and was first drilled, one part with an exact fit on the spike to become the handle and the other with a slightly oversized hole to become the sheath. This sheath was fixed in the lathe collet using a quarter inch steel rod that came from a printer. It fit snugly in the sheath hole and also had a small fork shape on the end to keep the work from spinning. You can see it better in the video after I remove the sheath from it. For the handle I simply epoxied the pick in place and used it as a shaft in the collet.


I rounded the blanks, then fitted the ferrules on them. When I epoxied the second one in place I tried to make sure the grain aligns, but somehow I messed up and it ended up misaligned by a quarter of rotation. It doesn’t look bad but it would’ve looked better if it was matched.


I tried to turn the whole thing between centers but it wobbled a little too much so I had to turn each side separate then join them for the finishing touches.


I parted them, going for the most compact size that still was practical. The sheath length is pretty much determined by the spike length, so no way to make it shorter, but the handle is a bit shorter, giving the ice pick an overall length of just under seven inches. Also it’s around 3/4 inches thick, determined by the brass fittings. After establishing the final shape I sanded it with fine grit then applied four coats of CA glue, a trick learned from pen turners, which gives it a tough shiny finish that also gives a good grip.


Overall, I’m happy with the way this thing turned out, considering it was my first project using the metal lathe. It looks pretty much the way I envisioned it before starting, which is in itself quite a rare thing, it works as intended, opening with less than a turn, it does not open by itself but can be opened single handed if necessary.

7 thoughts on “Making An Ice Pick

  • January 13, 2016 at 7:51 pm

    Very nice looking project. A slick idea utilizing the brass fittings. My problem is I don’t have access to a metal lathe. Out of curiosity, is it possible to turn soft metals, such as brass or aluminum, on a wood lathe?

    • January 13, 2016 at 8:06 pm

      Yes, aluminum is very easy to turn, I did it on my flimsy wood lathe without a problem. Brass is doable if you have a sturdy lathe and use HSS or carbide tipped tools. A lot of watchmakers used to turn brass by hand, using just a tool rest, like the one from wood lathes. Just be careful, because brass tends to catch easily, so use a scraper not a cutting tool. Clickspring on youtube has a great video about how to sharpen tools to cut brass with them, you should check it out.

  • March 30, 2016 at 4:47 am

    Very nicely done. I would have never thought of using brass fittings.

  • May 9, 2016 at 12:03 am

    Nice project. Done well with limited resources. What were the brass fittings that you used?


    • May 17, 2016 at 4:56 pm

      Just some standard plumbing fittings, 3/4 to 1/2 reducers, one male-male, one male-female.

  • June 9, 2016 at 10:23 pm

    what brand of lathe did you use? I want to get something small like that to turn small metal projects like this.

    • October 3, 2016 at 10:32 am

      It’s an old german watchmaker’s lathe, more than 50 years old. Got it used for around $100.


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