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Fish-Shaped Dresser Pulls

Source: Martha Stewart Living Television


Every time you open a dresser drawer, you use a drawer pull, and it's easy to take those ubiquitous handles for granted. But drawer pulls can also be decorative, as Martha remembered when she came across a wonderful old dresser at Furniture on Consignment in Westport, Connecticut.

Martha Stewart Living style editor Tom Tamborello shows you an easy way to reproduce its charming fish-shaped drawer pulls -- without having to hand-carve them.

Drawer pulls such as these add a touch of whimsy to any dresser, but a simple chest of drawers bought at an unfinished-furniture store will benefit most from them. To paint an unfinished dresser, prime the bare wood surfaces, let the primer dry, then lightly sand the surface with fine sandpaper. Paint all the surfaces with oil-based paint; apply a second coat if necessary.

Bridgewater Scrollworks, a woodworking company in Osage, Minnesota, created these reproductions. Send a pattern or line drawing on plain paper, and the company will re-create the pattern for you as a half-inch-thick wood cutout figure; fish, leaves, fruit, key, and miniature-dinosaur shapes are among the many possibilities.


  • Pinewood fish-shaped cutouts

  • Several 4-inch common nails

  • Hammer

  • 2-inch length of 14-gauge wire

  • 1-inch-wide dowel (long enough to be cut into 3/4-inch lengths, one for each pull)

  • Saw

  • Drill and 3/16-inch bit

  • Wood glue

  • Small vise

  • 2-inch sheet-metal screws

  • Primer

  • Enamel paint

  • Fine sandpaper

  • Washers

  • Cordless drill or screwdriver


  1. The fish cutouts have smooth surfaces, but you can create textured eye, gills, and scales on the side that will face out. Half of the fish will face one direction; the other half will face the opposite direction. Be sure to put the eyes and gills in the right places.

  2. To make an eye, reset the head of a nail on the wood, positioned where the eye of a real fish would be. Holding the shank of the nail in one hand, hammer the upturned tip of the nail firmly but carefully, until the upside-down head of the nail creates a visible, round indentation. To make the scales, hammer the upturned tip of the nail firmly but carefully again, this time with the shank of the nail at an angle, to create a C-shaped indentation that is deep on one side and shallow on the other, which approximates the look of a scale. Repeat across the body of the fish cutout. To make gills, bend a 2-inch piece of 14-gauge wire into the shape of a crescent moon, and place it between the eye and scales; hammer the wire gently until a clean indentation is formed.

  3. For each drawer pull, cut dowel to a 3/4-inch length. Drill through the entire thickness of the cut dowel. Next, glue the fish to the dowel, and place the fish and dowel in a vise for an hour or so, until the glue bonds with the wood. Then, pass a sheet-metal screw through the dowel, and screw it just a fraction of an inch into the fish. Hold the fish by the screw as you prime the fish and dowel; let the primer dry, then apply enamel paint. Let the paint dry overnight, sand lightly, and apply a second coat.

  4. To install the fish-shaped drawer pulls on the drawers, unscrew the screw from the fish, and remove it from the dowel. Place a washer on the screw, and slide it against the head of the screw. Pass the screw through the hole in the front of the drawer, from back to front, then pass it through the dowel and into the fish. Screw it all the way into the fish with a cordless drill or screwdriver.

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