Making your own dumbbell handles from scrap

Slightly off topic, but given we’re back into an almost lockdown this may be useful for someone.

Exercise equipment is once again in short supply, commercial gyms are closed, and we’re forced to exercise as best we can at home.

I’ve been trying to get a home gym sorted on the cheap and ended up with lots of dumbbell weight plates and only two pairs of handles. Constantly swapping weights is boring. I looked at getting a full rack of dumbbells of varying weights instead but the prices are ridiculous in Covid times. Even a pair of 2kg dumbells is going for £10 or £20.

Given I have weak runners arms, I’m not in the position where I need 30kg dumbbells but did want a range of smaller weights. I looked at making some handles so I could have weights ready to go.

Looking around in the garage I managed to scrounge some materials.

Have tried two methods

Method 1 – Single Tube For A Handle

Had four Domyos weight plates, 5kg each, and wanted 10kg dumbbells. (As an aside These weights are sold in Decathlon and are fractionally bigger hole than 1”. Not an issue if using these weights on standard 1” bars, but if you have a Domyos bar you might find your usual 1” plates won’t fit.)

Overall concept – threaded bar/stud passing through a tube handle and sandwiching the plates. Gives a far neater solution than the adjustable dumbbells that always come loose.

  • The plates are centred on the stud with wooden packers, these are simply drilled from some scrap wood with a hole saw.
  • The handles are centred with some thick rubber washers but you could also use wooden packers if you have the right size drill.
  • Handles are modelled on the standard twist lock barbells at 15cm.

Item List –

  • 2x weight plates
  • 2x wooden packer, one for each weight plate
  • 2x rubber washers to centre each end of the handle section
  • 4x large washers for each side of each weight plate  
  • 2x locking washer for either end
  • 2x nuts for either end
  • 1x threaded bar, approx. 22cm depending on width of weight plates
  • 1x 15cm tube for the handle

So assembly order is – Nut, locking washer, large washer, weight plate with wooden packer, large washer, handle with rubber washer either end, large washer, weight plate with wooden packer, large washer, locking washer, nut.

Tighten all up, cut the spare thread off and file smooth.

Method 2 – Double Tube For A Handle

Standard non-olympic weights are typically 1” holes. By chance I was changing the roller blinds in the kids bedroom and the interior tube was 1” diameter – perfect for the inner sleeve of the handle, and found another larger tube that was too big to pass through the weight plate to form the handle.

Overall concept –

  • Threaded bar/stud passing through a smaller diameter tube that runs the full length of the dumbbell.
  • A larger diameter tube separates the plates to form the handle at approx. 15cm.
  • The plates are centred by the smaller diameter tube.
  • The stud is centre in the smaller diameter tube by a nut or rubber washer.

Item List –

  • 2x weight plates
  • 1x threaded bar, approx. 22cm depending on width of weight plates
  • 1x tube that fits through the 1” diameter holes in plates, approx. 20cm depending on thickness of weight plates
  • 1x tube of a larger diameter for the handle, approx. 15cm long
  • 2x rubber washers or nuts to centre the stud in the inner tube
  • 2x nuts for either end – in this instance I used unistrut channel nuts. These are M10 and normally have a spring on them. I had a stash thrown out without the springs. They’re ideal as they’re a long rectangular nut that would grip the plate.

So assembly order is – Unistrut nut, rubber washer or nut to centre the inner tube, then weight plate, then slide on handle, weight plate, another rubber washer or nut to centre, then Unistrut nut.

Tighten all up, cut the spare thread off and file smooth.

Method 3 – Double Tube For A Handle Version 2

Overall concept as above but using washers as ran out of unistrut channel nuts –

  • Threaded bar/stud passing through a smaller diameter tube that runs the full length of the dumbbell.
  • A larger diameter tube separates the plates to form the handle at approx. 15cm.
  • The plates are centred by the smaller diameter tube.
  • The stud is centre in the smaller diameter tube by a nut or rubber washer.

Item List –

  • 2x weight plates
  • 1x threaded bar, approx. 22cm depending on width of weight plates
  • 1x tube that fits through the 1” diameter holes in plates, approx. 20cm depending on thickness of weight plates
  • 1x tube of a larger diameter for the handle, approx. 15cm long
  • 2x rubber washers or nuts to centre the stud in the inner tube
  • 2x large washers for either end  
  • 2x standard nuts for either end, either locking nuts or with locking washers

So assembly order is – Nut, locking washer, large washer, large rubber washer or nut to centre the inner tube, the inner tube, then weight plate, then slide on handle, weight plate, another rubber washer or nut to centre, large washer, locking washer, nut.

Tighten all up, cut the spare thread off and file smooth.


Advantages

Free

Only as long as needed to fit both weight plates, no risk of skewering your face with the extra length of a dumbbell handle

Can have a few pairs of weights ready to go

Won’t work loose like the screwed adjustable ones

Disadvantages

The handles weigh basically nothing so you don’t get the added benefit of the heavy handles

If you don’t have a garage full of junk you might need to buy stuff

One thought on “Making your own dumbbell handles from scrap

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