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Machine Handles and Knobs: Everything You Need To Know

Finding the best suited machine handles and knobs for your heavy-duty equipment can be a challenge, especially with there being so many options to choose from. For a manufacturing or distribution plant it is crucial to choose the right one so that productivity and safety remain high. If the wrong handle or knob is chosen it could cause equipment breakages, stalls in production or, the worst case scenario, an employee being injured.

To be able to make those important, it is important to best understand what your possibilities are.

In this article we will take a closer look at:

1. Machine Knobs and Handles
   > What are Machine Knobs?
   > What are Machine Handles?
2. Machine Crank Handles
3. Handwheels
4. Arm Handwheels
5. Summary

Machine Knobs and Handles

Machine knobs and handles are an essential component of various machines as they help the operator control and manuever the equipment. This could range from commercial items in manufacturing plants to lathe and milling machines. One of the most important factors when choosing the right knobs and handles is the ergonomics and the safety of people using them.

So, what exactly are machine knobs and handles? Let’s explore the various types. 

What Are Machine Knobs?

Machine knobs are mainly used for their ergonomic technology and added functions to equipment such as to turn a handle or wheel. Some examples of knobs that we carry are:

Ball Knobs: Primarily used on machine tools, jigs, fixtures and control levers.

Bar Knobs: With a four pronged design a bar is inserted between the prongs for manual hand tightening, especially useful when heavy clamping is needed.

Control Knob or Clamping Knobs: A disc-shaped knob used to operate electronics or electrical-powered equipment where precise and exact position adjustments are needed. Commonly found on amplifiers, space heaters, stoves/ovens, and larger equipment.

T Handle Knobs: Shaped as a T for strong hand grips it allows the operator to make quick adjustments. They come in Male configurations with steel studs to fit into threaded applications and in female configurations that are able to easily thread onto studs.  

Wing Knobs: Ideal for applications that need repeated tightening and loosening. With good leverage they only require a thumb and forefinger to adjust.

The other types of ergonomic knobs offered are lobed knobs, push pull knobs, tapered knobs and thumb screw knobs which can all be found on our website.

Types of Knobs

What Are Machine Handles?

Machine handles come in many shapes and sizes and are primarily used for commercial or industrial equipment such as lathe and milling machines. They are used to turn, pull, lift, tighten, and adjustments along with clamping and adjustments.

These types of machining handles range from adjustable handles, levers, tapered levers, ratchet handles, and fold-away handles.

Machine Crank Handles

A crank handle has been around for centuries for its overall reliability and simplicity in function, especially when frequent use is needed. This type of handle is connected to a perpendicular rotating shaft that creates a circular motion to make the shaft move in a specific direction.

Most manufacturing equipment uses crank handles when accuracy matters. They are also used on lathes, milling machines, trailers, as well as even blinds for windows. Crank handles come in fixed, revolving, folding, or fold-away handles. These crank handles come in a variety of materials with aluminum being the most reliable for lathe and milling machines.

Some other types of handles are grip handles, revolving handles, and pull handles.


Handwheels are manually operated pieces of equipment that revolve around an axis to adjust machinery or other control compartments for adjusting and clamping rotating mechanisms such as valves, presses or on lathe and milling machines. There are several handle and knob combinations that can be attached to stationary, foldaway, or revolving wheels, these are considered easiest to use.

Valve handwheels include hammer handwheels, top and side-mounted handwheels and ones that are connected directly to the valves stem. Usually with these valve handwheels the grip would be directly on the rim of the wheel, instead of a knob or handle, which can be harder to operate for some people or specific actions. Although they do have their benefits like being durable. By opting for a position-indicating handwheel operators can be certain of the accuracy for where to position the control shaft.

Handwheels can come in various configurations, sizes, and materials ranging from cast iron, aluminum, stainless steel, steel thermoplastic to phenolic plastic. We recommend the aluminum handwheels as they are lightweight, corrosion-proof, and rust-resistant.

Arm Handwheels

Arm handwheels are very similar to standard handwheels yet with multiple handles instead of one or the handwheel itself. They are primarly used on lathe and milling equipment for the purposes of tightening screws or operating the machinery. Before you start looking for an arm handwheel for your equipment make sure you check your equipment’s specifications to ensure it will work with it.

Arm handwheels are made from a variety of materials from steel, stainless steel, plastic, cast iron to aluminum. Each material has its various advantages and disadvantages. Stainless steel offers good protection against environmental wear and tear yet can be expensive. Plastic is not very durable so the chances of it breaking are high. When made of cast iron, the arm handwheels can be heavy yet highly durability.

Out of all of the materials aluminum is most trusted within the industry. It is low in weight, rust-resistant and protects against corrosion, this is especially good if your equipment is exposed to outdoor weather conditions.


Machine knobs and handles come in many options with the purpose of making machines easier to use, safer and more efficient. When shopping for machine handles and knobs remember to look at the specifications of your manufacturing equipment so that you can ensure it will work with your specific equipment.

At Reid Supply, we provide manufacturers, distributors, and other industry-related customers with a wide selection of handles, knobs, and levers to choose from with top quality in mind. We also stock bushings, work-holding fixtures, vises, toggle clamps, connector clamps, and fasteners. Check out our online shop for all your equipment needs.

Our inventory is updated with new products and technologies regularly and we are happy to help you locate those hard-to-find items. If you still have questions about which product to choose, contact us and we will be happy to walk you through the process.

Just call us at 1(800) 253-0421 or send an email to