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Wood Handle Finishing Advice

Discussion in 'Fit & Finish' started by ToddR, May 16, 2017.

  1. ToddR

    ToddR Putterer, Tinkerer, Waster of Time Staff Member

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    Hi all. I've made about a dozen knives now. All with wood handles because, well, i think wood looks better. I esp. love a handle that looks a little worn and weathered. I have a bunch of old cut offs and reject project pieces from a wood show and I'll be using them for awhile. ( i bought a beer case full of pieces for $20)

    My question is about finishing. I've tried danish oil and, while it looks great, it doesn't seem to last long. It seems to just soak in every coat i put on. It looks great for a bit then I sand with a scouring pad to make it smooth and then apply again. It just seems to keep taking the oil. Then i read about and tried using the buffer with a buffing compound. This looks really great. A nice dull shine and it almost seals the wood like a waxy paste. But it too seems to not last very long.

    What's a long lasting finish for a wood handle that isn't overly fussy to apply or to maintain. Knife handles seem to be harder to finish than furniture.
     
  2. Mythtaken

    Mythtaken Staff Member CKM Staff

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    I like a good soak in linseed oil -- but you have to be mindful that it may darken the colour some. I've also used paste wax. I've had good results with Meguiar's car wax as well as a commercial mold release wax. Any surface treatment will wear over time, but those two seem to hold up quite well.
     
  3. John Noon

    John Noon Well-Known Member

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    I still use Tru-oil for straight wood handles and start applying at 400 grit then reapply each grit from 600 to 2000 and then a coat before waxing and buffing.
     
    Eric B likes this.
  4. Shadnuke

    Shadnuke Disabled dreamer...

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    You could always do a cyanoacrylate finish. Look on YouTube and you'll see how the guys do CA finishes when making pens on the lathe. It gives it a really high gloss finish that looks amazing!
     
  5. RussGen

    RussGen New Member

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  6. RussGen

    RussGen New Member

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    Hey ToddR, just read your post which is an old one so you might not get this but I totally agree on using wood for handles. I wanted to ask you, I've heard often about stabilized wood and wondered if its necessarry. My local Rona has some absolutely beautiful Rosewood right now for $27 aboard. I love the way it looks and finishes as a knife handle. Just wondering what the future holds for my unstabilized handles. I'm brand new to this board so not sure if theres an expiry date on these threads. Good day
     
  7. dancom

    dancom Dust Maker Best Shop Tool

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    Hey Russ,

    Rosewood, will a little maintenance will last for years and years. Oil from hands/fingers is often enough to keep the wood looking good. A white mineral oil like the stuff sold for treating butcher blocks or cutting boards works wonders. Beeswax too. Most of my guitars have rosewood fretboards and one I bought new 33 years ago is still in amazing shape.

    Dan
     
  8. Jester4t7

    Jester4t7 New Member

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    If you see rosewood for sale somewhere, buy it. Last I heard it's listed as an appendix 2 by CITES. That means it cannot be sold internationally, and seeing as it's not a north American tree, we won't be getting more. Huge bummer for me, as cocobolo is my favorite wood to turn, and is a close relative to rosewood and therefore is also on that list.
     
  9. ToddR

    ToddR Putterer, Tinkerer, Waster of Time Staff Member

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    Hey RussGen. I have never used anything but wood for knife handles. I have only ever had one that has noticeably shrunk after drying out some. Even then, it's barely noticeable. I've never had one crack on me. Like Dan says, you have to keep it conditioned. If you start with wood that is already dry you stand to get better results. Also, you obviously can't beat on them in any stressful way and need to generally care for them a lot more.
     
  10. RussGen

    RussGen New Member

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    Thanks for the advise Todd. This is all new to me and I love the seemingly infinite number of ways to finish a blade. Will for sure stick with wood now that I know they only just require light maintenance. I love the rustic look
     
  11. ToddR

    ToddR Putterer, Tinkerer, Waster of Time Staff Member

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    Just make sure its reasonably dry. It is a pain to have the scales shrink and expose the tang. That little ridge doesnt make the knife unusable but it's hard to get out. I have just started playing around with making my own micarta. I'm excited about this idea to use scotch brite pads and resin as well as some old plaid shirts. I dont get much time in the shop anymore so I'm still very much a beginner. Many people here will urge you to stabilize the wood and I cant disagree it's better. But, theres nothing wrong with taking a chance when you're just starting to learn. I've only ever had 1 knife handle shrink on me in about 4 years. I'm slow so that's only about 40 knives. And I tend to do smaller EDC type blades. The shrinkage isn't nearly as big an issue. Bottom line, please dont take my advice as gospel. It's only my opinion and experience. Good luck.
     

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