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Best finish for a wooden knife handle

jays's picture

As a little side project, I am making a knife from a blank supplied by Woodcraft.  I was going to use some curly Hawaiian koa wood.  I didn't want to use a film type finish whcih would chip or crack eventually, I was thinking of just sanding to 600 grit and then buffing the wood with tripoli compound and carnauba wax, as I have done on some turnings, but a wax finish might be slippery.  I'd like a pore filled, high gloss finish if possible.  All suggestions welcome.  Thanks.


Jay

Ray's picture

(post #111813, reply #1 of 18)

Jay,


On a "working knife", the best finish is no finish.  I've used walnut for knife handles and a good finish is charge the buffing wheel with paraffin (canning wax from the grocery store) or a block of beeswax.  When buffed, the heat will drive the wax into the wood making a pretty efficient protective finish.

WillGeorge's picture

(post #111813, reply #2 of 18)

High Gloss AND NOT slippery!  ??? Sorry I had to... 


OK for inside use as in a Kitchen but still I wonder...


Nothing glossy on my knives!  OK cept fer the blades! I'd say if you really need to use a knife IT SHOULD NEVER SLIP in the hand period! 


If it is really cold it may slip a bit! I'd just tell the USER to 'fondle' it ALOT and build up his/her hand oils!


Just me!

Have a great day.. Life is wonderful even if you are having a bad day!

Gretchen's picture

(post #111813, reply #3 of 18)

As another said, no finish. I have a Henckels chef knife with wood (I think walnut) handle. It is 40 years old now. It doesn't need anything.


Anything you put on it will be washed off eventually, and the sweating hands will also.


Gretchen

Gretchen

lwj2's picture

(post #111813, reply #4 of 18)

If it's to be used, I suggest sanding to no more than 220 grit and using either beeswax or carnauba, as Ray suggested, or an oil finish -- I use one made of 3 parts tung, one part raw linseed, one half part japan drier and 11 1/2 parts spirits of turpentine.

You don't want a slick hilt on a knife.

I know one bladesmith who checkers the hilts on his knives at about 20LPI then uses a finish similar to mine.

Checkering tools can be found at Brownell's:

http://www.brownells.com/aspx/ns/store/ProductDetail.aspx?p=26282&title=NO.%20S-4%20FOUR-EDGE%20SPACER%20REPLACEMENT%20CUTTERS

http://www.brownells.com

Leon

Leon Jester, Roanoke VA

jays's picture

(post #111813, reply #5 of 18)

Thanks very much to all above.  I have made pens and wine stoppers between furniture projects, of dense woods with tight pores like cocobolo, or rosewood  and they polish up beautifuly with no finish, only fine buffing.  The koa has larger pores and is not quite so dense, so I think with no finish it will be very dull.  It has a beautiful curly figure and I'm thinking now maybe it would be wasted on the knife.  What do people use when they finish the crotch walnut often seen on rifle stocks?  For that application the wood is handled as well, and certainly shouldn't slip, but gun stocks have mcuh more gloss than just the wood alone.  Thanks.


Jay

lwj2's picture

(post #111813, reply #7 of 18)

It used to be BLO for milspec (Garand, M-14, M1903, M1917, BAR & Thompson gun). I presume the same spec applied to the machine guns of that era.

I think the sporting goods folks use a catalyzed spray, but I'm not certain.

My old 870 has some sort of lacquered finish in semi-gloss, my double (a Browning BSS) has a matte finish of some sort, but it's not an oil finish. It's pretty durable, though, that shotgun has been through quite a few seasons of grouse in the forests here in VA.

You might look through Brownell's site and see what they've got for stock finishes, they're the premier gunsmithing supply in the U.S.

Leon

Leon Jester, Roanoke VA

KiddervilleAcres's picture

(post #111813, reply #11 of 18)

& Jay,


Many gunstocks are finished with Tru Oil.  You can usually get it at any well supplied firearms store.


Regards,


Bob @ Kidderville Acres


A Woodworkers mind should be the sharpest tool in the shop!

Bob @ Kidderville Acres

A Woodworkers mind should be the sharpest tool in the shop!

lwj2's picture

(post #111813, reply #12 of 18)

Bob, I've seen it (but couldn't recall it's trade name) but never used it, always used BLO on my rifles. (Most of which are old issue weapons.)

Shooting with my son not long ago, I recall the finish on his Garand is in pretty good shape, to the best of my knowledge, it's as-issued, FWIW. I do know that the guy I purchased my Enfield from put a new stock on it and gave it (he said) six coats of BLO. That was over ten years ago.

Leon

Leon Jester, Roanoke VA

KiddervilleAcres's picture

(post #111813, reply #13 of 18)

Hi Leon,


The reason I mentioned it is because there used to be an old timer around town that used it.  He told me that he warms it in a double boiler then slathers it one with his hands and lets it soak in for an hour before wiping off the excess.


Regards,


Bob @ Kidderville Acres


A Woodworkers mind should be the sharpest tool in the shop!

Bob @ Kidderville Acres

A Woodworkers mind should be the sharpest tool in the shop!

lwj2's picture

(post #111813, reply #14 of 18)

Sounds like the way the oldtimers like Chippendale used to have their stuff finished. Bunch of kids, heated room, rubbing in oil barehanded, or so I've been told.

Leon

Leon Jester, Roanoke VA

jays's picture

(post #111813, reply #15 of 18)

I ended up using Watco Danish oil, and wet sanding to 600.  This filled the pores.  I then used a buffing wheel with Tripoli compound which produced a low gloss.  I then buffed with carnauba wax which raised the level of gloss a bit.  After handling, the gloss was definitely muted, almost back to the more satin look achieved before I applied the wax.  There was not a slippery feel to the surfance.  This method seemed to produce about what I was looking for.  We'll see how durable it turns out to be.


Jay

flairwoodworks's picture

(post #111813, reply #6 of 18)

Jay,


For tool handles, I don't like film finishes.  Either an oil finish or no finish is the best option.  Try sanding the handle to death.  That means to a very high grit - higher than 600x.  When I turn wood pens, I have sanded up to about 9000x.  That produces a pretty smooth and shiny surface.  My favourite pen is padauk.  I sanded to 600x and finished it with Danish oil.  Two years of regular use later, it still looks great, has darkened, and looks glossy.  Not French polish shiny, but glinty (is that a word?)


Chris @ www.flairwoodwork.spaces.live.com


 - Success is not the key to happines.  Happiness is the key to success.  If you love what you are doing, you will be successful. - Albert Schweitzer

Chris @ www.flairwoodworks.com
and http://flairwoodworks.wordpress.com

 - Success is not the key to happiness.  Happiness is the key to success.  If you love what you are doing, you will be successful. - Albert Schweitzer

jays's picture

(post #111813, reply #8 of 18)

I may actually use some leftover crotch walnut from a tall clock I just built.  I have wet sanded with thinned tung oil to fill the pores, which results in a greater sheen.  Some people say that makes the grain pattern look muddy but I have not found that to be the case at all.  Just to clarify, when you say an oil finish do you mean just oil like tung oil or an oil/varnish mixture eg. Watco Danish oil ?  Thanks.


Jay

flairwoodworks's picture

(post #111813, reply #9 of 18)

Jay,


It's Deft's Danish oil, which is a "tung oil and urethane resin formula".


Chris @ www.flairwoodwork.spaces.live.com


 - Success is not the key to happines.  Happiness is the key to success.  If you love what you are doing, you will be successful. - Albert Schweitzer

Chris @ www.flairwoodworks.com
and http://flairwoodworks.wordpress.com

 - Success is not the key to happiness.  Happiness is the key to success.  If you love what you are doing, you will be successful. - Albert Schweitzer

Henley's picture

(post #111813, reply #10 of 18)

Apply liberal amounts of "elbow grease".
For the best protection apply often.

Mack_o6's picture

wood knife handle finish.. (post #111813, reply #16 of 18)

I use Brie wax first and buff it up and then Miniwax Wax finish on it  to tone it down. It works fine if you want a satin finish. If you add to it after use, the more you buff it with new layers the better it looks. As long as you are not eating your eggs and bacon with it, works fine.

Mack_o6's picture

wood knife handle finish.. (post #111813, reply #17 of 18)

I use Brie wax first and buff it up and then Miniwax Wax finish on it  to tone it down. It works fine if you want a satin finish. If you add to it after use, the more you buff it with new layers the better it looks. As long as you are not eating your eggs and bacon with it, works fine.

hdrock's picture

Finishing (post #111813, reply #18 of 18)

Sand your work to at least 220 grit. (Using a finer grade of abrasive will, of course,result in a higher gloss on the buffed piece.)

After sanding apply one coat of good quality,penetrating oil finish such as Min wax Antique Oil, Watco. or tung oil.

Linseed oil is not recommended . When the oil is compleetely dryyou are ready to start the buffing proces