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Best finish for wooden knife handle

jays's picture

I am making a knife from a blade blank (pre-supplied) and would like recommendations on how to finish it.  Any flm type coating such as shellac or lacquer will be quickly worn away by hand contact and skin oils.  I have seen this on pens that I've made and dipped in Deft lacquer.  An oil finish would work, but it's hard to get much gloss.  Thanks for the advice.


Jay

dull tool's picture

(post #83999, reply #1 of 13)

JAYS,
I suggest you try MINWAX "HELMSMAN" spar urethane "gloss".
Thin the first coat 50% with thinner and wipe it into the grain.
When this drys follow with two or more coats and you should have a hard, durable shine.

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psmfisch's picture

(post #83999, reply #2 of 13)

Try pol/min turps 50/50, wipe on 5-10 coats, then buff up with wax


Did this for table fro my 3 and 5 years old destruto boys


I could not be happier with its just off gloss look and durability

jays's picture

(post #83999, reply #3 of 13)

Can you clarify pol/min?  Also, the issue of prolonged direct skin contact with a handle is different than a table top or chair.  Have you had actual experience with tool/knife handles or pens or something that will contact skin oil?  Thanks very much.


Jay

psmfisch's picture

(post #83999, reply #4 of 13)

typo sorry mate


poly/min turps (spirits in the usa) (( I am in australia-horrible about Steve Irwins death, by the way))


if worried re skin maybe spare the wax

jays's picture

(post #83999, reply #5 of 13)

Sorry to sound dim witted but I assume you mean polyurethane diluted with mineral spirits or turpentine?  Have you had experience using this on handles?  Yea.  I heard about it.  We always enjoyed watching him and were amazed that he hadn't been seriously hurt before.


Jay

psmfisch's picture

(post #83999, reply #6 of 13)

You got the abbreviations right


unfortunately no direct experience with this on handles


don't know what the finish is on commercial handles


I guess some type of poly

mapleman's picture

(post #83999, reply #7 of 13)

Jay,


There is an outfit in Arizona called Knife and Gun finishing supplies. (800) 972-1192 or csinfo@knifeandgun.com.  You can send them your knife blanks and they will stabilize them with some kind of super hard acrylic. You can then shape the wood (or turn, in the case of pens), sand, and polish to a very high gloss without having to finish them with anything. This process is called "stabilizing" the blank. I found out about it on a pen turners forum where they were discussing different ways to stabilize burl and spalted pen blanks to harden them. The pens turn and finish like plastic after stabilization. They use some sort of vacuum system so the acrylic penetrates all the way through the wood, it is not just sitting on the surface, so sweat, etc. doesn't harm the finish. I dare say it's nearly indestructable. Makes a beautiful knife handle. The prices are as follows: 1 to 5 pounds -$13 per pound , 5 to 10 pounds- $11 per pound , over 10 pounds - $9 per pound. This is the weight of the wood after stabilizing. It seems a bit expensive at first, but if you send a few things in at a time it's really not that bad. I can get 2 to 3 sets of knife scales done per pound usually. It also does a great job of keeping woods like snakewood from checking, which usually happens a month or so after I finish a knife. Just so everyone knows, I am not affiliated with this company in any way, but I have received great service with them in the past. Good luck and let us know how your knife turns out.


Lee

jays's picture

(post #83999, reply #8 of 13)

I am a woodworker and make furniture but this is my first attempt at a knife.  There are lots of knife-making suppliers on the web that have various kits for fixed blade and folding knives.  Could you recommend a particular outfit that supplies good quality blades?  I am not prepared to start making my own blades from steel blanks at this point.


Jay

mapleman's picture

(post #83999, reply #9 of 13)

Hi Jay,


The only 2 online sources I have used are knifekits.com and knifeandgun.com. Knifekits.com has nicer blades in my opinion, but they are a little higher in price. I would recommend starting with a fixed blade knife if this is your first project. The folders can be a bit tricky to get just right. Both outfits have tons of supplies and also books/videos on knife crafting. You could try ebay as well, I buy blades from some sellers on there, mostly damascus. I don't make my own blades, but I think eventually I may try my hand at it. I have the good fortune to have a very talented knife maker who lives up the road from me. Good luck and keep us posted!


Lee


 

jays's picture

(post #83999, reply #10 of 13)

Thanks very much.


Jay

jays's picture

(post #83999, reply #11 of 13)

One more question.  Is it better to shape the "scales for the handle first to reduce the weight prior to having it impregnated with that polymer, or should you send them a rectangular piece and shape it after it is chemically treated?  Will it shrink if you shape it first?


Jay

mapleman's picture

(post #83999, reply #13 of 13)

Hi Jay,


That's a good question. I don't do any major shaping to my blanks, other than to cut them in the shape of the handle before I send them in. I still leave them oversized a bit, and then sand and polish the scale after it is assembled to the blade - but this is just my personal preference. I don't think heat is applied, so I see no reason why the blank would shrink, but you may want to call and ask them. I have never noticed any shrinking with the blanks I have sent in.


Lee

Ray's picture

(post #83999, reply #12 of 13)

Try www.jantzsupply.com, I've used their products in the past.  They also sell the stabilized wood material in blocks or pre-cut scales.