As a knife collector, one of the trickiest parts is to preserve wood handles in good condition. You have to know the type of wood you have, which sealer works better for it, and how to use it properly. Luckily, this article has got all of those answers for you.
For sealing wood knife handles, you can use products like Tru-Oil, Boiled Linseed Oil, Beeswax, Tung Oil, and CA Glue. Any of these solutions can seal wood materials perfectly, repair cracks and prevent water penetration. Furthermore, the handle looks beautiful after it cures entirely.
These wood sealers also have some slight disadvantages. Here, you’ll find everything there’s to know to preserve the lifespan of your knife’s handle.
Knowing the type of wood your knife has will allow you to use the correct sealing solution to get optimal results.
Imagine you buy an exhibition-grade knife with a burl wood handle. The last thing you would want is to obscure the grain because you used the wrong finish. Plus, the resilience of the wood material also varies depending on the wood type.
Some types of woods used to make the handle scales are the following:
- Olive wood
- Desert ironwood
- KOA wood
The following solutions represent the easiest methods to seal wood knife handles. To feature them in this list, I’ve considered multiple elements like how durable they are, the type of finish each solution produces, and whether they waterproof the wood material. Suffice to say, the results have been satisfying.
If you need to seal wood handles try any of them listed below.
Solution 1: Tru-Oil
This product classifies as polymerized oil, which refers to oil that was cooked previously for better molecule bonding. The process allows the oil to dry faster if you leave it exposed to air, creating a plastic-type finish after curing. You can speed up the drying time by applying very thin coats each time.
Tru-oil is the ultimate sealant for wood handles. Besides enhancing the natural look of wood, this product is the easiest to apply.
How to apply Tru-Oil to seal your handle scales
First, apply some vaseline over the blade with a Q-tip to keep the Tru-oil away from the steel. Then, you can apply the Tru-oil using your hands. Put your finger in the bottle to get it wet with the oil, and spread it across the handle.
Don’t put too much Tru-oil, just enough to moisten the handle. After application, don’t let it set because it will turn into a soft gum-like texture. Instead, grab a clean paper towel and use it to wipe the sealer.
Using a clamp, secure the knife by the blade over a flat surface with the wood handle upwards. Allow the Tru-oil to set for a minimum of two hours. Then, come back and repeat the process to put another coat. Ideally, 8 or 12 coats should be enough to get a glass-type finish.
After applying the last coat, let the handle dry overnight. If there’s a strong smell coming from the handle, it means that the tru-oil is still wet.
Solution 2: Boiled Linseed Oil
Boiled linseed oil (BLO) is a solution that deeply penetrates wood materials to soak into the grain and produce a renewed finish. This product works on most woods, except oak. Also, BLO does provide waterproofing properties despite not being as protective as Tru-oil.
Besides knife wood handles, BLO is also great for tables, guitars, shelves, cabinets, and more. You can also use it over metal surfaces to preserve them from oxidation.
How to seal a wood knife handle with Boiled Linseed Oil?
Pour a bit of the boiled linseed oil on a clean and dry rag. Then, rub it on the handle in up and down motions along the grain, and that’s it. If you put too much oil, rub it off with a piece of cloth.
Boiled linseed oil takes between 24 and 72 hours to cure completely. The result will be a water-resistant finish with a light and glossy look.
Solution 3: Beeswax
Beeswax is a natural product that can turn dry and dull handles into smooth and glossy wood knife handles. Use this product to enhance oily hardwoods, ebony, rosewood, and similar materials.
Primarily, beeswax has high-carbon paraffin, which is capable of penetrating the wood while also sealing and protecting the outer surfaces. As a result, the handle is more resistant to moisture and sunlight.
You can also use beeswax for waterproofing wood, but it requires regular touch-ups. Applying extra coatings is a must because this product isn’t as durable as other sealers like lacquers. It’s a bit more of an effort, but a beautiful finish plus a non-toxic result makes it worth it.
How to seal a wood knife handle with Beeswax?
This procedure is a bit trickier than the previous methods. Here’s what you must have at your disposal:
- The main pot with some water in it.
- A secondary pot small enough to fit inside the main pot.
- A dry piece of cloth, a multi-tool to grab hot pots.
- A quarter of beeswax.
Start by boiling the water in the main pot. While you wait, cut a small piece of the beeswax and place it inside the secondary pot.
Next, warm the wax inside the secondary pot by putting it in the water of the main pot. Use the multi-tool or a tool of your preference to get the secondary pot out, and tip the melted wax as evenly as possible over the handle. Then, use the cloth to spread it across the wood surface.
Wax cools off quickly, so don’t waste time before spreading it as much as possible. Then, scrape off the wax that fell on the table and place it in the secondary pot again for reuse. Repeat the process until you deem it necessary.
- Place the knife over a wooden surface like a table before applying the wax. It will allow you to scrape off the wax with more ease.
Solution 4: Tung Oil
Tung oil is a form of drying oil extracted from Tung tree’s seeds. Once applied, the oil soaks into the grain of the wood and polymerizes to create a hard coating. It’s resistant to water and forms a glossy finish.
This type of oil is excellent for wood handles because you can manipulate it as much as needed. You can add more coating layers for touch-ups, and it won’t leave the plastic-like finish that some people dislike.
Use Tung oil to reveal the grain of dark contrasting wood like high-grade walnut. Pale or subtle woods won’t benefit equally.
How to apply Tung Oil?
Dilute the first coat using mineral spirits like turpentine. Pour equal amounts of Tung oil and turpentine into a small bottle and mix them. This process lets you thin out the first coat, which allows it to get deeper into the wood. Now, apply the first Tung oil coat using a paper towel.
Some parts of the wood may soak the Tung oil faster. Check the handle, and apply another coat on those sections. Afterward, let it rest for a couple of minutes. If you applied too much oil, remove the excess using paper towels or a rag. At this point, you can leave the handle alone for an hour.
After an hour, get your Tung oil bottle and add more to the other bottle with the diluted oil. Now, the liquid will be thicker. Repeat the same steps as before, and let the handle rest for another hour. Then, for a final coat, use pure, undiluted Tung oil. Allow the knife handle to rest overnight. The next day, use a paper towel to remove whatever oil remains. Finally, let the handle cure for a week or more.
Solution 5: CA Glue (Cyanoacrylate)
Cyanoacrylate glue is the name of a product popularly known as “Super Glue.” The main component in this product is acrylic resin – an acrylic monomer that converts to a plastic condition once it cures.
You can use CA Glue’s special bonding properties on multiple materials, including rubber, plastic, wood, and metal.
Interestingly enough, CA Glue cures in the presence of moisture. This moisture can come from the surface of the wood handle or the air around it. Alternatively, you can use an accelerator to speed up the process.
One thing to keep in mind is that not every CA Glue is the same. You have to pick one depending on the thickness.
CA Glue Consistency
The consistency and purpose of CA Glue vary depending on its thickness. Consider the following:
Thin CA Glue is similar to water. You can use it to create a high gloss finish on minor woodworking projects and inlay work. This type of glue dries within three to five seconds.
This glue has a thicker viscosity, allowing you to have more control over it. You can guide the product to land where you want it by applying fewer drips. Use medium CA Glue for general repairs, bonding, and filling cracks. It takes about 20 seconds to dry.
Use thick CA Glue to fill larger gaps and voids. Unlike thin glue that penetrates deep into the pores, thick glue stays at the surface or joints. The drying time of this glue is from 40 to 50 seconds.
If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of sealing wood handles, choose a knife with stabilized wood instead. This material doesn’t require sealing because they go through a special treatment to put up with weaknesses and porosity. As a result, the wood is more durable and has a unique color.
The downside of stabilized wood is that it’s not 100% confirmed that it wouldn’t crack, only that it’s less likely to do so. With that said, stabilized wood is still an ideal material for kitchen knives.
Read Also: Best Oil to Keep Knives From Rusting
1. Don’t Use Heat on Ivory Wood
To treat and preserve Ivory wood, you must keep it at a consistent temperature below 25°C or 77°F. If it goes beyond that threshold, the Ivory piece will warp. Excessive heat or high temperatures, in general, are a no-no for Ivory wood.
2. Finish Up with Gloss Poly
Apply coats of polyurethane accordingly to finish up the wood handle. This product will protect the wood material from scratches and potential damage caused by moisture. Besides making it more durable, polyurethane provides a glossy and smooth finish to the handle.
3. Experiment on Cheap Knives First
Use cheap knives to see how each sealer works, how to apply it optimally, and whether it looks good once it cures. Don’t risk your precious cutlery by applying products you haven’t used before.
Before sealing wood handles, you must check whether the product you’re applying is food-safe. Keeping this information in mind is important if you intend to use the knife or cutlery to prepare food.
Is it true that most wood finishes are toxic?
Wood finishes come with harmful solvents capable of binding the substance together, allowing it to maintain a liquid form. As a result, wood finishes regularly emit toxic fumes when you’re applying them to the wood materials. But once they cure completely, they leave a hardened and non-toxic coating.
What are non-toxic wood finishes I can use?
Mineral oil, walnut oil, pure Tung oil, fractionated coconut oil, and linseed oil are some non-toxic wood finishes you can use. Alternatively, you could try applying coats of beeswax, carnauba wax, or shellac.
Apply the Following Finishes with Caution:
- Polyurethane: This product may take up to 30 days to fully cure.
- Lacquer: Like polyurethane, this product takes just as much time to cure.
- Vegetable Oils: This type of oil is another option to finish wood handles, but it should be your last resource. In many cases, vegetable oils discolor or create a cloudy look on the handle, which is not ideal. These oils can also go rancid and leave a foul smell on your utensils.
How to Seal Wood Knife Handles with Epoxy?
- Before sealing wood knife handles, you must prepare the handle. Sand the surface to remove rough spots and leave it as smooth as possible.
- Use a tack cloth to get rid of all dust and debris. If you don’t, the Epoxy will bond the debris to the handle once you apply it.
- You must place papers or a disposable piece of cloth to keep the Epoxy away from your workspace.
- Grab a clean container and add Epoxy resin and hardener. Then, use a paint stick to stir it thoroughly with gentle movements.
- Use a bristle brush to apply the Epoxy. Start from the center, and spread out to the edges of the handle.
- Try to apply the Epoxy as consistently as possible. Check the handle regularly to guarantee there are no dry spots.
- Let the handle and Epoxy cure in a clean room for 24 hours.
You can use a variety of products like polyurethane, lacquer, water-based poly, and certain oil finishes such as boiled linseed oil. All of these enhance the look of natural wood handles while protecting them.
To waterproof wood handles, you’ll need to apply marine-grade urethane or finish them with a two-part Epoxy application. These products are completely impervious to water. Another option is to use Tung oil, which provides long-term resistance against water.
Boiled linseed oil is the best type of oil to preserve the wood. This type of oil strengthens the wood material and keeps it supple. The second best option is Tung oil, which delivers a protective layer while also looking great. Plus, it feels a little grippier.
Polyurethane is good for knives, but you have to be extremely careful during the sanding. The issue with polyurethane is that it cures completely. Therefore, there’s no intermingling of chemical bonds within the layers each time you apply a new one.
When you sand through the layers, you’ll reveal those layers in the form of visible concentric rings. These concentric rings also go by the name of fisheye, and they look awful if you don’t properly sand the polyurethane.
When you try out all of the sealers mentioned here, it’s clear that there isn’t a cut-and-dried answer to which one you should use. Practice on old or cheap knives to get a sense of which product looks better, and use that one on your knives.
Don’t fear messing up the handles anyway because you can sand through the finish to remove it. Then, you can try another option for sealing wood knife handles until you find the ideal finish.