Finish Suggestions for a Kitchen Knife Handle?

Vaughn McMillan

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I'm at the finishing stage on a kitchen knife I'm making as a Christmas present. The grip scales are maple burl. I originally thought it was stabilized wood, but based on how it has soaked up BLO over the past couple of days, I think the wood was untreated. In the past, I've either used stabilized wood or hard oily woods like desert ironwood, so I didn't use any finish...just sanded to 600 grit and buffed with various compounds. For this knife I want a somewhat glossy finish, but I want something that will stand up to handling. I know I could just buff out the BLO and call it a day, but I think over time it'll get pretty dull. I have wipe-on finishes like Minwax Antique Oil and Formby's Tung Oil Finish (both wipe-on varnishes) and can get ahold of wipe-on poly. I also have rattle-can lacquer available.

Any suggestions for something to use over the BLO?
 

Mike Stafford

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I think it is good that the wood soaked up the BLO. That should help protect it.

I would top coat the handle with several coats of wipe on poly or at least apply as many coats as necessary to eliminate any absorption by the wood of the top coat. When the wood stops absorbing you are done.
 

Vaughn McMillan

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Thanks for the suggestions, guys.
Buff it out and leave it. Re-oil when you re-sharpen it.
If I was making it for myself, that's the approach I'd take. This is going to be a gift to nephew who has a degree in culinary arts, so he'll be doing his own sharpening. He's also a gun guy though, and I could just tell him to refresh it with Tru-Oil as needed. (Pretty sure he's got a bottle of that laying around.) Mike's suggestion of wipe-on poly also appeals too, although it'd be harder to touch up down the road. On the other hand, poly is more durable and might not need touch-up for a long time. Hmm...decisions, decisions.
 

Ryan Mooney

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That was near the top of my list. It polymerizes hard, will intermingle with the existing oil base, is easy to retouch. Just tell him not to run the thing through the dishwasher or ELSE!

Negative vote on the Poly, over a heavy oil coat I think you're risking delamination/flaking issues. If you had started with that and thinned it so it soaked in and had a good base bond plus some nice thin top coat layers I might feel somewhat differently.
 

Mike Stafford

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That was near the top of my list. It polymerizes hard, will intermingle with the existing oil base, is easy to retouch. Just tell him not to run the thing through the dishwasher or ELSE!

Negative vote on the Poly, over a heavy oil coat I think you're risking delamination/flaking issues. If you had started with that and thinned it so it soaked in and had a good base bond plus some nice thin top coat layers I might feel somewhat differently.
No problem if the oil is cured. I have finished countless items over the years with that recipe.
 

Ryan Mooney

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No problem if the oil is cured
That was pretty much my concern based on how much Vaughn said the wood had been soaking up and the limitations on curing depth for the oil plus the probable heat differential in normal knife use may cause sub-film seepage if there wasn't complete curing (which seemed like it had a higher than perhaps desired chance if it had substantial penetration based on my experiments with saturating garden equipment handles where I'd seen weepage up to a year later in response to sunlight/damage - I actually use linseed saturation for that type of tool as an ongoing "automatic finish repair" mechanism.. it proves less desirable for indoor items where achieving full film cure is a bit more desirable).

In most "normal" cases I'd 100% agree with you though.
 

Vaughn McMillan

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That was near the top of my list. It polymerizes hard, will intermingle with the existing oil base, is easy to retouch. Just tell him not to run the thing through the dishwasher or ELSE!

Negative vote on the Poly, over a heavy oil coat I think you're risking delamination/flaking issues. If you had started with that and thinned it so it soaked in and had a good base bond plus some nice thin top coat layers I might feel somewhat differently.
He definitely knows not to run his knives through the dishwasher. (He knows his grandfather -- my dad -- would return from the grave just to smack him, lol.)

I suspect I'll be doing some backtracking on this project. :doh: In a flash of brilliance last night I went ahead and put a coat of poly on the knife. More than 12 hours later it's still tacky...the can of finish is so old I don't remember when I got it. I'll give it until later today to firm up, but if it doesn't, I'll strip it all back and go find some Tru-Oil.
 

Frank Fusco

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Tastes vary. Mine is to leave the wood alone. Finished scales can get slickery when in kitchen use. I have about eight wood handled kitchen knives and all are bare wood. Most walnut, others mystery.
 
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