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Fit & Finish Fit and Finish = the difference in "good art" and "fine art." Join in, as we discuss the fine art of finish and embellishment.

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Old 06-05-2003, 03:49 PM
C_Claycomb C_Claycomb is offline
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Location: North West of London, England
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Question Finishing the handle-guard, handle-tang junction?

If this has already been covered do please point me to the relevant thread.

I like using wood for handles, but am getting headaches finishing some of them.

When applying a handle finish which causes a build up on the surface, such as superglue, catalysed varnish, or Tru-Oil, how do you deal with handle pins and where the handle material meets the bolster/guard and exposed tang? Most finishes adhere poorly to the metal surface. I always have a problem knowing how to make the transition from varnished handle to unvarnished metal. If everything is sanded flush before finishing then the finish will thin to nothing as it nears the join. I have tried to rebate the handle a little, it works ok(ish) on exposed tangs and at the edge of bolsters, but it isn?t a satisfactory way to work with pins, and it is hard to make it so that it doesn't show. Should I be bothered with the pins or can a surface finish just be applied over the top of them?

I am starting to lean away from full tangs because of this finishing problem.


Chris Claycomb
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Old 06-05-2003, 04:30 PM
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Don Cowles Don Cowles is offline
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I think the whole problem is the concept of a surface finish. If you use stabilized woods (or woods like ironwood that don't need stabilization), it's a non-issue since all you do is buff and wax.

If you are using Micarta, G-10, mother of pearl, ivory, stag, or just about anything else, same thing- no finish required.


Don Cowles Custom Knives

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Old 06-05-2003, 05:59 PM
whv whv is offline
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welcome to ckdf, chris.
i agree with don. the difficulty you are experiencing is caused by a finish that is on the surface, rather than in it.
using the search button (top right) will lead you to all of the past threads in all of the forums. there are just too many to list regarding stabilized materials and finishes.

things get better with age ... i'm approaching magnificent
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Old 06-06-2003, 02:17 AM
C_Claycomb C_Claycomb is offline
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Yeah, I know that man made or man-modified materials would sort this problem, as would using naturally oily woods. I have some iron wood, but at its cost I reckon I need to get better on the rest of the package before using it. The same goes for stabalised wood. I am in the UK, where Micarta has to be imported from the US, and getting stabalised wood is a chore (and expensive). I have quite a collection of natural wood, about half of which needs some form of finish. I know that i could use Danish oil, or soak in wood hardener, but after what was admittedly a only an hour's search, I couldn't find a discussion of how to make surface finishes flush.

I know that other people have overcome this problem to some extent. I just didn't know at the time that I needed to ask them how!!
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Old 06-09-2003, 07:03 PM
Jason Cutter Jason Cutter is offline
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Wood finishing

As far as I know, a good surface finish is what's served mankind for a long time, often with good results, before the advent of impregnating things with other things. But APPROPRIATE materials is the key phrase here. As in, some woods are better than others - I'm referring to timbers that have inherent stability / water resistance, etc.

Having said that many surface finishes do actually penetrate the surface to a certain degree and what seals the wood is not so much like a painted-on finish, but one that is IN the surface as whv suggested.

The oil finishes do actually penetrate, heat can help the absorption. Use a heat gun, but be careful not to destroy the wood. If you use a slow-set superglue, it too will penetrate a bit before it cures. But the penetration we are talking of is in the order of 1mm or so at the surface. When applying such a finish, the Danish oil that is "useful" is what gets absorbed. Any excess (including whatever is on the surface of the pins) would be wiped off as the manufacturers instructions tell you to do. In such a situation, the finish would in fact be flush with the surface.

The surface preparation is crucial. I only do the Danish oil finish as the very final step. The surface is already taken to the finest grit I can use - 1500 is my favourite. I suggest then NOT burnishing the surface with steel wool as I (theoretically) believe that it would seal the surface and prevent absorption. I would coat the surface with oil, let it sit for a while to sink in. +/- help along with some heat. THEN I would rub the oil in WITH the steel wool, then wipe off the excess. Allow to cure (at least 6-8hours in the local weather), then shoeshine with a clean cotton cloth - stand back and admire. The Danish oil can take up to a full week to completely cure to its proper hardness and may benefit from another shoe-shine at that time, but it is already "workable" at 6-8hours.

Sorry for the long post, but I thought I'd share with you my method. In the end, I'm a lazy booger and I end up shelling out 4x the cost for a nice piece of stabilised wood. Jason.

Jason Cutter @ Dr Kwong Yeang
Knifemaker, Australia
(Matthew 10.16)
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Old 06-10-2003, 12:05 PM
C_Claycomb C_Claycomb is offline
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Danish oil is pretty good stuff, nice and low viscosity. I have used it on a few handles and it seems to give a good working finish and it is flush. My only concern has been getting enough oil into the wood, once the oil starts to cure the wood won't absorb more, it just sits around to be wiped off.

Having given it some thought I am going to try soaking my maple and masura birch handles in a really thinned down catalysed varnish. This stuff stays liquid for weeks in the fridge. With enough thinner it should penetrate about as well as the oil. And it gives a nice polished finish.

Thanks for all the advice, much appreciated
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Old 06-24-2003, 05:31 PM
Pete E Pete E is offline
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A newbie myself but....

First let me stress I am a complete beginner at making knives, but I saw your post on finishing wooden handles and thought I would throw out a few ideas which might or might not work.

With regards oil finishing wood, go over to the gunsmithing forums over at and do a search there and you will get all sorts of info with regards oil finishes on gunstocks. There is a wealth of info which you may be able to use or adapt in some way.

To give you a brief idea about how it works with gun stocks, you basically start "wet" sanding with your desired oil or varnish using a fairly course wet and dry sand paper. Aim to create a mud slurry of sanding dust and oil on the surface. When its evenly coated set aside and leave to dry...usually a few days but I suspect a knife scale would be quicker. Repeat again another twice going to a finer grade paper each time and leaving to dry in are actually filling the pores of the wood and encouraging the oil to really soak in...After that its a case of wet sanding your wood with the aid of a little oil/varnish using successively finer grades of wet and dry..I have done a gunstock up to 1200 grit and it comes out like a mirror! As you are doing each of these coats you are basically only using a little oil and trying to sand the oil into the are not building a mud coat like the earlier the end if you want to knock the gloss off, add some powered rotten stone or maybe french chalk ( I have not tried the later) and it will give that dull lusture and still leave you with sealed and relatively stable wood. Buff with a little wax when every thing is completely dry. The aim is not to build the oil/varnish on the surface but to sand into the wood..

I am thinking you could incorperate this method into the final sanding stages of the scales when they 95% nearly the right size. Not sure about the pins, but perhaps you would make them slightly "resessed" and sand the wood down till flush? I am sure one of the expirienced guys could give you a better lead...

Anyways the custom gunstock guys over at (its actually a hunting site) are really helpful and will answer any questions you may have..

One other thing...many of the custom gunstock makers have gone away from using a steel wool on an oil finished stock. The worry/theory is that tiny steel shads of the super fine wool can embed in the surface of the stock/oil and in time can rust/stain the stock. I have no idea if its a real problem, but one guy uses bronze wool I think from Brownels, while others use various grades of scotch pads...



Last edited by Pete E; 06-24-2003 at 05:39 PM.
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Old 06-25-2003, 01:33 AM
PS_Bond PS_Bond is offline
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Chris -

Bob Engnath has a chunk on finishing handles with superglue (per Scott Slobodian); all he has to say on the fit is:

"The only draw back found with this finish, is that it actually adds some thickness to the handle, so all other parts must be made very carefully to allow for that."

Nearest thing I could think of to the catalysed finish you're using on your knives. Which look fantastic, BTW.

Just got the final tools I need in order to make the tools I need (!) to finish my vacuum chamber rig. I can send you a couple of bits of stabilised something-or-other to play with once it is up & running?

I've done the wet oil sanding on stocks - and it does look fantastic. Just takes a bit of time for the oil to dry is all.


Last edited by PS_Bond; 06-25-2003 at 01:35 AM.
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