How to make wood handles shiny and smooth?

Pedro G.

Well-Known Member
Ive tried linseed oil that I had in my garage, Feed n wax, sanding with really fine grit sandpaper and a couple other things but i can never get the shiny, smooth, and kinda rubbery? feeling to the wood, any ideas would be appreciated. Thank you :1:

-Pedro G.
 

Ironwolf

The Knife Poet
I sand up to 600-800 grit,and buff a beeswax finish with a hard felt wheel on my dremel.
It creates a smooth-as-glass finish that you can see your reflection in!
(see the reflection in the lid of this box)
DSCN0172-1.jpg
 

Ironwolf

The Knife Poet
What I use for my boxes is HUT Crystal Coat
www.hutproducts.com
I got mine at Windsor Plywood,North Vancouver.
But,it's mostly in the sanding and prep,
before I apply any finish,either on knives or boxes,
they're smooth as glass
 
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Ironwolf

The Knife Poet
yep;
I hand-cut my blocks,(and wood for boxes) with a super-thin kerf dozuki saw to get closely book-matched pieces:
knife scales get roughed out with a jeweller's saw, half-round wood rasp,then various shaped hardwood sanding blocks.
Starting from 80 grit and working my way up to 600 or 800 grit,depending on the wood,
and intended use of the knife (utility knives get sanded up to 220 grit).
 
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NJStricker

Well-Known Member
You may also want to try burnishing with a coarse cloth. Sand to 400 grit, then buff with 0000 steel wool. Then, take some coarse cloth--old jeans would do--and hand rub the wood with the denim until you can feel the wood get warm. Then apply your finish. I've seen posts by other makers that they even burnish with a brass rod before applying their finish.
 

Pedro G.

Well-Known Member
Im sorry NJStricker I didn't understand any of that :/ Im pretty new to knife making.. and thank you Ironwolf for your help :)
 

NJStricker

Well-Known Member
Not sure which part you're confused about, but I'll try to break it down.

When sanding wood (or metal, for that matter), you'll sand with sandpaper starting with coarser grits and progressing to finer grits. Sandpaper will be marked as 100, 220, 320, 400, 600, 800 grit, etc. Coarser grit will have the lower number, finer grit the higher number. Steel wool also comes in different grades, but the labels are different: 0, 00, 0000, etc., where 0 is coarse and 0000 is very fine.

Once you sand the wood to a fine finish, say with 400 or 600 grit sandpaper, you can switch to 0000 steel wool for the sanding. You'll start to see the wood take on a little bit of a sheen, almost a satin finish. Then, switch to hand rubbing the wood with the coarse cloth, and polish the wood dry with some pressure from your hand. You should feel the wood start to get warm from the friction. It doesn't have to get warm (the heat has no effect), but it's the process that gives the wood a good finish.

At that point you can apply your finish--either a stain followed by a finishing coat (a hardening oil such as boiled linseed oil or tung oil, or else a synthetic like polyurethane) or just a finishing coat. The key to getting a shiny or glossy finish is to apply the finishing coat in thin layers. Personally I like to use Birchwood Casey Tru-Oil. It's a tung oil with additives that speed the drying process. I like to apply a little bit of the Tru-oil, then rub it into the wood with 0000 steel wool. By rubbing the oil in with the steel wool you effectively wet sand the wood, mixing wood dust with the oil and forcing it into the natural pores of the wood. This is usually called "filling the grain." I then wipe down any excess oil and allow the piece to dry for a day or 2. Linseed oil could take a week or more to dry depending on how thick it's applied, the humidity in your area, and how oily your wood is (for example, many tropical hardwoods have natural oils that resist penetration by linseed or tung oils).

After the first coat of oil has dried, I sand the surface lightly with 0000 steel wool, wipe off any dust, then apply the next coat of oil with a cotton rag (no steel wool). I apply a thin coat so that there are no runs, and I wipe off any excess. Again, I allow it to dry for a day or so. Repeat this process--apply a thin coat, dry, sand with 0000 steel wool, repeat--until you get the gloss to where you want it. I've done a number of gunstocks over the years with good results. For older Winchester or Marlin lever actions where I want to get a satin hand-rubbed look, I might apply 5-7 coats. On stocks where I want a high gloss that rivals a high end shotgun I've applied as many at 20. The more coats, the higher the gloss.

Once you apply the last layer of oil and allow it to dry thoroughly (I give the last coat at least 2 weeks to dry), then I apply a wax finish.
 

Doug Lester

Well-Known Member
Let me add that it will also depend on the wood that you are using. African Blackwood, for instance, produces a shiney finish with just sanding to a very fine grit and a buffing. It is so oily that I doubt that you could get it to take up an oil finish. It's the same for most of the other woods in the Rose Wood family. It can get a smooth looking finish on Osage Orange by sanding out to a fine grit too. I didn't put an oil finsish on the one blade I handled with it; I didn't want anything to interfer with it developing a petina.

Doug Lester
 

Pedro G.

Well-Known Member
Would I be able to jump from 600 grit to 1500 grit? thats the highest ive found other than 600 in any store around my area :/
 

Ironwolf

The Knife Poet
ok i found pictures of what I would want my handles to look like

http://KnifeDogs.com/gallery/showimage.php?i=2234&c=2
or
http://KnifeDogs.com/gallery/showimage.php?i=2233&c=2


a shiny look but also smooth.

600 grit will give you that smoothness,and buffing with a finish will give you that gleam.
I seldom need to go past 600-800 to get a smooth as glass,silky feel.
Dense,naturally oily/resinous woods will load (clog) up your sandpaper quickly,
so get a crepe block to clean your sandpaper/belts with.
 

Pedro G.

Well-Known Member
now will hand sanding give me that or will i have to somehow attach it to a machine?
to what grit would I have to go to to get metal like....let say O-1 to shine?
 

Ironwolf

The Knife Poet
I get results like that by hand,except for the buffing,which I use my dremel tool for (it's all I have).
Steel is generally the same process as wood:
each step up in grit will remove the grooves that the last grit left.
I've found with sanding steel by hand,when you move up a grit,sand across the 'grain' of the last grit you used:
it'll remove the scratches faster,and provide a more uniform finish.
(For sanding the flats of wood or metal,I use a dead-flat sheet of thick,tempered safety-glass,and use a spray adhesive to glue the sandpaper down:
it will get your scales to fit perfectly,with no gaps)
I may be wrong,but I seem to recall reading that 0-1 and/or 0-2 are really tough to get a mirror finish on.
(never worked with it myself,so I'm going by what I recall reading...which may be wrong,or misremembered :31: )
 
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Pedro G.

Well-Known Member
can I skip from 600 grit to 1500 grit? its the only ones ive found in any store around me besides 400 and under.
 
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