Wood for knife handles

M.J.Lampert

Member
I would think apple would be a fine wood, but haven't used it myself. Try it! I didn't mean to steer you off of Oak; I've made a handful of knives with oak and it is a good wood. You will know when you need to start using exotic or highly figured woods.
i understood that i will try the apple on a leaf-spring (5160ish) paring knife I am making
 

LizParkerKnives

New Member
would oak be ok unstabilized I plan to dry and then coat in BLO or some other natural oil
I use unstabilised oak for many of my handles, but I make very sure I'm taking from the heartwood, not the sapwood. I also keep the handle blanks in the driest place possible to ensure all the seasoning is complete. I had a problem last year where I found some had still shrunk further after fitting on blades, and the tang edges were out proud of the joint, and I'd rather it the other way round if the wood is going to change size any.
 

John Wilson

Well-Known Member
Just as a side comment. If you start to build up a handle wood collection remember to label them. I have a whole lot of wood I have no idea what it is.

Doug
absolutely this! Especially when you keep a piece because it has unusual figure and tonality...

Also read up on the woods you keep to know what the potential hazards are. While it's always best practice to wear a respirator when grinding wood because dust is no good for you, there are some woods that will put you in the hurt locker if you don't. I don't use cocobolo anymore at all, and I have to wear long sleeves when I work African Blackwood because the dust will make my arms break out in a rash.
 

D-Yager

Active Member
Apple Wood - nice stuff with interesting "eyes" in some pieces. A neighbor in Mendocino, CA has an orchard and he lets me scrounge his cuttings. I’d guess that there are 100's of apple varieties, but the stuff I get is hard and will polish well. Worst case, it’s great wood for smoking meat. Sweet.
On another note "black acacia" is a some really nice material, too. There seems to be some disagreement about the name, but that’s what we call it out west. Koa (Acacia Koa) from Hawaii is in the same family.
 

jmforge

Well-Known Member
I just got a muzzleloader rifle kit and it shipped in a wooden crate, the crate itself is no good but they used curly maple blocks hot glued inside
for bracing the parts...enough for a couple nice handles!
you never know where nice wood will pop up.
See if you can determine where the blocks were cut from your stock blank. ;)
 
Last edited:

jmforge

Well-Known Member
absolutely this! Especially when you keep a piece because it has unusual figure and tonality...

Also read up on the woods you keep to know what the potential hazards are. While it's always best practice to wear a respirator when grinding wood because dust is no good for you, there are some woods that will put you in the hurt locker if you don't. I don't use cocobolo anymore at all, and I have to wear long sleeves when I work African Blackwood because the dust will make my arms break out in a rash.
Even if you are not allergic to cocobolo (yet), it can still make you think that someone just put a big plate of hot wings on the table when you grind it. ;) My understanding is that the substance in the wood and in mango is kind of a very weak version of the junk in poison ivy. You can build up sensitivity the same way. Poison ivy had no effect on my until I was like 13 and even then, it was nowhere near as bad as with other people. Same with mango and my dad. When we lived in Miami, we had mango trees in our back yard and he could eat them like crazy for about a week or so, Then he was done for the rest of the season because there was a tiny amount of the bad stuff in the skin of the fruit.
 

bladegrinder

Well-Known Member
Count me out for using Cocobolo, I used it a lot with no bad effects then one time I woke up and had a sore throat and lost my voice for a couple days. I kind of figured it was the Cocobolo but a couple months later I used it again, both times using a respirator...
I woke up in the middle of the night and it felt like I snorted diesel fuel and barbed wire, my sinus's were on fire and was coughing up blood. for the next 3-4 days my voice changed and I sounded like Lurch.
I still have a piece or to of that devils wood in my shop from 20 years ago, I'll gift it here next Christmas to someone that can use it without seeing the Reaper...;)
 

Sean Jones

Well-Known Member
So far I've used Cocobolo quite successfully. Early on, I took John Wilson's advice and used gloves and a respirator. I also always blowed the dust off or vacuumed it right away. I really like Cocobolo so I hope I don't end up with a reaction to it.
 

CDHumiston

Well-Known Member
Here are two woods I would stay away from based on buying them and trying them.

Black Palm - Continually splinters while working and will need a serious sealant to be useful.

GUANACASTE - Much softer than expected. Warped when cut into scale size from a solid block.
 

John Wilson

Well-Known Member
So far I've used Cocobolo quite successfully. Early on, I took John Wilson's advice and used gloves and a respirator. I also always blowed the dust off or vacuumed it right away. I really like Cocobolo so I hope I don't end up with a reaction to it.
I love Cocobolo, too. I always have. I remember how happy I was the first time I was able to upgrade a pistol to cocobolo grips. In it's finished state, neither Cocobolo nor African Blackwood give me any problems. But the dust is no bueno for me. And people need to heed Steve and JMForge's advice... you DO build up an allergy to it over time. I made a bunch of Cocobolo knives before I had problems. I always wore a respirator, but over time I got to where if I could still smell the dust on me- or on my bench even days later, it was like getting a quick whiff of pepper spray. I need to give away the last of my blocks of it, too. Just handling them, if they are rough and dusty, then forgetting and touching my face or eyes later is enough for it to start burning.

I'll look in my stash and see what I still have of it, because at one time I had some absolutely gorgeous blocks of it. Free to a good home. I'll post pics when I find it.
 

CDHumiston

Well-Known Member
I love Cocobolo, too. I always have. I remember how happy I was the first time I was able to upgrade a pistol to cocobolo grips. In it's finished state, neither Cocobolo nor African Blackwood give me any problems. But the dust is no bueno for me. And people need to heed Steve and JMForge's advice... you DO build up an allergy to it over time. I made a bunch of Cocobolo knives before I had problems. I always wore a respirator, but over time I got to where if I could still smell the dust on me- or on my bench even days later, it was like getting a quick whiff of pepper spray. I need to give away the last of my blocks of it, too. Just handling them, if they are rough and dusty, then forgetting and touching my face or eyes later is enough for it to start burning.

I'll look in my stash and see what I still have of it, because at one time I had some absolutely gorgeous blocks of it. Free to a good home. I'll post pics when I find it.

When I'm creating a lot of fine dust from wood or metal I always wear a full respirator.

I can't smell anything until I'm done and take off the respirator. I know it's saving my lungs!
 

fitzo

Gold Membership
Back when I first started (80s), the lesson taught about cocobolo regarded Ted Dowell, who had been recently hospitalized and almost died from a gradual sensitization to cocobolo that went acute one day. Still remember today so it must have put the fear in me.

Great wood and smells so wonderful to work. Pity it's a devil. I gradually developed the itchy skin pretty bad on my forearms and quit using it, remembering Ted and worried about the lungs. Still have a board in the woodpile. Seems a common thing, that "old board of it somewhere", and tells its own lesson. Sensitization can go along for a time without note and then blow up in one exposure to anaphylactic shock. Scary.

Recently, I have been carving A.Blackwood and it aggravated my hands and caused a psoriasis outbreak once I took to finishing and making dust. That's new, and disappointing. I like Blackwood.

I use a PAPR nowadays but can't seem to break the habit of wearing short sleeves and no gloves in the shop. Old training lingers...
Watch that dust.
 
Last edited:

jmforge

Well-Known Member
Back when I first started (80s), the lesson taught about cocobolo regarded Ted Dowell, who had been recently hospitalized and almost died from a gradual sensitization to cocobolo that went acute one day. Still remember today so it must have put the fear in me.

Great wood and smells so wonderful to work. Pity it's a devil. I gradually developed the itchy skin pretty bad on my forearms and quit using it, remembering Ted and worried about the lungs. Still have a board in the woodpile. Seems a common thing, that "old board of it somewhere", and tells its own lesson. Sensitization can go along for a time without note and then blow up in one exposure to anaphylactic shock. Scary.

Recently, I have been carving A.Blackwood and it aggravated my hands and caused a psoriasis outbreak once I took to finishing and making dust. That's new, and disappointing. I like Blackwood.

I use a PAPR nowadays but can't seem to break the habit of wearing short sleeves and no gloves in the shop. Old training lingers...
Watch that dust.
Supposedly, the allergy thing can happen with any of the dalbergia species aka true rosewoods. We knew a guy who had it happen with teak, Unfortunately, his business was called "The Teak Sheik" and he had just scored a big contract doing the teak decking, etc for Viking Yachts for their big sport fishing yachts at their new completion center in West Palm Beach. He had to sell the business.
 

John Wilson

Well-Known Member
speaking of teak, i had a customer who wanted a teak handle and I couldn’t talk her out of it. It wasn’t as ugly as I anticipated, and it will last longer than I will.
 

jmforge

Well-Known Member
speaking of teak, i had a customer who wanted a teak handle and I couldn’t talk her out of it. It wasn’t as ugly as I anticipated, and it will last longer than I will.
Too late perhaps, but one of the suppliers that we knifey people use has Burmese teak burl on occasion IIRC.
 

John Wilson

Well-Known Member
Too late perhaps, but one of the suppliers that we knifey people use has Burmese teak burl on occasion IIRC.
I will keep that in mind. I was very pleasantly surprised at how nice teak was to work with. All my life I thought of teak as decking and rub rails. I have never seen a teak burl. That's worth looking into. For kitchen knives, you'd be hard pressed to find a better handle material than teak if looks are not paramount. A burl might be a real winner.
 
Top