I was recently working on one of my hand-made knives, and while finishing my curly-maple handle, I remembered a technique I’d use on some of my smaller wooden products that I don’t think I ever wrote about before. I decided it would be something good to share with my readers, beyond the aspect of it truly working, but it may also push some to start thinking outside the box a bit more. Anyways, lets get into it.
The handles I use on my knives may be of different types of wood, but I usually go with the same finish on them all, which is Tru-Oil by Birchwood Casey. Ok, if you’ve read my other articles, you already know that, but I’m just filling in the blanks for those who haven’t read any of my previous writings. As with most finishes, you apply a thin coat, wait for it to dry, lightly sand and wipe the residue off. Basically repeating this process until you get the desired results. I follow the basic design of this, but will give a bit more specific information regarding what I’m using that helps get a better final surface.
In between the first two coats, I use some 400-grit paper to just very lightly touch the surface, removing any nibs or roughness and then wiping away any residue. Just before my final coat, I use a foam backed sanding sheet that is rated 1200-1500 (their specs, not mine), and again just almost letting gravity apply the downward force on the wood, as I’m not trying to do anything but smooth anything that is out of line.
After the last coat is applied, I make sure to let it sit long enough to really totally dry, which can be 24 hours or even slightly longer. On an inconspicuous spot, I just lightly touch a finger. If it has any feel of stickiness or my finger doesn’t slip like its on glass, I leave it until this occurs. After the finish is completely dry, I shift to something that might seem strange; a Viva paper towel! And no this isn’t just to wipe some residue. I know many of us don’t look at paper towels like they are a type of sandpaper, but they do have some graininess to them (Viva just happens to be our paper towel of choice, but other may work as well, but may not be quite as fine a grain), and one time long ago, I ran out of some crazy-fine sandpaper I’d been using. On a whim, I decided to give these paper towels a shot. I find I get the best results if I apply a bit of pressure and move back and forth quickly. Basically starting to burnish the finish. After I’ve done this to all sections of the knife’s handle, I go one step further. I use a small section of a thick leather that is somewhat soft, but not really what I would call buttery. Using the smooth side of the leather, I use exactly the same routine as I did with the paper towel. This provides a nice burnish to the handle’s surface, which just feels so good in the hands.
Since the burnishing heats up the finish during the process, I again clamp the knife (via the blade) for another 24 hours, to let the finish harden again. This leaves a handle that is super smooth, but unlike some waxes, doesn’t seem to want to slip out of your grip.
If you are working on a smallish wooden project, like a knife handle, or even a little box, you might want to give this a try. You might just amaze your friends/family/customers regarding how “smooth” it feels. Even if you aren’t trying to get the extra response, it’s cool to use a couple of everyday type items to increase the touch-factor of your projects.
I hope you enjoyed this article and may find it useful. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.
@LeeLairdWoodworking – InstaGram
@LeeLairdWW – Twitter
A couple of weeks ago I was going through some stuff in my shop and I found an older style Hock iron (O-1 steel) that I purchased around 1990. I was still really green relating to hand planes at that point, but I knew I wanted to learn how to both sharpen well and setup a plane to work like I’d seen from some experienced guys. I hadn’t ever used any of the Hock tools before, at the time when I purchased the iron, but there was something about their products that led me to believe it was a good buy. Boy, I was a good judge of character (at least about the Hock tools, lol)!
Ok, fast forward some 26 years later and I was completely surprised that I still had that iron. For some reason I thought I’d sold one of my old planes, with that iron in it, and that it was long gone! What a nice surprise it was still around.
I checked the edge on the Hock iron and it wasn’t even close to being sharp, so I used my usual sharpening techniques, with my 1000-grit Shapton Glass-stone and my 8000-grit Norton water-stone. A couple of minutes later (O-1 is one of the fastest steels to sharpen, yet this iron holds it’s edge a long time) it was razor sharp, and ready to take it’s rightful place in my oldest Bailey #3 hand plane.
The iron that I’ve had in the old Bailey was from 1892, and was a laminated piece. It always held an edge extremely well, which satisfied me greatly. After swapping the old Stanley iron for this much younger, but older-styled Hock iron, I of course had to test the replacement and see how it compared.
In the last 26 years, I’ve made a number of wooden hand planes, and purchased all of their irons from Hock. Each of these thicker irons performed exceptionally well, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to notice much of a difference between the two irons for my #3. I took some shavings on a number of different boards, from hard Maple, Purple Heart, Cherry, Oak… and I was truly amazed at the superior surface the Hock iron provided.
I was totally blown away! I’ve always thought the old laminated Stanley irons were as good or better than anything else out there, but it is obvious my perception was a bit off.
I felt the need to share my results with anyone who might be interested in reading it, so others could also benefit from my experiment. Of course, this was not conducted in a true scientific environment, or using scientific protocols, nor does it indicate all others will get the same results as I did. Even though the new products Hock is currently making may be slightly different than the older version I posses, Hock’s quality control is good, and will still present you with an equally high quality O-1 iron.
You can check out quite a few of the Hock lineup of irons and other tools, if you click on the Highland Woodworking link on my page.
Thank you for stopping by to check out this article. I hope this information is beneficial. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.
Ok, sorry again for the lack of recent posts, but my last post hopefully informed everyone as to why I’ve been away from the site. I bought some more material for knife blades, even though it wasn’t quite as thick, and had a different “feature”. The blanks I bought had some holes in them, and the location […]
This post is solely to share why I’ve been absent. Unfortunately, even when one is retired, life’s responsibilities are still chewing on you and that’s exactly what played at least a part. My son moved to West Virginia, and with him moving out of a condo we own, it was finally time to go through all of […]
I made my version of a saw vise with which to sharpen my hand saws, a little over a year ago. I’d picked some oak out of my “shorts” bin, that I could use to make the heads for the front and back legs of the vise. A couple of weeks ago I was in the middle […]