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Flamed handles

Discussion in 'Axe, Tomahawk, & Hatchet Forum' started by Grease, Oct 10, 2018.

  1. Grease


    May 10, 2012
    Anyone else like to take a torch to those glossy varnished new handles? It seems to be the easiest way to get rid of that plasticky varnish feel, while adding some cool looks at the same time.

  2. Jack Ryan

    Jack Ryan

    Jan 19, 2007
    No. I'd rather just use mine.
    Square_peg, A17 and quinton like this.
  3. KiwiBloke


    Oct 2, 2018
    That's cool Grease I really like it. Would it be better/different if you sanded the varnish off first and then torched it? I wonder what the end results would be if not the same?

    What kind of torch did you use to do this one?
  4. Grease


    May 10, 2012
    I've never tried just burning wood. I'm assuming whats happening is that the varnish itself is burning off and melting into the wood, because if you just lightly heat it you see it darken and then get lighter again.

    I used a map gas torch for this one, but any hardware store gas torch works well. I've even done it with a Bic to a tomahawk handle, but that took forever. Hold 4-6 inches away and wave it back and forth slowly till you see the wood start to darken. Slow down your passes if its not happening. You just don't want to hold it in place, because it'll char the wood almost instantly.
    KiwiBloke likes this.
  5. KiwiBloke


    Oct 2, 2018
    Great advice I will try it with the Bic when I have some time to kill :)
  6. Fmont

    Fmont Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 20, 2017
    It's the first step of a shou sugi ban. If you were to flame the whole handle and wire brush it after you have a mild geographic finish. The early cambium burns off quicker than the late cambium. If you keep repeating the process of lightly charring and then wire brushing you can get a very very pronounced geographic finish. All the hard lines running the grain is the late wood and the recesses are the burned out early wood. Although it would probably be horrible for a tool handle. :D
    KillerGriller, BitingSarcasm and A17 like this.
  7. survivor45


    Feb 15, 2018
    I scrape the varnish off. Then burn.
    KiwiBloke likes this.
  8. Moonw


    Nov 19, 2014
    We don't take kindly to flaming handles around here :p.
  9. gben


    Nov 26, 2014
    It is as bad as someone trying to age a new piece of furniture to fake it looking old. It is always a fail and looks sad and desperate, like a bubble-headed pre-teen girl putting on mommy's makeup so she can be a "grownup".
  10. Square_peg

    Square_peg Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 1, 2012
    I don't care for the flamed look. A light flame like you're doing won't hurt anything so there's no harm in doing it. And if it pleases you then what the heck!

    Historically, handle makers have flame treated their worst cheapest handles to hide defects and make them more attractive to the public. Knowing this I've avoided them like the plague. But lightly flaming a high quality handle is fine. No harm, no foul. It's just personal taste.

    Not here, either. But my prejudice is based on things totally separate from what Grease is doing.

    And Grease, it's nice to see you on the forum again. You haven't been as active lately as you used to be.
    Grease and Moonw like this.
  11. Moonw


    Nov 19, 2014
    Yep. All written in a light tone, Grease. No ill will at all :) - I just knew about the general feeling :) (and historical reason Peg mentioned).
    Grease likes this.
  12. Peck Price

    Peck Price

    Sep 28, 2013
    I struggled with the factory varnish until someone on here mentioned using cabinet scrapers. I googled cabinet scraper and cut myself one out of a worn out handsaw. 10 minutes of scraping and the varnish is gone. And I must be in the minority as I like the flamed handle look. I think it takes me back to the 1970’s when it was common to see flamed handles in hardware stores. That being said I probably only flame 1 out of 5 handles.
    KiwiBloke, A17 and survivor45 like this.
  13. BitingSarcasm


    Feb 25, 2014
    OOH, I love a good science-ing. It brings back happy memories of torturing children with plant biology knowledge. It may not be great for tool handles, but this burning process produces some amazing visual effects in wood. Not all wood can be a good haft, but every piece of wood can be something amazing.
    Moonw likes this.
  14. Grease


    May 10, 2012
    I've been a bit of a lurker for a while now. Just needed some introvert time :p
    Square_peg likes this.
  15. KillerGriller


    Sep 4, 2018
    I was thinking about this the other day, traditional SSB is rubbed down with tung oil (or similar) afterward, if you reseal the handle over top of the Shou Sugi Ban finish without compromising the deep/complex patterning you'd be laughing. It'd have to be heavy durable enough to handle the workload, clear epoxy maybe?
    Square_peg likes this.
  16. cityofthesouth


    Jan 29, 2014
    I dunno about flaming but the angle CT paints on their heads seems totally upside down to me. If it has to be an angle I think it should run from the toe back, not from the heel back. See if you can kill that with fire!
    Square_peg and KiwiBloke like this.
  17. Gvard


    May 5, 2017
    I never liked the looks of a flamed handle.
  18. Jack Ryan

    Jack Ryan

    Jan 19, 2007
    I've done it to a lot of pine furniture. It was a really popular look for bachelor pads back in the 70's. You sand the wood bare and then play a propane flame over it until the soft portion of the grain turns black giving a contrasting coloration to the grain of soft woods. Then you have to put a cover coat of varnish or decoupage over the top or the effect wears off very quickly.

    Something I will use on new handles to give them the older been around look very quickly is to just rub a walnut hull over them. It is just a stain and it needs no cover or top protective coat as handling them just rubs it in deeper every time you touch or use it.
  19. FLINT77


    Apr 8, 2013
    I sometimes like the flamed look.

    I have done it to two handles. Both hardware store link handles. The first which is on my plumb jersey, I scraped and sanded the factory finish off, but I couldn't get the finish completely out of some of the grain in the wood, so it just looked a little streaky and crappy. So after a couple coats of tung, one evening on a whim, I hit it with the torch. I tried to avoid any big dark spots and tried to for the most part, it just made the grain pop out, which looks way better than the handle did before. also, I don't know if it had something to do with the tung already on it, but it gave a distinctly raised feel to the grain, so the handle has a pronounced texture now which I kind of like.
    The second, was another hardware store link handle that I messed up the swell on trying to shape it and also banged it up pretty good after several head fittings. I figured I wouldn't be out anything with the handle so I got curious how it would look if I really cooked it with the torch. So this one is really dark. and with this one, I put the tung on right after flaming it, the handle was very hot, and the tung seemed to either really soak in or cure quickly or both, as I put several coats in within just minutes and they seemed to just bake right in. I might experiment with this further - handle heating, even with out the flame part maybe.

    Finally, here is a Flint Edge CT that I got from JB, with a factory "flame hardened" handle, that I absolutely love. I think it looks great, and the shape is amazing. I don't see where this is a lower quality handle.
  20. KillerGriller


    Sep 4, 2018
    That Flint Edge handle is sexy.

    How's the durability of a Tung Oil finish? I've only used it on furniture, and not something that gets heavy (possibly sweaty) use.

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