How do I preserve and protect stag handle?

Joined
May 20, 2002
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A cache of vintage Brusletto laminated carbon steel blades has come on the market. According to Brusletto, these blades were intended for Harry Morseth. So I bought a bunch.

I am considering having stag handles installed on some. But I'm concerned about stag's durability. I've seen stag handles crack, peel, chip, and crumble as they get older.

How do I protect and preserve a stag handle? Is this a continuing and periodic maintenance, or do I do what need be done one time?
 
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Oct 1, 1999
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I consider myself to be a Stag-a-holic, I collect stag knives, custom and production. I also buy stag scales so I can supply the maker of my choice with the stag of my choice. I probably have about 35 stag handle knives in my collection, the oldest probably around 70 years old. I don't have any of the damage that you mention. I also don't have any special care regime to suggest. Handling my knives on a regular basis helps I think.

I've heard it suggested to give stag a bath in warm mineral oil, but I've never tried it. If any of the signs of wear start showing on my knives I would try it.

I'm going to watch this thread for other suggestions.
 
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Dec 26, 2005
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Funny about stag. I consider it one of the best natural materal handles around. If you look at some very old knives with stag, they are usually in great shape. I have heard of oil and other "rubs" but really think that dry stag is a great handle. If your goal is to abuse it, get micarta instead.
 

JW

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Dec 4, 1998
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I've got my grandfather's 100 year old Marble's with beautiful stag in very good condition. I think the natural oils from hands and tallow from skinning game has helped preserve it. No signs of deterioration.
Naphtali, Any chance you could tell me how or where I might acquire one or two of those unfinished Brusletto blades?
 
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Rennaissance wax,car wax/polish or mineral oil,although,it was pointed out to me that mineral oil may darken the stag. :)
 

Danbo

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Nov 28, 1999
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Mineral oil does slightly darken the stag, but I find that I like the way it looks. I use mineral oil on all my stag handled knives. :thumbup:
 
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I immerse the stag handles of my knives in mineral oil and soak for 24 hrs. I do this twice a year. I have not noticed any darkening of the stag at all, though it has also been suggested to me that this is a possibility. I have had really good results with mortised stag scales and, of course, carvers. I have seen shrinkage on full tang or frame handle knives and as a result I tend to avoid these all together.

Roger
 
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May 20, 2002
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When I was a child, I was given a broken, cracked Bengal Tiger's incisor. Tooth was from the turn of the 20th century. My father, who was a dentist, patched the tooth, then boiled it in -- as I remember -- glycerin water. The tooth is long gone, so I have no idea if my father's treatment helped preserve it. And I'm not certain I remember what he did to the tooth correctly.

Mineral oil -- what mineral oil? Does it make the antler greasy?
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Would there be any advantage to thoroughly degreasing the stag, then applying clear epoxy coating?
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How difficult is it to remove a stag handle from a full narrow tang that has been assembled as follows? End of tang is threaded. Nut is threaded onto tang. Stag is epoxied (or other adhesive) as well as affixed by the end nut. I described the way A.G. Russell assembled handles to their Morseth knives, circa 1980s and early 90s.

Replacing a handle is probably a more meaningful question than trying to maintain a handle indefinitely. That is, the handle lasts as long as it lasts, then replace it if replacing it is feasible.
 
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Dec 16, 2005
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I've heard of using Rennaissance wax, baby oil, coconut oil, and mineral oil. The problem with coating the stag with some clear epoxy, so I've been told, is the stag cannot "breath", and is thus more prone to drying out. Personally, I wipe down my stag handled knives with a soft cloth using mineral oil, it won't hurt the blades at all and is good so as not to contaminate food or meat while skinning, or cooking. Stag is a really pretty classic handle material that has been used for who knows how long. I think with proper care should last a lifetime. I have several with stag, but I do agree that if it is a knife that is going to see heavy use to the point of it being "beat" on, I always opt for the much more durable micarta. Just my thoughts. Good luck!
 
Joined
Sep 24, 2001
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My entire collection is in stag, from current knives by Velrade, Fisk, Winkler and Sawby to some of the older knives by Loveless, Kressler, etc. NONE show any indication of deterioration in any way. I handle them often, and they are stored in glass fronted cases with no preservatives, etc. I wouldn't use anything I didn't trust to not affect the materials....especially with knives that are valued at 5k +. I think my oldrest knife is a Lawndale Loveless with fantastic colored and grooved stag and I just checked it again and can find no defects.

Bottom line - if you ilke stag, use it. Take care of your knives and you shouldn't have any problems.
 

Raj

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Jan 22, 2003
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Mineral oil does a very good job on stag handles.Can darken it a bit but also makes it take on a nice appearance.
 
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Ballistol is always good AFAIK. I use it on my khukuris because it protects stag, horn, wood, blades and leather. What a combo!
 
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I would avoid vegetable oils because they can go rancid. Mineral oil is available at any drugstore in the U.S.
 
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gk2410 said:
My entire collection is in stag, from current knives by Velrade, Fisk, Winkler and Sawby to some of the older knives by Loveless, Kressler, etc. NONE show any indication of deterioration in any way. I handle them often, and they are stored in glass fronted cases with no preservatives, etc. I wouldn't use anything I didn't trust to not affect the materials....especially with knives that are valued at 5k +. I think my oldrest knife is a Lawndale Loveless with fantastic colored and grooved stag and I just checked it again and can find no defects.

Bottom line - if you ilke stag, use it. Take care of your knives and you shouldn't have any problems.

It sounds like you have some really nice knives. However, I would suggest you periodically treat the stag with something. Old time butchers used walnut oil, camellia oil, or mineral oil on there wooden handled knives, and never put them in a dishwasher. They would soak the handles for a day or so in the oil, when new, and then just periodically wipe them all down with the oil to keep them "seasoned". To kill any bacteria they would wash (by hand) the knives with bleach. The oil kept the handles from drying out, turning that whiteish color, or cracking. Today many woodworkers use the same oils to protect wooden salad bowls they have turned on a lathe. The Samuari used camellia oil on their Samuari swords, and I am told that many people still do. I had the luxury of going to Alaska about twelve years ago and bought a couple of knives and some nice scrimshawed walrus ivory pieces that are really nice. Believe me, these people of Alaska know how to take care of wood, stag, walrus ivory, whale ivory, etc..., even in the hostile environments of parts of Alaska. They told me that you should put oil on the stag or ivory. They said with changes in humidity, temperature, the amount of natural or artificial light, these pieces can check (crack), shrink, or even almost "explode" open in some rare instances. Because of what I've been told, read, and researched, I will protect my stag handled knives (I like the amber patina color it encourages anyway) with mineral oil. I respectfully think you should check into it more. Even though it may look fine tody, I would hate for you to look at them someday and be disappointed. Good Luck.
 
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Jan 10, 2006
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I've always used Renaissance Wax on the ones I built and no one has complained. I'm getting ready to do 2 more, and I think I'll try Holloway House Lemon Oil on them. I"ve heard its good for antler. It does contain moisturizers and should clean it up a little without hurting it.
 
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Oct 30, 2005
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I have several lone wolf damascus hunters with stag handles are seem to be coated with something. They are not sticking and have a kind of shine to them. You may want to check with him. I don't know the web site.
 

ohen cepel

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Sep 19, 2002
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I've used mineral oil with no ill effects. I may have darkened it some. However, not enough that I noticed. Also, once wiped off well it doesn't leave any film or slickness behind.
 
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