How to maintain a bone handle?

Discussion in 'Himalayan Imports' started by davidf99, Jan 23, 2013.

  1. davidf99

    davidf99 Platinum Member Platinum Member

    Sep 27, 2011
    I was looking at one of today's DOTD postings, a Bhaspati with a bone handle, and found myself wondering about the properties of bone and how one should maintain it. I wonder if bone has the cracking problem so common with horn handles when they dry out? Or any other issues that require a particular kind of maintenance?

    I have khukuris with wood and horn handles. For horn I use hooflex, for wood I use tung oil most of the time, and for the blades, mineral oil. For bone I wouldn't know.

    I tried a quick bladeforums search on the subject. Got a large number of hits about bone, but not much about how to maintain it. One thread had many postings on the subject. Unfortunately the posters tended to disagree with each other on almost every aspect. Some recommended mineral oil, while others said bone wouldn't absorb it. Some said to use clear paste wax. However, I know from experience that paste wax sometimes makes a surface very slippery, which is not good for a knife handle. Someone wrote that mineral oil can discolor a bone handle. That wouldn't necessarily be a bad result, but it might be too unpredictable.

    Would anybody with experience care to weigh in here. Preferably not speculation, but actual experience. Thanks in advance.
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2013
  2. Steve Tall

    Steve Tall

    Aug 28, 2010
    Good question. And would the same go for antler handles (which are calcified like bone; unlike horn, which is keratin)?
  3. RiverRat9533


    Jan 13, 2013
    I would be interested in hearing how to care for bone handles s well, and the difference between antlers from horn. My father he an old Bowie that he pitched up somewhere in the late fifties, maybe early sixties. His care involved maintaining the edge and nothing else. So I guess his bone handle care theory was the the oil from hi skin was enough. That Bowie Is now at least fifth years old, probably closer to sixty something, and have been passed onto my brother who has kept up the whole traditional lack of hands care routine alive in Dads absence.
  4. Steely_Gunz

    Steely_Gunz Got the Khukuri fevah Moderator

    May 9, 2002
    I just give mine a wipe down with mineral oil. The finish might be a tad yellowed, but i like it. Never had one crack, but none of my bone handles are on gigantic choppers. That Bashpati looks incredible.
  5. Steve Tall

    Steve Tall

    Aug 28, 2010
    FWIW, this site says that stag/bone/ivory knife handles should get regular rubdowns or soakings in mineral oil. If there is shrinkage noticed, then at least 24 hours submerged in mineral oil, at least every three months.
  6. snow and steel

    snow and steel

    Mar 5, 2011
    I've always heard mineral oil was good for the horn handles as well... am I wrong?

    And where does one actually buy hooflex anyways?

    I know 1911 guys who use mineral oil for their bone 1911 grips, for what that si worth.
  7. davidf99

    davidf99 Platinum Member Platinum Member

    Sep 27, 2011
    Sounds like mineral oil is the way to go. I hope that whoever got that bone-handled Bhaspati is reading this thread.

    In answer to snow and steel:

    I ordered a tin of hooflex paste through It's used to maintain horse's hooves, so if you live in a rural area you can probably get it locally from whatever store carries horse-related supplies.

    A word of caution:

    Make sure to order the paste, which comes in a wide, round tin can and can easily be wiped onto a horn handle with a soft cloth. It's also available in liquid form in a container with a built-in brush, and I was originally sent the liquid by mistake. The liquid form might be convenient for painting onto a horse's hoof, but would be very messy to use on knife handles. Would probably get on everything, including your clothing.
  8. Shann


    Sep 2, 2004
    Mineral oil is good for horn, bone, wood, steel, etc. I also like to use it on the black leather over wood scabbards, but not on brown leather or a sheath without a frame because it can discolor leather and also soften it. That happened to me on a nice leather sheaf that Dan Koster made for me when I put the oil on it. :mad:

    There are a lot of other products that I hear last longer and may work "better" but mineral oil is easily available and relatively cheap. If you do a quick search you will find stuff that might be better for long term storage, but you just have to check your stuff to make sure its not drying out. Also, when first put on it is very slippery so be careful if you are planning to use the khukri soon after applying the oil

    Also, you can get the food grade stuff at a pharmacy for any knife that may be used for food prep and if you get stopped up you can take it medicinally!
  9. Dirtbiker


    Jul 2, 2010
    I use mineral oil on my stag handled knives with good results.

    For leather hands down the best product I've ever used it Oakwood leather conditioner. Made for saddles it uses lanolin, beeswax, eucalyptus oil and other stuff. I put it on all of my new HI sheaths but I've had great success restoring old leather as well.
  10. RiverRat9533


    Jan 13, 2013
    Guess that settles it, going to have to pick up some mineral oil and give it a try. Thanks for all the input


    The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday

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