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Leather Handle Help Needed!!!


Jul 15, 1999
Hey there I have a USMC Ka-Bar and have done just about everything to the handle to try to make it water, and scratch/dig resistent. Can anyone help. I want to make the handle dark, looking like the KarBar that Steven Dick of Tactical Knives Magazine has showed in several of his magazines. Thanks
I think the best you will do is to use bark brown or black paste shoe polish and buff the h*** out of it.

Anything else like epoxy or fiberglass resin will crack off the handle because the leather will flex where the epoxy or resin will not.
You would also defeat the function of the leather handle.

The slate hammer I use every day has a leather washer handle that is about 100 years old. The leather is a dark black/brown and shines like a well polished pair of dress shoes. When I have to replace a washer I generally hit it with some shoe polish to cover the tan color, even so it looks a little different for a while. Inside of a year it looks just like the rest of the handle.

I think the dark color you are looking for comes only with hard use and lots of time in your hand. The trouble with any artificial patina is that they look artificial.

You might want to use mink oil on it prior to using the polish as some of the polishes will actually crack out the leather if no oil is put into it to keep the leather flexable, as the stiffness comes from the compression stack.

Curtis Wilson -
Wilson's Custom Knives, Engraving, and Scrimshaw
Ditto what you guys already said. I've wrapped alot of handles w/leather, mostly heavy tools and hiking sticks that I design. I use Limmer Boot Grease which is a proprietary formula of various greases, oils, and waxes. Its made by famous German boot maker, Peter Limmer. Its hard to find, but if you want to give it a try, E-mail me, and I'll try to find the number. Don't know if Limmer Boots is on line. Anyway, you guys are right. Leather usually breaks down fast through dry rot, dirt & abrasion, etc. if it does not contain some type of oil based substance to help it sustain its structural integrety. Tried dyes, polishes, etc. Leather retains the color longer w/ dyes, but most w/ leave some behind on your sweaty hand until surface pigment wears away.

Shoe polish works, but like shoes, needs reaplication from time to time until the color eventually sets in enough to "dye" the cord. I would forget about abrasion resistance if I were you, Gunner. If you start out with a high quality US leather and use a good oil based treatment before stretching it on, it should last a long time. In a few years or more, then you can start over again. If you try to slick it up with a varnish type of finish, the leather w/ loose its great grippability, that which makes leather IMHO THE BEST handle material. Should darken w/ use. The leather grips on my tools and hiking sticks works great for many many years of much use. What will fail first, the tool or the leather? Who's to say. They keep on going. WARNING: The above does not apply to Mexican and some S. American leathers. Mexican leather is usually far inferior to USA. The tanning process used is oftentimes urine (urea or uric acid), which breaks down the fibers over little time when exposed to moisture, like from your hand. Start with a good source of dense, oil tanned, leather from USA cattle. You won't go wrong. Hope we have helped. Let us know how it goes, Gunner.


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