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Wood Handle Finish

Jan 10, 2001

I just applied my old pistol grip finish to the Garud and the Malla. To non-Woodchucks, the process is tedious and boring. To those infected, it is time consuming, but calming and beauteous.

The Nepali Oak is a wonderful wood for this, although I had my doubts at first due to the polshing and waxing it had already been through. The Garud block had obviously been carefully selected for carving - a very fine, straight grain without much color variation. I managed to get on five coats before the humidity went back to the eighties, and it now shines. The wood has more depth, as expected, but now when it talks to you, its warm, moist eyes look at you. Spooky!

The wood in the Malla handle is coarser, with dark, caramel and gold, mixed and intertwined. When held in natural light and turned slowly, there is a light show as the grain actually changes color AND shape as it turns. This is Woodchuckitus personified
And, yes, Terry, it will twitch your tail.

The supplies are all from Wally World, but the process is wordy and boring. If interested, i'll post it, but if only a couple want to try it, I'll e-mail it to save some bandwidth.
Walosi my Bro I would urge you to post the info no matter if it is wordy and boring.

That way it will be cached someday in the archives at least and will provide invaluable information for a mighty long time to come.
We never know who may come along that will put the info to good
And Howard may also see fit to put it in the FAQ's if you give him permission.

While we're speaking about wood finishes have you ever used super glue as a finishing agent?
A lot of the guys over in the shoptalk forum swear by it.
It's supposed to leave a surface that appears very deep while bringing out the nuances of the woodgrain and the colors in the wood. I am trying it on a piece of stained Sycamore right now. It should be finished in a few

Bois D'Arc is one of my favorite woods because of the colors it has.
I can ger really lost in it.
It's also an oily wood that when cut with a very sharp knife needs no other finish to have a real depth to it.
And when taken to an ultra smooth finish parts of the grain, especially around knots or curls, remind me of Tiger Eye.


Indin word for lousy hunter.

The Garud surprised me. I did no sanding or wooling on the carving, of course - the chisel cuts and burnishing the carver did made a smooth surface which was better than reduction polishing with an abrasive could achieve. I went into the grooves/deep cuts with the Tru Oil on a Q Tip, and then smoothed it wherever it built up with either a water-damp Q Tip or a round toothpick. Overall, it looks good, but the eyes are moist-looking. In the old horror flicks, the eyes in the paintings followed you, and scared us little kids out of our popcorn. The eyes on the Garud will make you glance back at it a second time to see why it wanted your attention. As I said - Spooky.


I filled the cracked handle of the Malla with Super Glue, and had to take it down with a burr in the places where I over did it. Then, after the first coat of oil, I had to lightly sand those areas to get the glued surface to match the oiled. Never thought of a full finish with it. New Frontiers

Reno in the early 70's was a hotspot for shows with the world's best custom stockmakers, most of whom have now been dead ten or twenty years. I was able to spend time with a few.

There were never many then, and there aren't many now. They must have truly seen the beauty hidden to bring it out so well for us to see.
Wood Handle Finish - Gunstock Style
The materials are all available at WalMart - no plug intended, just convenient:

Birchwood Casey Tru Oil
Armor All
Fine Needle File
#0000 Steel wool
Old, Soft Toothbrush
Round Toothpick
600 Grit (not any coarser) Silicon Carbide Sandpaper
One or Two Old T-Shirts

FIRST wrap the blade. You will be handling it across your lap, probably, and constantly turning it to work the handle. You may forget exactly where the edge is. It won't forget where you are.

Take the wax finish down to the wood with steel wool, sanding any rough spots, and then polishig them with the wool. When the surface is clean and smooth, apply the first coat of oil.

Apply the oil with your fingertip (if allergeic to solvents, turp, etc, use a Q Tip, but watch out for lint coming off the cotton). Use the absolute least amount you can get on your fingertip, and spread it as far as possible on the wood surface. I usually dip mine out of the cap - a dip into the bottle attracts far too much, and begs for a spilled bottle. Before setting it up for the first coat to dry, rout out the grooves with a toothpick. They will contain dust from the final polishing which will detract from the final result. If there are places where the groove is uneven, or there are hard deposits of dust, clean/even them up with the needle file, tryng to keep the sides and bottom even. Just make light clean-up passes with the file.

Set the blade aside and forget it for at least one day. If you are in a high-humidity area, drying time between coats may be as much as three days as the finish builds.

When the first coat is dry, steel wool down to the wood (not really - just until the wood appears to be bare. I won't be. There will be a very fine layer of oil that has penetrated the surface, and mixed with what was left of the original wax. Oil it again, just the barest coat, spreading the least amount of oil over the most surface possible. Then, "spit shine" with just a drop of Armor All on one fingertip. This will smooth out the damp coat even farther, and penetrate, thoroughly bonding the two coats. Drying time is again at least one day, more if the humidity is high. The test is whether the surface is hard or tacky to a light touch. The rest is all repetition - Steel wool, oil, Armor All, Dry, Dry, on and on.

How many coats? four minimum for me. Depending on your patience and what you begin to see as the grain begins to come out and the surface deepens, you may begin to wonder just how much more another coat will reveal. I once put 70 coats on a Hogue grip, a piece of Pao Ferro that must have come from down in the root system somewhere. Finished, it showed Black, Gold, Tan Caramel and just a hint of Green that must have been a mineral somewhere in there. It also had a black, spidery thread that ran through all the rest. The Saatisal isn't that varied, but some of it is that dramatic. The level of satisfaction depends on your patience, but even four or five coats will drastically change the looks of your blade.

There is no permission needed to use the above - even if you print it out and leave if for your parakeet to read
Just a soothing way to spruce up a Khuk, if you're willing.

Those were the true old masters of wood finishing. Some of them gave away their secrets and didn'tworry about the competition, because half the secret was in the application, and that couldn't be taught - it had to be felt as you did it. I learned the basics from a fellow in Tulsa named Bill Dowell when I was in my 20s. Nothing like a "feeling" kicked in until I hit 50.

Western Kentucky Univ. has had a gunmaking class each year for nearly 15 years, all black powder, and mostly Maple-stocked Kentucky rifles. A gent from the UK has atttended every year for the past seven, and now has to leave his guns here, due to UK laws. Saddest damn situation you ever saw, but the school holds them, and displays the best. They are works of art.
Bad computer!

[This message has been edited by Rusty (edited 06-09-2001).]
Do you sometimes use ( or have you tried ) rottenstone on the last/last few coats ala the old english doubles?

Once I embarrased the daylights out of my dad and a stockmaker who took me with them to Keith Stegal's motel room to look at some more of Stegal's work. He was of the old school and distained glass bedding - but here was some substance in the barrel channel. So I asked, openly and honestly. It turned out to be some kind of sealant like a wax.
( I was eventually forgiven for my heresy. )

The super glue as sealant does intrigue me.

And I hadn't thought of marblecake Circassian for years til now. The beast sleeping in my belly is beginning to reawaken and demand to be satiated.

I've tried rottenstone. A light dusting on an "almost damp" felt pad, instead of the final wool or rag to polish the final 3 or four layers. This was the original "subdued" finish, to reduce glare from sun on a gunstock, but when applied to a piece of Circassian, by a master, it looked like the fancy photography with the misty foreground. MIne looked like someone had spilled something on the wood, and left it to dry
This finish can bring a stock's price up $100 or so.

I don't even know if you can get Circassian nowadays, without a Govt. grant. And ten co-signers.

[This message has been edited by Walosi (edited 06-08-2001).]
The HI forum is like a blade/wood/etc university that charges no tuition
It is a good thing that posts like this(and many others) are being archived, so we can go back and try out all this great advice later on
Thanks Walosi, and all the other sensei we have here!

Thanks for the info Walosi. I am an amature woodcarver and your recipe for finishing looks real good to me., I got get one of those Garuds, I got to see the Kami carving skills up close and personal.
Thankee, Thankee...

There can be no higher praise than praise from one's peers.

Hope someone gets some use out of it. Now I've got a "feel good" day going.
Thanks Bro for putting the info

Rob is right on in saying that the H.I.Forum is like a university that charges no tuition.
If the info one might be seeking isnt on the H.I.Forum all one needs to do usually is ask and the info will be forthcoming from one of the forumites.

And I need to ask.... What is Circassian?
I am assumeing that it's a wood of some sort, but on the upper end of quality?
What family is it from and where does/did it grow orginally?

One of the most beautiful gunstocks I have ever seen was made from Myrtle Wood that was cut and seasoned in Washington state.
Next door to the trailer park we lived in there was an old retired school teacher who made gunstocks.
His name was Mr.Evans IIRC.
He had carved this Myrtle Wood stock and made fine use of the dark heartwood knots that was placed just right in the wood by Creator.
Each one was carved in the shape of a rose or a rosebud.
It was a Monte Carlo Style stock and there was a running rose bush cane carved from the back of the cheek rest clear to the front of the forearm.
Not to everyone's taste, but it made an impression on me that I will never forget it.


Indin word for lousy hunter.
Hey, Yvsa:

Circassian is a European Walnut, from Circasia, on the Black Sea. That used to be the name - it may have changed hands and names several times since I last looked at an Atlas. For whatever reason (growing conditions, soil, temps on the Caucasus Mtns.) the wood has the most fantastic burls, colors and grain patterns of any wood, any time, anywhere. Color contrasts are vivid - a "flame grain" was sold in this wood that looked like a brush fire against a dark background. The marbled grain Rusty mentioned is just exactly that - it looks like the vein pattern in a highly figured polished marble slab, but with colors you would not believe.