View Full Version : Long time chef wanting to re-handle

01-23-2013, 01:41 PM
Hello everyone!

I have read a lot of post on here and figure I might as well become a member so I could share with you all as well.

I am wanting to make and then re-handle a 240 gyuto of mine. The Ho wood is pretty worn now so I have decided to upgrade with something that I create myself. I have done some wood and metal working as a hobbyist but have never tried at making a wa handle until now. I have some curly birch, African blackwood for a ferrule , 3mm nickel-silver for spacers, and some reindeer antler. I'm going to attempt an octagonal shaped handle for my first one. I have an idea of what I want to make but I would like to know how people prefer to make them. Mortise and tenon and dowel seem to be the preferred method with use of slow cure epoxy. What are your opinions on what to use and advantages/disadvantages of doing so? Also does anyone out there have any pictures of a step by step method from wood block to finished handled knife? I haven't found any series of pictures that were from start to finish. I've always been a visual learner. Thank you for anyone that can provide me with any additional insight on the matter.

Thanks everyone,


sachem allison
01-23-2013, 02:34 PM

01-23-2013, 02:54 PM

01-23-2013, 03:15 PM
Welcome, I am fairly new to handle making but would be glad to help out. If you're ever near Charlotte I'd be happy to show you how I'm doing it.

01-23-2013, 03:16 PM

The dowel method is the easiest, word of caution on the antler...everytime I used Carbiou, even stuff that had been on the tundra for years, shrank. I would think about getting it stabilized first.

Dave Martell
01-23-2013, 08:42 PM
Welcome Draper

I'm moving this thread over to the shop talk forum in hopes that you get some responses on your handle making questions there. Either way, good luck with that venture.

HHH Knives
01-23-2013, 09:05 PM

01-24-2013, 03:12 AM
I'd like to see a step by step for a wa as well. I have been shopping with Mark and now i have some knives that are to be practiced on....
That said there are scattered info on this and the old forum which when you add the pieces should give you most of the info.

Welcome by the way!

NO ChoP!
01-24-2013, 08:59 AM
I've seen some pretty good western WIPs, but the wa must be a guarded secret...

01-24-2013, 01:11 PM
Greetings Draper! Make sure your wood is stabilized or you will have future issues. BTW, this subforum is where I found most of the information used to do my own. I use a dowel with the 2 pieces and have had no issues--other than cracking a handle when installing. Good luck!

01-24-2013, 01:15 PM

01-25-2013, 11:52 AM
Thanks for the welcome everyone!

I appreciate you moving the thread as well Dave. Is there a consensus on using stabilized wood over non-stabilized? I have never worked with a stabilized wood before as I have always preferred using a natural product. I think I'm going to end up using a dowel method for this first one. I'll take pics all along the way. That way I can either show off my success or failure. Either way I hope to make it a good learning experience for everyone. I found quite a bit of info already on this and other forums that I plan to use. If anyone of you talented handle craftsmen have any trade secrets that you wouldn't mind divulging that would be greatly appreciated.

This was a octagon diagram that I found on another forum. Does anyone have anything else to add?


01-25-2013, 12:03 PM
Unless you are using ironwood or a naturally oily wood like cocobolo I would recommend going for stabilized wood. No sense in doing all that work only to have it shrink.

Burl Source
01-25-2013, 10:49 PM
I am not a handle maker but I do know a little about wood.
With that said;
The blackwood will be fine as an unstabilized wood. It is one of the standard materials for ferrules on kitchen knives.
While birch is more durable stabilized, it is a pretty tough wood on it's own.
My suggestion for if you use the birch as natural, unstabilized wood is;
Give it a good finish. I would use Danish Oil.
Apply a liberal coat to the sanded / assembled handle.
Let it sit about 30 minutes and wipe off the surfaces with an old t-shirt.
Let dry a few hours and repeat. At least 3 coats, better 4 or 5.
Then let everything dry for 24 hours.
Finally apply a couple coats of paste wax and hand buff with an old towel.
Re apply the wax every couple weeks when the handle looks dull.

As long as you don't leave the handle in a sink full of water or put it through the dishwasher the handle should hold up pretty good.

What causes wood to shrink and swell is changes in moisture content.
The oil finish and wax help to create a barrier preventing or limiting drastic changes in moisture content.

Getting wood stabilized is kind of an insurance policy against movement caused by changes in moisture content.
Also makes soft woods harder and easier to finish.

My comments are not meant to disagree with any of the guys suggesting stabilized wood.
That would be more durable and easier to finish.
My instructions were meant to give you a better chance of success if you use the non stabilized birch.
Just my 2 cents. Hope it helps.

01-26-2013, 12:24 PM
Thanks Mark! I'm sure no one is going to take a difference of opinion the wrong way.

Here is a hardening method that I came across a while back. It is pretty much the same idea as stabilizing. In fact it basically is a DIY way of stabilizing wood at home. This will also work with things like bone/ horn/ antler. The results are more than likely not going to be a good as getting a professional to do it, but I'm going to give it the old college try and let everyone know the results.

So the set up goes like this: Large glass jar that has a good sealing lid, recommended Minwax high performance wood hardener, and then a vacuum pump ( a handheld brake bleeder is what I had used) Just attach a valve to the lid and then the vacuum pump to that. So anyone who has read up to now can guess what happens next. Place wood in jar, pour wood hardener over it, place on lid, and then pump out the air in the jar creating a vacuum inside the jar. You'll see the wood hardener inside the jar start to boil from lack of air pressure. The longer you keep the wood under pressure the deeper the wood hardener will penetrate. Then release the pressure, pop the top, pull out wood and let it dry for a day or so. Also, I've not done this but in theory it should work. If you and a fabric dye to the wood hardener and then go through the process it should dye the wood and harden it at the same time. So in keeping up with this thread I will be taking pictures of the process over the next few weeks.

Thank you to everyone that contributes and even to those who read this. Knowledge like food is better shared with others.

01-26-2013, 01:11 PM
btw, how do I post a picture from my computer into a reply thread?

Burl Source
01-26-2013, 03:20 PM
I would strongly urge you NOT to do the MinWax wood hardener.
Very Toxic and the wood will cloud up when it get's wet.
Plus it will be de-gassing for weeks.

This comment is based on experience.

01-26-2013, 09:30 PM
+1. I tried all kinds of things and decided that stabilizing is why division of labor was invented, I will leave that to the pros and never had any issues.


Dave Martell
01-26-2013, 10:40 PM
btw, how do I post a picture from my computer into a reply thread?