Staining of Ho-Wood handle - completely foodsafe method?

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Hi guys,

I'd like to darken the ho wood handles of my new denkas. I really like the look of the ebony handle, and find that a dark handle fits the KU finish much better than bright magnolia (ho wood) handles. There is of course a lot of pre-colored wood dye to buy, but almost none of it is foodsafe. So I thought I'd like to make it myself in a way that's as untoxic as possible, even though I don't usually eat my handles.

I'm used to oiling wood, I have food-grade oil for the cutting boards that I also normally use on ho handles so they don't absorb beetroot and other strongly colored juices.

Any ideas on how to proceed? I thought I could either apply some kind of dye. Coffee? Ink? Aquarel paint? Or normal wood dye. Then apply oil to more or less seal it in.

Or mix the oil with the paint and apply it together.

The ho wood handles are not coated. I wetted them and after drying, the wood got very rough, which is good, because the fibers have swollen. So it means the wood is open to absorb stuff I put on it.
I have no experience with ho wood - some denser or naturally oily woods don't accept dyes very easily, but I don't expect that from ho. I don't expect it to look completely like ebony handles afterwards, that's unrealistic and not required. And if it's a bit uneven, that will just fit the wabi-sabi of TF ;)

Any tips / ideas?

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Dark Denka is better, don't you agree?
 
Does it really matter if it’s food safe?

Edit: maybe it does if you are a lemongrass handle smasher @M1k3
hehe not a smasher, but I thought why not go with a food-safe option? An oil finish will wear off in time and some of the coloring will end up in the food eventually. Sure, compared to environmental toxins floating around it probably will be irrelevant, but then, why bother if not necessary?
 
Torching (shou sugi ban) also works. I've done it on several occasions with nice results.
https://www.kitchenknifeforums.com/threads/scorching-handles.53514/
I've since refined my process slightly. My steps basically are as follows
  • Protect ferrule with wet paper towel and foil
  • Torch wood to your preferred doneness
  • Brush off excess ash with a scotchbrite pad
  • Coat with your choice of oil (I prefer osmo hardwax oil. Tru oil works well too but feels more plastic-y)
Here's a more recent example, but with torched teak
https://www.kitchenknifeforums.com/...komorebi-a-better-yoshikane.58728/post-914306
If you insist on dyes, transtint brand would be a good bet.
 
Thank you @tostadas. This is indeed another option to be considered!
I like the outcome a lot and willdo some experiments with wood pieces before I attack the handles.
One major advantage burning should have is that you don't have to completely strip any oilor grease from it.
 
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I just used the ebonizing process over the last week. It can mildly darken the color, or turn it completely jet black, depending on the tannins in the wood. I have never tried it on magnolia wood, but perhaps give it a try on a knock off handle before you leap in with one of the denkas.
 
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“Food safe” is a bit of a misnomer as very few products actually go through FDA approval, which is a long and expensive process. Instead, all products intended for wood finishing fall under the FDA category of “generally recognized as safe” when used as directed and fully cured.

What GRAS basically means is something along the lines of “we’ve never tested it but this stuff or the general ingredients have been around for years and hasn’t killed anybody yet.” So the dishes you eat off and the forks you use probably aren’t technically “Food Safe” either, but most likely GRAS.

All this is to say, drinking the dye from the bottle is not a good idea. But once cured/dried on a piece of wood it isn’t going to hurt you.
 
I have used this on cutting boards I assume it would work on handles

Watco 359024 Butcher Block Oil Plus Stain​

Ah, thanks. I ordered 50ml wood sealant from a company called Livos. They make natural oil products for carpenters. I will try this out on some wood before I treat the handles. The plan is to combine two things: The iron+vinegar+tea ebonizing plus a layer of a dark wood oil on top. I'll be posting pictures once I get to it :)
What GRAS basically means is something along the lines of “we’ve never tested it but this stuff or the general ingredients have been around for years and hasn’t killed anybody yet.”
Sounds reasonable - if it's not intended for consumption, the standards can be less strict I guess :)
 
It can mildly darken the color, or turn it completely jet black, depending on the tannins in the wood.
Thanks, that's good to know. Here's a video that illustrates well how much it depends on the wood.

I would expect Magnolia to not have the greatest amount of tannins, since the tannin-rich woods in the video have darker colors. But this is a mere assumption that might well be wrong. If I get it right, one could still control the process by making the tea stronger. Stronger tea - more tannins - darker reaction. I will try this and report back.
 
I used walnut hulls as a natural dye before. Works the same as a tea dye, provides a nice dark color. I hope to dye a handle this weekend, as walnuts are in season. Will post pictures of the result.
 
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