Tru Oil on western handles

Kitchen Knife Forums

Help Support Kitchen Knife Forums:

btbyrd

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 26, 2017
Messages
989
Reaction score
1,740
Location
W-S, NC
I have a few knives with western handles that I'd like to finish with Tru Oil to help keep the wood a bit more stable and to provide a better looking finish. The main ones I have in mind are a vintage Sab with rosewood scales and a carbon ZKramer. My question is about how I should approach applying the oil considering that the bolster, rivets, and tang are all exposed. Is this going to be a problem? I've applied Tru Oil in the past to many wa handles, and had no issues with the horn or pakka ferrules. I pretty much just wiped a very thin layer on the whole handle, let it cure, and then sanded with 0000 steel wool between applications. Is that approach appropriate for a yo handle? Or is all that exposed metal a liability? Should I use painters tape to cover the bolster, rivets, and tang? Please let me know your experiences. Thanks!
 

adam92

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 19, 2016
Messages
1,379
Reaction score
900
I never use Tru oil before, but I use Beeswax & food grade mineral oil on my Wa & Yo handle, when I put the oil on Yo handle I basically didn't cover the tang, until now I still didn't found any problem yet. Not sure about Tru Oil though.
 

btbyrd

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 26, 2017
Messages
989
Reaction score
1,740
Location
W-S, NC
Tru Oil isn't like mineral oil or beeswax. It's a drying oil that polymerizes and forms a hard layer on the outside, similar to boiled linseed oil or tung oil. If you do enough coats, it can build up to a high gloss shine like you might find on an electric guitar. I don't do that many layers personally, but sealing with Tru Oil after a heavy application of mineral oil will keep that oil in the wood. I'm hoping that doing this will keep the scales from shrinking up over time.

You can basically soak handles in mineral oil, tangs and all, without issue.
 

Chicagohawkie

Senior Member
Joined
Jun 1, 2015
Messages
1,669
Reaction score
514
I finished a guitar last year in tru oil. Turned out great after a lot of trial and error. On a knife handle I’d say you could use it straight out of the bottle because of the small size. On larger projects you have to dilute it quite a bit so it doesn’t dry to quickly. Lots of thin coats is the key. I documented the process, so if you want the tricks to doing what turned out to be a fantastic finish…. Just PM me.
 

HumbleHomeCook

I cut therefore I am.
Joined
Oct 24, 2020
Messages
3,021
Reaction score
5,742
Location
PNW USA
I've used a lot of Tru Oil on gun stocks. I always dilute the first couple coats. But, those were bare wood with no metal hardware. You might get a little yellowing or discoloration on the metal? I honestly don't know. The only real concern I'd have is if it would create a cracking propagation point. I don't know that the Tru Oil will adhere that well to the metal if you just coat over it.

Now, that said, painter's tape and an X-Acto knife are your friends here. I'd clean it well with alcohol to make sure the tape sticks and cover the metal. I've cut around a lot of checkering and other relief so I would think you could do this and keep the tape in place.

As I think on it, I think I'd feel pretty good going at it that way. Even if a little does get under the tape or something it should be thin. Yep, if I was going to do it, that's how I would do it. Unless someone has a better approach.
 

Bensbites

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 21, 2017
Messages
1,019
Reaction score
534
I use truoil on almost all the handles coming through my shop. I would tape off the bolster with painters tape. And apply. I don’t sand between coats.
 

spaceconvoy

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 8, 2011
Messages
1,361
Reaction score
2,706
Location
Florida
Definitely don't sand between coats, or use anything abrasive like steel wool to apply. There's no danger to the metal, but if you follow the recommendations to apply with sandpaper/steel wool, the metal dust will stain the wood.

I've only tried it with one western handle, a very cheap opinel paring knife, so I don't know exactly how to prevent this and still get a smooth finish. But my guess is to apply multiple thin coats with a clean cotton rag, then only sand very carefully at the end and hope there's enough build up to repel the dust?

This was a very light colored handle, so maybe it's not a big deal with something dark like rosewood.
 

Grayswandir

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 21, 2021
Messages
335
Reaction score
223
Location
East Coast
I had some problems applying Tru-Oil to Olive wood scales. I don't know if there's something with the olive wood that stops the Tru-Oil from working properly, but no matter how many coats, or different ways to apply the oil, it just never really worked out. In contrast, I used Tru-Oil on the scales of my Opinel folding knife and it worked out fine. Another problem I encountered was the Tru-Oil gelling up in the bottle. I guess adding some sort of solvent (acetone?) would take care of that problem?
 

HansCaravan

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 2, 2022
Messages
82
Reaction score
150
Location
AWOL
I had some problems applying Tru-Oil to Olive wood scales. I don't know if there's something with the olive wood that stops the Tru-Oil from working properly, but no matter how many coats, or different ways to apply the oil, it just never really worked out. In contrast, I used Tru-Oil on the scales of my Opinel folding knife and it worked out fine. Another problem I encountered was the Tru-Oil gelling up in the bottle. I guess adding some sort of solvent (acetone?) would take care of that problem?

Tru-Oil is an air-hardening oil that polymerizes with itself in the presence of oxygen. Your best course of action is to either purge the headspace with an inert gas or buy smaller sized packaging that get used up faster. And store the unused oil in cool temperatures - heat is a catalyst. There are some additives sold to the paint formulators market that help prevent skinning in the can but they work via binding to the metal complexes and prevent them from catalyzing the reaction prematurely. Acetone or other paint thinners will not prevent the reaction from occurring, they will only keep the viscosity from building for a period of time. And when it does it will turn into gel, like you're already seeing.


HC
 

btbyrd

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 26, 2017
Messages
989
Reaction score
1,740
Location
W-S, NC
A tip is to "open" a new bottle by poking a hole in the seal with a toothpick so that you can dose it out by the drop. And store it upside down so that whatever surface is exposed to air is toward the bottom. This won't stop the gelling altogether, but it will buy you some time. That said, if you're going to use a bottle for a project, it's best to go ahead and think of all the things you might want to use Tru Oil on and get it done. It's not something that can sit on your shelf for very long once opened.

Also to prevent steel wool staining, you can wipe the handle down with isopropyl to remove any little bits of wool that might get stuck in there. And I wouldn't sand after the first couple of coats, but after you've got a few on there, you don't need to worry.
 

Delat

Dazed & Confused
Joined
Dec 31, 2020
Messages
999
Reaction score
2,078
Location
Phoenix
When I was into woodworking I’d shoot a bit of inert gas into the bottles of my tung oil and polyurethane after using.

I’m sure you can get stuff marketed for that purpose, but I imagine this stuff I use for wine these days would work just the same if you don’t want to go hunting around for something cheaper.

 

zizirex

Senior Member
Joined
Jun 19, 2018
Messages
1,080
Reaction score
1,013
Location
Vancouver <--> Jakarta
the thing is Tru oil has some kind of varnish in the mix. So air dried is half-truth and let the varnish cure is the other half.
 

btbyrd

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 26, 2017
Messages
989
Reaction score
1,740
Location
W-S, NC
So it works quite well. I taped off the bolster but didn't bother covering the tang or other hardware, and the oil is not really apparent on metal. It also seems to bond less to the metal as it does not soak in. You can remove it relatively easily from the metal with 0000 steel wool, but this roughs up the finish on the surrounding wood. So I'd do a few coats, hit it with the steel wool to strip the tang and rivets (and lightly rough up the rest of the finish on the wood) and do more coats.

All of the handles I Tru Oiled got a soak in mineral oil for a few days to help swell them up. Then they got a few days to dry out and equilibrate before I applied the finish. The vintage Sabatier handle (left) got the most coats and is pretty thoroughly shellacked. The rosewood took the oil well, but I really wanted to seal things up as there were a couple of tiny gaps in the tang where water could get in. It looks great, almost like pakkawood. I only put a few coats on the Z Kramer (center) as the wood wasn't nearly as thirsty as the other handles. It has a light shine. I'm hoping that this finish will help keep the wood from moving too much. The handle on the right (a Tojiro DP 240 western deba with a stabilized burl handle by NoChop!) got a much more high gloss than I was originally going for, but the stabilized burl absorbed the finish unevenly, with some parts really drinking it in and other parts building up a high gloss almost immediately. That one has required the most refinishing and buffing to keep the finish even.

092BDFBC-8FFF-402D-B007-ADB597CCAFE4.jpeg


I'd say the experiment paid off.
 
Top