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tk59

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No, it isn't an off-color joke, lol. I'm wanting to customize some western handles and I'm wondering what materials shrink. I gather that plastics, resins, resin-impregnated natural materials, etc. do not shrink appreciably. What about woods of differing density or anything else you can think of?
 

SpikeC

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Water makes wood swell. Wood shrinks when it dries out, temperature has no impact. If your stock is not dry when you start it will shrink.
 

Marko Tsourkan

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Seasoned ironwood is very stable and so is cocobolo. I prefer these two types of wood over other oily, naturally stable woods. I do like lignum vitae as well.

M
 

kalaeb

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I have tried using inkline stuff before and it always seems to shrink. Even the stabilized stuff. I have had one instance with cocobolo shrinking from japan to the 0 percent humidity of Utah...but I have never had any issues with ironwood. Someone here on kkf once told me to let the wood sit 6 months or so after buying it just to be sure it does not shrink in dryer climates.
 

Marko Tsourkan

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...Someone here on kkf once told me to let the wood sit 6 months or so after buying it just to be sure it does not shrink in dryer climates.
Wood need to be seasoned for about 6 months (kiln dried, if not, then longer) and years if you are a musical instrument maker. Those guys typically buy non kiln-dried wood (air dried), so they have to keep it drying for several years before it is save to use.

When humidity changes, there will be movement in all natural woods, but the more seasoned the woods will move less. However, when using materials like horn, metal spacers along with the wood, the movement will become more obvious, as these have a different rate of movement (metal - zero). There is not much that can be done about it. Stabilizing wood and horn, takes care of that, but also takes away a natural feel.

One solution, in my opinion, is a pinch grip. It turns a handle more into a lever than a handle. Pinch grip also negates a need of rounding edges on an octagon. I use a pinch grip and it makes no difference to me whatsoever, whether edges are sharp (not rounded) or not. I still put a tiny chamfers on edges in my custom work, but not my own as I like crisp edges.

From all woods I have tried, seasoned ironwood moves very, very little.

M
 

ecchef

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I have tried using inkline stuff before and it always seems to shrink. Even the stabilized stuff. I have had one instance with cocobolo shrinking from japan to the 0 percent humidity of Utah...but I have never had any issues with ironwood. Someone here on kkf once told me to let the wood sit 6 months or so after buying it just to be sure it does not shrink in dryer climates.

This is an absolute truth in my experience. One of my nicest handles, inkline b&w ebony, has to be sh!tcanned because it pulled some kind of 'Incredible Hulk' transformation the second it arrived here. Grew in one direction, shrunk in another, warped...you name it. :angry1:

Dave could post some pics of this trainwreck when he gets it.

A second one, spalted tamarind inkline, might be salvagable. It's only moving in two directions. :mad3:
 

jmforge

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Is "inkline" wood a piece that has both sapwood and heartwood?
This is an absolute truth in my experience. One of my nicest handles, inkline b&w ebony, has to be sh!tcanned because it pulled some kind of 'Incredible Hulk' transformation the second it arrived here. Grew in one direction, shrunk in another, warped...you name it. :angry1:

Dave could post some pics of this trainwreck when he gets it.

A second one, spalted tamarind inkline, might be salvagable. It's only moving in two directions. :mad3:
 

chazmtb

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OT question regarding woods, especially ironwood. Ok this is not meant to be off-colored

I buff the ironwood handle, and it gets pretty shiny (using a buffing wheel and white compound). After a few uses, it gets to be dull again. Do you guys do anything special to get it to stay shiny like using shelach?
 

jmforge

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My limited expereince with super oily woods like that is that they scoff at many finishes. Oil won't even soak into the wood.
OT question regarding woods, especially ironwood. Ok this is not meant to be off-colored

I buff the ironwood handle, and it gets pretty shiny (using a buffing wheel and white compound). After a few uses, it gets to be dull again. Do you guys do anything special to get it to stay shiny like using shelach?
 

apicius9

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I understand ink line wood as the one that has black lines from spalting - is that what you mean, Dave? I am surprised that this moves that much even after stabilizing. Of course, technically, everything moves, including metal, but in various degrees which is what can cause the problems. I fully agree with Marko, the longer you can let the wood sit before you use it, the better. I think I read that a piece of wood dries at the rate of 1" every 6 months (with variations, of course). I try to let all my woods sit for at least that time, even if they were dry when I got them. The only exception are some very light spalted woods that dry much faster, I send those for stabilizing after a few weeks of extra drying, but only if I need them soon. Many of the problems arise if the unseasoned/untreated wood goes to a different climate area. I have handles from unstabilized koa that are just fine, but I am sure they will shrink as soon as I send them to Utah...

As for the finishing: I may be overdoing it a bit, but I also apply 3-4 layers of a tung oil & shellac mix on the oily handles (blackwood, cocobolo) or the dense ones (ebony, ironwood, even lignum vitae). I still believe it brings out the colors a bit better, adds just that little bit more protection, and buffs up to a nicer sheen. But as Bao points out, this does not keep forever, if you want to keep the sheen, you will have to re-buff it. You could use all kinds of things, like a little auto polish on a piece of cotton and rub it on vigorously, that should do it. I prefer it in that more 'natural' way, rather than plastering the handles with some kind of laquer.

Stefan
 

tk59

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Interesting. So if I want a western knife rehandled, I should buy the wood, keep it at home for a year, seal it up and send it. The handle then has to be made immediately upon breaking the seal? Sheesh!
 

JohnnyChance

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OT question regarding woods, especially ironwood. Ok this is not meant to be off-colored

I buff the ironwood handle, and it gets pretty shiny (using a buffing wheel and white compound). After a few uses, it gets to be dull again. Do you guys do anything special to get it to stay shiny like using shelach?
I use beeswax and mineral oil (combo) on my unstabilized wood handles when they get that dried out dull finish on them.
 

JohnnyChance

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Interesting. So if I want a western knife rehandled, I should buy the wood, keep it at home for a year, seal it up and send it. The handle then has to be made immediately upon breaking the seal? Sheesh!
Or just use stabilized wood. Shouldn't move that much, if at all.
 

chazmtb

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I use beeswax and mineral oil (combo) on my unstabilized wood handles when they get that dried out dull finish on them.
That's what I have been using, Dave's board gunk. Man that one tub goes a long way. I do buff it once every few months.
 

Marko Tsourkan

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OT question regarding woods, especially ironwood. Ok this is not meant to be off-colored

I buff the ironwood handle, and it gets pretty shiny (using a buffing wheel and white compound). After a few uses, it gets to be dull again. Do you guys do anything special to get it to stay shiny like using shelach?
Outside of buffing by hand or power-buffer, you don't need to do anything to ironwood. Any finely sanded surface will get dull once you get your oily hands on or board oil/was mixture for that matter. :) Shellac would not do much to a finish on ironwood, except making it worse.

I would suggest to clean the wood periodically (I use 85% alcohol) and apply a little bit of camellia oil afterward. Seems to work for me.

M
 

jmforge

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For woods like walnut and curly maple, I use a London style red alkanet root oil gunstock finish.
 

apicius9

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For woods like walnut and curly maple, I use a London style red alkanet root oil gunstock finish.
Does that mean you are using those woods unstabilized for your handles? Not that I would yave any problems with it. I have to try a gun stock finish on walnut, everything I have tried so far makes it look kind of dull, at least the burl pieces I tried.

Stefan
 

jmforge

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Yes, unstabilized. BeforeI started using the Brownells gunstock finish, I used to soak maple with boiled linseed oil. I got the Brownells stuff when I started using Don Hanson's black walnut. I still use the linseed oil on African blackwood, not so much as a hard finish, but because it makes it easier to get it jet black. Blackwood is not only my ebony substitute but also my black Micarta substitute.
Does that mean you are using those woods unstabilized for your handles? Not that I would yave any problems with it. I have to try a gun stock finish on walnut, everything I have tried so far makes it look kind of dull, at least the burl pieces I tried.

Stefan
 

apicius9

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Yes, unstabilized. BeforeI started using the Brownells gunstock finish, I used to soak maple with boiled linseed oil. I got the Brownells stuff when I started using Don Hanson's black walnut. I still use the linseed oil on African blackwood, not so much as a hard finish, but because it makes it easier to get it jet black. Blackwood is not only my ebony substitute but also my black Micarta substitute.
Great, thanks! I need to stock up on acraglass anyway, I will check out what they have. BTW, I do the same with African blackwood, I react to ebony dust and switched to blackwood - like it much better. And I use a tung oil & shellac mix to get it darker - the shellac just speeds up the drying time. Actually, I am starting to run low on blackwood - do you have a good source?

Stefan
 

jmforge

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Great, thanks! I need to stock up on acraglass anyway, I will check out what they have. BTW, I do the same with African blackwood, I react to ebony dust and switched to blackwood - like it much better. And I use a tung oil & shellac mix to get it darker - the shellac just speeds up the drying time. Actually, I am starting to run low on blackwood - do you have a good source?

Stefan
I haven't bought any for a while because last time, I got a couple of "logs" the larger of the two which was 3 x 3 by about 30 inches. I used the smaller piece first and since then, I have been working a lot with stag and walnut. I got it from Exotic Wood Group.
 

Burl Source

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I have been yelling at my computer.
Then I typed a reply and deleted it a few times.
I hope I don't offend anyone. There is a lot of mis-information out there.
I don't think it is usually intentional, just repeating something someone has read or heard somewhere.
I am not trying to sound like a know it all. Most of my waking hours are spent working with wood.
I have ruined more good wood than most people will ever see. Some of my failures were caused by what I read on the internet.

#1 Any handle material can move. Most problems come from not taking that into consideration when working with it or maintaining it afterwards.
Biggest causes of movement are:
Overheating when grinding or sanding, this will screw up almost all materials including man made plastics and such.
Drastic climate changes like Florida at 98% humidity to Arizona at next to no humidity. This can be protected against with proper finishing of the wood, ivory, bone or horn.

#2 Just because you buy wood that says it is stabilized, that doesn't mean anything. Each stabilizing company has their own chemical mix and stabilizing process. Plus if you are buying on ebay there are quite a few do it yourselfers. I heard of one who just soaks the wood in mineral oil. I used to do my own stabilizing with a vacuum/pressure system using industrial chemicals and got really good results. Then I tried K&G. I found out they could do a lot better. Same thing with WSSI and a few of the other professional stabilizing companies. I also found out one formula or one process does not produce the same results with everything. Some woods require a thinner solution, higher pressure or longer under vacuum.
Still, stabilizing does not make wood bulletproof. You can still screw it up. You just have to try harder.

#3 Much of what is being sold (especially on ebay) with the blackline spalted woods and the weird pattern ebonies are end grain pieces. They look kind of cool while they are intact. Cutting pieces of wood for the end grain guarantees that the piece of wood is as weak as possible and more prone to movement than any way else that you can cut it. It can produce a dramatic look but it has to be worked with care. (Example drilling too fast or using a dull bit will crack a piece)

#4 Properly finished handle materials will be sealed to prevent or limit drastic changes in moisture content. Even the hard oily stuff. Some woods take a hard finish like poly or varnish, while others may resist that finish or bleed into it making a blotchy finish. Best thing to do is fine sand a scrap and try a couple finishes. Sometimes an oil finish is more compatible with an oily wood. Maintaining a good coat of wax is better than nothing. Unfinished ironwood will crack. I can show a pile of cut pieces that developed cracks over time from being left on a work bench in the sun unsealed. A surface sealer would have prevented that.

#5 Normal rule of thumb for air drying wood is 1 year per inch of thickness. Some woods like buckeye and box elder are quicker.
Double the time for walnut, 5 times as long for olive.

I will quit rambling now. I just had to get this off my chest. Now I need a smoke.
If you think I am crazy, you are welcome to post your opinion here or call me up and yell at me.
It's ok, I have thick skin.
 

jmforge

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Mike, the "conventional wisdom" amongst some vintage guitar geeks is that not only does it take a good long while for the water content of the wood to get down to an acceptable level, but the resins in some tonewoods can continue to change for many years after that, especially in the thicker pieces like a solid electric guitar body. Guys tryingto build copies odl old early 50's Fender Telecasters or Broadcaster often try to find old recycled slabs of swamp ash or loblolly pine to use on the bodies.
I have been yelling at my computer.
Then I typed a reply and deleted it a few times.
I hope I don't offend anyone. There is a lot of mis-information out there.
I don't think it is usually intentional, just repeating something someone has read or heard somewhere.
I am not trying to sound like a know it all. Most of my waking hours are spent working with wood.
I have ruined more good wood than most people will ever see. Some of my failures were caused by what I read on the internet.

#1 Any handle material can move. Most problems come from not taking that into consideration when working with it or maintaining it afterwards.
Biggest causes of movement are:
Overheating when grinding or sanding, this will screw up almost all materials including man made plastics and such.
Drastic climate changes like Florida at 98% humidity to Arizona at next to no humidity. This can be protected against with proper finishing of the wood, ivory, bone or horn.

#2 Just because you buy wood that says it is stabilized, that doesn't mean anything. Each stabilizing company has their own chemical mix and stabilizing process. Plus if you are buying on ebay there are quite a few do it yourselfers. I heard of one who just soaks the wood in mineral oil. I used to do my own stabilizing with a vacuum/pressure system using industrial chemicals and got really good results. Then I tried K&G. I found out they could do a lot better. Same thing with WSSI and a few of the other professional stabilizing companies. I also found out one formula or one process does not produce the same results with everything. Some woods require a thinner solution, higher pressure or longer under vacuum.
Still, stabilizing does not make wood bulletproof. You can still screw it up. You just have to try harder.

#3 Much of what is being sold (especially on ebay) with the blackline spalted woods and the weird pattern ebonies are end grain pieces. They look kind of cool while they are intact. Cutting pieces of wood for the end grain guarantees that the piece of wood is as weak as possible and more prone to movement than any way else that you can cut it. It can produce a dramatic look but it has to be worked with care. (Example drilling too fast or using a dull bit will crack a piece)

#4 Properly finished handle materials will be sealed to prevent or limit drastic changes in moisture content. Even the hard oily stuff. Some woods take a hard finish like poly or varnish, while others may resist that finish or bleed into it making a blotchy finish. Best thing to do is fine sand a scrap and try a couple finishes. Sometimes an oil finish is more compatible with an oily wood. Maintaining a good coat of wax is better than nothing. Unfinished ironwood will crack. I can show a pile of cut pieces that developed cracks over time from being left on a work bench in the sun unsealed. A surface sealer would have prevented that.

#5 Normal rule of thumb for air drying wood is 1 year per inch of thickness. Some woods like buckeye and box elder are quicker.
Double the time for walnut, 5 times as long for olive.

I will quit rambling now. I just had to get this off my chest. Now I need a smoke.
If you think I am crazy, you are welcome to post your opinion here or call me up and yell at me.
It's ok, I have thick skin.
 

tk59

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I have been yelling at my computer.
Then I typed a reply and deleted it a few times.
I hope I don't offend anyone. There is a lot of mis-information out there.
I don't think it is usually intentional, just repeating something someone has read or heard somewhere.
I am not trying to sound like a know it all.
...I will quit rambling now. I just had to get this off my chest. Now I need a smoke.
If you think I am crazy, you are welcome to post your opinion here or call me up and yell at me.
It's ok, I have thick skin.
Haha. No worries, dude. You're in good company. I do that every other night (except for the smoke. Thanks for the info. I appreciate it.
 

Eamon Burke

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I have been yelling at my computer.
Then I typed a reply and deleted it a few times.
I hope I don't offend anyone. There is a lot of mis-information out there.
I don't think it is usually intentional, just repeating something someone has read or heard somewhere.
I am not trying to sound like a know it all. Most of my waking hours are spent working with wood.
I have ruined more good wood than most people will ever see. Some of my failures were caused by what I read on the internet.

#1 Any handle material can move. Most problems come from not taking that into consideration when working with it or maintaining it afterwards.
Biggest causes of movement are:
Overheating when grinding or sanding, this will screw up almost all materials including man made plastics and such.
Drastic climate changes like Florida at 98% humidity to Arizona at next to no humidity. This can be protected against with proper finishing of the wood, ivory, bone or horn.

#2 Just because you buy wood that says it is stabilized, that doesn't mean anything. Each stabilizing company has their own chemical mix and stabilizing process. Plus if you are buying on ebay there are quite a few do it yourselfers. I heard of one who just soaks the wood in mineral oil. I used to do my own stabilizing with a vacuum/pressure system using industrial chemicals and got really good results. Then I tried K&G. I found out they could do a lot better. Same thing with WSSI and a few of the other professional stabilizing companies. I also found out one formula or one process does not produce the same results with everything. Some woods require a thinner solution, higher pressure or longer under vacuum.
Still, stabilizing does not make wood bulletproof. You can still screw it up. You just have to try harder.

#3 Much of what is being sold (especially on ebay) with the blackline spalted woods and the weird pattern ebonies are end grain pieces. They look kind of cool while they are intact. Cutting pieces of wood for the end grain guarantees that the piece of wood is as weak as possible and more prone to movement than any way else that you can cut it. It can produce a dramatic look but it has to be worked with care. (Example drilling too fast or using a dull bit will crack a piece)

#4 Properly finished handle materials will be sealed to prevent or limit drastic changes in moisture content. Even the hard oily stuff. Some woods take a hard finish like poly or varnish, while others may resist that finish or bleed into it making a blotchy finish. Best thing to do is fine sand a scrap and try a couple finishes. Sometimes an oil finish is more compatible with an oily wood. Maintaining a good coat of wax is better than nothing. Unfinished ironwood will crack. I can show a pile of cut pieces that developed cracks over time from being left on a work bench in the sun unsealed. A surface sealer would have prevented that.

#5 Normal rule of thumb for air drying wood is 1 year per inch of thickness. Some woods like buckeye and box elder are quicker.
Double the time for walnut, 5 times as long for olive.

I will quit rambling now. I just had to get this off my chest. Now I need a smoke.
If you think I am crazy, you are welcome to post your opinion here or call me up and yell at me.
It's ok, I have thick skin.
Mark, posts like this are the reason I am on this forum(well, that and ones that start with 'passaround signup', lol). I respect your opinion as much as Marko's, yours as a purveyor primarily and his as a woodworker primarily. The world(especially the internet and your friendly neighborhood shops) is full of crap and misinformation that confounds and degrades the quality of life. Try finding a place that elucidates heat treatment and steel like KKF or zknives.

I have a knife that has a handle that shrunk, despite it being plastic(I'm guessing...it's a Tojiro), and my father's Sabatiers are a few decades old and still fitted well. I wish there was an answer to keeping wood from moving/warping/shrinking/expanding for good. Which solution provides the best long term viability? Clearly if it expands it can be sanded down, but if it shrinks, you're pretty screwed. Doesn't having strong epoxy on all contacts of a western handle prevent this at all?
 

apicius9

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Thanks for the corrections and additions, guys. I am glad to see that a lot of it matches what picked up or learned over time. Except, that letting wood sit and season where I live may make it wetter than when I bought it ;)

Fully agree with buying stuff from ebay, I'd much rather send it out myself for stabilizing than buying something that is DIY stabilized somehow.

Stefan
 

Marko Tsourkan

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I have been yelling at my computer.
Then I typed a reply and deleted it a few times.
I hope I don't offend anyone. There is a lot of mis-information out there.
I don't think it is usually intentional, just repeating something someone has read or heard somewhere.
I am not trying to sound like a know it all. Most of my waking hours are spent working with wood.
I have ruined more good wood than most people will ever see. Some of my failures were caused by what I read on the internet.

#1 Any handle material can move. Most problems come from not taking that into consideration when working with it or maintaining it afterwards.
Biggest causes of movement are:
Overheating when grinding or sanding, this will screw up almost all materials including man made plastics and such.
Drastic climate changes like Florida at 98% humidity to Arizona at next to no humidity. This can be protected against with proper finishing of the wood, ivory, bone or horn.

#2 Just because you buy wood that says it is stabilized, that doesn't mean anything. Each stabilizing company has their own chemical mix and stabilizing process. Plus if you are buying on ebay there are quite a few do it yourselfers. I heard of one who just soaks the wood in mineral oil. I used to do my own stabilizing with a vacuum/pressure system using industrial chemicals and got really good results. Then I tried K&G. I found out they could do a lot better. Same thing with WSSI and a few of the other professional stabilizing companies. I also found out one formula or one process does not produce the same results with everything. Some woods require a thinner solution, higher pressure or longer under vacuum.
Still, stabilizing does not make wood bulletproof. You can still screw it up. You just have to try harder.

#3 Much of what is being sold (especially on ebay) with the blackline spalted woods and the weird pattern ebonies are end grain pieces. They look kind of cool while they are intact. Cutting pieces of wood for the end grain guarantees that the piece of wood is as weak as possible and more prone to movement than any way else that you can cut it. It can produce a dramatic look but it has to be worked with care. (Example drilling too fast or using a dull bit will crack a piece)

#4 Properly finished handle materials will be sealed to prevent or limit drastic changes in moisture content. Even the hard oily stuff. Some woods take a hard finish like poly or varnish, while others may resist that finish or bleed into it making a blotchy finish. Best thing to do is fine sand a scrap and try a couple finishes. Sometimes an oil finish is more compatible with an oily wood. Maintaining a good coat of wax is better than nothing. Unfinished ironwood will crack. I can show a pile of cut pieces that developed cracks over time from being left on a work bench in the sun unsealed. A surface sealer would have prevented that.

#5 Normal rule of thumb for air drying wood is 1 year per inch of thickness. Some woods like buckeye and box elder are quicker.
Double the time for walnut, 5 times as long for olive.

I will quit rambling now. I just had to get this off my chest. Now I need a smoke.
If you think I am crazy, you are welcome to post your opinion here or call me up and yell at me.
It's ok, I have thick skin.
I have no disagreement with all of the above. Want to add that you can get most woods these days kiln dried, so rule #5 has be replaced with rule #6 (not stated) is one needs to acclimatize wood to the environment where it will be worked on. It can range from 3 months to 1 one year for kiln dried woods. I typically 'sit' on wood for 6 months before I do anything with it, even though I get it from a supplier 15 miles away and some of his woods are stored indoors. Exception being walnut or cherry that I periodically make boards from. Those I acclimatize for about 3 months.

M
 

jmforge

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I read somewhere a while back that the olive wood used on a lot of traditional French cutlery has to be dried for a fair bit longer than some other woods, so who knows how long the various shops make Sabatier and Laguiole style knives have been drying that wood before it ever gets put on a knife?
Mark, posts like this are the reason I am on this forum(well, that and ones that start with 'passaround signup', lol). I respect your opinion as much as Marko's, yours as a purveyor primarily and his as a woodworker primarily. The world(especially the internet and your friendly neighborhood shops) is full of crap and misinformation that confounds and degrades the quality of life. Try finding a place that elucidates heat treatment and steel like KKF or zknives.

I have a knife that has a handle that shrunk, despite it being plastic(I'm guessing...it's a Tojiro), and my father's Sabatiers are a few decades old and still fitted well. I wish there was an answer to keeping wood from moving/warping/shrinking/expanding for good. Which solution provides the best long term viability? Clearly if it expands it can be sanded down, but if it shrinks, you're pretty screwed. Doesn't having strong epoxy on all contacts of a western handle prevent this at all?
 
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