Wood Treatment For Khuks New From Nepal

Discussion in 'Himalayan Imports' started by munk, Oct 29, 2005.

  1. munk


    Mar 22, 2002
    I'm just trying to find out how hard it would be to put another kind of finish on afterwards if mineral oil, or Orange Oil, or whatever is used first.

    I have a parquete (who can spell?) wooden floor. Small, square tiles and the grain goes across from the neighboring tiles. I called an outfit on the Great Yup Coast in Oregon or Washington and managed to speak to a gal who'd been in business for 30 years and knew her stuff. We talked about finishes.

    If you ever put wax on a wooden floor, it will never completely take a poly or another finish again. That's wax.

  2. hollowdweller


    Sep 22, 2003
    I believe I'd go for a humidifier or something also. I mean my fave is linseed but I bet changing the climate slightly will do more. I always move most of mine to a barely heated room in winter cause I heat with little gas stoves and they dry the air out a lot.
  3. Dave Rishar

    Dave Rishar

    Oct 25, 2004
    I'm a big fan of mineral oil now. It doesn't seem to cause any issues with applying another coating over the top of it, at least for me. I typically buff the handle down a bit with #000 steel wool and mineral mineral spirits to remove any garbage on the surface of the wood or horn, soak it for a few days in mineral oil, wipe it dry, and seal it with whatever I happen to be using. It's cheap, it's nontoxic, it doesn't smell, and most importantly, it works.

    I get the impression that not all the wood used by the kamis in their handles is properly cured before use. I can see this raising hell with the oilier woods, like chandan.

    Ballistol works great too but it's not cheap and it has a very noticable smell. Doesn't bother me, but it might bother someone else.

    Spontaneous combustion? I've seen it happen. I'm told that it's only an issue with "drying" oils like linseed and such but we had warnings posted about it all over any ship that I've ever been on and we didn't use a lot of linseed oil, if you know what I mean. (That was before my time I guess.) A steel bin with a tight fitting lid is what we used - no air, no fire. A bucket full of water works even better. If neither are available, just make sure to spread out your used rags flat in an area with no combustables around until they're dry. It's the balled up ones that cause problems. I don't believe that it's an issue with mineral oil.
  4. arty


    Oct 18, 2003
    I have tried mineral oil in the past on horn, and also tried stuff with lanolin. They did not prevent cracking.

    Mineral oil will prevent proper adhesion of some finishes. Wax will do the same thing, but it is possible to remove it with solvents.

    Wax won' t prevent cracking.

    Linseed oil will prevent cracking,if you use many coats. The stuff looks good, but doesn't provide much of a water barrier until you use a few coats, and that is not efficient - if you need to treat lots of wood handles.

    I prefer Watco, but it is not for someone who wants to top it with linseed oil. I doubt that it would interfere with additional coats of linseed oil, but if I were going to do an oil finish - I'd just start with one. I don't think that compatibility would be an issue.

    However, Watco will work as a base for other finishes if you let it dry for a few days.
  5. Daniel Koster

    Daniel Koster www.kosterknives.com Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 18, 2001
    I'm concerned we're all missing something very important.

    The common, typical advice you here from woodchucks here in the USA (regarding finishes, etc.) may or may not necessarily apply to the woods we are getting from Nepal. There's no way a general solution could be applied...such as what works for maple, oak, mahogany, etc. Our hardwoods here are quite different than chandan, saatisaal, etc.

    I worked in furniture restoration for a while...long enough to pick up a few techniques...and most of them simply did not apply (when I started refinishing khukuri handles).

    We can talk theory all day....but in the end, we need what is going to work in our specific situation.

    To sum up: wood is cut down in Nepal, made into a knife handle, shipped over land and sea, exposed to 10% humidity in Nevada, and then sent to our individual locales. How do you prepare for that?

    Here's what I'd like to see take place - in an ideal setting....

    1. The kamis need to be more careful in selecting wood for handles. They buy chandan and saatisaal by the truckload...and being Nepali, will use every piece they can. Not every piece is "ready" to be used...or should be used.

    2. The kamis need to dry the wood longer, and dehumidify there. More often than not, they are rushed, or under pressure because of Maoists, etc. and can't let the wood dry as long as it should.

    3. The rouge does a decent job of protecting the surface, but does not prevent cracking. A mineral oil should be introduced after the handle is finished, before the rouge is applied. That is the only acceptable oil (that I know of) given the specific circumstances (unless the kamis have their own secret recipe...maybe they know better? but aren't doing it? who knows...they do have mineral oil there and know what it is - they use it on the blades.)

    4. When the khukuris are shipped, they travel by truck, boat, airplane....all sorts of different methods where humidity changes cause a lot of sweating inside the scabbard. There are no drain holes, so moisture builds at the tip - which is why there are so many rusted blade tips. We need a drainage hole and the scabbard maker should treat the bottom inch or so (inside) of the wood scabbard with wax. This as well as the oil-bath the blade already gets.

    5. When the khukuris arrive in Reno, they should be treated again (already taking place)

    As mentioned already, it is possible to lacquer over mineral oil (a la shellac). If you know how to lay a lacquer down, then you probably already know this. Most people don't lacquer or varnish, they use an oil finish such as Tru-Oil, Danish Oil, Tung Oil, Linseed Oil, etc. so they won't have a problem with the mineral oil treatment.

    When I refinish, I always sand down to raw wood anyway...

    There is another solution, which is to stabilize each handle piece before final glue-up. It's not as hard as you might think, but it is probably not easy for the kamis who are making a lot of khukuris. Basically, you put the handle piece in a jar of mineral oil (cut with acetone if you like), leave it out in the sun for the day, and then put a tight lid on it and toss it in a cool spot (preferably a fridge...but resource might be limited) overnight. The changes in temperature and pressure forces the oil deep down into the wood and somewhat stabilizes it. In the morning, pull it out and let it dry.

    Sadly, this does not seem very practical. It would be easy to do (once learned), but would probably be hard to communicate the idea to the kamis.

    I think by the time the handles reach Reno, the damage is already mostly done. It is true that many cracks form there, while adapting to the humidity. And Yangdu does keep the khukuris outside in the shed to help cut down on that. (inside, the air conditioning dehumidifies the wood).

    But the treatment and preparation should have been started sooner. I must admit to having owned very few khukuris that actually did have cracks...so, I must be lucky, I guess.

    So, the status quo is not really that bad. Could just use a review and few improvements.

    I'm still just feeling pretty darned lucky to even get the khukuris here in the first place.

    [disclaimer = I do not hold all the aces in the world of refinishing. Just putting out what I do know. Take it or leave it. Keep your salt handy]
  6. Yvsa


    May 18, 1999
    I have too agree with Dan and what he says because it's the final truth. The treatment does need to start in Nepal and the absolute best thing is too use fully dried and seasoned wood.

    But barring that the next best thing is for Miss Yangdu to treat the handles in Reno.
    Whatever is decided the bottom line is that the substance used must be cheap and in plentiful supply and easy to use.

    Miss Yangdu doesn't have the time to put on multiple coats of linseed oil and the inherent danger of spontaneous combustion is a real and constant danger, all it takes is one mistake.
    A lot of us here don't always stop to think that the HI Forum is just part of the sales that goes on with HI and a lot of the newbies don't know it to begin with.
    The HI Forum only represents a certain amount of the khukuris sold by HI over the internet.:thumbup:

    Chances are if you have a khukuri with a handle that's not cracked when you get it that it won't crack as most are pretty stable methinks.
    If you keep your khuks in a dry warm place there is more danger of the wood drying out and cracking. See what Hollow said about storing them in a very cool room.:thumbup:
    But the thing is that ours aren't as likely to crack anyway because of the way we tend to baby them with oil and preservatives.;) :D
  7. jmings


    Aug 20, 2005
    First of all anything from Minwax or Formby's is toxic waste!
    BLO is no long Boiled, but has chemicals added so it will dry ... toxic waste.
    Raw Linseed Oil will never dry.

    IMNSHO the only wood treatment is RAW TUNG OIL.

    Later wax - museum wax or car wax. Wood wax is for the most part too soft.
  8. hdwrlover


    Sep 21, 2003
    Good discussion by all. Glad it was brought up. I went to Home Depot and Lowes and bought several types of oil to try on khukuri handles. I soaked several horn handles for several days in linseed oil, but don't like the fact that they never seemed to dry and then were sticky when used. I didn't use linseed on wood handles, but instead have been using Watco Danish oil natural - or stain if wood is bare. Don't know what will work long-term but doing something seemed better than doing nothing. I also have Tung oil and mineral oil but haven't used them yet. I used the Watco first because that is what I used on unfinished oak furniture years ago and have had no ill effects.

    Almost all the Chandan I have received except for the YCSs have developed cracks. I told Yangdu that maybe because the YCSs have inserts that may relieve some stresses - don't know. I am coating them with Watco now.

    I agree with Dan on the things he suggests be done in Nepal before build and shipment. Hopefully some of this can be communicated.

    Another solution maybe- I have asked Dan and his buddy Tom Krein to rehandle a blem khukuri whose handle was too small anyway in micarta. Also have mentioned to Dan that I would like to order the new AK bowie with proposed straight edge as a bare blade and have micarta handles put on in the states. Also, have kydex made for it instead of the traditional sheath.
  9. munk


    Mar 22, 2002
    The Straight Edged (perhaps no longer Bowie) honkin killer blade should be showing up sometime in November. Last I heard.

  10. ddean


    Mar 26, 2002
    Just skimmed the above posts,
    so hope i'm not repeating too much.

    products intended for furniture
    & commonly called lemon or orange oil
    is actually scented mineral oil.
    Butcher block oil is mineral oil.

    these are either thin (low viscosity) mineral oil fractions
    mineral oil thinned with .....something HOC.
    The two results are outwardly similar,
    but technically different---like
    ping-pong balls alone
    golf balls mixed with styrofoam beads
    both give the same average density
    but they may not -work- the same.

    The faster (&/or more unevenly) wood dries
    the more likely it will crack.

    Any treatment I think will require a soak
    to be both quick, simple & effective as possible.

    Mineral oil doesn't appeal to me.
    But I can't say what would work best.

    I soak in 50/50 Citrus Solvent with either olive oil or walnut oil.
    Olive oil I think is only a problem on exterior surfaces--
    inside a material it couldn't get gummy.
    Many many compositions of olive oil;
    for this the cheapest is likely best--
    all the -good- stuff has been previously extracted
    & the cheap remnant likely contains a few solvents.

    Walnut oil is a drying oil with properties very close to linseed.
    Other drying oils are poppy & safflower.
    Safflower would be common & inexpensive.
    Soy oil is another option.
    The Citrus Solvent (GooGone quart=$6)
    evaporates fairly quickly.

    I've started using this mix for all my wood treatment
    (tabletop refinishing, butcherblock maintenance, wood handles, carvings, ... ),
    understanding it's not a -finish- for the wood;
    but might provide a better base than other options.

    [butcher block standard guidelines--
    oil daily for a week, weekly for a month, monthly for a year,
    & yearly thereafter]
    I just soak as often as I think of it
    & repeat while it still drinks it in.
    Wipe down whenever needed to prevent standing oil.

    Better prevention might be to have them wrapped in plastic before shipping
    (or asap after reciept)
    with a slow acclimatization period to the Reno dryness.

    Not practical maybe when talking about stock
    that needs to move out to customers.

    ? WD-40 is a water displacer ?
    ? Acetone -mixes- with water -&- oil
    ? Drugstore alcohols mix with water

    ? These might (in a soak) cause more cracking ?
    by speeding drying?

    Maybe a -little- drying heat treatment of the handles
    before the blades are wrapped to ship from Birgorkha?
    Storage in a hot-room there?
    Likely problematic.

    I wonder if boiling the wood before making the handle would do any good,
    more likely cause more splits.

    What about a glycerine soak ?

    <:eek:> THEY call me 'Dean' <> [​IMG]
    <:)> -fYI-fWiW-iIRC-JMO-M2C-YMMV-TiA-YW-GL-HH-HBd-
    <:D> Noobee <> Tips <> Baha'i Prayers Links --A--T--H--D
  11. JimmyJimenez


    Sep 30, 2005
    One thing is very true, and that is that most all of our advises are based on "after the fact". What I mean by that is that it is for maintaining wood "after" it's been produced to it's final shape and function. It's after the wood has been cut, cured, shaped, and installed. It means that we have been going under the assumption that the curing process has been done properly.

    But, all of our advises, whether we are talking about proper environment conditions or surface preservation, will not do much good, if any at all, if the wood we speak of was not properly cured before it was made into the final product.

    There are modern kiln dried methods and there are the more traditional natural curing methods, but in either case, if it is not done just right, we will see more problems with the improperly cured wood, then from batches of wood that were cured correctly.

    Just as Munk had stated in another thread, if something is done correctly, it will most likely be statisfying, but if it's done incorrectly, then it may cause much grief.

    Proper curing will expose most of the unstable areas in the wood, and one can then eliminate using these materials, or sections of it.
    But, if the wood is not being properly cured before using it as handle material, then I imagine that much of what should have happened and been discovered during a proper curing, will happen and be discovered by Miss Yangdu or the end user.

    Instead of the guinea pig stage being the time in the wood curing area, the guinea pig stage may very well end up being the time the knives are in Miss Yangdu's hands, or worse yet, while in the hands of the consumer.

    So it may be that instead of Miss Yangdu being directed to look at the many "after the fact" surface preservation methods, maybe she should be more importantly directed at the initial wood preparation (the wood curing process being done in Nepal).
    I believe that this latest discussion we are having of a possible lack of good wood preperation in Nepal, could very well likely be the root cause of most problems Miss Yangdu is having.

    That old phrase comes into play here "An once of prevention is worth a pound of cure" (or something like that) :)
  12. arty


    Oct 18, 2003
    I generally avoid sanding the handles of my khukuris, and can't sand the handles of those with carving...I don't want to mess up the carving.

    Generally, I use Watco alone if I want the knife to handle to have a satin and not shiney finish. If I want a shine, I use Watco followed by a wiping varnish or start right with the wiping varnish - either regular varnish or polyurethane.

    Watco gives a pretty natural look to wood and is easy to apply. I generally just use a wax remover first.

    Mineral oil would be a problem for all those nice carved handles.

    I don't think that the Kamis have a climate controlled environment over in Nepal, and that is the problem.
    Rapid sales,a couple of coats of linseed oil and wax, followed by rapid shipment would help. We already know that the shipment is fast.
    We should all do our part in moving the knives quickly.
  13. Nasty

    Nasty Chief Cook & Bottle Wash

    Nov 11, 2003
    I must be the minority...I really dont worry about cracks unless they are structural. If the handle is solid and tight, that's good for me. I have to admit that I don't have many with cracks. All I do with mine is wipe them down, sharpen them, wax them and use them.

    What I have persistently refused to do is try to make a silk purse of them. These represent to me work of the third world with honest dirty hands. I don't compare them to individually hand made works of art like Dan makes...they are not that. They carry their own beauty in the manner they were forged, they mouths they feed, the hope they give.

    My current favorite khukuri is one that was a gift from a dear friend...it is a real village model...not the sanitized version that is sold here as a "Villager", but a real khukuri...with rough wood, hammer marks, forging faults, pits, gouges and not even a wrapped scabbard but instead a simply tied together wooden form.

    It's honest and beautiful...
  14. munk


    Mar 22, 2002
    Nasty's a spiritual giant. Everytime someone writes a post like that- or like the simple food thread- I'm reminded of that view which says very very old souls like things simple. I just figure that must be wrong since I like simple things too.
    We are really talking about what Yangdu could use once the blades are in Reno, as a once over only- to protect, before shipping out to customers or storing. And I kinda doubt she always knows for sure which ones will do long term duty in the shed and which ones will go out fast, though she might know for some.

  15. firkin


    Jan 26, 2002
    Wrapping in plastic is probably not a good idea, especially if done in Nepal.

    If the wood has not been fully cured (which is probably the ultimate source of much of the problem), or it was humid when they were wrapped , moisture will not be able to leave, and there will likely be some condensation on the inside of the plastic with changes in temerature, even in dry Reno. That plus no air circulation gives you a micro-terrarium. Some ensporulated microbe, mold or mildew originating in Nepal will likely start to grow, living off something in the wood or the waxy vehicle for the rouge.

    Might eventually get a few spalted handles, most will likely be unpleasantly discolored or scented, and at worst, now contain a thriving a crop of possibly nasty "bugs".

    There are reported incidences of people picking up exotic lung infections from inhaling dust while working with exotic woods that have been properly cured.

    Light mineral oil doesn't sound that bad to me. Murpy's soap (the concentrate) and a decent brush should remove enough to support a subsequent finish in my limited experience. It worked to well to remove the rouge on a couple of handles that were literally caked with it, including cross-hatched chitlangli handles. The rouge had a oily, waxy vehicle.

    Agree that silicone is not a good idea here.

    But I ain't no expert.
  16. Nasty

    Nasty Chief Cook & Bottle Wash

    Nov 11, 2003
    Sure...*I* always get the blame....:grumpy:

    ;) :D
  17. Bri in Chi

    Bri in Chi

    May 28, 2003
    Would you please show us a picture? It sounds wonderful.
  18. Nasty

    Nasty Chief Cook & Bottle Wash

    Nov 11, 2003
    I posted it once before and now four of you should recognize it...it was the first in this shape brought in by Yangdu. You got the HI version of it...all cleaned up, polished and purdy.

    My poor photo skills actually improve the look of it..it is quiet rough...much as I imagine kami life to be.


  19. munk


    Mar 22, 2002
    Yeah, I think I see a spot where a chipmunk took a dump.

  20. Andrew Taylor

    Andrew Taylor

    Jul 17, 2005
    I used to live in a rather damp house at sea level next to the coast of Cornwall in the UK. I had a musket that stood in a corner and always got a rust spot in one place on the barrel. I cleaned it off and tried chrome cleaner and all sorts of lubricants like Youngs 303 gun oil, 3 in 1, and WD 40, but the rust came back. One day, I put a coat of home-made beeswax polish on it and the rust never came through. The mix was pure beeswax and turpentine, mixed to a paste the consistency of sloppy toothpaste. I used it on all my kukhris, swords and bayonets and it kept the wood supple, sealed and shiny. It keeps the metal rust free. My entire collection is in storage with a thin film of it.

    In the UK you can buy it as Mansion Guardshine, I believe in the US it is called 'Heritage Wax'. Send a couple of tins to Nepal to treat the hilts and blades and see what happens. If Yangdu polishes the blade and reapplies wax to the hilts, I am confident it will work. It smells nice too.

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