Maintenance of a wooden handle

9 min


Maintenance of a wooden knife handle

Maintenance of a wooden handle.

Wood is a material widely used to make the handle of the knife,it is a reliable, warm material, with a classic aesthetic pattern but with veins that can embellish your blade.

The wooden handle must always be treated and requires that you take care of it and this applies both to outdoor / survival knives with a wooden handle but also to kitchen knives and other tools embellished with a wooden handle.

The woods used in cutlery are natural woods more suitable for making knives with hidden shank and stabilized woods, treated to empty them from the present air by impregnating the wood in depth with resin through vacuum techniques that makes the wood more stable and immobile over time.

There are different types of wood but the way to do the maintenance is always the same.

Wood is a super material that accompanies man from the beginning of his existence!

Why wood for knife handles?

Wood is a natural resource that never ceases to surprise us.

As humans, we can develop cutting-edge and high-tech materials, but wood can still withstand the best of them.

Maintenance of a wooden handle

Three strengths of the wooden handle of the knife:



Wood is beautiful.

And not only because the natural brown tone is so warm and cozy.

The color, texture and grain of the wood give each product a special charm and a unique and individual look.

This means that there are no two pocket knives with wooden cheeks or knives with equal wooden handles.


Some types of wood you can use contain lignins and tannins that are the natural enemies of bacteria.

Some tests on food worktops showed that after two hours, 99.9% of the bacteria present on wooden cutting boards had disappeared compared to the cutting boards made of synthetic material or steel where the bacteria survived much longer especially on those boards that already had some trace of use.



Also from an environmental point of view, wood is a smart choice, because it is renewable.

Even if you need minimal quantities to build a wooden handle, ensuring that the wood comes from sources that do not indiscriminately cut down forests but instead plant a new tree for each harvest (FSC certification) can be an interesting choice even if I know that the maker tends to use woods from different parts of the world but working with local woods or from other European countries can be interesting as a choice in addition to the fact which has shorter transport routes.

The ecological choice of wood

Wood or synthetic?

Positive aspects of wood:

  • Feels warm to the touch
  • Decorative, elegant
  • Natural

Positive aspects of synthetic:

  • Light
  • Convenient
  • Resilient
  • Hygienic, thanks to extreme heat resistance
  • Dishwasher safe (for kitchen knives)

Wood negatives:

  • Higher price
  • Less resilient
  • Inflammable
  • Not dishwasher safe (for kitchen knives)

Negatives of synthetic:

  • It is not a natural material
  • Melts under heat
  • Feels cold to the touch

I advise you to choose synthetic material for knives that are used frequently and are exposed to extreme conditions or in the case of kitchen knives often washed in the dishwasher, because synthetic materials are more durable and last longer.

Maintenance of a wooden handle

How do you maintain a wooden handle and why is it important to maintain a wooden handle?

Wood can dry out, whether you use it or not.

Some types of wood are more vulnerable than others, but in general a wooden handle feels much better to the touch after a couple of drops of oil, once in a while.

It prevents cracks, in case it is becoming too dry, and increases resistance against changes in temperature and humidity.

More importantly, a well-oiled handle looks much more beautiful because you can clearly see the pattern and grain of the wood.

Maintenance of a wooden handle Maintenance of a wooden handle Maintenance of a wooden handle

What types of wood need to be enhanced with oil?

Basically on any type of wooden handle you should, occasionally, use a drop of oil.

But there are two exceptions:

  • wooden handles already embellished with polishing and
  • wooden handles that are painted

that will not absorb the oil.

In addition to these two specific cases there are the types of stabilized wood, which is a treated wood and that has absorbed the stabilization resin, this type does not need as much oil as the types of non-stabilized wood.

It is important to know that there are many different ways and insights when it comes to caring for wooden handles and some think that Danish oil is perfect, others prefer mineral oil.

Some rub the oil on the handle, while others let it soak in a pot full of oil.

So there are many options to choose from.

Maintenance of a wooden handle

How do I clean wooden products?

With water: The best way to clean wooden products is with a damp cloth, a soft sponge or simply your hands, along with plenty of water.

Dry them well: Whether it is a cutting board or a knife handle, it is important to dry all wooden parts well after washing them and not to let them air dry. Air drying can leave limescale residues from the water. And bacteria can also accumulate in damp wood.

Do not use soap: Do not use detergent or soap. The reason is that soap and detergent wash away the natural oils present in the wood and therefore it is necessary to apply the oil on the wood more frequently.

Do not use the dishwasher: Dishwashers pose several risks to wood. For one, chemicals can eliminate the important natural oils in wood, making it brittle. Another is the moisture inside the dishwasher, which is harmful to a natural material such as wood and can promote the growth of mold. In addition, the wood is exposed to continuous movements inside the dishwasher, caused by repeated splashes of water. This leads to unnecessary wear of the wood.

Never leave wood in the water: wood is a dry material. When left in water for longer periods, the pores absorb water.

Spots (from beetroot, kale, turmeric, etc.): You can smooth stained wooden surfaces, and this also has an additional antibacterial effect. This is because when treating the surface, whether it is by cutting the wood or smoothing it, tannic acids are released from the inside. They are the kiss of death for all bacteria.

Smells: If your wooden product develops an unpleasant smell, we recommend that you rinse it first with hot water at 60°C and then brush it with vinegar, following the direction of the wood grain. Then let the product dry completely and then treat it with oil. Vinegar also helps to remove bacteria or/neutralize them.

Bacteria: If you have doubts about whether a wooden board is really free of bacteria, another method is to simply put it in the microwave. This will kill all bacteria instantly.

Graying wood: wooden surfaces with gray spots or spots can be sanded with very fine-grained sandpaper, following the direction of the grain, and then oiled. The more you repeat this process, a little sanding, oiling and then a little more sanding and then oiling, the smoother and more shiny the surface will be.

natural woods

How do I take care of wood products?

If you take care of your wooden product, you will reap the rewards of a very long shelf life.

It is recommended to regularly treat the wood with oil.

In an ordinary house, where a board is used daily, an annual treatment with oil is recommended.

The use of oil ensures that germs cannot penetrate too deep into the wood.

The pores of the wood that have absorbed the oil give the wood a denser surface, making it less susceptible to the penetration of bacteria.

In addition, the oil prevents the handle of the knife but also applies to the cutting board to take on the smell of the food cut on the surface of the cutting board.

  1. Thoroughly clean the wooden part. Use hot water, perhaps up to 60° C, and vinegar.
  2. Dry the wooden handle completely.
  3. Using a soft cloth or paper towel, apply a generous amount of oil evenly across the board. The thinner the oil, the deeper it can penetrate the wood and therefore the deeper the level of protection. That is why we recommend slightly heating the oil.
  4. Let the wooden handle rest for a few hours or, better, all night so that the oil is absorbed.
  5. If the handle is still sticky or oily after the oil has been absorbed, use a paper cloth or napkin to remove any excess oil residue.

How do I apply the oil on the handle faster?

  1. Apply the oil with a clean cloth.
  2. Not too much: a couple of drops are often enough.
  3. Next let the oil absorb and then rub the handle with another clean cloth.
  4. Repeat this process until the wood is saturated.
  5. It is easy to understand why the wood will no longer absorb oil.
  6. Rub away the una assorbited oil with a clean cloth


Choosing an oil

As you have read there are many choices on how to perform the operation and it is important to use the correct oil.

Using an oil mixture specially prepared for wood treatment, the wood will retain a natural feel, and the oil will remain stable longer and will not leave oil stains or develop a rancid smell.

There are several types of oil that can be used to treat wooden handles.

Each oil has its own properties and will respond differently to different types of wood.

In addition, there are different types of oil that can be used for multiple purposes.

As a result, a single bottle can be used for different purposes.


In our choice there is also the Ballistol which is one of the very popular types of oil.

Originally thought of as an oil for weapons, but today praised for its versatility.

It is an oil that revives dry wood.

Ballistol can be used on all types of wood, except for handles that have been painted.

Ballistol, however, has a very peculiar smell: like a pine forest in a jar.

Some hate it, others love it and wish they could use it as a cologne.

The peculiarity of Ballistol is that you can also rub it on the blade to prevent rust.

In addition, Ballistol will help you remove any residual adhesive tape from the steel.

Ballistol is also used to keep your skin soft, which makes it a great product to keep your scabbard in great shape.

Although it doesn’t mention it on the packaging, we know that Ballistol is safe for food.

This means that you can also use it on your kitchen knives.

Maintenance of a wooden handle

Eden Essentials mineral oil for wooden cutting boards

Eden Essentials cutting board oil is a thick paraffinic oil.

Lightly seal the wood and take care of a beautiful glossy finish.

As the name may already suggest, it is also great for treating wooden cutting boards.


Robert Herder maintenance oil for wooden handles

Robert Herder maintenance oil for wooden handles is also a good option.

Macadamia oil is great for wood and the light fragrance of lemons definitely makes the knife fragrant.

Robert Herder Maintenance Oil

Danish oil

The effect of Danish oil has been known for years among carpenters.

This mixture based on Tung oil penetrates deeply into the wood.

After applying it and letting it dry, it is essential to rub the handle with a dry cloth.

This is the best way to highlight the natural pattern of wood, but most importantly, you need to remove excess Danish oil.

If you let the surface dry, a layer of lacquer will form and you should avoid it.

The advantage of Danish oil is that after applying it the wood does not dry very quickly.

Maintenance of a wooden handle

Linseed oil

Another remedy from a bygone era.

It works like with Danish oil.

Apply a thin layer, let it fix and then rub to remove the oil in access.

It is important not to let it dry on the blade! It could stick like a type of lacquer and this is not the result you want to achieve.

Cooked Linseed Oil

Why don’t you have to use olive oil?

As with some cutting boards, it is sometimes said that you can also take care of a wooden handle with olive oil.

And in the short term if you don’t have anything else available at that time it’s also true but the downside of olive oil, however, is that after a while it could get rancid.

It will begin to smell slightly stale and this, of course, is to be avoided.



As oil I personally treat the wooden handles with Danish Oil or Linseed Oil, write me in the comments how you prefer to perform and what type of oil you use for the maintenance of the handle of your wooden knife.

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Andrea F

Maker and Enthusiast of Knifemaking. Other: Engineer / Professional Blogger / Bass Player / Instructor of Boxing / Muay Thai / Brazilian Jiu Jitsu / Grappling / CSW / MMA / Self Defence / FMA / Dirty Boxing / Silat / Jeet Kune Do & Kali / Fencing Knife / Stick Fighting / Weapons / Firearms. Street Fight Mentality & Fight Sport! State Of Love And Trust!


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