What do you use to finish a saw handle?


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Nigel Burden

Established Member
23 Oct 2018
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I have just made two new saw handles out of beech. One for a re-purposed 1960s 10 inch Spear and Jackson tenon saw that I have cut down to make a dovetail saw, and the other a London pattern handle for my fathers 1970s 12 inch Sandvick tenon saw with an abominable black and yellow plastic handle.

Previously I have used Shellack once, but usually use BLO. Beech being quite pale in colour can de quite bland. I have stained it in the past, but find that the end grain absorbs the stain more readily and is always slightly darker. Does anyone have any tips to even out the colour, or is it just something that's bound to happen?

To reduce dye or stain uptake into end grain, or to have the same effect in blotch prone timbers, one good technique is to apply a somewhat thinned out coat of shellac on all the surfaces you want to colour up. Using ready to use shellac bought from a finish supplier, try diluting it by about half with industrial alcohol (aka meths). Let this dry on the wood and sand the dried film back to the wood using probably something like 220 grit paper, or finer. Then you can apply your colourant prior to polishing up.

The idea is that the preliminary coat of shellac partially chokes up the more open ends of the vascular tissue in the end grain meaning the colourant can't soak in as effectively as an 'unchoked' surface. The fact you sand back the preliminary coat of shellac pretty much to bare wood again on the wood's long grain allows more effective colourant uptake. With a bit of practice and experimentation with shellac strength, amount of sanding back, and abrasive coarseness, you should be able to get a pretty even colour on all the woods surface, whether long grain or end grain.

There are other methods for evening out colourant uptake, but I imagine this one will do for a start. Slainte.