Treatment for wooden tool handles

patentnonsense(Dallas)June 15, 2005

I left a couple of yard tools outside, and now their handles are rough. I dimly recall that my father used something to treat tool handles for better weatherproofing - linseed oil? Varnish??

Yes I shouldn't have left them out, but suggestions for a handle balm would be welcome.

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rredogg(5/Chicago Area)


First go over the handles with sandpaper the then with a rag wipe them down with a 50-50 combo. of linseed oil and turpentine. You can also use the linseed oil on the metal parts to clean them up and slow down the rusting.

Regards, rredogg

    Bookmark   June 15, 2005 at 9:28PM
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Linseed oil is OK (that's what WWII GI's used in the field) but Boiled Linseed Oil works better. You wipe it on, let it sit for a while, and rub off.

One of the commercial Tung Oil finishes works even better. They are both open finishes so they don't trap moisture like varnish.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2005 at 5:24AM
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masiman(z7 VA)

Hey Garandman,

I actually have a garand that I really like to take out once in awhile. I thought about putting a glass sight on it (would require drilling into the receiver though). I refinished the stock long ago with varnish. I like the look but in some ways I wish I had kept the original finish on it.

Is there any particular Tung Oil you would recommend to refinish the handles with, I have the same problem. For anyone using linseed oil or other natural oils be careful how you store them as they can spontaneously combust.

 Carefully store oil, gasoline, or paint-soaked rags. Store them in a tightly sealed container in a cool, well-ventilated place away from other combustibles. Or, lay the rags out individually on a flat surface and leave them to dry completely before reusing.

Rags containing linseed, stain, paint and vegetable oil are subject to spontaneous combustion. Other natural oils such as mineral oil, cottonseed oil, cod and other fish oil present similar problems. Rags used with these products should be stored by submersing them in a water filled metal container with a fitted lid.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2005 at 11:51AM
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Hey, Maziman, you beat me to it! I was formulating a warning about leaving linseed oil soaked rags in the garage!
Being in the local Fire Dep't, they gave classes on just that problem.
Evidently, one of our local residents didn't know about it, because he left linseed oil-soaked rags in his uncovered waste basket in his garage, and soon he had no roof on the garage, and not much left inside! Fortunately, the Fire Company was only 3/4 mile away, with a crew standing by! They saved the house and contents, but couldn't do much with the garage.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2005 at 1:46PM
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masiman(z7 VA)

I cheated :). I knew it was a problem but did not know the specifics of why it happened. I thought it was just Linseed oil and did not know about the other natural oils. An internet search of "linseed spontaneous combustion" yielded the bullet item and its following paragraph.

I am glad you as a professional backed the finding up. The internet can be good but you can very easily be led astray by it!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2005 at 2:27PM
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Out here in the sticks I have a trash burn barrel in the back yard and all rags that come in contact with linseed oil go there as soon as I am done using them.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2005 at 2:47PM
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I know a fellow who burned down his house by leaving such rags on his deck.

There are a lot of commercial Tung Oil finishes, which are a blend of various solvents. Pure Tung Oil, like Linseed Oil, takes forever to dry.

Home Depot carries Minwax, which I've used and works fine. I use a foam brush and throw it away to apply it. To rub it down I use a towel and then lay the towel spread out outside on a rack.

They don't really combust spontaneously. Leaving a pile creates a hot enough exothermic reaction to fire them up.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2005 at 2:49PM
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I was doing some wipe-down on a Danish Oil finish, and watched a garbage bag full of oily paper towels combust before my eyes - spooky!

    Bookmark   June 21, 2005 at 5:50PM
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murphyl(Metro Detroit)

I did my tool handles the same way as my wood-handled kitchen knives: sand the handles, then soak in tung oil for twenty minutes, wipe off excess and let dry 24-48 hrs. They look great and will take just about any beating you'd care to lay on them.

I will admit, though, that I've started to shift toward fiberglass or graphite handles on my outdoor tools - not because of mistreatment, but because I've gotten burned with dodgy wood handles on two shovels now...

    Bookmark   June 24, 2005 at 6:23PM
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lonewoof(z7 SC)

Will any of these treatments discourage carpenter bees? They seem to especially like the handles on my post hole digger...

    Bookmark   June 27, 2005 at 2:18PM
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Sand the handles first. If you have leftovers of the same type of highgloss oil enamel, you can pour colors together. Dunk the handle ends in it. Then, hang the tools upside down, till they're dry. This is great in a borrowing neighborhood too. Instant ID. Paint the whole handle, on those tools that need it.
Try paint, lonewolf, I recently looked up those durn things, that look like shiney bumble bees. It said they don't like fresh paint! Thin a first coat with paint thinner or turps, and make sure it gets onto the endgrain and into where the metal and wood overlap. Wipe off the metal at the business end.
Oh, it's ANY OILY RAGS, that can combust, tall piles of newspaper can go up too.
My hoe blade broke off three times, in heavy clay soil. It's worth taking care of the good old stuff.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2007 at 1:44AM
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