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Refinishing ebony/horn handle advice

Posted: Tue Nov 21, 2017 6:28 pm
by Chicagohawkie
Today I took it upon myself to begin sanding and refinishing an ebony handle that had a protruding stainless steel spacer. I did all the heavy sanding and everything is smooth to 150 grit. What would be next grit sequences up to polishing? Also when I get to polishing is there any substance is should be using to buff it out with? Should I be using a lacquer or a finisher all of just natural? This will be a first for me, so any help would be greatly appreciated. Will save me a bunch of time in researching. FYI, hand sanding those steel spacers is one royal pain in the ass! :lol:

Re: Refinishing ebony/horn handle advice

Posted: Tue Nov 21, 2017 6:45 pm
by Kalaeb
For ebony I go 150, 220, 400, 800, 1000, 2000 then buff. I have never had any real luck with oils, varnish or lacquer on ebony.

Do you have access to a buffing wheel. I use a pink compound after the 2k and call it good.

Re: Refinishing ebony/horn handle advice

Posted: Tue Nov 21, 2017 7:56 pm
by Chicagohawkie
OK, cool. What medium do you use to for abrasive to go to 2000 grit? As far as pink Compound, do you have a brand that you use? I just got a cloth wheel for my grinder so got that covered.

Re: Refinishing ebony/horn handle advice

Posted: Tue Nov 21, 2017 8:21 pm
by jacko9
After sanding it to the highest grit you decide buff if you need to get smoother but, I think the sanding will do the trick. I would seal it with shellac (to seal in the natural oils in the wood) and then either get a true varnish or lacquer. General Finishes makes a product called Arm-R-Seal wiping varnish and with the semi-gloss it will provide the protection you need and still retain the polished look of the ebony. I have used this product on ebony and rosewood with great success. The key is to thin it 15% with mineral spirits and wipe it on with a soft cloth and let it dry 4 - 8 hours between coats. Several coats is a very thin layer less than 0.1mm thick and very durable. I have used this finish on several dining room tables. Feel free to contact me for any additional details since the shellac layer can be tricky if you use canned product. I mix my shellac fresh from flakes in small batches and wipe it on in very very thin layers (almost alcohol consistency). It doesn't take much to prevent the wood oils from interfering with the final finish.

Re: Refinishing ebony/horn handle advice

Posted: Tue Nov 21, 2017 9:27 pm
by Kalaeb
Chicagohawkie wrote:
Tue Nov 21, 2017 7:56 pm
OK, cool. What medium do you use to for abrasive to go to 2000 grit? As far as pink Compound, do you have a brand that you use? I just got a cloth wheel for my grinder so got that covered.
I just go to an auto body store and get the 2k wet/dry sand paper.

For the pink compound it is the pink scratchless tube from Jantz knife supply.

Re: Refinishing ebony/horn handle advice

Posted: Wed Nov 22, 2017 12:51 pm
by Chicagohawkie
Ok, I just got the high grit sand paper and settled on some tivoli buffing compound. Off to sand and buff! Hopefully I’ll have a finished handle before too long. Just found a really nice 6 inch belt sander and 9inch disk combo on Craigslist, so I think I’m gonna make my own custom handle for my Honyaki blade.

Re: Refinishing ebony/horn handle advice

Posted: Wed Nov 22, 2017 3:53 pm
by Chicagohawkie
Turned out great! Like new again! The Tripoli wax bar leaves an almost gloss finish on a denim buffing wheel. I’m going to get a wax bar and buff it with the polishing wheel and that should leave a high gloss finish. No real need to finish any further. Thanks for the help guys.

Re: Refinishing ebony/horn handle advice

Posted: Wed Nov 22, 2017 5:23 pm
by jacko9
Post a picture when your finished. I agree that very dense/oily woods can usually get by without a finish.

Re: Refinishing ebony/horn handle advice

Posted: Wed Nov 22, 2017 6:40 pm
by Chicagohawkie
B1BE588B-D81D-44CB-B6E4-3E6528EE3415.jpeg

Re: Refinishing ebony/horn handle advice

Posted: Wed Nov 22, 2017 7:50 pm
by Chicagohawkie
13D16D22-47A6-4CBB-853C-11895A6224A6.jpeg

Re: Refinishing ebony/horn handle advice

Posted: Wed Nov 22, 2017 8:27 pm
by gladius
Did you take BEFORE photos for comparison?

Re: Refinishing ebony/horn handle advice

Posted: Wed Nov 22, 2017 8:57 pm
by Chicagohawkie
Yes I did.
5D95909C-71D3-4CD0-9AE4-3DB824D5296A.jpeg

Re: Refinishing ebony/horn handle advice

Posted: Wed Nov 22, 2017 9:16 pm
by Bensbites
Wow. Nice.

I picked up a cheap 4 x 36 inch belt sander of CL when I started making handles. It is more than enough

Re: Refinishing ebony/horn handle advice

Posted: Wed Nov 22, 2017 9:17 pm
by gladius
Very nice job Scott!
Looks like you got the spacer flush. That is a good looking knife, what kind is is?

Re: Refinishing ebony/horn handle advice

Posted: Wed Nov 22, 2017 9:26 pm
by milkbaby
Nice job, that finish looks great! Both ebony and buffalo horn look great.

Re: Refinishing ebony/horn handle advice

Posted: Wed Nov 22, 2017 9:28 pm
by Chicagohawkie
Bensbites wrote:
Wed Nov 22, 2017 9:16 pm
Wow. Nice.

I picked up a cheap 4 x 36 inch belt sander of CL when I started making handles. It is more than enough
Well, I found an almost new Jet sander. It’s not cheap but most likely last a lifetime. I’m gonna take a few days and mull it over. It may be overkill for my needs.

Re: Refinishing ebony/horn handle advice

Posted: Wed Nov 22, 2017 9:33 pm
by Chicagohawkie
gladius wrote:
Wed Nov 22, 2017 9:17 pm
Very nice job Scott!
Looks like you got the spacer flush. That is a good looking knife, what kind is is?
Thanks and Yes, the spacer was the issue. It was raised a mm around the whole handle. I couldn’t believe someone would have sent that out without noticing how raised it was. Anyway it’s a beautiful handle and looks perfect now. The knife is a sukenari 240 ZDP 189 Damascus gyuto.

Re: Refinishing ebony/horn handle advice

Posted: Wed Nov 22, 2017 9:37 pm
by Chicagohawkie
milkbaby wrote:
Wed Nov 22, 2017 9:26 pm
Nice job, that finish looks great! Both ebony and buffalo horn look great.
TY!

Re: Refinishing ebony/horn handle advice

Posted: Mon Feb 12, 2018 4:13 pm
by PappaG
Looks really nice. Would you have done anything differently based on your experience if you had to do it over again?

Re: Refinishing ebony/horn handle advice

Posted: Tue Feb 20, 2018 1:56 pm
by Chicagohawkie
PappaG wrote:
Mon Feb 12, 2018 4:13 pm
Looks really nice. Would you have done anything differently based on your experience if you had to do it over again?
Overthinking is what I won’t do again. Refinishing a handle is simple. If you have a raised spacer or an annoying gap just tape off the knife and sand. For an octagonal ebony handle I flatten a piece of hardwood and wrap sandpaper around it and sand away using the existing angles by hand. Go from 60 grit to 4000 grit in progressions. Using a buffer and a denim pad buff using a wax based compound for a few minutes then buff with a polish wheel using carnuba for a few minutes and finish up with hand polishing using the same carnuba wax. Will look like new! Using both ebony and buffalo horn in a handle before they have fully settled will result in much shrinkage. My handle in question has shrunk further and may require I do this once again.