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Caring for Stag/Bone/Ivory Handles

stag-handle-randall-knife (

Stag and bone handles are beautiful to have as knife handles, but being natural materials they contain a certain amount of water content. This may dry up overtime if not well maintained and cause the stag handle to shrink or even crack, leaving the tang of the knife exposed. This is especially true in places that experience a dry climate all year round.

 To prevent this, we have some tips for you on how to "re-hydrate" your stag handles and keep them nice and plump to prevent cracks. Do note that some other natural materials like Ivory and horns may shrink over time and need these treatment too.

Things you need:

  • Big container/glass beaker (at least tall enough to fit the knife handle)
  • Mineral Oil
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Rags
  • Renaissance Wax (optional)

Steps to re-hydrate a stag/bone/ivory handle:

  1. Prep the knife handle. Wipe down the handle with rubbing alcohol to remove any dirt, oil and surface moisture.
  2. Pour the mineral oil into the beaker. Fill the beaker such when the handle is in the beaker, the oil level passes the tang slightly (ie the whole handle is submerged).
  3. Immerse the knife into the oil. Do it with the stag handle downwards (duh!) and the blade sticking out of the container.
  4. Leave to stand for 24 hours. This will allow the oil to seep into the pores of the bone and make it hydrated.
  5. Inspect the handle. It should have become a little fatter and the gaps and cracks should have become less noticeable.
  6. Soak again if needed. If the stag handle has not been fattened to the previous diameter (before shrinkage), soak in the oil for a another day or 2.
  7. Wipe clean and store. Or, once oil free, buff renaissance wax into the handle to seal in the moisture.

This treatment should improve the condition of the bone handle. It should be done at least once every 3 months, or a better indicator would be when the handle starts to shrink.

CAUTION: Mineral oil may darken Ivory or natural bones. Use at your own risk and always try on a small patch first.


rehydrated-ivory (Photo: BDHK)


However if your stag handle is looking fine, rubbing it down with mineral oil should be fine. Use the soaking method above when you start to notice some form of shrinkage.

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