Bedrock #605 Restoration #8: Finishing the handles

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by sansoo22 posted 01-04-2022 02:39 AM 465 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 7: Painting, scraping, sanding, baking, and waxing Part 8 of Bedrock #605 Restoration series Part 9: Hardware, chip breaker, and brass »

It’s handle time. Well round 3 of handle time since I already covered sanding, filling, and the unforeseen issue of a cracked tote.

I’m not going to go into a deep dive into the finishing process as I have slightly changed it once again. I can’t help myself but work on efficiency and finishing is one of the SLOWEST parts of restorations. Most of it is due to how old and dry some of the handles are. It can take quite a bit of work to bring them back to life. I will outline the minor modifications at the end of this entry.

First up a quick shot of the wipe on poly I use. Egads!!!...its minwax…I’ve heard terrible things about minwax products and I’m sure there are better products out there but I love how thin the Minwax oil based poly is. I want it thin because I want it to soak into the wood.

In fact the first coat often looks like nothing has been done at all besides getting the handles wet.

Seriously that is one heavy coat that went on the old dry handles just drank it right in. Luckily it dries fast and you can get a couple coats on a day.

I keep building up until I start to get a noticeable sheen on the handles.

Now its time for a light sanding with 400 grit paper followed by a thorough cleaning with mineral spirits with a blue shop towel or any light color towel. We want the light color so we can see if any dark color came off.

When dealing with rosewood and other dark handles we don’t want any of that dark color on the towel after cleaning. That means we either sanded to firmly or in most cases that the old dry handles have sucked up all the poly and nothing is left on the surface.

If dark colors do come off on the towel I simply repeat with wipe on poly for a couple coats and then sand again. This time its nothing but an amber color coming off so it is now safe to move on to spraying.

You can use any spray poly that you want. I find that the simple rattle can Varathane brand from Home Depot works great on rosewood. Rosewood knobs have a tendency to leave tiny pin holes in the surface. The Varathane oil based spray goes on thicker. I can do a couple coats and then sand them down with 600 grit.

If you notice all the light “freckles” on the handles that is the pin holes I was talking about. It’s a bit of an involved process but so far spraying a couple coats and sanding is the best solution I have found. I have tried grain fillers but I haven’t dialed those in quite right yet. They tend not to be thin enough to properly fill those stupid tiny holes. More practice on fillers may yield better results.

A note about sanding – You do want to avoid sanding to roughly as it will leave scratches that are hard to come out and you risk burning right through the finish…especially on the edges of the handles. I go for getting a nice cloudy look on the handles, cleaning them with mineral spirits, and blowing them off real well with the compressor.

An example of a sanded set of handles

After 3 or 4 days of spraying and sanding you get a super clean set of handles.

Now if you’re like me and ruin great things at the last moment…you knock the handle off on the floor and chip in the process of taking photos.

I had to spend a couple days trying to fix it and it still didnt come out quite right. You can’t feel this weird spot but you can see where I had to epoxy fill it.

As soon as that hit the floor it was like getting punched right in the gut. The sound it made I knew in an instance it hit one of the important edges. Oh well if it wasn’t for mistakes we wouldn’t learn how to get better.

Updated Process – As I mentioned earlier I am trying a new modification to my process. Instead of starting with wipe on poly I am testing out doing a Danish Oil flood coat to help revitalize the grain in the old dry handles. Then moving on to a couple coats of wipe on poly before spraying. The only downside is the Danish Oil taks about 3 days to fully cure but there is plenty of work on the plane to do in the meantime. So far the 4 sets I have done like this are coming out fantastic with a great deal less involvement on my part.

2 comments so far

View KYtoolsmith's profile


253 posts in 1311 days

#1 posted 01-04-2022 10:32 AM

Excellent coverage on perhaps the most difficult and time consuming part of a restoration. Filling the pores in the wood is an area that frustrates me also.
Great work!
Regards, The Kentucky Toolsmith!

-- "Good enough" is just another way of saying "it could be better"...

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

10241 posts in 2033 days

#2 posted 01-06-2022 04:17 AM

If I can’t fill the grain with Rockler wunderfill of a good color, diluted 50-50 with tap water (works well for large grain, but not for smaller), I use the lightest blonde shellac I can get in a 1# cut and 1500 or 2000 grit wet-dry paper. Apply heavily (for shellac) and sand immediately (i.e. while the shellac is still wet) to work the sanding dust into the grain. Then apply a light layer with a pad, rubbing until it just starts to stick. Repeat one or two times. A lot less clock-time than using a Danish oil, but more working time, perhaps. But I generally only need to do that for small areas, so it goes pretty quickly.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics