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What's the best way to make a western handle smooth?

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

I recently bought a Hiromoto knife (AS clad in stainless).  I love the blade and cutting, but the tang in the handle is a little too large, and sticks out a little on both the top and bottom of the handle.  What's the best way to get the metal even with the scales on the handle, without doing any damage to the wood?


This is not a major issue (and I don't feel it at all when I'm cutting when I use my pinch grip), but I'd like to make the handle smooth so it feels good when I pull the knife out of the drawer.


I'm thinking about using automotive sandpaper or possibly a Dremel, but would be curious to hear from those with experience in terms of suggested materials and method.  I appreciate any guidance!

post #2 of 6
The pakka wood of the Hiromotos isn't stabilized that well, and probably used to Japanese hygrometry. You may certainly remove the steel to make it flush with the wooden scales, but the soft stainless clad steel is quite abrasion resistant. You will need coarse sandpaper, in the P120 range. Don't worry for the wood, scratches that will occur can be removed very easily with finer sandpaper, P320-700. And once you got the tang smooth you will notice the same thing with the bolster.
So, I would first try to restore the scales' volume by soaking them in mineral oil.
post #3 of 6

To remove metal?  A file of course, if you keep it straight and level it will only remove metal--until you hit wood.  See if you can find a vice, sandwich the handle between two pieces of scrap wood and clamp the sucker rigid-tight, then file it down.


Stay away from dremel-like tools.  You'll only divot the rest of the metal as well as the wood.


But as Benuser suggests, I'd try soaking the handle in mineral oil first.  You can get this at any drugstore or place that has baby stuff.


Most knife makers attach the scales (handle sides) to the blade, and then flush everything down smooth on a belt sander.  So, at the time, the handles were perfectly flush to the blade.  Wood moves with humidity and lack of humidity..............

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
post #4 of 6

If you know a welder, he can use a well warn flap wheel on an angle grinder that will finesse the metal down to the wood. You may (and probably) will still need to touch up the wood, but it should be minor.   

post #5 of 6

Your problem is very common to Japanese knives, because the the humidity and temperatures vary so drastically that even pakkawood doesn't quite stabilize.


At one point, not that long ago, the handle scales fit perfectly.  Since then they've shrunk as a result of drying out. 


Rather than starting with grinding metal, the first step is to get the scales to expand back to their original and proper fit by oiling them. 


Oil them with ordinary, food-grade mineral oil (from the pharmacy or hardware store), daily.  Wipe oil on generously, let it sit for a few minutes and wipe off the excess.  Repeat daily for a week, then allow two or three days to pass before oiling again.  After two or three weeks the scales will absorb all that they can and also will have swelled to their maximum dimension. 


If you can't get the handles to return to their proper fit after a couple of months, then think about more drastic measures. 



post #6 of 6
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the input. 


Funny, even since I received the knife a couple days ago, it is already better.


I had thought about trying to file down the tang just a bit, but a) oiling seems easier, and b) now that the problem is less noticeable, it seems like it would be harder to file down the metal without damaging the woods.  (Kind of a paradox that if the metal continued to protrude more, I'd be more likely to try to file it down.  Since it's not that bad, it's more likely that oil on the wood will take care of it.)


I'll give the oil a try a give an update in a week or two.


Incidentally, I'm quite happy that I should be able to take care of this.  This knife is really thin and sharp, and just glides through everything I've cut with it so far, and I'm really enjoying cutting with it.

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