What sandpaper grit do you sand your scales up to? Do you polish your scales afterwards?

Discussion in 'Shop Talk - BladeSmith Questions and Answers' started by TheEdge01, Sep 18, 2020.

  1. TheEdge01

    TheEdge01

    Apr 3, 2015
    I’m about a year into knife making, so I’m still somewhat a newbie at this. As of lately, I have been sanding my wooden scales up to 320 grit using sandpaper then using teak oil and boiled linseed oil to finish things off. The scales are usually nice and smooth but I still haven’t been able to achieve the shiny finish yet. Now to my question, would it be necessary or worth the time and effort going to a higher grit than 320?
    Would I have to coat the scales in super glue or epoxy to give them a shiny appearance?
     
  2. noseoil

    noseoil

    376
    Apr 24, 2013
    With an oil finish, you can go as far as you want. Typically, I start at 220 & work up a mud or slurry to fill the pores. Let it dry completely, then knock it down (wet sand) with 320, wipe with a soft cloth & let it dry again. Next is 400, 600 & 800. If you do this it will take some time, but the results are stunning. After the last sanding, wipe it off with a soft cloth, let it dry, then use a very small dab & wipe with your hands. Let it dry & you have a good finish. I use True-oil & it's a nice finish.
    [​IMG]
     
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  3. Jason Fry

    Jason Fry KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jun 5, 2008
    I typically go to 600 then add a few coats of oil. Some woods like desert ironwood, cocobolo, gidgee, I'll go up to 1200 and buff lightly before the oil.
     
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  4. Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

    Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith ilmarinen - MODERATOR Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 20, 2004
    Noseoil has the right answer. Start with a lower grit to fill the pores with wood dust and oil, then work up the grits to a glass like shine. The trick with a good oil finished handle is to put the oil IN the wood, not ON it.
     
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  5. David Schott

    David Schott

    Sep 27, 2004
    It completely depends on the materials. I think some, but few, really benefit from a glassy polished finish. Others really look and feel bad with anything other than a more rough finish but excel in use having all the grip.

    I do think that with wood many people buff too much, sand too little and skip grits too often. You see lots of polished 300 grit scratches out there. Work from 220 to 320 to 400 to 600 to 800 to 1000 etc. The most important thing is to completely remove the prior grit's scratches. You dont want to be scrubbing away at a leftover 220 grit scratch when you're smoothing things out at 400-600. By the time you hit 600 you'll have a harder time "seeing" individual scratches and a finish will start to emerge without any oil at all.

    I dont recall the last time I really buffed a wood knife handle. Most properly stabilized start to get an almost glassy finish about 800-1000 grit and in my opinion look best with that finish vs then taking it over to the buffer. If you do buff, do it very sparingly.

    I've always liked a very, very fine satin-like, eggshell type finish on most handles. They almost shine like they are polished but are much more eye pleasing and comfortable to handle. Here's one I did years ago that shows the finish well. Nothing on this but a tiny bit of renwax to keep the ironwood from getting dark, no buffing.

    [​IMG]
    Same on these 1911 grips I did (non knife but same finish applied, can see it "shine" here)
    [​IMG]
     
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  6. TheEdge01

    TheEdge01

    Apr 3, 2015
    Beautiful work!! Thank you for your advice!!!
     
  7. DanF

    DanF KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    728
    Apr 17, 2017
    I refinish stringed instruments (to a high gloss finish), that process is very similar to what @noseoil described.
    Oily woods don’t need as much, depending on the knife’s intended use.
     
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  8. Hengelo_77

    Hengelo_77 Basic Member Basic Member

    Mar 2, 2006
    I like using hard woods that take a good hand sanding. I go up to 2500 and micro mesh up to 12.000
     
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  9. TheEdge01

    TheEdge01

    Apr 3, 2015
    As far as wood goes, I mostly use black walnut and cedar. I have some Purple Heart, Bocote, and Ironwood that I plan on using as well.
     
  10. Cushing H.

    Cushing H. Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 3, 2019
    Many here have far, far more experience than me ... but what I have been observing is that with stabilized wood, and oily rosewoods Like cocobolo, the figure In the wood really Starts “popping” at about grit 800 and above. So far I have been taking things to 1000 or 1200 - I am honestly not sure if there is a significant difference between that and 2000 (yes Stacy and others ... that is a question).

    noseoil and Stacy- with an oil finish on non stabilized wood ... do you mean to say that even at the lower grits, like 400 ... you apply oil, let dry, sand, then continue to repeat that process as you work up the grits?

    the only other thing I would add is that it seems like some of the scratches from coarser grits, despite every attempt to See them and get them out, just do not become Visible until you hit 800 or above. Frustrating ... but it could just be me not seeing them when I should...
     
  11. weo

    weo KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Sep 21, 2014
    I'll agree with this. But, in the interest of full disclsure, I'll admit I went to the dollar store yesterday and spend a couple bucks upgrading my visual aides from +1.25 to +2.50, so just 'not seeing them earlier' is difinitely a possibility.
     
  12. Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

    Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith ilmarinen - MODERATOR Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 20, 2004
    Apply the oil and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Apply a few drops more oil and wet sand to make a slurry/paste that you sand into the surface. Wipe off the excess and let completely dry ( could be a couple days). Repeat several times and then continue the process up to 1000 grit. I like it at that point, but you can lightly sand dry to 8000 if you want.
     
  13. Cushing H.

    Cushing H. Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 3, 2019
    WEO - LOL. yeah, that could definitely be a possibility. I have stick - on reader inserts in a pair of my safety glasses. The other day I was profiling a blade and had trouble clearly seeing my scribe line, kept thinking I needed to upgrade my power. Turns out I had unknowingly grabbed my other glasses without the magnifiers...:-(
     
  14. Richard338

    Richard338 Gold Member Gold Member

    May 3, 2005
    Some woods seem to come to life between 800 and 2000.
    I have worked with African Blackwood lately, and was reminded of people complaining that available stock was more brown than black.
    Mine looked somewhat brown until the last few grits and then paste wax, then it went a nice black color.

    After polishing steel to bring out a hamon, anything in wood is a breeze.
     
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  15. Hengelo_77

    Hengelo_77 Basic Member Basic Member

    Mar 2, 2006
    Yes, you can realy tell the difference.
    If you are at 1000 it is not a lot of work to go higher, the finer the paper the faster it goes. Try it and be amazed. Then try micro mesh.
    If you put so much effort in to a knife, get the best out of the wood.
     
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  16. noseoil

    noseoil

    376
    Apr 24, 2013
    A good oil finish shows the beauty of the wood, it's inside the wood, not really on the surface. The reason to start with a coarser paper is to fill the pores & to push the oil into the wood surface itself by wet-sanding. Flooding the surface on the first coat allows the oil to get as far into the wood as possible. Pores allow nutrients to migrate & help the wood stay alive & grow, that's what they're there for in a growing tree.

    This is more of an issue with non-stabilized woods than a polymer-impregnated block of wood. Wood will absorb moisture, water, oil, thinner or whatever you put on it. The oil finishes tend to seal the wood from inside, not the surface. Lacquer, urethane & other finishes (paint, etc.) work by sitting on the surface & are built in layers on top of the material to give a sealed surface & finish. The Danish Oil finish is basically a very thin type of varnish or urethane (depends on the manufacturer as to the base material & chemistry, Watco, Flecto) which soaks into the wood then sets up in the outer layers. It's the same as an oil finish & requires the same step by step process to give it's beauty.
     
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  17. weo

    weo KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Sep 21, 2014
    This is true, and could probably be emphasized to those who need convincing that hand sanding is the bane of knife making....
     
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  18. Cushing H.

    Cushing H. Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 3, 2019
    Oh, I definitely get this. I currently start hand sanding on handles at 220 or 400, depending. I once tried going up to something like 800 on the grinder belt, but the results are just not the same.

    that things go much faster with finer grits is also very clear. I will have to try 2000 and above - as well as a properly done oil finish (I have a lot of unstabilized black walnut kicking around)
     
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  19. Randydb

    Randydb Basic Member Basic Member

    Sep 27, 2014
    I do high gloss finishes with lacquer on drums. There is a definite noticeable difference between 1200 and 2000 grit which is what I go to before I use a mild car buffing compound and then swirl remover to get to a glass finish.

    When I am finishing stabilized scales I wet sand through 2000 and finish with true oil. I notice a real pop to the grain between 800 and 2000 range too.

    It is true about the finer the grit the faster it goes....by the time I am at 800 I am down to around 5 minutes or less/grit on a kinfe. That extra 15 minutes it takes to go 1200, 1500, 2000 is really worth it to me in the way the grain pops in those last few grits.
     
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  20. Randydb

    Randydb Basic Member Basic Member

    Sep 27, 2014
    ...funny one about wet sanding....
    I sit in the living room and wet sand my drums in front of the tv. One day my wife says, "You spend more time rubbing those drums than you spend with me." Not being the brightest bulb in the house, I responded, "Well they remind me of you, slightly round and really loud."
    Wasn't nearly as funny in real life as it had sounded in my head!
     

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