The finish on a wood (liquid applied to wood at end of making process to protect the wood) is important to me. I want one that is sympathetic to the wood, but which is also safe to use, but I don't want to use varnish or a wood stain. These things are very important to me, especially when using something like Walnut - why ruin a great piece of wood with a poorly applied finish? I haven't yet fully decided on what to go for, but this is where I am at now - then need to test it.
Over the years I've used various traditional finishes - Danish Oil, waxes etc., and these all have their place, depending on the use of the object in hand. Waxes are great for some types of furniture, for example.
But these tool handles are going to be held in the palm of the hand for extended lengths of time, so they need most of all to be safe to hold (i.e. not causing rash etc.) and also be hard wearing.
Now, I'm not chemist, so I can't vouch for any finish myself, particularly on the safety front, but I can read the safety notices provided by manufacturers, and then test it by engraving, using the handles myself. Having considered the options, I've decided to try Liberon's Finishing Oil, something that I've used a lot of in the past on my clocks - then I need to test it.
The manufacturers state that it is 'hard wearing and water resistant finish, Water, heat, alcohol and food acid resistant, & Ideal for kitchens and bathrooms'.
These finishes are a challenge to apply (which means experience) but I have a lot of that, so the application is not a concern to me.
My next step is testing - it is all very well reading what they say, but I need to test it - I haven't had chance to do in earnest yet, but watch this space!.
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