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Thread: Outdoor tool handle finish

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Wenatchee. Wa

    Outdoor tool handle finish

    I am turning several garden trowel handles about 15" long as gifts. White oak is the wood. What is a recommendation for a finish that will hold up and perhaps can be renewed. Spar varnish seems to be overkill. Sometime back I heard of using a mixture of BLO and Turpentine, don't recall the proportions. Any experienced suggestions?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2016
    Denver, CO
    BLO seems appropriate. General Finishes also makes something called outdoor oil. I like to sand those types of items to a high grit to reduce liquid penetration. Plus it feels nicer in your hand and helps avoid splinters. Reapplication every few months will only take a few minutes.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2019
    Fairbanks AK
    I use "witches brew" on my snow shovels that are outdoors six months of each year. Roughly one part BLO, one part thinner or mineral spirits and one part varnish. Just eye ball it in a mason jar, you don't need to borrow a gram scale from the drug dealer down the block. I consistently am wearing gloves when I shovel snow.

    For warm weather tools like axe hafts I lean towards straight BLO, once daily for a week, once weekly for a month, once monthly for a year, and then annually. I don't like having the varnish on axe hafts that I usually swing bare handed.

    Haven't really tried either on white oak. I have just about a life time supply of ash for tool handles in stock now, and plenty of hickory.

    I do have red oak handles on the BBQ smokers I make. For them I mix paint thinner and BLO in about equal parts and then submerge the wooden handle parts for a couple of days. 15" trowel handles won't fit in a quart mason jar, but if you are making enough of them you might look at a gallon of pickles at Kroger. Once the handles come out of the soak let them air dry for a few days and then buff with a lint free cloth. They will keep oozing for a while after that, but serviceable and hold up well.

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