How To Waterproof A Wooden Knife Handle – No More Worry

How To Waterproof A Wooden Knife Handle

Wooden handles bring a touch of elegance and natural beauty to your prized knives. However, wood is a hygroscopic material, meaning it readily absorbs and releases moisture from its surroundings. Without proper protection, prolonged exposure to moisture can lead to the deterioration of knife handles, thus compromising their durability and integrity. Waterproofing helps form a protective barrier against moisture, thus preventing swelling, cracking, and the growth of bacteria.

How To Waterproof A Wooden Knife Handle

There are numerous waterproofing techniques available; so choose the one that best suits the type of wood and your own preferences. Before proceeding, prepare the surface of the handle, ensuring it is clean and free from any dirt, oil, or debris. Gently sand the handle to create a smooth and even surface to which the coating can adhere.

Varnish or Polyurethane Coating

Apply a varnish or polyurethane coating is a common waterproofing method. It forms a durable and glossy coating on the surface, sealing the wood and preventing moisture absorption. To apply varnish, follow these steps:

Step 1. Use a clean brush to apply a thin and even coat of varnish or polyurethane to the handle. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the recommended number of coats and the drying time between each coat. It is crucial to apply multiple thin coats rather than one thick coat in order to achieve a smoother and more durable finish.

Step 2. Allow the handle to cure completely according to the product’s instructions. Once cured, lightly sand the handle with fine-grit sandpaper to remove any imperfections or rough spots. Apply additional coats if desired, ensuring sufficient drying time between each coat. Finally, buff the handle with a soft cloth to achieve a smooth and polished finish.

Epoxy Resin

For ultimate waterproofing and protection, epoxy resin can be an excellent option. It creates a protective coating that seals the wood, preventing moisture from seeping in. Follow these steps to use epoxy resin:

Step 1: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for mixing the epoxy resin. Apply a thin and even coat of the resin to the handle using a brush or applicator. Take care to avoid any drips or excess pooling of the resin.

Step 2: Allow the epoxy resin to cure according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This may involve a specific drying time or the use of heat. Once cured, gently sand the handle to remove any imperfections or roughness. Apply additional coats if desired, allowing proper drying time between each coat. Finally, buff the handle with a soft cloth to achieve a smooth and polished finish.


Wax is another popular option for waterproofing knife handles. It creates a protective layer that repels water and enhances the natural beauty of the wood. Here is how to apply wax:

Step 1. Using a clean cloth or brush, apply a thin layer of wax to the handle, working it into the wood to ensure even coverage. Allow the wax to dry according to the product’s instructions.

Step 2. Once the wax has dried, use a clean cloth to buff the handle, removing any excess wax and achieving a smooth, glossy finish. Repeat the waxing and buffing process as needed to maintain the protective layer.

Important Tips

  • Ensure that all surfaces, including edges and end grain, are adequately sealed; moisture can penetrate these areas if left unprotected.
  • Apply multiple coats of the chosen waterproofing product to enhance the level of protection. Allow each coat to thoroughly dry before applying the next for the best results.
  • You can use a combination of waterproofing methods for enhanced results. For example, you can apply a varnish or polyurethane coating as a base layer and then follow up with a layer of wax for added moisture resistance.


Once you have successfully waterproofed, it is important to ensure its waterproofing properties are maintained at optimal levels for optimal performance. Here are a few maintenance tips to consider:

Regular Cleaning: Clean the handle using a solution of mild soap and water. Refrain from using chemical products meant to be used in dishwashers, as these could remove a coating that provides protection from water.

Drying Properly: After cleaning, ensure that the handle is thoroughly dried. To prevent moisture from penetrating through any small cracks or imperfections, it is essential to allow the handle to air dry completely before storing it.

Periodic Reapplication: Depending on the waterproofing method chosen, periodic re-application may be necessary to maintain the protective coating. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions, or consider re-applying the chosen waterproofing agent annually or as needed.

How To Polish Wood Knife Handles

How To Polish Wood Knife Handles

Polishing wooden handles is an excellent way to restore their natural beauty and to protect them from further damage. I will guide you through a step-by-step process to help you achieve shiny, well-maintained handles for your knives. Let’s get started!

Materials Needed:

  1. Fine-grit sandpaper (220-320 grit)
  2. Clean cloth or towel
  3. Mineral spirits or denatured alcohol
  4. Wood polish or finish
  5. Soft-bristle brush or cotton swabs
  6. Microfiber cloth

Step 1: Begin by removing the knife blade from the handle, if it is detachable. This will prevent accidental scratching or damage to the blade. If the handle is fixed, ensure that the blade is safely covered or secured to avoid any accidents.

Step 2: Sand the handle using fine-grit sandpaper (220-320 grit). Gently sand the entire surface of the wood handle to remove any dirt, grime, or previous coatings, while also smoothing out the surface. Sand in the direction of the wood grain to avoid causing scratches. Apply light pressure when sanding and be patient to ensure a uniform finish. Once you have finished sanding, wipe away any residue with a clean cloth.

Step 3: Moisten a clean cloth or towel with mineral spirits or denatured alcohol and gently wipe the entire handle to remove any remaining dust, oils, or stains. This ensures a clean surface for the polish or finish to adhere properly.

Step 4: Apply a suitable wood polish or finish that is compatible with the handle material. Use a soft-bristle brush or a cotton swab to apply a small amount of the polish or finish. Begin by coating the handle’s surface evenly, making sure to cover all its areas, including its corners and crevices. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding its application and drying time.

Step 5: Once the polish or finish has dried according to the manufacturer’s instructions, use a soft-bristle brush or a clean, dry microfiber cloth to gently buff the handle. Apply light pressure in circular motions to bring out the shine and enhance the appearance of the wood. Continue buffing until you achieve the desired luster.

Step 6: Inspect the handle for any missed spots or imperfections. If necessary, repeat the process of applying polish and buffing until the handle looks evenly polished. Take care not to overapply the polish or finish, as this can lead to a sticky or greasy feel.

Step 7: If you have removed the knife blade, carefully reassemble it to the handle following the manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure that it is firmly connected before use.

How To Care For Wooden Handles

Proper care and maintenance of wooden handles are essential to ensure their longevity and preserve their natural beauty. Here are some tips for proper care and maintenance:

Keep it Clean: Cleaning is crucial for maintaining wooden handles. After each use, wipe the handle with a damp cloth to remove any dirt, grime, or food residue. Avoid immersing the handle in water or soaking it, as excessive moisture can damage the wood. Make sure to dry the handle thoroughly to prevent the growth of mold or mildew.

Oil the Handle: Periodically oiling helps maintain their luster and prevent drying or cracking. Food-safe oils, such as mineral oil or cutting board oil, are excellent options. Apply a small amount of oil onto a clean cloth and rub it into the handle in the direction of the grain. Let the oil soak in for a few hours or overnight, then wipe off any excess oil. We have explored the best type of oil for knives and handles; you can read the full article here.

Avoid Extreme Temperatures: Wood is sensitive to changes in temperature, so it is essential to protect wooden handles from extreme heat or cold. Avoid leaving knives or tools with handles near hot surfaces or in direct sunlight for prolonged periods of time. Additionally, avoid exposing them to freezing temperatures, as the wood can become brittle and prone to cracking.

Store Properly: When not in use, store wooden-handled knives in a cool, dry place away from moisture and humidity. Consider using blade covers or sheaths to protect the handles from accidental damage. Avoid overcrowding your storage area to prevent unnecessary pressure or potential scratches.

Regular Inspection: Periodically inspect your knife handle for any signs of wear, cracking, or splintering. Catching and addressing issues early can help prevent further damage. If you notice any damage or rough spots, lightly sand the affected area and reapply a protective oil or finish.

Handle with Care: Treat your handle with gentle care to avoid unnecessary wear and tear. Do not use excessive force, twisting, or prying motions that could strain or damage the handle. Always use the appropriate tool for the task at hand and handle your knives or tools with respect. Additionally, you can wrap it with leather for a greater grip and improved durability. We have written a complete article on this topic; you can read the full guide here.

Refinishing: Over time, wooden handles may require refinishing to restore their original beauty. If the finish becomes worn or dull, lightly sand the handle to remove any imperfections, and then apply a fresh coat of wood oil or finish. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the specific product you are using.

Frequently Asked Questions & Answers

What are the different methods for waterproofing?

There are several methods for waterproofing a knife handle, including applying oils, and varnishes, or using specialized wood sealers. Oils and varnishes will help protect a handle from moisture and dirt, while specialized wood sealers are specifically designed to waterproof wood.

How to treat wood knife handles?

Clean the handle’s surface with mild soapy water, then apply a coat of mineral oil or wood conditioner. Allow the conditioner to dry completely before buffing off any excess with a soft cloth. Reapply the oil or conditioner every few weeks to maintain the wood’s condition.

Are wood knife handles sanitary?

No, they are not considered sanitary as they can potentially harbor bacteria, dirt, and other contaminants. It is thus essential to routinely clean and disinfect knife handles in order to reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses.

How long does it take for the handle to dry?

Drying times vary based on the product and environmental conditions, so it is crucial to allow sufficient drying time between coats and before handling the knife. Check the product label for the recommended drying times.

Do you need to stabilize wood for knife handles?

Yes, it is usually recommended to stabilize wood when making knife handles in order to help prevent warping, cracking, and splitting. Stabilizing wood typically involves filling the wood pores with resin, which strengthens the material and helps to prevent moisture from seeping in.


Whether you choose to varnish, apply a polyurethane coating, or wax, or use an epoxy resin, proper waterproofing will help preserve the beauty and functionality of your knife handle. Regular maintenance, including the periodic reapplication of the chosen waterproofing treatment, will help maintain the effectiveness of the protective barrier. Remember to exercise caution when cleaning your knife, avoiding prolonged exposure to water and ensuring the handle is thoroughly dried after washing.

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