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Years ago while in school studying metalsmithing, a fellow student made himself an attractive tool holder out of oak.  He could keep all his needle files, punches, scribes and other small tools readily available  while at the bench.  Unfortunately after just a few days all his tools were heavily rusted where they contacted the oak.  I have not seen this kind of thing again and also see folks here and other sites using oak for knife scales and wonder if they ever have this rusting issue.  I do have a handsome small chunk of oak and think about using it but  wonder if it will be a problem down the road.  Anybody have any experience with this?

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Raw oak is full of tannins, so if the tool holder was not really dry, that might account for  rusting.  I don't use oak for handles because, mostly, it's not very interesting.  Straight grain and not much figure.  I have seen curly oak and tiger stripe, and those would be nice in small bits.

Stabilized or well sealed it should not be a problem for handles.

 

Geoff 

Edited by Geoff Keyes
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oak looks good if you burn it and wire brush it or artificially age it, its got really hard dense growth rings alternating with softer porous rings. its pretty plain though, it might chip if you have sharp corners on the handle and its dropped and hits one. 

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I think the reason you see people using oak is because it (in the form of kiln-dried red oak) is the only hardwood readily available at the big box home improvement stores in the US.  Red oak will cause rust.  I'm with Geoff, though, I don't use it much because it's usually pretty uninspiring to look at. You can turn white oak into faux bog oak with vinegaroon or aquafortis.  Quartersawn white oak, aka tiger oak, is pretty in larger sections like flooring, furniture, and so on, but usually isn't figured enough for small knife scales.  This, when darkened to resemble bog oak, is a pretty good substitute at a much lower price than the real stuff.  

People also think of oak as being "strong" wood.  It is, but it's also fairly brittle, which is why you don't see it used for hammer handles (except for Japanese red oak, apparently it has some spring to it the other species don't have, unless that's just more of the hype so often associated with things Japanese).  

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the denser grain stuff is much better but its hard to find, ive used if for knife, axe, tool handles and its okay if you dont have anything else. as an axe handle, if you miss a swing and hit the handle on the target you will crack the handle. my dad uses if for banjos, lots of people say it warps and cracks, lots of people also have no idea what theyre talking about. it will warp and crack, so can any other wood if you pick the wrong piece or mistreat it. 

 

you can make a perfectly fine oak bow, so it will flex if tapered right, but for a knife it would have to be part of the looks, otherwise its too plain.

 

here is a knife with spalted oak and iron and copper fittings, its a pretty plain knife despite having a few parts to it, the other side of the handle is not spalted and still looks as good. oak flooring is very common but only thick enough for small handles.

 

https://www.instagram.com/p/B6HZd2LHJ2p/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet

Edited by steven smith
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stabilized white oak makes some excellent knife scales...

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This is one I did a couple of months back

Wapiti-Hunter-Butcher-Knife.jpg

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This is one that I did a few years ago.  It was a big chunk of stabilized Sheoak.  I've never seen a piece of Sheoak with rays and I just had to buy it

 

7772-Keyes Geoff-26945 (624x800).jpg

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I'm with Garry on this one. If you have the right cut and it is tight grain, white oak can be quite interesting and beautiful (the stuff you get at the box stores usually DOESN'T fit this description). I've used it on a couple of handles finished to 6-800 grit (unstablized) and it has held up very nicely.

 

Of course the white oak I am using came from a 280+ year old white oak (was about 5 feet DBH) that "had to be taken down" because it was in the way of widening the road. Long story short but I got about 1000 BF of the 6-12 foot long 12/4 trimmings after the owner processed it into beams for his niece to refurbish her barn. Was told what I got was only good "as fire wood" :wacko:. I air dried the wood for several years and I haven't seen any rust develop on the knife. The wood is separated form the steel by epoxy though.

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1 hour ago, Bill Schmalhofer said:

I'm with Garry on this one. If you have the right cut and it is tight grain, white oak can be quite interesting and beautiful (the stuff you get at the box stores usually DOESN'T fit this description). I've used it on a couple of handles finished to 6-800 grit (unstablized) and it has held up very nicely.

 

Of course the white oak I am using came from a 280+ year old white oak (was about 5 feet DBH) that "had to be taken down" because it was in the way of widening the road. Long story short but I got about 1000 BF of the 6-12 foot long 12/4 trimmings after the owner processed it into beams for his niece to refurbish her barn. Was told what I got was only good "as fire wood" :wacko:. I air dried the wood for several years and I haven't seen any rust develop on the knife. The wood is separated form the steel by epoxy though.

Mine came from an old English oak tree in my cosuins yard. It was on the roadside and hung over the power lines. They were quoted $2000 to trim it or they would fell it for free which is what my cousin decided on. She said the high trim cost was for the ammount of time the power board would have to have the road closed with traffic controll etc and as it was a trim would be an ongoing need but felling it would take a 1/ 2 hour and be done. I got a couple of the big crotches where large branches joined the trunk. 

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Thanks for all the replies.  The pieces I have are bits gleaned from my firewood cutting activities - sometimes it looks to interesting to burn so it goes in a pile in the garage.  One of the pieces I have has a series of birdseye like features but just in a small area and would look good on a small knife.

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