How to Preserve Wooden Tool Handles

By Wade Shaddy
Use oil to protect old tool handles.

Some wooden tool handles are years old, maybe even antiques. The wood gets crumbly, dried out and will break easily if not maintained. You can bring those handles back to life by giving them what they need. Linseed oil will give your wooden handles a supple, life-like quality that makes them appear almost new again. They will gain the flexibility they need to perform without breaking apart as the penetrating oil sinks deep into the pores of the wood.

Wrap the handle with a piece of 80 grit sandpaper. Spin the sandpaper around the handle in the palm of your hand to remove all of the old gray surface of the wood.

Scrub at the handle inside the curves and along the rough edges with the sandpaper to smooth off any chips or splinters. Use a putty knife to force wood putty into all the cracks. Let the putty dry for 15 minutes and sand the handle again until all the gray is gone from the wood.

Dip a soft cloth into the linseed oil. Apply the cloth to the handle and liberally coat the handle with the oil on the cloth. Let the oil run down inside the handle. Let it soak in for one hour and then apply more oil. Let it soak in overnight and apply another coat of oil.

Apply more oil once a week for a month and then once every six months after that.

Tip

You don't need to remove the handle, just leave it on the tool. Boiled linseed oil dries faster but is more expensive, use it if you desire. It works the same way.

Warning

Wear gloves if you use the handle within a few days of the oil applications. Linseed oil can remain tacky for several days. Even though linseed oil is non-toxic, wear breathing protection if you are using it in an enclosed area.

About the Author

Specializing in hardwood furniture, trim carpentry, cabinets, home improvement and architectural millwork, Wade Shaddy has worked in homebuilding since 1972. Shaddy has also worked as a newspaper reporter and writer, and as a contributing writer for Bicycling Magazine. Shaddy began publishing in various magazines in 1992, and published a novel, “Dark Canyon,” in 2008.