Finishing Rosewood


New member
First post.  I'm building a dovetail saw and I want to use a piece of rosewood for the handle.  I usually finish my saw handles with boiled linseed oil, mineral spirits and wax. My question: is this oil mix a good choice for rosewood?
Thanks Nick
Hi Nick,

I would leave the handle unfinished. Rosewood generally has enough natural oil along with the stuff that will come off your hands over time. However, I've used a product by Birchwood Casey that's called Tru-oil. Made originally to finish gun stocks but many guitar makers use it sometimes in place of lacquer since it's much easier to apply. A few rubbed-on coats will give it a nice glossy sheen. Let us know how you make out.

Hi Nick
  I repair a lot of rosewood furniture and the one advantage I have is that I get to see how finishes hold up over time and how they fail. Rosewood [with it's high oil content] is an amazing wood to work with. And if it's burned, it smells like roses. The draw back is that finishes don't like to stay attached to it. If a finish is applied to it with out removing the surface oil[ with DNA] the natural oils in the wood will push the finish from the surface. The process is excel orated  by heat. The best finish results are with shellac, the alcohol gives extra bite.
  On the other hand, because it's  a tool handle, I think I would take Mickey's advice and leave it bare. And the use of BLO under any finish is a bad idea. It's like filling a sponge with water before mopping up the spill. If the pores are full of BLO, there will be no room for the finish to grab-on too.    Randy
When I make tool handles etc. out of rose wood I usually sand them up to 1000 grit. Most dense tropicals will take a beautiful polish. Rosewood that I've used I've been able to get to a mirror finish, without any finish on them. I go to 1000 grit, this is a better than satin finish but doesn't show all the marks from moving tools around on a bench. But I usually give the wood a good coat of wax. It makes any dripped glue or anything else clean off easily.

And to see how much oil is in the wood, take a little scrap and put in in some rubbing alcohol overnight. It will turn the alcohol into a dye!
Nick, Nick, Nick! You should pay more attention to your cutting surface. Handles are superfluous. I don't mean to demean your question but your handle will follow your lead. With that said a good handle is a good friend.
Sorry, I didn't know what the rules were now I do.  I will continue to read and learn.  Thank you all for your time and advice.  Nick
Don't worry about Jeff, his "dog gone "bark is worse than his bite. Welcome to the forum. The handle is the interface between human flesh and steel so it needs to be comfortable to hold, if it looks nice that is an added bonus (why should furniture be the only one that gets to look nice). The handle is really the only real difference on the good saws being made nowadays as sharpening isn't permanent and the steel is pretty much the same. I would go with either the shellac or wax, I prefer a handle to get it's finish from the hand of the user.
Welcome to the forum
Nick, I should have been a little more diplomatic. Every one's posts was very helpful and mine was not. I do apologize for that. I would hope that you take from this that there are no rules. With posts on this forum, just as period construction techniques you should pick and choose your techniques and posts to see what works for you. Joinery construction is pretty well set but technique is wide open.
Rosewood does have a great deal of natural oils already which complicates a finished surface adhesion. Hand use only adds to the problem of finish adhesion. Shellac will dry if applied over butter. I would not recommend this as a morning spread over toast though. Wax might be your best bet. I have gone over rosewood and teak with lacquer thinner to remove some of the surface oils to help with finish adhesion. This is probably not a technique that should be used on a handle.
I should say that one of my favorite and most cherished hand tools is an older saw that my brother made the handle for.
Nick, If you were to decide upon a wax coating what type of wax might you consider? Maybee bee's wax! Carnauba is one of the hardest waxes I am familiar with but with your posting this might be a good place to start discussing wax finishes on period pieces. Much of the Eastern shore of the States ( especially inland) didn't have access to palm trees so what wax finishes might they have used?  Thank you for your posting ( and looking forward to your future postings) and beeing a supporting member of SAPFM. I hope you enjoy this website
In your earlier post you stated, " Shellac will dry if applied over butter. I would not recommend this as a morning spread over toast though. Wax might be your best bet."
What kind of wax would you recommend on toast?

My prior post was in jest as is this one. Your posts are always good to read. Your advice to Nick to read all the ideas and chose one to try is good. To paraphrase Ike, Woodworking is always easy to do when you are a thousand miles away and using a keyboard. '
practice on scrap!