All that's left now is some finishing, both for the handle as well as the blade of the saw. Also, I wanted to use this opportunity to practice a little bit of carving, mostly just for the experience. You can practice and practice and practice on scraps, but rarely does it do as much good as "practicing" on the real thing. One of the biggest reasons I took up building tools (other than the fact I needed some) was to give myself an opportunity to hone some previously un-tried or forgotten skills, and these saws were no exception.
I've acquired an interest in carving as of late, and wanted to practice some for projects I want to do this winter. These handles were a great opportunity to practice a little bit of it, albeit to the horror of others...
On the first ones I tried, I came back in and widened the cut by angling the chip carving knife about 45 degrees.
After I finished carving the patterns, I hand sanded the wood to about 220 grit. More than that is unnecessary, and you risk burnishing the wood so it won't accept a finish properly.
Finishing the Wood Handle
My favorite finish for tool handles is Boiled Linseed Oil (BLO), followed by a few thin coats of shellac. BLO is pretty simple to apply, just wipe it on and wipe it off after about a half hour or so... I do this twice in a day, and let it dry at least overnight before the next stage. I thin it about 20 percent with mineral spirits in the summer and about 50 percent in the winter, so its the consistency of a runny syrup.
For these, I wanted to take it a step further and use something a little nicer - so I only put 2 coats of BLO on the handles - then after it dried, I brushed on a couple coats of shellac. There seems to be some sort of a stigma that surrounds using shellac in flake form, so I'll briefly go though preparing a batch.
I usually don't bother going through any measuring dance... you know, you need xx ounces of flake, xx ounces of alcohol, and you must chant a love sonnet to the lac bug using an ancient celtic dialect while... I'm getting off track, aren't I?
For something close to what's called a "2 lb. cut", or the standard thickness for finishing, I start by filling the jar about 1/3 full of flakes:
Then, add in the alcohol, filling the jar until it's about 2/3 full, put the lid on and shake it up:
It takes at least a couple hours for the flakes to dissolve in the alcohol. When the flakes have dissolved, you need to filter what's left out - I've found that the material from an old tee shirt works best. Others have used coffee filters, but I find they take too long (if I can even get the stuff to go through them) and an old shirt works plenty fine. Why must you filter it? Shellac is made from the secretions of a bug, and the flakes are often unscreened (or only partially screened) to remove the junk that can get into them:
You'll find pieces of bark, pieces of bug - bunches of stuff you don't want to get into your finish. Straining it through a filter of some sort will remove the impurities. It won't remove the wax, though... The wax in shellac isn't always a bad thing, but there are times you might want to remove it. To make your own dewaxed shellac, all you have to do is let it sit in the jar for a few days undisturbed. The wax will settle out to the bottom, and you can then cant off the "dewaxed" shellac off of the top into another container. If you don't - remember to shake up the shellac occasionally as you use to keep the wax in suspension. Actually, you should always remember to shake it a bit before using it, as there will always be something that needs mixing in there.
Just for the experience, I tried a few different methods for applying the shellac, including brushing, sanding, wiping, etc... and found the best method for the handles to be to brush on a couple coats, about an hour apart from each other and allow that to dry overnight. Sand that by hand with 220 grit sandpaper, and wipe on another coat of shellac using cloth from an old tee shirt. After that dries at least a couple hours, hand sand that with 320 grit sandpaper, and wipe on a final coat of shellac with the tee shirt. When that had dried thoroughly, I "sanded" the handle using 2 grits of scotch-brite pad, the first a medium then a finer grade, to where I had just removed the gloss from the finish. A coat of paste wax buffed on at this point to bring back a little sheen and to protect it, and the handle is ready for assembly.