Whether you have a custom knife with a handle made from desert ironwood or a set store-bought steak knives, caring for knives with wooden handles requires more care than steel handles.
Since wood is a natural material, it’s susceptible to rotting, splintering and other issues if not taken care of properly. There are also two major types of wooden handles you should pay attention to: those that are stabilized and those that are not.
Stabilized wooden handles have all of the pores, holes and extra space filled in with resin to make the wood waterproof and generally less likely to warp. The knives that haven’t been treated can swell and crack with exposure to too much water. However, knives that aren’t stabilized tend to retain more of the natural wood feel and look.
Despite the differences, here are some tips you should remember when caring for knives with wooden handles.
Do not put the knife in a dishwasher
Putting a knife with a wooden handle—even if it’s a steak knife—in the dishwasher is a death sentence. Exposing the knife to so much abuse, moisture and temperature changes will cause the knife to shrink and/or swell, meaning your knife will get blemishes and other unpleasant traits.
Do not soak the knife
If there’s grime stuck on a knife, don’t even consider soaking it in water. Wooden handles can become water damaged.
Avoid prolonged exposure to direct sunlight
Leaving the knife on the dashboard in a hot car for a whole day is simply not a smart move. It’s important to store knives with wooden handles in dry and cool areas. Excessive heat can cause the handle to dry out.
Oil the knife frequently
At least once a year, you should aim to give your wooden knife handles a thorough oiling. There are many different wood oils at knife stores, but some people simply prefer to use canola oil or olive oil. Doing this consistently keeps the knife healthy.
Wash and dry by hand after use
Even though you shouldn’t soak a knife or put it in a dishwasher, you should still wash the knife and its handle often. When you do clean the knife, wash it by hand and dry it off quickly.