The Cutting Edge

The official blog of Knife Depot

How to Care For Knives with Wooden Handles

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.


  1. Very good advice. Look at any thrift store and you will see abused wood handled knives.

  2. Thank you. I received a set of Rosewood handled knives for Christmas. I thought I should oil them, but wanted to make sure. I have vegetable oil, olive oil, and mineral oil. Now I feel confident that any of these would work, though I’ll probably use the mineral oil.

    • I have a vintage set of rosewood handled flatware that I have not used in years. I have decided to start using it on a daily basis. How can I best protect the handles. I know to hand wash, no dishwasher. I thought there was a sealer I could use? It’s not sold in California and I don’t remember the name of it. It was safe for use in the kitchen. My set is Palisander by Laffer.

  3. I have a 40 piece set of vintage Aspen Trend Pacific stainless steel flatware with wood handles that are blended with streaks of a composite material. I want to reseal them. Need your advice as to what to use that is durable and long lasting. Laquer? varnish ? wipe-on poly?
    thanks, Joyce

    • We have used the same flatware that you have for over 40 years. We have it in both our RV, indoor kitchen and outdoor kitchen. Periodically, when necessary we will use steel wool on it to smooth it out, then Formsby’s oil treatment that I apply with a cloth. Hang the pieces by a string overnight, and it’s as beautiful as new and good for a few more years!

  4. I really satisfy from this great and necessary information that you have included here. thanks

  5. Steven Harding

    March 9, 2020 at 11:34 pm

    I like to use walnut oil for my wooden handled knives. It is non toxic which is a plus for food prep. It smells good and doesn’t go rancid.

  6. Please DO NOT use an oil that bacteria, aka food borne pathogens, can thrive on. DO NOT use olive oil, any vegetable oil, etc.. Use only Food Grade Mineral Oil.

  7. Your comment about using canola or olive oil worries me. Those are food based oils that will eventually turn rancid in the handle and possibly smell quite bad.

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