View Full Version : care and feeding of wooden weapons

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Lorien Lowe
01-07-2014, 02:46 PM
what oil to use? Tung, beeswax, lemon oil? How often? Stored flat or standing on end?

Thanks for any input, experience, or stories :)

Demetrio Cereijo
01-07-2014, 02:59 PM
Me: linseed oil and stored flat.

Fred Little
01-07-2014, 04:29 PM
Hi Lorien,

Standard lemon oil works fine for me. Once a day for a week, once a week for a month, once a month for a year, as needed thereafter. From time to time, maybe a quick lick and a promise with 400 grit sandpaper if needed. I've had warpage problems from standing weapons on end, but in each case, that was also associated with a wide lateral variation in the grain of the wood from which the buki were made.

I haven't broken a bokken in over a decade and have a couple of working bokken that are closer to twenty than ten years old. YMMV.


Janet Rosen
01-07-2014, 06:27 PM
Because I'm lazy and worth with what I have....once a year I put two or three drops of olive oil in my palms, rub them, then rub my bokken...repeat with my jo. Store them lying down.
They are both hickory and are about 15 years old.

01-07-2014, 06:46 PM
1/2 tung + 1/2 linseed. very fine grade sand paper to smooth. then rub on the oil mixture. every six months would be fine. i got a weapon rack that lay the weapon flat.

i feed my weapons with bad aikido folks which most of them are. they whined and whimpered a bit, but my weapons like it. :D

01-07-2014, 09:35 PM
Wood... Low maintenance. Wood warps because it can - horizontal or vertical storage method makes no difference. But don't store in sunlight - UV will damage finish and breakdown surface (creating splinters and soft spots). Various folks swear by lemon oil, linseed oil and/or hard waxes. I don't bother with any maintenance at all. As long as you keep it out of the sunlight and keep it dry, it should last for decades. Oiling and waxing once every couple of years certainly won't hurt the wood, but hardly needed.

01-07-2014, 11:08 PM
Constant use and sweet from my hands :)

01-08-2014, 09:27 AM
Me: no oil, no sandpaper, stored flat on the floor in their case when not in use. I find that vertical storage tends to warp a jo pretty fast, and horizontal storage on two points of support (as a standard weapons rack) may do it even faster. I have a jo that's close to 20 years old and that has been stored by the above method, and not a bit of a warp.

01-08-2014, 11:33 AM
For me...

Sand to remove the finish (usually a water-based acrylic) and splinters. I prefer Linseed oil; old-skool is to cut the linseed oil with mineral spirits for the first several applications to improve the penetration in to the wood. Wait 30 minutes after application and wipe excess. You should not let either tung or linseed oil set up on the wood, this will leave a sap-like tacky residue. The heavier oils will have better preservative features (hence why linseed oil is still the favorite of gardeners for wooden tools). Some places do not recommend sanding as it can clog pores in the wood, especially if you use old paper and sand for a prolonged period of time. Unfortunately, most of us do not have fancy tools to plane the wood instead of sanding. General rule of thumb for me is periodic sanding and oiling when the wood feels "dry", roughly every 3-6 months.

As for storage... living conditions storage is best (comfortable temperature and medium-low humidity). Avoid extreme temperature (heat or cold) and extreme humidity. Vertical storage is fine in ideal conditions, but horizontal is better if the weapons are exposed to fluctuating temperature or humidity.

Cliff Judge
01-09-2014, 01:32 PM
I hate linseed oil because it turns my weapons yellow. Someone recently told me that this might because i have tried to use the boiled linseed oil you can get from the hardware store and that there is a different type of product available in art and craft stores that does not stain weapons yellow. But I can also get tung oil at my local hardware stores and that really does the trick.

To prevent warping, I don't buy weapons made of hickory....

Lorien Lowe
01-17-2014, 03:37 AM
Thanks for your feedback, all.

Michael Douglas
01-17-2014, 11:12 AM
If it is varnished ... nothing!

If bare wood : half & half raw linseed oil & turps : drop in the hand, rubbed in.
Apply once a week if new, once every six months if old.

02-22-2014, 06:16 PM
Know what type of wood you have. Most weapons are made of white oak or impact grade hickory. There are weapons made of exotic woods like teak cocbolo, rosewood, purple heart and composites! These are usually custom weapons since the material cost can be quite pricey!

I assume you are asking about how to care for either Japanese oak (shiro kasha) or American hickory. Both woods, if from a excellent grade, will hold up to hard training for many years. The maintenance is basically the same for Jo, Bokken (or tanto); however, you may wish to finish them differently.

Before starting out, examine the wood carefully. Shallow dings and dents from normal training are expected and can be handled with a re-finishing process. A skilled woodcrafts person should probably handle major damage, deep splintering or gouges found on the wood. But this would be the exception rather than the norm.

Start by smoothing out scratches and dents using a medium grit sand paper. Use a sanding block if needed. Follow this with a second pass using a fine grit paper. If you want to get fastidious do a third pass with super fine paper. IMO the later is not necessary. Wipe down the wood with a clean cloth or paper towel before completing the re-finish process with an oiling.

Boiled linseed oil is the most commonly used finish. If you are working on a Jo staff, this tool is designed to slide through your hands. If you mix a small amount of mineral spirits into the linseed oil, it will dry on the wood with a smooth slippery feel.

The bokken (and tanto) are designed to be held onto during use. If you make a mixture of linseed and tung oil (10 part linseed 2 part tung) the final result will be a "sticky grip" on the wood as your hands warm up the finish during training.

Using a rag, begin by dapping the weapon's ends first. This will allow for a deeper penetration. Liberally wipe the weapon and then let it set for 10 minutes. Wipe away excess oils with a clean rag. Depending on your climate, ambient temperature and humidity the wood may take a few days to fully dry.

There are some folks who use other oils and waxes. The aforementioned procedure is widely used and is effective. It's served me well for decades. Remember to use good safety habits like wearing eye, face and hand protection. Oils are flammable so take care not to get them close to heat sources and dispose of oily rags appropriately.

I re-finish my personal weapons twice a year. The dojo weapons get looked at more frequently and are re-finished 3 - 4 times a year. Large splintering and grain delimitation are the most common reasons injuries occur, so we keep everyone safe and reduce replacement cost by paying close attention to these weapons.

In terms of storage, if you use your weapons frequently (as you should) keeping them in a weapons bag stored bokken handle down should cause no problems. If they are left dormant for extended periods I would recumbent laying them flat and in a place out of extreme temperatures.

02-22-2014, 09:11 PM
For good times, wad up your linseed-oil-soaked rags and drop them on a cookie sheet... then watch as they spontaneously burst into flames. You'll never dispose of them carelessly again.

02-23-2014, 07:04 PM
For good times, wad up your linseed-oil-soaked rags and drop them on a cookie sheet... then watch as they spontaneously burst into flames. You'll never dispose of them carelessly again.

Yes you are correct I call this the power of the demonstration:p