Linseed oil is a popular product used to coat and protect wooden handles on knives, axes, and other tools. I’ve tried it a couple times, but I’m not a big fan of the stuff. It takes multiple coatings over a long period of time to get a decent finish, it seems to rub off easily with use, and that whole spontaneous-ignition-of-linseed-oil-soaked-rags thing makes me a little nervous.
My preference is with Howard Citrus-Shield Premium Natural Paste Wax. I first stumbled upon this stuff in a hardware store while I was looking for linseed oil. The store didn’t seem to stock the oil, but the “Citrus Shield” can caught my eye. I remembered reading that Ragnar sometimes used some sort of orange-scented wax on certain wooden knife handles, so I brought the can home to try it out.
It turns out that the stuff works really well. All it consists of is a mixture of natural wax and oil. Initially, there is a very strong citrus scent, but this quickly wears off after application. I use it on all my wooden handled blades now, including the specially processed bamboo handle on the BCNW-O1 (which is supposed to be water resistant, but I found that it would swell some when damp before I treated it with the wax).
The application is very simple. The instructions on the can say to apply a thin coat with a clean rag, but I just use my fingers. After rubbing it into handle, I let it sit for 5 minutes before wiping it off with a clean rag. If this is the first time I’m treating the wood, I’ll apply and wipe off the wax about 3 times. After the final wipe down, I rub the handle with fine 0000 steel wool. I don’t put a whole lot of time or effort into this buffing, though. I’m not seeking a shiny finish, just practical protection.