I bought a beat up HI Uddha sword about a year back where the handle was toast. The cool part was that the blade was made by Bura, who was one of the best kamis in Nepal. He had to retire due to health problems and his blades are collector’s items now. At any rate, I decided to replace the trashed handled with black paper micarta, acid etched the blade and made a custom Kydex sheath. It has a new owner now but thought you might find it interesting.
This HI Sirupati had a 16-17″ blade and was about 21″ overall when it arrived to us with a busted handle so the first step was to boil it and a few others with bad handles and then pry it off:
I made two new handles by gluing assembled blocks around the tangs of the two Sirupatis. I didn’t mention it before, but they are twins – both about 21″ long so you can see a before and after shot. The trick was to form a block made of black paper micarta and black glass reinforced Acraglas epoxy. I then used my new Esteem grinder to remove the parts of the micarta that didn’t feel like a handle:
The following photos are of the first completed Sirupati that has an acid etched blade and its custom sheath made from 0.093″ thick Kydex:
The intent of posting this is to show how a very traditional looking khukuri can look after some modernizing.
I am routinely asked how to rehydrate khukuri wood handles that have dried out over time. This is a service we provide when tuning khukuris and have learned a few tricks along the way that we can share. We approach rehydration or moisturizing by using a 50/50 mix of quality boiled linseed oil (BLO) and turpentine, which we purchase by the gallon from our local Ace Hardware store and sometimes Lowes. The turpentine helps thin the BLO and avoids it becoming unduly tacky.
The procedure is pretty simple so let me outline it. I see handles that often need some tinder loving care such as this Keshar Lal Villager Utility Knife (KLVUK) khukuri handle:
My first step is to do any wood repairs such as gluing cracks, filling holes and sanding. It is very common to find a poor fit between the end cap and the wood for example and I will true it up all the way around either with sanding strips or a sanding mop such as what is shown here:
A mop is good for fast touch ups but not for leveling surfaces or otherwise intentionally shaping the wood. I buy big shop rolls of 1″ wide sand paper in 80, 120, 220 and 320 grits so I can select the grit I need.
The next step is to soak the handle in the turpentine and BLO mixture. I shoot for it being about 90-100 degrees and soak the wood for at least four hours.
I then rub the handle down with a blue shop towel to remove the liquid and let it air dry for about a day. The results are striking. The below photo shows three KLVUKs that arrived with basically the same color of wood that I picked for this story for that very reason. The bottom handle is untouched. The middle handle is after sanding and the top handle is after following the above process. This helps you see the results.
Here is one of our completed KLVUKs:
I hope this helps you do some care on your blades as well.