Maintenance: One of the most important reasons for a finish is to slow down the exchange of atmospheric moisture but also to keep the wood clean and smooth. Wooden weapons are subject to many stresses and are handled often. While it is important to prevent drying of the wood, it is also important to use a finish that provides the correct degree of grip/slide for manueverability.
Oil Finish: The existing finish can be improved by regular handling of the weapon and routine reapplication of Kingfisher Finish Oil which will give a feeling of control but also allow the wood to slide somewhat through the hand. This is especially important for Jo and staff techniques. In the Kingfisher shop, we use Teak oil initially. This acts as a conditioner and soaks deeply into the wood as it has a very low viscosity. Weapons then receive differential treaments based on grade and color but all are ultimately finished with Kingfisher Finish Oil .
Hiking Sticks: Hiking sticks will need maintenance more often for protection from water and drying damage.
Finishing directions for weapons used in contact:
First of all, inspect your weapon for any damage. You will need to sand out any damaged areas and make a reasonable judgement to replace the weapon if there are cracks or any sign of splintering that could harm you or your partners. If you have a hand cut weapon which shows signs of impact damage, you might still need to use sandpaper. While a hand cut weapon was created without sandpaper and you will lose some of its character, hand cutting is not an option outside of the Kingfisher shop and careful sanding may be required. Use coarse sandpaper until all damaged wood is removed and proceed to medium and fine grit sandpaper.
If your weapon is just in need of light touch up, or if you have restored your weapon as described above, the final finish should be made with Kingfisher finish oil available as an accessory. Your weapon should be smooth and clean. Go over the weapon with the included fine sanding sponge if necessary (see note below). Tip bottle upside down a few times to mix contents. Apply finish with a paper towel in a very thin coat, let set overnight and then sand out lightly with the provided extra fine sanding sponge. Repeat the process once or twice. Don't overdo it!
note: There are two reasons to use the sanding sponge. Firstly, it should be used on a finished surface because it allows for a better bond with the subsequent finish. Secondly, it may be used to smooth out the final coat if the surface feels slightly rough. The sanding sponge is not intended to sand the wood. It adjusts the finished surface.
Reminder: ALL oil finishes absorb atmospheric oxygen to set, they don't really "dry" in the strict sense of the word. This process is exothermic meaning that the process gives off heat. You won't ever notice this unless you carelessly put a bunch of oily rags in the waste. You've heard of spontaneous combustion and this is its cause. Dispose of your oily paper towels and rags appropriately!
Contact In Paired Practice: Due to its unique cellular structure, Appalachian hickory is the toughest and most resilient material available for wooden martial art practice equipment. While most martial artists using wooden swords and staffs do not engage in abusively heavy impact training (and hikers using the Kingfisher Hiking Stick would rarely engage in continual impact exercises), there are some important considerations for those of you engaged in paired practice. There are two considerations - shock strength and dent resistance. In most materials, extreme hardness is associated with brittleness. Hickory, while amongst the hardest domestic American woods, is not as hard as some tropical woods. It has, however, a much higher shock strength than practically any wood and so it is not surprising that some harder species, with higher density and hardness, would superficially appear to be stronger but actually have a much lower overall shock strength. The advantage of a very hard (but brittle) weapon would be its resistance to denting but the drawback is its lower shock strength.
The key consideration when comparing Appalachian Hickory with tropical and exotic woods, including Japanese White Oak, (which gets brittle over time) is that there is nothing that can improve the shock strength of a hard but brittle weapon but there is a procedure to increase the surface hardness of an incredibly tough wood like Appalachian Hickory by using a tempering or work hardening method during the early life of the weapon - a kind of "break in" period. This is known as "Running in ".
Method of "Running in a New Weapon": Preparing a bokken or jo for heavy impact takes some time, patience and control. Consider the surface of the wood: If the weapon is used too aggressively at first - especially against very hard materials - there is potential for more noticeable denting, grain raise and splintering at the perimeter of the dent crater. On the other hand, if it is subjected to slowly increasing impact energies, the surface becomes progressively compressed and hardened with continuous striking. Rather than deep conspicuous dents in isolated areas, the wood will have an overall patina of even compaction noticeable only upon close inspection. The weapon will develop a hard surface with a flexible tough core. This is the condition to be sought and often the weapons of experienced practitioners will achieve this state naturally.
An informative article and very good read on the practical considerations of wood striking wood can be seen at this link: Kim Taylor's "Bokken Bashing". The main lesson is that all wood can be damaged if hit hard enough. This is especially true of weapons that have not been broken in properly. Your Kingfisher sword or staff, made of Appalachian Hickory is unlikely to fail in any case, but the user is cautioned to exercise good judgment and replace the weapon if obvious damage is evident.
Moisture and Warpage: Try to minimize this product's exposure to large changes in humidity; for example, don't leave it in the hot sun, don't rest it near a hot woodstove, don't lay it down in wet grass etc. All wood is subject to constant cyclical exchange of atmospheric moisture which tends to expand and contract the fibers. This exchange is responsible for movement and can result in warpage, especially when long slender items like this are shipped to areas with different climactic conditions. Warpage is usually permanent in hardwoods. Kingfisher Appalachian Hickory, however, has a unique cellular structure that allows for relatively easy straightening. Sight down the weapon, rest one end on the floor as shown and over bend in the opposite direction of the warpage. Note: if you find that moderate pressure is not enough to straighten the weapon, use more leverage and check for straightness again- repeat if necessary. Do not worry, you will not break the hickory! Sometimes it takes a large force to over-bend the weapon and relieve internal stresses in the wood that cause the warp. If you use other methods to bend the wood (like wedging it in a tree crotch or standing on it, just make sure that the ends are constrained in a relatively soft support, like pine wood blocks so that you don't unnecessarily dent the wood at pressure points.
When we adjust wood here in the shop, we often use a rather stout vise (with soft pine wood jaws) to hold the end of the bokken and then simply over bend the bokken in the opposite direction as the warp. Since you will probably not have access to a heavy woodworking vise, it might take a little bit of imagination to find a rigid fixture that will hold the sword. One thing to remember is to find soft wood pads or something similar to firmly hold one end while applying the bending force. Any firmly anchored hold will work. We have an area in the shop with a hole in the foundation that we've lined with soft wood pads and we can easily slide the end of the bokken down into the hole to the desired depth and apply straightening force. Another idea is a crotch in a tree. Another idea is to set the bokken sideways on 2 large wooden blocks supporting each end and then kneel on the bokken with a springing action to over bend. - I'm sure you get the idea! Remember that you will need to over bend to a greater degree than the warp - take a look by sighting down the weapon and checking and repeat if necessary or re- adjust if you've bent it too far. Contact Kingfisher if you have difficulty. We'll be happy to adjust it here and we will replace the weapon if it cannot be straightened.