Originally published on 06SEP2011 for Examiner.com

K&B, LLC co-owner and instructor Don Alley is a martial arts, personal protection, and emergency preparedness writer. Many of his articles originally appeared in Examiner.com. As these articles are able to be retrieved from old web caches, they will be posted here.

Many martial arts require the use of training tools, wooden sticks shaped like swords or knives, or the weapons are actually wooden, such as the staff, nunchaku, or tonfa. As training tools, we rely on these to both practice in techniques and stand up to the rigors of martial training. For some, the training tools are kept in the car during the day, as students go right from work to their dojo. So, these items may experience severe temperature cycling in summer and winter. To make our training tools last as long as possible, it is important to adopt an inspection and maintenance cycle for them.

  • Prior to each use give the item a once over visual and tactile inspection. Ensure there are no splinters or other irregularities, such as cracks, that might injure someone or be a sign of impending breakage.
  • After each class, ensure the item has not developed any splinters or cracks that will make it unsafe to use. If it has, fix it as described below, or replace it.
  • Twice a year, treat the wood of the training implement with linseed oil. The linseed oil permeates the wood, keeping the implement from becoming too dried out and brittle. This will help prevent cracking and breakage.

For the semi-annual treatment, consider using the following steps:

  1. Buy a container of linseed oil. This generally runs about $6-10, and will likely last your entire martial career. Buy vinyl or other protective gloves. Buy rough and smooth sandpaper.
  2. Look over the implement carefully, noting any splinters, rough spots, cracks, or other anomalies.
  3. Clean the implement to remove any contaminant.
  4. Sand out any splinters or rough spots. Resist the urge to use a power sander. One’s hand is what goes over this item’s surface over and over again, so it should be a hand that holds the sandpaper. This ensures an even, circular sanding surface, not the flat surface a power sander provides. Start with rough sandpaper if some major irregularities are observed, then switch to fine sandpaper to restore the wood’s smoothness.
  5. Wipe the implement down with a dry paper towel to remove sawdust.
  6. Put on protective gloves.
  7. Fold a couple paper towels on 1/4 so there is a thick “pad” of toweling.
  8. Pour a generous amount of linseed oil into the paper towel.
  9. Apply the linseed oil to the implement be stroking the paper towel along the full length and end of the implement. The wood has to absorb the oil, so generous coating should be applied.
  10. Hang the implement in such a way that the linseed oil can soak in well, such as on a couple hooks made from wire hangars. Avoid setting it down on a towel or paper towels, as this will wick some of the linseed oil away.
  11. CAUTION: Dispose of the linseed oil soaked rag carefully. Linseed oil heats up as it dries out, and can create enough heat to ignite a paper towel. Dispose of linseed oil soaked rags with this in mind, such as in a metal can placed outside and away from other things, or a water filled container.
  12. After a few hours (I usually let it sit overnight), wipe off the excess linseed oil still on the surface of the implement. A paper towel stroked over the surface of the implement is all that is necessary. Dispose of the towel as above.
  13. After a few more hours, repeat the above step, wiping away any additional oil that has not absorbed into the wood.
  14. Ensure grip areas are not slippery. Continue wiping away any extruded oils as necessary.

Once complete, the implement will likely have a more pronounced and vibrant woodgrain pattern, and the oil will help the wood resist becoming brittle, which can cause splintering and breaking. This will prolong the implement’s service life, as well as reduce the chance of injury to ourselves and our training partners.