Custom Stabilized Wood Knife Handles
G10 Knife Scales, Micarta Knife Handles
Stylize Your Custom Knife With Your Choice of Handle Materials! Stabilized Wood Knife Handles, G10, Micarta
The handle material of your new knife will be the focal point for most people who see it, as many people have never seen a knife with a beautiful piece of figured wood for a handle. Part of the pleasure of purchasing a custom handmade knife is choosing the handle material for that knife. Some folks prefer wood, some prefer synthetic material, and all are available at Keith Nix Knives!
Most people will see the handle before looking at the blade. Being a custom knife maker in North Carolina, I try to source most of my handle materials locally. Sometimes "locally" is my woodpile or a neighbor's dead dogwood!
Handle materials come in various forms and colors, from colorful moisture-impervious synthetics to natural woods. With all the choices available, picking a color scheme for your kitchen set is easy. Or select a beautiful natural, stained, or dyed wood for your favorite sheath knife.
Let's explore some of the available options.
You can view some of the handles I've created by clicking HERE!
This category is as diverse as the trees in the forest and is my favorite. Maple is a favorite, with all its figure types, from bird's eye to flame, Ambrosia to spalted, and burl to curly.
But there are other woods, including fruit woods like apple, mango, and cherry. Nut woods like oak, pecan, and walnut. Exotics like desert ironwood and the rosewood or ebony families.
Lighter-colored woods can be dyed with a rainbow of colors to suit your taste. The translucent dye will accent the unique grain pattern of the wood itself.
Wood is beautiful, versatile, and comes in many colors, from nearly white to almost black. Every piece is different but similar to its neighbor from the same block.
Wood can be dyed, stained, varnished, or oiled. It can be attached to a knife in several ways. So there are many benefits to using wood, and only one drawback.
WOOD IS POROUS-
Wood is porous. Wood is vascular tissue that transports minerals and water from the roots to the canopy. The same vascular tissue carries sugars created through photosynthesis back to the roots. Because of this origin as a plumbing system, most woods will readily take on water and contaminants. This causes problems in houses, furniture, cabinets, doors, and knives.
As moisture contacts our wood Knife handle, it penetrates the cellular structure. The actual VOLUME of the wood increases, and it changes in size and shape. We use dozens of different finishes painted or rubbed onto our wood to preserve, protect, beautify, and repel water.
These finishes can do a great job, but what happens when the finish breaks down on the surface of your knife? Well, there is a solution!
Wood stabilization uses a vacuum to remove all the air from the tiny veins and pores in a piece of wood. At the same time, the wood is submerged in a specially blended thermosetting polymer resin.
The wood and resin are placed in a vacuum chamber, and a vacuum pump is attached. Once the vacuum is started, it is maintained until all the air is removed from the wood.
This step can take from one to six hours with my little pump. After a soak, atmospheric pressure is slowly reintroduced to the chamber, and the wood is allowed to soak and absorb the resin for several hours or days. Afterward, each block of wood is wrapped in aluminum foil and baked until the resin hardens throughout the wood block.
Now we have a stabilized wood knife handle with pores filled with a clear, HARD resin. The wood is virtually impervious to water infiltration. All contaminants remain on the surface and are easily washed away. And no more shrinking and swelling of your knife handle due to swings in humidity or the moisture content of the wood!
Once treated this way, the wood can be sawed, drilled, planed, sanded, and polished as usual. It becomes denser and HARDER, good things for a knife.
Finishes of any type can be applied. Nearly all knives at Keith Nix Knives are made using stabilized wood knife scales. (A few woods don't benefit from stabilization)
These days, I find better economy and end up with a better product when I send my wood to K&G Stabilizing for stabilization. They have a better resin, a vacuum+pressure process I cannot duplicate, and a reasonable pricing structure. The price I pay for PROFESSIONAL stabilization is more than covered by the hours I spend tinkering with my homespun process!
G-10 is a high-pressure fiberglass laminate used primarily to make circuit boards for electronics. This material is impervious to liquids, is very rigid, is noncorrosive and nonconductive, and has a minimal coefficient of thermal expansion. G10 knife scales are an excellent choice for professional kitchens and come in various bright colors and combinations of colors. It can be finished with satin or high gloss and is relatively low maintenance.
Micarta is phenolic laminate and is laminated, compressed, and heated, similar to G10. It is primarily made from burlap, linen, paper, carbon fiber, or canvas rather than fiberglass.
It goes by other colloquial names, including phenolic and bakelite. Micarta is commonly found in many types of kitchen knives, outdoor knives, and circuit boards.
Micarta generally offers more subdued colors and a slightly better grip than G10. Micarta knife handles cannot attain a high gloss without an exterior finish coat of varnish, oil, or wax.
We stock some micarta knife handles near you!
Please get in touch with me with any questions about the handle materials for your custom knives!
MORE Free Learning:
Kitchen Knife Design
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