Keith Nix Knives FREE Learning!! This is the first in a series of articles on handle materials. As such, I think it's fitting to talk about the most common material used for custom knives, good old wood! Wood is beautiful, versatile, comes in a myriad of colors from nearly white to almost black, virtually 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 a number of ways. So there are many benefits to using wood, and only one drawback. Wood is porous. Wood is vascular tissue, transporting minerals and water from the roots all the way to the canopy, and carrying sugars created through photosynthesis back down to the roots. Because of this origin as a "plumbing system", wood will take on water and contaminants readily, and this causes problems, in houses, furniture, cabinets, doors, and in knives. We use dozens of different types of finishes painted or rubbed onto our wood to preserve, protect, and beautify. And repel water. These finished can do a great job, but what happens when the finish breaks down on the surface of your knife?
Wood stabilization uses a vacuum to remove all the air from the tiny veins and pores in a piece of wood, WHILE 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 no bubbles rise to the surface of the resin from the submerged 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, until completely saturated. Afterwards, each block of wood is wrapped in aluminum foil and baked at 200F for a couple of hours or until the resin hardens throughout the wood block.
Now we have a piece of wood with all its 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 in this way, the wood can be sawed, drilled, planed, sanded and polished as usual. Finishes of any type can be applied. All knife handles at Keith Nix Knives are made from stabilized wood..
These days, I find better economy and 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 very reasonable pricing structure. The price I pay for PROFESSIONAL stabilization is more than covered by the hours I spend tinkering with my homespun process! Learn More About Selecting Your Handle! How Your Knife Handle Is Created, Step By Step
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Thanks for reading,
Keith Nix Knives