Okay, i know i said id stop posting knife-related stuff, but in my defense im really hoping someone sees this and decides to make a pen. Or anything really, the materials extremely versatile.
Anyway, on to the project proper! First off, explaining what the hell micarta is. Simply put, Micarta is a composite material made from layers of a substrate impregnated with a plastic resin to make a solid whole. Picture something like fiberglass. The substrate is generally cloth, however paper can also be used, as can more specialized materials like carbon fiber. Point of interest, Micarta is actually a brand name, but like kleenex has become the go-to word for the material.
Enough about that, lets get to making some. Now, here, im making a blue/black micarta from 100% cotton denim fabric. The materials:
Lined up are a half-yard of blue and black denim fabric, some fiberglass resin, some clamps, 2 pieces of mdf to use as clamping forms, some parchment paper to work on to keep from making a mess and some other odds and ends. A not on fabric choice; I like using natural fibers, as they seem to absorb the resin more easily. Denim is one of my favorites, but a lighter cloth could be used, however i wouldnt recommend a heavier fabric, as denim seems to be on the high end for resin impregnation. A secondary note, this time on the resin; Im using fiberglass resin here, as its cheap and does a good job, however epoxy would be preferable if more expensive. The epoxy would be stronger, and a clear epoxy would allow the use of lighter colors, something you cant really do with the fiberglass resin due to the deep caramel color (white would come out looking brown). Last note, you dont have to make awesome wooden clamps, but it does make the project more fun. Anyway, on to prep!
First, cut the fabric into proper sized strips:
Those are roughly 2x8, and i have enough cut up so that, stacked up, the stack rises roughly 3/8 to 1/2 inches tall. Im shooting for 1/4 inch thick at the end, and the extra height when dry will allow for some loss due to the form, as well as allowing for compression. Anyway, on to prepping the form!
Now, you could just use the mdf without any other fanciness, just tape some parchment paper to it to keep the micarta from sticking, but that leads to a somewhat plain pattern on the flat scales. I decided to add some texture so that you could more clearly see the layers in the finished project. You see what im talking about later. To get that look, you need to odd some texture to the form. I did this by wrapping some 10 gauge wire around the forms:
The form is then wrapped in parchment:
Dont skip this step, if you do you will
glue your micarta to the form. Anyway, now to the fun part! The next step is to mix up the resin, saturate the fabric and stack on the form, but for obvious reasons i cant photograph that while messing with the resin, so heres the process pictured dry:
First layer placed in blue:
Second layer placed in black:
Continue alternating colors and stacking until you run out of fabric or resin, whichever comes first. Then, add the second caul and clamp:
Heres what that hould look like with the resin added and the clamps applied:
This is a very messy process. Its also a very smelly process, so be smarter than me and dont do this on your dining room table, itll stick up the house. Anyways, stacking everything up i used about 12oz of resin and had a few pieces of cloth left over. Everything was clamped and left to cure overnight. The next day, the clamps were removed and the resulting micarta was liberated from the form:
Thanks to the parchment, everything came apart fairly easily, though the resin did stick a bit to the tape. As you can see, the wire on the form left some channels, resulting in a slight loss of thickness. No big worry, as i made sure to give myself enough material to shave away to get below the grooves, at least on the show side.
The finished product:
The picture should show what i was talking about earlier. The wire pressed into the stack, forcing the layers to no longer run in a straight line from one end to the other, Without the wires, the layers would all be flat, and the only way to see the 'grain' pattern would be shaping down into the material. The way i went, the pattern still shows, even when the piece is flat.
Like i said at the beginning, i can see more uses for this stuff than just knife scales. The one that sprang to my mind doing this was making pens with it. All one would have to do would be to glue up a thicker blank and boom, awesome pen. Working the material is surprisingly easy. Its a little tough to cut, as the fibers tend to bog down saw blades, but not that much, and it responds very well to sanding (dont quite know why though). Its also a very interesting material to hold, as it still feels like denim, at least without a finish.
Anyway, thats all folks. Hope this inspires someone else to make up a batch of their own and actually make a pen with it, i really do think itd make an awesome pen. The fun part of it is just ow much you can play around with making the material. I like using denim in mine, and to make life simple i buy fresh fabric, but thats not necessary. You can really use whatever you happen to have hanging around. Old t-shirt you keep for sentimental reasons but cant wear anymore? Slice em up and make something useful. Need a gift for someone your not particularly fond of but have to give something? Make a pen with your old gym socks! Doesnt even have to be fabric, you could also use colored papers or rope, really anything that wll absorb the resin. Make it with whatever you want, then use it to make whatever you want with it. Me, i made a knife with it:
But what else is new?