Input on knife making/scales - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 17 Old 11-30-2019, 06:01 PM Thread Starter
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Input on knife making/scales

Making a large tanto for my brother in law for Christmas, and here is my selection of offcuts I can use for scales. I've never made a knife before so for those of you that have, I'm all ears on some input.

Some questions
1) I will be using screw rivets, Ill thread lock em, should hold up right?
2) Is there any particular reason to not use one of these species? All these pieces are several years old, Im not thinking theres going to be too much movement due to moisture or anything crazy. I want to say this knife will be more for "decoration" than anything (fully functional, I just dont see it being an EDC or getting much outside use)
3) Im pretty aware that epoxy is the "go to" adhesive here, but is there any particular reason I cant use CA glue here? 3 rivets, ca glue, and a lacquer finish should be just fine right? This isnt to break tradition, I have developed a "sensitivity" to epoxy, and I like to avoid it when I can. If anyone has a strong opinion on the matter, I can suck it up I guess.
4) Should I glue the scales on first THEN shape, or get it real close and then glue it? I again dont really see too much of an issue either way here tbh, I just partially think it might be easier to get everything glued in tight and then do the work to make sure its all matched equally?

Would also love input on what wood type would be preferred here. The facing pieces are simply examples, I have tons
1) birdseye maple
2) bubinga
3) plain ole walnut
4) plain cherry
5) lightly figured maple
6) heartwood walnut
7) very figured maple
8) black cherry
9) quarter sawn figured maple
10) flame walnut
11) pernambuco
12) lignum vitae (never gonna happen lol)

Not pictured, but flame elm, VERY flame ash, quarter sawn white oak, quilted maple, ipe, ... think thats about it?

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post #2 of 17 Old 11-30-2019, 07:10 PM
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Wonderful selection of wood from which to choose. If they're all dry and stable then choose the handful that piques your interest most (or his). Then go from there. Depending on how some may be cut - quartered, flat, rift - they may shrink away from the tang or screws more than others.

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post #3 of 17 Old 11-30-2019, 07:11 PM
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A large Tanto .....

That's a scary looking knife, so I would want a dark "scary" looking wood for the handle. Black Walnut with a India Ink stain? You want some figure to show through for sure. I used Epoxy 30 minute for the knife scales on several kit knives I made and Honduran Rosewood for the handles.



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post #4 of 17 Old 11-30-2019, 07:55 PM
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The knifes not gonna care what type of wood goes on the handles, pretty much any hardwood will work. Maple, walnut, zebrawood, cocobolo, bubinga, ebony, rosewood, buckeye, sassafras, ive used a lot of different stuff without issue. You want to make sure whatever you use is durable and preferably rot resistant. Now, there are treatments you can use to make 'unsuitable' woods perfectly workable, but thats a different topic about stabilized woods. Your best bet will be some form of exotic hardwood, something dense and oily. Cocobolo is a pretty good go-to, its extremely durable and doesnt really move at all with humidity changes, and its not horribly expensive. Domestic hardwoods work, like i mentioned, but wood movement can affect the fit of the scales to the tang of the knife. Best to stick to stabilized woods when working with domestics. Of the options you posted, id go for the Bubinga myself

Regarding adhesives, get some gloves and go with the epoxy unfortunately. CA glue works great for sticking something to something else, but its a very brittle bond and even under ideal circumstances doesnt adhere to metal all too well. CA glues also soften with exposure to moisture, which is important. The common thought is that adhesive under knife scales is to hold the scales on, which is true, but it also makes a barrier to prevent moisture from getting under the scales and rusting the tang of your knife. Adding to its sin list, CA glue, or most of it anyways, cracks when it flexes, and knife tangs do flex. Not much under normal use, but enough. Go with a good epoxy, the longer the cure time the better. My personal favorite is West Systems G-Flex, its hands down the strongest ive used, has enough give to it that it wont crack in use, and is pretty reasonably priced.

Glue the scales on, then shape, but finish the front of the scales BEFORE gluing them on. Reason for this is once the scales are on, you wont be able to do any sanding or shaping on the front of them without messing up the blade. Gluing the scales on before shaping also guarantees a perfect fit between tang and scales, if you try getting the scales to perfect shape first youll feel it.

Screw rivets, of any variety, will be more than suitable. Dunno if youre going with loveless, chicago, corbys or what, but theyll all work about the same, and well at that.

You didnt ask about this part, but unless this is a show knife, i.e will never really get used, id recommend against using any sort of film finish, the lacquers, varnishes and the like. With use those will wear off in pretty short order. For a dense, oily wood, most exotics really, sanding up to 800 grit and buffing with paste wax is all the finish needed, the natural oils of the wood provide all the rot resistance you need. Oil finishes take care of the rest, think tung, linseed and the like. My go-to is Birchwood Casey TruOil. Touch pricier than a bottle of linseed oil, but gives better results in my experience. Same stuff used to finish gun stocks, so it holds up extremely well on knives.

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post #5 of 17 Old 11-30-2019, 10:38 PM Thread Starter
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WOW! Thanks for the info! I have some z systems epoxy still, I just... ugh. It like makes my eyes water and if it touches anything, its just a bad day for a while. I was assuming as much on the CA, but was hoping someone was gonna say it was fine with the rivets or something.

The blade IS likely going to be a show knife, and its also stainless steel (I know I know). Id eventually like to work on an O1 or A10, but this is my very first knife, so I wanted to go a little easier on myself here. I have no furnace capabilities at this time, and I am just using a kit knife at this time. Im going to do some reshaping, but I want to see how much I enjoy this process before "diving in" if that makes sense. If I hate this part, then theres no point in doing the whole shebang right?

Im actually incredibly tempted to heat temper it blue/purple and use maple scales if Im being real honest. That would totally ruin the blade of course, but it might look really awesome (again this isnt an EDC knife at all, and I think it'd likely just be for show). Ill sleep on it and decide everything tomorrow. Thanks for the inputs.
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post #6 of 17 Old 12-01-2019, 02:35 AM
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Theres nothing wrong with stainless steels, some 'traditionalists' just keep a stick firmly planted up their keisters. Personally i like carbon steels more, i feel that they take a slightly keener edge, but its all about picking the proper tool for the job. As a general rule, i wouldnt want to use a stainless steel straight razor, and i wouldnt want to have a carbon steel knife on a boat. Now, there are steels that bend those rule, AEB-L is a stainless that takes an edge as keen as carbon steels, and D2 is a carbon steel with an impressive rust resistance. Its all about knowing the purpose of the blade and matching the steel type.

Also, if you enjoy making handles but not so much the grinding, theres nothing wrong with kit knives. Again, the snobs who look down on them are just that, snobs. If you enjoy it, and if the quality of your blade blank is good, you wont have an inherently bad knife, and you did still complete a knife. Wont be 100% handmade of course, but still. If you do move down the road a bit more, start off with either O1 or 1084 steel. Both are simple carbon steels that are amazingly easy to heat treat, you can get by with a propane torch and a bucket of peanut or canola oil (dont use used motor oil, no matter what the internet says. Puts off toxic fumes).

Sucks to hear about the epoxy, but unfortunately it really is about the best option here. Rubber gloves and a respirator sound like your best bet here. Rivets will work to hold the scales to the handle, no question there and you could get by with just them for that, but like i mentioned thats really only half the issue. The other half is crap migrating between the scales and the tang. Also, unless you have a very precisely controlled oven, id stay away from playing with temper colors. Yeah, tempering that high will make for a pretty poor edge, but you also run into the fact that its surprisingly difficult to get a good color across the entire blade. Tried it before, its a lot of work to get passable results, definitely something you save for later experiments and not the first run

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post #7 of 17 Old 12-01-2019, 05:39 AM Thread Starter
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Of course :). The problem with the epoxy is I need a CHEMICAL respirator, not a particulate. Unfortunately don't have one hanging around. I might just have my wife do it honestly :)


Have you ever watched clickspring's bluing process? Its kinda bewildering, but admittedly its very small parts. That said, what about cold bluing?

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post #8 of 17 Old 12-01-2019, 05:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bob493 View Post
Have you ever watched clickspring's bluing process? Its kinda bewildering, but admittedly its very small parts. That said, what about cold bluing?

Spare Parts #12 Heat Bluing A Set Of Steel Clock Hands - YouTube
Clickspring is one of my biggest sources of inspiration, but like everything he does he makes it look massively easier than it really is... I should mention though, dont take this as me trying to talk you out of it, just dont go into it thinking itll be easy. The larger the parts are the harder it is to keep a consistent temperature like that, and surface finish and prep have to be absolutely, 100% perfect. Its quite the chore. If you go that route, for the heat use a kitchen oven but dont put the knife straight in. Instead, find a dish large enough to fit the knife, then bury it in something like playground sand to serve as a thermal sink. Itll even out the temperature spread a bit. Cant promise itll work perfectly, but unless youve got a PID temperature controlled kiln itll probably be the best option

Cold bluing though, thats easy. Not horrifically durable, mind you, but few things are easier than rubbing some smurf juice on a steel piece. Same things apply to cold bluing as heat bluing, surface finish has to be good, piece needs to be clean, but none of it is quite as super-critical as it would be for heat bluing. If you go this route, get some grey scotchbrite pads and use those to apply the bluing solution, you want something barely abrasive and scotchbrite is worlds better than steel wool

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post #9 of 17 Old 12-01-2019, 09:03 AM
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You might give Clear Gorilla Glue a try. I think of it as an epoxy adhesive substitute, but without the mixing. It dries clear and strong, but it is not a structural fill like epoxy. It takes 24 hours to cure.

Clear Gorilla Glue is different than original Gorilla Glue and White Gorilla Glue, which are foaming polyurethane glues. It is different than any other glue I have seen. Clear Gorilla Glue is silane-based and does not foam. It should be stored in a place that gets a little light. The light keeps it from yellowing in the bottle.

I have made only two knives so far, and I used two-part 5 minute epoxy from the syringe dispenser. I will give Clear Gorilla Glue a try on my next knife, but it would be something that I have not tried before.

I bought a small 1.75 oz bottle of Clear Gorilla Glue at Home Depot for around $6. I originally bought it on the advice of a friend, who recommended it for gluing the brass tubes in a very brittle, special pen blank (the one with coffee beans embedded in inlace acrylester). I have since used it in a few places to glue unusual materials to one another, such as glueing wood to the fibrous back of cheap hardboard.
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post #10 of 17 Old 12-01-2019, 02:07 PM Thread Starter
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Gorilla glue sounds like a shot, ill give that a go.
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post #11 of 17 Old 12-01-2019, 02:18 PM
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Experiment First!

Quote:
Originally Posted by bob493 View Post
Gorilla glue sounds like a shot, ill give that a go.

Rather than trying something "untried" on your beautiful knife, try an experiment. Subject it to heat above 140 Degrees F, cold to below zero, shock from dropping and hitting a tree branch and see if the metal separates from the wood. Yes, I know it's a "show piece" but the show is over if it falls apart on the way there or inside a display cabinet....
I would just bite the bullet and use 30 minute epoxy from the auto supply or hardware store for this one:
https://www.amazon.com/s?k=30+minute...f=nb_sb_noss_1
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post #12 of 17 Old 12-01-2019, 02:22 PM Thread Starter
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Rather than trying something "untried" on your beautiful knife, try an experiment. Subject it to heat above 140 Degrees F, cold to below zero, shock from dropping and hitting a tree branch and see if the metal separates from the wood. Yes, I know it's a "show piece" but the show is over if it falls apart on the way there or inside a display cabinet....
I would just bite the bullet and use 30 minute epoxy from the auto supply or hardware store for this one:
https://www.amazon.com/s?k=30+minute...f=nb_sb_noss_1
haha thats kinda what i meant. "I'll see how it is" is probably a better phrase here. If I have to use epoxy ill get my wife to glue it up lol. I have some zpoxy 30 minute fwiw.

Last edited by bob493; 12-01-2019 at 03:42 PM.
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post #13 of 17 Old 12-01-2019, 04:17 PM
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I used to make knives all the time when I was younger, never did get as good as I wanted to be. Walnut and mahogany's have always been my choice for knife scales personally. I should give it another try at some point, my problem was heat treating and tempering. Getting them pretty was the easy part.


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post #14 of 17 Old 12-01-2019, 05:55 PM
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I used a Mustard etch ...

It was on a 12" Bowie I bought at a North Side Chicago pawn shop when I was 13 years old. Mom took it away from me until I turned 16.

It was Solingen steel from Germany. It turned out great. I just pasted it on with a wavy pattern and left it overnight, then washed it off..... fake Damascus?










The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)

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post #15 of 17 Old 12-01-2019, 07:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bob493 View Post
Gorilla glue sounds like a shot, ill give that a go.
I was talking about CLEAR Gorilla Glue, a silane-based glue. It does not foam. It looks clear in the bottle and dries clear. Store it in a place that gets some light.

The term "Gorilla Glue" usually means Gorilla's original polyurethane glue, which foams. It looks brown in the bottle and dries yellow. There is also a "White Gorilla Glue", which is also a foaming polyurethane glue that dries white instead of yellow. It looks almost clear in the bottle, which could be confusing.

-> Furthermore, whatever you do, please run a test of the glue on scrap that you don't care about. Make sure it has the characteristics you want before you try it on an important knife.

Remember: Clear Gorilla Glue. It may not be obvious on the shelf.
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post #16 of 17 Old 12-02-2019, 07:54 AM
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Quote:
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Of course :). The problem with the epoxy is I need a CHEMICAL respirator, not a particulate. Unfortunately don't have one hanging around. I might just have my wife do it honestly :)


Have you ever watched clickspring's bluing process? Its kinda bewildering, but admittedly its very small parts. That said, what about cold bluing?

Spare Parts #12 Heat Bluing A Set Of Steel Clock Hands - YouTube

I have never heard of wearing a respirator type of mask when working with epoxy. Is this some new type of requirement or what? Which agency is suggesting this?



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post #17 of 17 Old 12-07-2019, 12:32 AM
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Quote:
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Gorilla glue sounds like a shot, ill give that a go.
I think you could solve that fumes challenge by putting a fan next to where youíre doing the glue-up so that it pulls air across where youíre working.
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