Introduction: Knife Making With Curved Micarta Inlay
The video link since it doesn't seem to automatically show up everywhere: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbLchIhcSY4
If you're interested in knife making start out by watching/reading my other instructable on this topic, titled: Knife Making with Wood and Brass Handle
This instructable is aimed toward making a knife handle with Micarta inlay. Micarta is really a brand name, but has (like Kleenex for paper tissues) become the common name for composites using fabric or paper bound together with resin, most often epoxy or thermo-setting resin. This material is fairly common both in industrial applications, as well as hobbyists, when making knife handles. Often Micarta is made into blocks and then shaped using a variety of tools. Today you're about to see how to use Micarta as a complimentary material to other materials in a knife handle.
Wood, bone, etc, whatever you want to make the knife handle from
Oil or varnish
Step 1: Making the Curve
As this handle uses two different woods (oak and walnut) joined together with a curved inlaid Micarta, we first need to create a matching curve on both pieces of wood.
The easiest way to accomplish this is to temporarily glue together two pieces of wood with a few drops of super glue. Don't use too much as you won't easily be able to separate them later. Once glued you can simply draw a line on the wood and cut through both pieces simultaneously. You could do this with a band saw, or with a jigsaw, or even a coping saw, if it has enough clearance.
Step 2: Refining the Curve
Once cut apart you should sand the cut surfaces so they're smooth. This step is entirely for cosmetics, as the cut will look less coarse in the final handle. Make sure that the pieces fit together properly after sanding. It doesn't have to be perfect, but at least good enough.
Snap apart the wood pieces, if you didn't use too much glue that should be fairly easy. If you did use a little bit too much glue after all you can also use a chisel to aid getting the parts separated.
Step 3: Gluing the Micarta
Now for the real fun part, making the Micarta inlay!
I would definitely recommend gloves for this, as it can be a somewhat messy procedure.
Prepare pieces of fabric larger than the area you want to put them into, so they overlap once put in. We will deal with the overlapping later. Alternate the colors of the fabric to get different patterns in your Micarta. I used cotton fabric, and you generally want to use a fabric with a bit of absorption so the epoxy really bites into it. Synthetic fabrics don't really work as well as the glue may not stick properly to them. The structure of the fabric will also show through, so a coarser fabric will give a coarser cross section, a thinner and finer fabric will leave a smoother cross section, as you will see in later stages in this instructable.
Mix together epoxy glue. Usually it's a 50/50 blend, but be sure to follow the instructions on the glue you have. Spread an even layer on one of the curved wood surfaces, apply one piece of fabric, cover that evenly with epoxy, add fabric, epoxy, fabric, epoxy, until you're through the stack. Finalize by adding the end wood piece.
I would not recommend making very thick Micarta this way, unless you use a slow setting epoxy glue, as the glue will start setting up before you've gone through all the layers.
Step 4: Clamping It Together
Once you've added the end wood piece you need to clamp it together while it cures. As the cut is curved you cannot simply add a clamp lengthwise as that will cause the joint to slip apart. Therefore you need to add a small hand clamp across the cut as well to keep pressure both sideways as well as lengthwise.
Make sure as you're adding the clamps that epoxy glue is seeping out of the joint evenly all around, and that the pieces remain fairly straight.
Finally let the epoxy cure. If you have time leave it until the next day to ensure that the resin is nice and hard. It should feel like hard plastic when it's fully cured.
Step 5: Cut Off the Excess and Plan the Handle
Once the glue has cured you can cut off the excess glue and fabric from the Micarta. If you have access to a band saw and a sander you can make quick work to get rid off it, otherwise using hand saws, files and sandpaper works just as well, albeit takes longer.
Once you have the handle blank done you can sketch out the handle shape onto the handle.
Step 6: Finishing the Knife: Fitting the Knife Blade
From here on out the rest of the process is exactly how it's described in my other instructable which I linked in the beginning.
Drill out a hole in the handle to fit the tang of the knife blade.
Drill or mill out a slot in a piece of brass, and file it to final shape to work as the bolster.
Finally epoxy glue in the knife into the handle. Here I use a home made knife gluing clamp (view the video of its making here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5LYHFKcPLQ), but you could also use a regular glue clamp. Just make sure that the knife blade seats all the way down and sits straight in the handle.
Step 7: Finishing the Knife: Shaping and Treating
We're reaching the end now. Once you have the knife blade glued into the wood you only need to shape the handle however you see fit. We're using a band saw, belt and drum sanders, files and sandpaper. If you don't have access to power tools, there's no problem doing everything manually, it will just take a bit longer time.
If you're using power tools the Micarta may appear rough, but once you get into filing and sanding down the handle with finer grits it should smooth out nicely.
Finally, treat the wood using mineral oil, Danish oil, linseed oil or similar. In this case, since I did not want the wood to be darkened in the way oil often does, I used a durable polyurethane varnish to seal the handle. If you go this route then add one layer of varnish, lightly sand with fine grit sand paper and add another layer of varnish.
Once sealed the knife is done!
Step 8: Done!
The knife is done!
As you can see the structure inside the Micarta can appear a bit coarse, due to the structure of the fabric, but because it's saturated with epoxy glue the finish is as smooth as can be.
Why not go on from here and look up how to make a sheath as well? There are plenty of instructables and videos on YouTube on how to make one.
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