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Old 05-03-2016, 10:07 PM
Sabrerider Sabrerider is offline
Join Date: Apr 2016
Posts: 16
Handle scales advice please.

Looking for some experience advice. I made a knife about 4 months ago using Madrone for the handle scales. The wood was leftover from a door project and I thought it was quite dry. Just the other day I pulled it out to polish the brass ( about done with brass too but that's another story ) and found that the scales had shrunk. It's a through tang and I can now feel the steel protruding where it used to be a perfect grind. Question; are there just some woods not stable enough for scales and if so could you tell me so I don't have to keep finding out the hard way. Just made one with manzanita which is the same family and I love the look. Thanks.
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Old 05-04-2016, 02:11 AM
Doug Lester Doug Lester is offline
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Location: Decatur, IL
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Yes, there are some woods that aren't fit for making knife handles with. All woods will expand and contract with the ambient humidity, some far worse than others. Others have a tendency to check on you, woods like Ebony or Snakewood. Some, like Cedar are just too soft. Then there are ones that are pretty stable. Osage Orange is one of my favorites, the North American variety. Desert Ironwood and Mesquite are hard and stable. Other good one are in the Rosewood family. Besides Rosewood, obviously, it includes Kingwood and African Blackwood. The latter is very stable as is and is so dense it won't float.

Another solution is to send the wood out for stabilization where the wood is impregnated with a resin that will harden and add stability to the wood. Not all woods can be stabilized; the Rosewoods are so oily and dense that they resist penetration by the resin. Some woods just about demand stabilization. I've had some Madrone burl that's been sitting around for about ten years. One of these days I'm going to have to cut it into slabs and send it out for treatment. Just remember that stabilization is not a cure-all. Woods that are prone to checking will probably check on you, it will just take longer. It will also reduce shrinkage and expansion with humidity, not eliminate it.


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Old 05-04-2016, 05:21 AM
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Crex Crex is offline
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Location: Acworth, GA and/or Hanging Dog, NC
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Yeah Madrone moves a lot with the weather. Doug covered it pretty well.
I'm not a big fan of plasticized woods, but that's just me. They are much easier to finish and stable. Got to learn the woods and how they react ..... lot of issues to figure on when using untreated wood.

Carl Rechsteiner, Bladesmith
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Old 05-04-2016, 09:51 AM
Sabrerider Sabrerider is offline
Join Date: Apr 2016
Posts: 16
Thanks guys, really appreciate your response. I have a stabilization unit I made with an old vacuum pump. I will try that one my next Manzanita set. In the past I have just used min wax wood hardener with fair success. A friend uses Cactus juice, any thoughts?
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Old 05-04-2016, 10:08 AM
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Ray Rogers Ray Rogers is offline
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Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: Wauconda, WA
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Thoughts on home stabilizing: Cactus juice does a good job if you have the proper equipment to use with it. Everything else falls under the heading of half=azzed stabilizing.

In the long run you will probably find, as I did, that home stabilizing is an expensive and time consuming method of fooling yourself. Its more practical and far more effective to send the wood to K&G or WSSI and let the pros do it correctly ...


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Old 05-06-2016, 09:47 AM
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Andrew Garrett Andrew Garrett is offline
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What Ray said

Andy Garrett
Charter Member - Kansas Custom Knifemaker's Association

"Drawing your knife from its sheath and using it in the presence of others should be an event complete with oos, ahhs, and questions."
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Old 05-31-2016, 11:35 PM
Sabrerider Sabrerider is offline
Join Date: Apr 2016
Posts: 16
Thanks again guys for all the response. I went ahead and stuck some Manzanita scales in my stabilization unit and pulled it down to around 23 inhg for about 5 hours, till the bubbles stop. Seems to have held size this time.
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