Part 3 - Making our LM105 Handle Material
April 10, 2010
Today we made our 3rd batch of handle material. As before, we used the West Systems 105 epoxy resin and 206 slow hardener. The temperature was in the 70s in the shop so it was an ideal day for working with the resins.
We now have our process down pretty good and we can move pretty quickly through saturating our fabric with the epoxy, stacking it and pressing it. Today we are going to make some more of our twist for hidden tang knife handles and another slab of denim material for full tang knife handles.
Mike Carter is making a twist handle using alternating layers of black and red fabric. We cut it into 2" x 9" strips and this handle will be a twisted block made up of about 75 layers of fabric.
Cliff's handles with be cammo using green, tan and black fabrics.
We prepared our table in the shop
We have developed a pretty efficient system. Mike mixes the epoxy and pours it into an aluminum baking pan where Cliff soaks the strips of fabric.
Cliff then hands the saturated layer of fabric to Mike who stacks it and squeegees out any excess epoxy and air pockets.
After we got all saturated and stacked, Cliff twists the material. We originally tied the twisted material with string but we decide to try this time without tying it since it seems to be holding it's shape pretty well.
We drop the twisted stack into a quart size freezer bag
and put the bag into a mill vise to press it.
Since pressing the stack from the sides tends to make it squish out the top of the vise, we clamp a piece of plywood over the top.
We made 3 twisted pieces using the same method. While those were setting up in the mill vises, we proceeded to make our flat slab of denim material. This was made from 6 x 8" alternating pieces of light and dark denim fabric.
After we get it all saturated and stacked, we cover it with wax paper to prevent sticking to the plywood we will use to press it.
Now we clamp the top piece of plywood with C-clamps. We measure all sides to make sure we have uniform thickness. This slab with be 6" x 8" x 1"thick. When cured and hardened, we will cut this into 3 or 4 sections and then split it to make 6 or 8 handle scales about 1/2" thick.
So, we now have 3 twisted blocks and one denim slab curing overnight. Stay tuned to see how it turn out.
Update: How about some results?
We are excited about this piece! We cut off the end to get a look inside and it is nice and tight inside with some great pattern.
We did a quick sanding on the cut off piece and I LOVE the pattern. This is going to make a great knife handle.
Here is Mike's red/black twist on a finished handle.
Here is Mike's denim slab. We trimmed off the ragged edges and have a nice solid slab about 3/4" thick.
Here is some of cammo twist on a finished Blackhawk knife.
Mike's blue jean slab
We did a quick sand and polish on a cut off edge and it's looking good.
We did a little grinding, sanding and polishing on a corner of the block and we are very happy with how it's looking.
Here is some of it on a finished Nessmuk
For making our twisted one-piece handles, we have been pressing them in a mill vise with a piece of plywood clamped over the top to keep the materials from squishing out the top. This has a couple of drawbacks. First, we one have one or two mill vises available at a time so that limits out production. Secondly, the mill vise jaws are only 6 inches wide so we can make one handle.
We made some new presses from angle iron that are 12 inches long. They have a steel bar that can be press down from the top with c-clamps and the sides are removable in case we have trouble getting the material out after it hardens. Being 12 inches long, we should be able to make longer pieces and then cut them to get two or three handles out of each pieces. We will give the new presses a try with our next batch.
Stay tuned and we will post pictures of the knives we make with this handle material.
Take a look at our our pages about our LM105 handle material by clicking the links below.