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scales and stabilized wood suppliers?


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Trying to find a place to buy handle material, namely woods and stabilized woods. I'm just beginning still so it seems a little crazy to pay 20-70 dollars per 1 block of wood for making a handle. Am i just looking in the wrong places currently? I'm trying to find some woods that look good and will be decent for handles on knives. Maybe i'm shooting too high for starters but i dont think i could justify spending that much each handle when i can forge the actual blades for much much cheaper. Maybe i just need some direction, let me know what you've done for scales and handle materials.

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Here is my rant/advice 

The smaller the block of wood the more it costs is what I've noticed, stabilized wood will always be expensive. 

Its so easy to mill your own wood, all you need is a jointer and a bandsaw, or a jointer plane and a bandsaw, or handsaw if youre good enough with one. 

Im lucky to have access to tools like those, if I wanted to I could cut a hundred or so dollars worth of handle scales from a twenty dollar board of curly maple. I guess that's why woodcraft never has wood in the big sizes I need.

I'm probably just blowing hot air... 

 

If I was going to sell wood to knifemakers I wouldn't be able to sell much wood so I would have to sell it for more. 

If I was going to buy wood as a knifemaker I would not buy wood that is being sold to such a small group because you have to pay more. 

I like to find or harvest my own wood and I can do so because of the bandsaw I have access to, it's not like I'm some kind of master magician though, I make rectangles out of wood and then I sit on them. I can't understand how wood is priced as it is.

If I buy wood I buy it in person, wood has a personality so much more so than plain barstock steel, if I want a specific grain only I can see it and understand it for myself.

My only real advice is that there is super dirt cheap wood out there if you know where to look, for me that means looking on the side of the road for logs or old furniture. If you want to make knives and not mess around with dirty logs instead, find a local specialty wood store, like woodcraft. But they usually don't have big boards thicker than 3/4"!!!!! They might have something you could make a big Bowie handle with, but they make more money making sawdust. Still, they have a good selection of woods in various sizes.

using one solid block of wood and a hidden tang construction is the easiest method if using large rough pieces of wood, handle scales require fairly precise sawing so you don't interrupt the grain too much. 

Get a hand plane if you use rough wood!!

Maybe check out a woodworking forum to see if they have any secrets? Or look to the trees, they have secrets too!

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Sort of what Steven said.  I personally don't like stabilized wood, but it does have its place.  I just figure the world got along fine without it until the last 20 years or so.  Plus I can't do my favorite finishing tricks on stabilized wood.  Or stain it, etc.  I get walnut from the woodpile, maple and other figured hardwoods from Dunlap Woodcrafts in Virginia.  I also don't use much in the way of tropical woods except blackwood, ebony, and rosewood (I have a stash of OLD pre-ban rosewood).  These I get where I find them.  Hammer-ins, usually, Woodcraft if I'm desperate.

If you insist on stabilized, K&G will stabilize anything you send them for a price.

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I've been a woodworker for a lot longer than I have been a knife maker.  Wood is where you find it.  I'll spend $70 on a high grade piece of desert iron wood burl if I have a project that I feel merits it.  At the same time I was just cutting up a cherry tree that blew over in a recent storm, and saved a few crotch pieces that I cut up on the bandsaw for some future project.

Some people object to using exotic woods for sustainability reasons.  I kind of agree with that, but I am a sucker for beautiful burly woods, so I usually can't help myself.  When I buy exotic wood, I buy from the places that have pictures of the exact piece I am buying.  That tends to cost a lot of money.

The type of materials you use is very subjective and personal.  Some people are happiest finding their own wood.  I've seen some very nice pieces come in on pallets that I have saved for things over the years.  I applaud whatever people want to do with their handle materials as long as it makes them happy.  I have had knives that had over 200 hours of work into them before the handle goes on.  Putting a piece of plain-sawn red oak on such a project isn't going to make me happy, so I will spring for nice piece of wood to set it off.

 

 

 

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So i've been woodworking longer than blacksmithing but not so much finish work. I have a few hand planers and can use them well. I unfortunately dont have a bandsaw so i waste ~1/8 inch on every cut with my table saw or chop saw which hurts me if i have good wood :P... I can get Oak (white and red) and walnut fairly easily where i'm at but i also dont have a chainsaw to be cutting stuff off the side of the road yet =[.. I just didnt know if i was looking in the completely wrong areas for good wood to be using.. I've never done tons of finish work with woods, other than sanding / staining chairs or benches or chests, so i wasnt working with anything exotic or fancy for the most part and am still trying to figure out how you guys get the amazing finishes you do on knife handles! 

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24 minutes ago, rickmanb said:

... amazing finishes you do on knife handles! 

A lot of it has to do with the sanding.  Good hardwood properly sanded up to 1200 grit will take on a polish that can't (IMHO) be replicated with a surface finish material.  The oily exotic woods can flat out be polished to even higher grits like plastic, but even walnut, maple and cherry will do nice things when properly sanded out.  Oak is a different beast because the grain is so open.  I'm not a big fan of it, so others can weigh in on what they do with oak.

For knife handles, after sanding, I am a fan of boiled linseed oil rubbed in by hand.  Dip you finger in the can to get a little bit of BLO on it, and run the oil all over the handle, and work it in with your hands.  Let it sit for a few minutes (10 or 15) and wipe off everything you can with a paper towel.  Then repeat this process a few times.

The tomahawk and muzzle loader guys get that crazy curly maple finish through some dark magic they call aqua fortis.  I have yet to try that, but want to some day.  Alan will chime in here and explain it better than me, but it involves using nitric acid with iron dissolved in it. (I think)

The stabilized wood is more like plastic.  I will polish it and wet sand to 2000 grit,and then buff with a soft wheel and compound meant for soft metals or plastic.

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38 minutes ago, Brian Dougherty said:

A lot of it has to do with the sanding.  Good hardwood properly sanded up to 1200 grit will take on a polish that can't (IMHO) be replicated with a surface finish material.  The oily exotic woods can flat out be polished to even higher grits like plastic, but even walnut, maple and cherry will do nice things when properly sanded out.  Oak is a different beast because the grain is so open.  I'm not a big fan of it, so others can weigh in on what they do with oak.

For knife handles, after sanding, I am a fan of boiled linseed oil rubbed in by hand.  Dip you finger in the can to get a little bit of BLO on it, and run the oil all over the handle, and work it in with your hands.  Let it sit for a few minutes (10 or 15) and wipe off everything you can with a paper towel.  Then repeat this process a few times.

The tomahawk and muzzle loader guys get that crazy curly maple finish through some dark magic they call aqua fortis.  I have yet to try that, but want to some day.  Alan will chime in here and explain it better than me, but it involves using nitric acid with iron dissolved in it. (I think)

The stabilized wood is more like plastic.  I will polish it and wet sand to 2000 grit,and then buff with a soft wheel and compound meant for soft metals or plastic.

I mainly use boiled linseed oil for finishing. I use it on my hammer and axe handles even.. I should be able to get maple here pretty easily as well since it's, well, everywhere here. I guess i'll just need to get some more finer grit sandpaper and really start experimenting with more woods.

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+1 to finding wood. I also buy large blocks of ironwood, ebony, eucalyptus, cherry, rosewood, bocote...etc at the local wood store at VERY good prices. Like Brian said, only if the knife merits it and you see what you're buying, will I dish out the dough for good (what is good but an opinion) burled wood/highly figured. It does and always will be expensive. $70 is average for good wood from online stores. 

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3 hours ago, rickmanb said:

I mainly use boiled linseed oil for finishing. I use it on my hammer and axe handles even.. I should be able to get maple here pretty easily as well since it's, well, everywhere here. I guess i'll just need to get some more finer grit sandpaper and really start experimenting with more woods.

Maple with some dark wood, or even copper accents can look really nice.  Especially if you get some maple with nice figure to it.  (Again, this is an opinion :) )

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One thing that no one has brought up is movement.  Wood moves with environmental changes.  High humidity, low humidity, arid, wet, whatever.  It will shrink and swell, and that pisses me off.  Some people don't have a problem with it, and some do.  I am one of the ones that does.  

If I want my pins flush with the wood, then I want them to stay flush.  If I want to make a full tang knife, I don't want the wood to shrink to the point where you can feel the edges of the tang.  All of these things will happen with wood unless you choose an incredibly stable hardwood (Cocobolo, Desert Ironwood and Ebony are ones that I have found work well), or stabilize the wood.  

That is why I use stabilized woods.  To each their own though and I don't begrudge anyone their choices of materials.  Check this thread for sources of materials.

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8 hours ago, Clifford Brewer said:

Check out Cooks woods in Klamath Falls prices are reasonable to me and I'm a cheapskate......B)

Ugh thats so far away :P thats like a 5 hour drive i think haha. i wil check it out though

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14 hours ago, Brian Dougherty said:

Maple with some dark wood, or even copper accents can look really nice.  Especially if you get some maple with nice figure to it.  (Again, this is an opinion :) )

I think maple + black walnut would look really good. Especially for kitchen knives. speaking of which, how would you make a kitchen knife handle "food safe" finish wise? Is there some sealant or something i need to put on it?

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  • 2 weeks later...

To make something 'food safe' I just use whatever polish I normally do which is either BLO or Tung/BLO mixture. I find that after 5-8 coats, this is durable enough for kitchen use and the oils dry and seal into the wood so you don't need to worry about toxins at all. 

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On the rare occasion that I use stabilized wood, 90% of the time I get it from burlsource.us, and most of the time I wait for a sale... I like being able to see the exact piece I'm ordering.  There is a fellow who comes to Batson's symposium every year who brings cutoffs from riflestocks, usually curly hard maple, and his prices and quality are excellent.  I have enough of his curly maple to last me a few years now.  A few years ago I lucked up on an excellent deal on walnut burl turning blocks, I can get 3 or 4 handles out of each, so I'm set for a few years on figured walnut.  I was tipped off to bog oak from Etsy, there are a few sellers there who have excellent prices and quality.... Again, I have enough to last years now.  There are a couple of woods that I'd like to use I'm still looking for a good source for (boxwood, masur birch, etc).

Good deals are out there, be patient and shop around.  Be willing to buy in bulk if it's worth it.

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  • 4 weeks later...

http://www.exoticwoodsusa.com/order_knife_blanks.htm

https://www.woodcraft.com/categories/knife-scales

Just watch shipping it can be painful, but usually the more you buy the better off you are.

Exoticwoodusa is about $18 minimum shipping at .5 lbs (1 average block) but at 3lbs (could be 6 blocks or more) shipping is still sub $20. That helps if you are willing to buy several, or if you want to have a few options to choose from.

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