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Daniel chapa
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There is no section specific to handle making but there are several threads about specific types of handles. What is giving you the most trouble? Is there a type of handle you have questions about?

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If you are just starting with improving your handle work I would work with low cost domestic hard wood like maple, cherry, walnut.

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Walter Sorrells is a very good knife maker and a member of the forum here is an instructional video he made on making micarta.

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Right now what I've been using is oak wood I cut from my aunt's tree. I had a friend with a band saw cut it into slabs and it's been sitting on a shelf for a few months. I know I'm supposed to stabilize it so the first time I made a handle I used the minswax stuff from home Depot and it worked but I was not happy with the finish. I'm gonna try it again but I want to venture out for my next knife

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24 minutes ago, Daniel chapa said:

Right now what I've been using is oak wood I cut from my aunt's tree. I had a friend with a band saw cut it into slabs and it's been sitting on a shelf for a few months. I know I'm supposed to stabilize it so the first time I made a handle I used the minswax stuff from home Depot and it worked but I was not happy with the finish. I'm gonna try it again but I want to venture out for my next knife

You don't have to stabilize the wood.  People have been using non-stabilized wood for 1000s of years, and they thought it was fine.  BUT, you certainly need to let the wood dry more than a few months.   
 

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People usually stabilize wood that normally wouldn't be good for knife scales. I personally think if it needs to be stabilized it doesn't belong on a knife.

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How long it takes for wood to dry depends on things like species (some woods just dry faster than others) and the thickness to which they were cut.  The general rule is one year for each inch of thickness plus one year.

Also that Minwax product is not even close to stabilizing the wood.

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You live in south Texas, right?  Moisture shouldn't be an issue once that wood isdry.  Varnish is a surface sealer and finish.  Stain is for color.  That said, most finishes will darken wood to some extent.  Water-based polyurethane will not, but it tends to look a little sterile.  

Oak is a fine wood, it's just not very flashy.  The open grain can cause problems when carving.  An oil-based finish like Tru-oil will fill the pores nicely.  Oak also takes glue like nobody's business, which is one reason it was used as the core for many sword grips under a leather wrap.  

You should have mesquite around you as well.  It can make a really pretty handle if you get hold of some burl or crotch wood.  It tends to be chippy, but is even harder than oak.

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While I generally agree with what Jeremy said, I have found that, in life, there are exceptions to absolute rules. My belief is, that, if a material is too fragile to be used without stabilizing then stabilizing doesn't make it "knifeworthy". There are some woods that need a true stabilizing (vacuum process) to work well and they do if treated. 

One of the overlooked benefits to the vacuum process is that it is "self finishing". That is the particular polymers used become an integrated finish and may be sanded and polished to the level desired without having to put anything else on the handle. If one is comfortable with working with wood, has a band saw, table saw etc, and the stabilizing equipment then that factor alone can make it worthwhile.

All of that is irrelevant to your situation of course, just added or general purposes. For you case I agree that less than a year makes it problematic and more than most realize with oak. It is a great, if plain, wood but only when completely dry. There are a couple of ways it can be "pushed" by an experienced woodworker but it takes a degree of experienced judgement to choose the right piece. 

I suggest you take Gerhard up on his offer if you can't find any well dried hardwood. Home made micarta has some interesting possibilities.

In my younger days I had "connections" in the second-hand furniture business and used to get some interesting woods from furniture that was beyond saving. I also used oak salvaged from shipping pallets for my "mountain man" recreation camp knives. It doesn't take a lot of wood to make the handle for a knife. You might want to shop around at a thrift store or two and see if there isn't something real cheap that you wouldn't mind "cannibalizing".

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  • 4 weeks later...

Oak is beautiful when stained with Aqua Fortis and then fill the pores with Tung Oil. It is a beautiful combination. Purple/black and  brown with gold highlightssubtle pweld with hamon brass and oak .jpg!

 

 

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Aqua fortis is ferric nitrate.  Dilute nitric acid "killed" with iron.  You can buy dry crystals on eBay, or if you are lucky enough to have access to reagent-grade 60 degree Baume nitric acid (just shy of fuming strength) you can make your own both easily and dangerously. 

First, get a large glass or ceramic jar to mix it up in.  No metal. It will eat it, even stainless steel, and the heat produced will melt plastic. Dilute by pouring one part acid into three parts water (if you add the water to the acid it will blow up in your face. Danger #1).  Use distilled water because the minerals and chlorinating compounds in treated tap water can mess with the end color, usually lending a greenish tint.

Add your iron filings SLOWLY.  You can use filings, de-galvanized nails, scrap steel, or whatever, but I like #0000 steel wool because the fine filaments of steel dissolve fast.  Note I emphasized "slowly".  If you add too much too fast, the heat created by the dissolving steel wool can break the container you're mixing it in or even cause the excess wool to catch fire (danger #2).  Do this outside with excellent ventilation, because the reaction will also produce clouds of dirty orange smoke.  This smoke is nitric oxide, which, while differing from nitrous oxide only by the lack of an oxygen, is not laughing gas.  It is lung-melting gas.  Do not breathe it lest it be your last breath (danger #3). 

I usually mix up a pint or so at a time.  It takes a few hours to slowly add as much steel wool as it will eat without getting it too hot.  Once it has stopped visibly eating the wool, I add another pad of it, loosely cover the jar (if tightly sealed, the pressure buildup from the remaining reaction will blow the jar.  Danger #4), and leave it alone for a few days.  If, after a week, there is still steel wool floating on top, it's done.  Strain into a clean jar, it is now harmless except for the power to stain skin.

To use it, take your wood to as finished as it's gonna go.  raise the grain and cut it back several times.  It needs to be almost shiny before applying the stain.  Wipe on a thin layer of stain, let sit about 30 seconds, and toast if off dry with a propane torch or heat gun.  Finish sand, apply finish, and done!

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I have seen that method suggested for black powder rifle stocks. In the very old references they didn't mention the dangers. If I had known how dangerous it was I would have probably tried it by now, although, it is lower on the "potential explosion" list than I like but I am sue I'd find a way to upgrade itB)

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Oh, there's all kinds of pyrotechnical stuff you can do with strong nitric acid, that's why it's hard to get since 9/11.  ;)  

For the record, if you have any, do not let it dry on paper or cloth.  Burn it wet. Or better yet neutralize it with a strong solution of washing soda.  Nitrated cellulose really reacts poorly to heat and shock.

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