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Russ Evans

sources for inexpensive handle materials

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I make blades as my stress relief hobby. I do give away some stuff I have made here and there so I do not have the needs for exotic handle parts. What are some sources for inexpensive handle scales? I have scrounged pallets, bought a piece of poplar, and have even used a part of an old chair. If anyone  has some ideas I could use it would be very helpful. I am looking for something more durable than the poplar board. Should I just suck it up and buy some handle scales? I did like trying my had with the scraps to make hidden tang handles using my router and chisels. 

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If you have a band or table saw to re-cut your wood you could try looking at some wood turning outfits and look out for seconds.  I got a 12" spindle blank of Lignum vitae that had one edge missing about one third of it's length.  I still got a couple of blocks and scales for a whole lot less than I would have been able to get them from a knife making supply house.  Even if you buy a good quality spindle or bowl blank you can still save a lot of money by cutting your own blocks and scales from them.  It will also give control over the direction of the grain.

 

Doug

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yup, turning spindles and a hand saw - no need for power tools. Pre cut scales are hugely wasteful for most things, and massively expensive.

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Just about any wood large enough to make a handle will work. Try to avoid the pith, (center), of the wood.  5" or 6" branches should be good. If you can't find any, try contacting a tree service or two. Offer to make a knife for them and they will probably give you the wood.

 

You can dry blanks in your microwave, but I'd cut them oversize so you can remove any checking. Here's a link to youtube videos on using a microwave to dry wood:

 

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=drying+wood+with+microwave

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Try micarta! Despite was some would say its dead-stupid easy to make. I make mine mostly out of construction paper lol. That allows me to make the colors to match my ideas. All you need is a mold, some clamps, parchment or wax paper, some bondo epoxy from walmart and handle materials. I've made it out of paper, paracord, burlap, blue jeans, old cotton belts, on and on. Here is the handle for a skinner I made ages ago. Just black and red paper.

1.jpg

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Russ Evans,    Flooring installers for oak, and other hardwood scraps. It's hard and pretty dry, and already has one good flat side.   I do service work around town so I stop at many tree trimming jobs during or after to ask about taking some pieces of hardwood.  Many hate to see so much great wood be fed into the chipper, and being hands on working guys, will sometimes cut a few pieces for you to take, or some leave good wood at curbside here for others to take for firewood.  Be polite and explain your interests to the workers, or homeowner, and many are happy to allow you to take wood.  As a rule no wood that is unstabilized and dry makes a good knife handle if it is easily grooved by  your thumbnail.  That rules out things like cedar, poplar, pine etc.  If your thumbnail will groove it easily so will everyday bumps and knocks ding and gouge it.  Many hedge woods make great handles.  They grow slow and strong, are very hard and fine grained with no porous rings like oak and are excellent woods for carved handles as well, so watch for boxwood, laurel, redleaf photinia, and others.  Split down the center if you can, or better yet bandsaw down the center pith and cut to firewood length, then paint the ends and dry in cool area 1 yr. per inch of thickness.  After that they are ready for the drybox treatment.  There is great wood everywhere unless you live in a desert.  After bad winter storms if you have a chain saw, or a good greenwood pruning saw people are happy to let you cut a few pieces of downed branches blocking their sidewalks.  Winter is also the best time to cut wood as it is the driest them, as far as greenwood goes, as the sap has gone down into the root system for the winter.  It's out there so have at it.  If you cut enough, you will learn how to cut for more figure and turn boring wood into much nicer looking handles, the same goes for selective dyeing wood as well.

 

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Thanks for all the responses!

 I am a transplant to the desert! I grew up in the Appalachian mountains and heated with wood for several years. If I still lived there I would have no problem with getting down trees. Here it’s a problem. 
I like the flooring contractor idea. I will try a contact some. 

I need to learn how to make micarta!! Thanks for the idea!

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When I lived in Yuma back in the 80s and early 90s, there was literally tons of ironwood lying around in the desert on BLM land. We used to use it for campfires and cooking on camping trips.   I heard they have cut down on offroading in a lot of areas since I left. Not sure if that's an option to gather ironwood anymore? Stuff is hard to work with, but beautiful and durable. 

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i would look for furniture and flooring, oak and maple should be pretty common, lots of furniture manufacturers dont know/dont care what kind of wood they are using so you can find some really cool stuff sometimes. you have mesquite or something else like it for sure where you are, i like using mesquite but dont let the dust get on you or it will stain you purple for a few days.

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I found an easy source for african woods: those cheap statuettes sold to tourists are sometimes quite nice. found a nice 20 x2020 cube of ironwood for 2$              :) fleemarkets too and old furnitures are gold !

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first if you buy and can work biggish pieces even if it seams expensive it might not be i got a large burl block cost me $100 but after figuring out how many blanks i could cut from it came out to $2.50 each which is cheaper than most plain wood blanks sold and never rule out para cord add a little leather or thin wood as a backer (cord needs to be built up if its going to be a real user) and epoxy coat it and a $50 spool can last forever

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I have a massive supply of curly maple. I use it for just about everything. Give me your address and I’ll send you a box full of blocks. 

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Also, check places like Lowes and home depot. They usually have small samples, like 4x4 inches, of hardwood floor samples. I have a few acacia, maple and even bamboo. They were a quarter apiece. Just be sure to check them over and make sure they're wood all the way through and not composite flooring.

 

https://www.lowes.com/pl/Hardwood-samples-Hardwood-Flooring/4136876684?int_cmp=FlooringSampleInstall:C:Flooring:Merch:dt_bnr_2-1_Hardwood_Samples

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Mike, Thanks again!! I just got home and I am so very thankful for your generosity! I can't wait to make a knife for this wood!!!

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You’re very welcome. I’m new here and don’t really know how the forum works yet. I didn’t even know you responded till a guy that came down from Michigan to buy a motor from me told me that you responded lol. I have enough of that curly maple that I’ll die before I use it all. After you make a knife with it send a picture. Thanks!

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