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My friend and fellow knifemaker Cliff Fendley and I decided to try our hand at making some denim micarta handle material. This was our first attempt so we knew it would be a learning experience, and it was. Micarta is a material, or process, developed in the 1950s by Westinghouse. It is basically layers of material bonded together with resins. Different materials can be used including linen, paper, canvas, and denim. The bonding can be done with a variety of epoxy of polyester resins. After doing some research, we decided to use West Systems 105 epoxy resin and 206 slow hardener. The slow hardener would gives us around 20-30 minutes working time before it set up. There is also an extra slow hardener but our local supplier does not carry it because it requires an additional $20 in hazardous material fees to ship it. From what we read, the West Systems epoxy seemed to be one of the best available and is commonly used for building boats. It is expensive at $52.00 for a quart from our local supplier. In addition, we bought the $12.55 mini pump system which is calibrated to give the correct 5:1 mix of resin and hardener with equal number of pumps from each can.

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We wanted to make a few pieces of denim micarta so we cut our materials. I planned to make a 5x7" piece about 1/2" thick with alternating front and back layers of blue jean denim (lower left). I also planned to do the same thing with black denim (lower right) but we ran out of epoxy before we got that far. Cliff made a 1" thick 5x5" piece from faded blue jean (top pile) and a 1" thick 1x7" piece from alternating layers of tan and black denim which he twisted before pressing..

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Our plan was to use Cliff's large welding table and clamp several pieces of plywood extending off of the table so we could clamp a top piece of wood to press the layers while they set.

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m. and then do the next layer. .com/micarta. squeegee out the air bubbles and excess epoxy.Micarta http://www. 4 de 32 24/09/2010 11:27 p.htm Having never attempted this before. We found a couple of old Bondo spatulas to squeeze out the air bubbles.cartercrafts. We planned to wrap the whole thing in wax paper to prevent sticking to the wood. we planned to pour the epoxy onto a layer.

Micarta Pouring the epoxy directly onto the material is not an efficient method.cartercrafts. This method allowed me to keep mixing epoxy and pouring it into the pan as needed while cliff saturated the pieces and transferred them to the press block. I would soak up the excess run-off epoxy with the next piece of material to be used and put it into the pan for Cliff. I would then squeegee each layer as it was put on the block. 5 de 32 24/09/2010 11:27 p. We changed to pouring the epoxy into an aluminum baking pan and saturating the layers of material in the pan before putting them onto the wood block.htm We quickly learned our first lesson.m. .

htm This assembly line approach worked very well and we were able to quickly and efficiently saturate and stack the layers with very little waste. .m. 6 de 32 24/09/2010 11:27 http://www.cartercrafts.

cartercrafts.htm 7 de 32 24/09/2010 11:27 p. .Micarta

cartercrafts.Micarta http://www.m. As you can see.htm We placed another pan under each press to catch drippings. there wasn't much waste. .com/micarta. 8 de 32 24/09/2010 11:27 p.

m. .Micarta http://www.cartercrafts. We clamped at four corners and measured the height of each corner as we tightened the clamps to make sure we had uniform thickness across the piece. we folded the wax paper over it and clamped a top piece of plywood to press it.htm After we had the material saturated and 9 de 32 24/09/2010 11:27 p. Cliff checks a piece and wipes up some overflow.

htm The thinner stack of blue jean material. . This is 18 layers of material giving us about 1/2" thickness.cartercrafts.Micarta http://www. 10 de 32 24/09/2010 11:27

Micarta http://www.cartercrafts.htm The thicker stack of faded blue jean material. This was 35 layers material giving us about 1" thickness so it could be split down the middle to get approximately 1/4" handle slabs. 11 de 32 24/09/2010 11:27 p. .com/micarta.m.

We decided to press this in a mill vice. I couldn't take pictures of the twisting and tying operation as all of our epoxy covered hands were busy at the time.htm For the longer twisted piece of tan/black denim. Sorry. Cliff twisted it by hand while I tied a string around it to hold it together.Micarta http://www. .com/micarta. Next lesson learned: When we tightened the vise.m. We sprayed the vise with WD-40 to prevent any overflow epoxy from sticking to it. the bundle of material wanted to squeeze out the top of the vise. We fixed this problem by 12 de 32 24/09/2010 11:27 p.cartercrafts. We put the saturated and tied bundle of material in a plastic freezer bag and put it in the vise. Everything pressed and setting up. .Micarta http://www. 13 de 32 24/09/2010 11:27 p.htm clamping another piece of plywood on top.

Some of the wax paper also stuck but we assumed we would grind off the top layers anyway.cartercrafts.Micarta http://www. 14 de 32 24/09/2010 11:27 We were in no particular hurry so we let the pressed micarta set and dry for 4 days before removing it from the presses. . When we removed the materials we found that the flat pieces had stuck to the plywood but it was easily pried off.m.

htm I check out my thinner piece of blue jean micarta. .com/micarta.Micarta http://www.cartercrafts.m. 15 de 32 24/09/2010 11:27 p.

cartercrafts.Micarta http://www.htm We were now anxious to see what we made so we cut off a piece from the end of the thicker stack of faded blue jean material and gave it a quick sanding and polishing. .com/micarta.m. 16 de 32 24/09/2010 11:27 p.

m.htm 17 de 32 24/09/2010 11:27 .Micarta http://www.

htm 18 de 32 24/09/2010 11:27 .Micarta http://www.m.

com/micarta.Micarta http://www.m.htm After sanding 19 de 32 24/09/2010 11:27 p.cartercrafts. .

cartercrafts. .Micarta 20 de 32 24/09/2010 11:27 p.

htm After a quick buffing 21 de 32 24/09/2010 11:27 p.cartercrafts. http://www.

htm This looks 22 de 32 24/09/2010 11:27 p.m. Next we removed the twisted piece of tan/black micarta from the mill press. .Micarta http://www.

htm 23 de 32 24/09/2010 11:27 http://www. .cartercrafts.

htm It was easily removed from the freezer bag and this seems to be a much better method than using wax paper. . 24 de 32 24/09/2010 11:27 p. It also kept the vise http://www.

.Micarta http://www. We will have to grind fairly deep to remove the string. 25 de 32 24/09/2010 11:27 Next time we will wrap the string so that any knots are at the ends which will be cut off anyway.cartercrafts.htm Next lesson learned: We should not have allowed knots in the string to be positioned along the flat surface of the micarta.

26 de 32 24/09/2010 11:27 We cut a piece from the end to see what we had made.m.Micarta http://www. .

. 27 de 32 24/09/2010 11:27 p.htm We sanded and polished the cut cut of piece. After sanding.m.Micarta We liked this a lot.

.htm After a quick buffing we like it even more.Micarta http://www. 28 de 32 24/09/2010 11:27

m. .Micarta http://www. This is a two-man Soaking the layers of material in a pan and then squeezing out the excess and air bubbles works much better and more efficiently than 29 de 32 24/09/2010 11:27 p.cartercrafts. 2.htm I will post pictures of the finished micarta after we have installed it on some knives so check back soon. Lessons Learned: 1. It really took both of us to make this work as you have a short working time before the epoxy starts to set.

5.cartercrafts. make sure any knots in the string are at the ends where they will be cut off.Micarta http://www. We may try using some other resins in the future to compare. The exception of course is if you want to make something unique that is not readily available elsewhere such as blue jean micarta or a unique twist pattern. 3. You can buy large pieces for about $25 or a pair of handle slabs for around $12 from several sources. 4. Using the West Systems epoxy we invested $68. I know there is less expensive epoxy and polyester resins available and they are often used in making micarta. The mill press worked great for a long narrow piece like would be used for a one-piece handle. This is an expensive process. we cannot compare products. it is not cost efficient to make it yourself. Add to that 10 man-hours to make enough micarta to make 5-6 knife handles.m. It cuts. and polishes very well.00 in a quart of epoxy and the pumps. The pumps are supposed to be reusable and I'm sure we can get a better epoxy price by buying in larger quantities but it is still expensive. Since this was our first experience in making micarta. Considering the time and expense we encountered with making it. buying it makes more sense. I can say the micarta we made with the West Systems epoxy looks great and appears to be extremely tough. Plastic freezer bags work much better than wax paper for wrapping the wet micarta. Here is the finished product on a couple of Cliff Fendley's "Blackhawk" knives. Our conclusion is if you want common micarta. .htm trying to pour the epoxy directly onto the It dried crystal clear and we were impressed with how tough it was when we beat the heck out of a scrap piece with a hammer. If tying up a twisted stack of material. sands. Blue Jean Micarta 30 de 32 24/09/2010 11:27 p.

com/micarta.Micarta http://www.cartercrafts.htm Black/Gray Twist Micarta 31 de 32 24/09/2010 11:27 p. .m.

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