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View Full Version : Natural Wood Handles - Koa and Layered Birch Bark



Marko Tsourkan
04-16-2013, 11:49 AM
Every time I pick my wife's knife (my #2 knife that I put a generic ho wood handle on), I remind myself how light and nimble the knife feels. Granted, the knife is thin, but the lightness of the handle is partially responsible for the weight.

This got me thinking about using some of my koa unstabilized on smaller knives like my 180mm gyuto. I am also in a process of making handles from layered birch bark, This one also should be pretty light. I will treat both with some sort of finish, but both will require minimal maintenance with some natural oil/wax mixture (I will come up with something).

I have made a handle in unstabilized koa before, and it fared well in a home environment, besides, I am thinking about capping the ends of koa with blackwood (maybe even make slented D, with a blackwood endcap).

Thoughts?

maxim
04-16-2013, 11:54 AM
I have been making handles from Maple, Koa and redwood that was unstabilized, and to be hunest i think its better then stabilized, like you said wight and colors just more natural and i like it :O I did not see any difference in shrinking or movement compered to stabilized wood, but i might be just lucky :D

Marko Tsourkan
04-16-2013, 11:57 AM
If wood is seasoned (dried), and you don't soak it in water, it's pretty stable. It might not be as stable as stabilized, but colors are more natural and it is lighter. We care a lot about carbon steel already, so adding an extra step - periodic application of oil/wax for handles, should not be a problem.

Maxim - good to hear that you had good experience with unstabilized wood. For now I am only considering koa and birch bark, but maple would be something down the road to consider.

M

maxim
04-16-2013, 12:03 PM
Its because i had one experience that i thought was super weird, I had re handled like 6 western knives 3 with stabilized wood and 3 with unstabilized. After 2 weeks in the store 3 of the knives scales shrinked just under 0,5 mm and guess what it was 3 stabilized :stinker: The unstabilized stuff was just fine but it was Snakewood and Ironwood hehe

But yeah very good seasoned wood will hold up just fine i think :)

Marko Tsourkan
04-16-2013, 12:18 PM
Oily woods like snakewood and ironwood are naturally stable, it would take pretty extreme changes in humidity to notice their movement. Koa and maple, on the other hand, are not oily. Stefan mentioned many times that in Hawaii they make oars out of koa.

Found this - "Because of its nearly equal tangential and radial shrinkage, (its T/R Ratio is only 1.1), Koa tends to be quite stable regarding environmental changes in humidity)

Anyway, I will give this project a try and see how thins turn out.

Anton
04-16-2013, 12:49 PM
From my perspective the lower weight would be greatly welcomed, for me there's nothing like a very nimble and overall light blade

zitangy
04-16-2013, 03:05 PM
Found this - "Because of its nearly equal tangential and radial shrinkage, (its T/R Ratio is only 1.1), Koa tends to be quite stable regarding environmental changes in humidity)



From my understanding, Quartersawn cut wood would have the above said movt properties. Either Kiln dried or naturally and it is the latter, has to be for about 1 inch think.. takes about 1 year of storage in a well aired and shaded place.

Only way I can tell is when looking at the growth ring lines.. it shld be greater than 60 degrees slope.

hv fun and stay sharp..
D

Dream Burls
04-16-2013, 03:28 PM
Its because i had one experience that i thought was super weird, I had re handled like 6 western knives 3 with stabilized wood and 3 with unstabilized. After 2 weeks in the store 3 of the knives scales shrinked just under 0,5 mm and guess what it was 3 stabilized :stinker: The unstabilized stuff was just fine but it was Snakewood and Ironwood hehe

But yeah very good seasoned wood will hold up just fine i think :)

Stabilization can be performed in many ways and many of them are not really effective. I'd be interested to know how the stabilized pieces that shrunk were stabilized and by whom.

maxim
04-16-2013, 03:34 PM
by Knife & Gun Finishing Supply in Arizona


Stabilization can be performed in many ways and many of them are not really effective. I'd be interested to know how the stabilized pieces that shrunk were stabilized and by whom.

Dream Burls
04-16-2013, 05:12 PM
Well that is weird! The only thing I can think of is that the wood was not dry enough when it was stabilized!?

apicius9
04-16-2013, 05:35 PM
AFAIK, technically all materials move, just at different rates. I am looking at an unstabilized koa handle that was made several months ago and with my fingernail I can feel that the transitions between horn - metal - koa are not perfectly flush anymore, but this is IMHO not enough to make it a problem (especially because that one will stay on the island). That said, I would not sell such a handle to someone in Utah or Colorado if I have metal next to unstabilized wood. But well seasoned koa paired with another stable unstabilized wood should not be a problem from all I know (and that may not be all that much...).

Stefan

Marko Tsourkan
04-16-2013, 10:50 PM
I have to add that horn moves at a different rate than wood, and should you have a metal spacer in your handle, you will definitely feel it in the winter.