View Full Version : Need help with a handle design

01-19-2012, 12:16 AM
Hi, so here is the thing: Since I started playing around with handles, I was dreaming about making one that was round or oval wood and then wrapped in stingray leather. That leather looks good, is nice and grippy, and I am pretty sure it is water resistant ;) I just can't figure out a good way to make it work. It is very difficult to cut that material exactly straight because it has these little hard knobs, so the main problem is to connect the two borders so that it looks good and as seamless as possible. I could also try wrapping it in a thin strip around the wood but then I would have several layers overlapping and I am worried that this would increase the surface where food stuff can get stuck and cleaning would be more difficult. I also thought about routing a small ridge into the wood (well, if I had a router...) and then sticking the two leather edges in there, but that doesn't seem easy either. And then I still need to get it flush with the ferrule if I stay with the 'classic' design, but that could probably be solved with patience and a hand file.

So, any ideas? Or is that a crazy idea anyway?


Eamon Burke
01-19-2012, 12:24 AM
How hard are the knobs? Ever seen collins burke leather knife?

01-19-2012, 02:15 AM
Samurai swords are traditionally wrapped in stingray leather like this.

Make a beautiful handle then wrap it while leaving spots that you can see the work underneath.

01-19-2012, 02:30 AM
I'd be worried about the edges abrading.

01-19-2012, 12:06 PM
I'd have a look at high end Japanese bicycle Handlebar wraps. There are some amazing leather wraps that might give you some good ideas.

Mike Davis
01-19-2012, 12:21 PM
Maybe doing the straight cut and coating it in an epoxy? That would help with the edges abrading, or the possibility of it coming undone. I had thought about doing a sword tip yanagi with a full blown tsuka-maki, but haven't really figured it out yet. Maybe you can do a few test pieces with some el cheapo wood and cheap leather. Might be the best way to do it.

01-19-2012, 12:31 PM
Stringray can be purchased two ways..1) as a tanned product which make the flesh leather part of this skin very soft and flexable and 2) untanned or rawhide which leaves it very stiff and rigid. I believe the second choice is the preferred method for most samuri sword type applications which may be best for your application also. There is a really great video on the subject located here http://www.shopblade.com/product/japanese-silk-wrapped-handles-with-don-polzien-w5358/ . Please be advised that the beads on stingray are a form of silica therefore be very diligent in using your respirator when grinding.....which is the best way to cut this material. Use a rotary tool with the thin .010-.015" cut off disk. If you need to expose some of the leather underneath use a drum sander in the same tool. This stuff does STINK when ground giving your respirator another good reason for existing. In the leather world we usually use a very strong contact cement like Barge, Masters, 3M, etc. as the are fast, waterproof and STRONG.....just ask any boot/ shoe maker or repair person.

Hope this helps.


01-19-2012, 06:48 PM
Those are some great pointers alerady, thanks guys! I have a few pieces of stingray that are tanned and dyed, I may just use one or two to play around with. Never thought about using a rotary tool that's a great idea - and thank for the respirator tip, Pablo. I had looked into the wrapping, but I though for a knife tha is being used, it would be too difficult to clean. Never heard of handle bar wraps, I have to check that out...

Gotta run, meeting geezr/Ken for lunch...


02-24-2012, 12:58 AM
Ever make any progress with this one?? Inquiring minds....

02-24-2012, 01:33 AM
When I first read this thread I was thinking of a braid like design. The handlebar wrap would be a more suitable for what you are trying I would say. Good luck on this very complicated idea.

02-24-2012, 02:20 AM
Project is shelved for now, together with a few others, I want to plow through my order list first.


03-03-2012, 06:07 PM
yeah I think this would be a difficult project for a lot of reasons. The small size of kitchen knife handles means that a lot of the expensive material would be wasted. Basically if you compare the size of a kitchen knife handle with the size of a sword handle, they are completely different. The leather would probably need to be coated with epoxy or something similar or else it might absorb water and dirt. I don't think it would work with the traditional handle design/ferrule, perhaps with a completely unconventional, new design.

11-07-2013, 05:11 AM
There are many components that bring a fine custom or handmade knife to its pinnacle of style, use, and completion. Though the first view is of the blade and handle, the bolsters, guard, pommel, and fittings are just as important to the construction and fulfillment of the piece.