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Thread: Keeping balance point for finished knife when making/adding new handles - thoughts?

  1. #1
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    San Francisco Bay Area

    Keeping balance point for finished knife when making/adding new handles - thoughts?

    When it comes to re-handling an existing knife (or for some making a whole knife from the ground up), it seems like getting the right balance point presents some challenges...regardless of whether you want to be a little tip heavy, neutral or weight in the heel.

    To use a specific example - I'm currently making a Wa handle out of african blackwood and some stabilized burl. The blackwood is gorgeous stuff but it's extremely dense's probably double the weight of the burnt chestnut, magnolia or comparable materials for the same size. Stabilized wood, similarly, can be pretty heavy.

    Without making any adjustments for this weight issue, a new handle of the exact same size will be much heavier and likely shift the balance on the knife I'm making the handle for ( a 240 gyuto).

    The same issue would seem to apply is someone who buys one of the awesome handles some of the pros on the forums are making. Buy the handle on aesthetics, but risk changing the balance a little?

    So...regardless of which context, the simple question is - how do others handle this challenge? Or, maybe, does the weight/balance issue end up having too slight an impact to even worry about?

    Been having a discussion on this in private messages but thought it might be helpful for others and informative all around to put it out there for all. So.....Anybody with any thoughts, please chime in.

    A few of the things considered, talked about:

    1. doweling. For Wa handles, many of us join pieces of different material together with a dowel. It builds a better glue joint and the dowel is also easier to work with for setting the handle than trying to get a good heat based fit in an exotic wood that's really dense. One approach to the weight challenge is to maybe drill the dowel hole deeper and create either a hollow cavity deep in the handle...or, at the least, gain the benefit of the lighter dowel wood replacing the heavy exotic stuff inside the handle cavity.

    2. drill the tang. Another option is to put holes in the tang to remove material and weight...provided you don't drill too much away and impact the structural strength of the tang

    3. Finding the right balance as you work? how do you know where you are or what to tweak? an improvised pivot point (like a kid's see-saw) made out of a triangle shaped block seems a good way to easily test where the balance is ....magnets or other temporary "weights" can help zero in on the target weight you need for the handle.

    As a side note: usually I like a more improvisational approach to woodworking projects. Part of the fun, like being in the kitchen, is not being too scientific. Here, I've stooped to weighing materials to have a sense of where I am in the process.

    Anybody with thoughts for this discussion - chime in. Think it may be useful to those with the handle making addiction.

  2. #2
    Senior Member CrisAnderson27's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Great topic, count me in!

    And for the record, I've used the dowel and drilling methods both. Additionally, finding an 'equal' balance just in front of the ferrule seems to come very easily. The problem I'm facing right now, is I have a comparably light blade (162g overall with the current tang length and sizing), which requires a relatively forward balance (2" in front of the ferrule) to cut properly. Current balance is approximately 4" in front of the ferrule. I'll be shortening the tang approximately 15mm or so, and possibly drilling holes....but an average stabilized handle generally weighs in around 60-80g for this size knife (most likely in the upper range this time around).

    I'm eagerly awaiting replies .
    I try to be the man I times of broken lives. Shattered dreams and plans..standing up to fight. Pressures and demands..staring at the knife. Holding in your hands..

  3. #3
    Senior Member zitangy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Depends where you want your balance point..

    Wa to Wa handle conversion.

    I find that the balance point on J knives with Ho Wood is in further up the choil area 210mm adn further up (towards teh tip) for 240mm. Ordering ebony handle brings it back to the choil area and becomes more manageable for me.

    I prefer my balance point at the choil for gyutos adn just at the front end of teh bolster. Will Catcheside seems to have this issue nailed post no #165

    from his previous posts, he uses brass ,aluminium . wood, dowell and also butt caps of diff materials to manage the balance point based on customers preference. I ciate that greatly.

    Have fun..

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