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Thread: segmented western suggestions

  1. #1
    Senior Member hobbitling's Avatar
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    segmented western suggestions

    I had an idea for a western handle with segmented scales. I want to have blackwood at each end (like a bolster and endcap) and bocote in the middle, with thin stainless spacers between the segments (perpendicular to the tang).
    I'm just wondering how to actually build it.

    Should I build it as one segmented block and try to saw it in half into scales? Sawing through the stainless spacers might be difficult. Or should I build two separate segmented scales? The clamping for the glue up might be hard for such thin pieces.

    And there is the question of whether I should have some sort of hidden pins joining the segments, which would be difficult in such a thin piece. Or I could have pins through the tang for each segment. The blackwood is so dense I worry that epoxy alone might not be enough to hold it together.

    Please advise me, knife gurus.

  2. #2
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    I'm more comfortable with Wa handles than western, but you have a few issues to contend with, I think.

    One is anytime you shape a metal spacer you have to be careful that the heat from grinding it/cutting it won't weaken an already made glue joint. Another is the blackwood - African Blackwood is so dense it can be hard to shape (slow to grind) and hard to glue. Try and sand a piece of blackwood simultaneously with something less dense and you'll struggle to get things even. Also , blackwood dust is so fine, it can fill the pores on other woods you are using and impact your final finish.

    I just made some Wa handles with a mix of blackwood, stabilized burls and copper. My approach was to rough shape each segment individually, maybe to 1/8 inch of final shape...That made it easier to control dust/pores and protected my joints. Once I was close to shape, I glued them all together (I use a dowel in the center to strengthen the joint)...then more carefully (with blue tape to protect sections as needed), I did the final shaping. It came out well and was sturdy.

    For a western, the dowel approach is obviously not very realistic ....but if you have exposed pins through the tang you may not need to worry about the glue joints that much. Epoxy to the tang and to the pins will more than adequately provide strength on the scales. And as for shaping? I'd do the same as I did with a Wa -- work in components rather than a single block until you get close to your rough shape.

    Even with a good bandsaw and a multipurpose blade that can handle wood and metal, you run the risk of heat from cutting the spacer ruining the glue joint if you glued it all up as a single blank to cut in half.

    Two other notes on blackwood -- because it's so dense it can get hot fast from friction/tooling. Work slowly with it. I went too fast with one piece on a drill press and it literally exploded into pieces. expensive, and dangerous, mistake. Second point - don't sand it past 80 grit max at any glue joint. A rougher texture of 60 to 80 will help give a stronger joint....which is important since the glue won't penetrate anywhere near as deeply on it as with other woods.

  3. #3
    I suggest using a liner with all those components. Have all the pieces cut out and squared up, the clamp and glue to the liner. Then you'll have essentially one big block to worry about, instead of many different pieces. G10 or micarta works well as a liner (I'm more a fan of G10, much more).

    EDIT: Are you doing a 3 piece handle with exposed tang or a hidden tang?

  4. #4
    Senior Member hobbitling's Avatar
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    It's an exposed tang, so a liner would work. That might be the way to go. Thanks for the suggestion. If I use a liner it would be a very thin one, probably dark enough to barely be noticeable.

  5. #5
    If you don't want to do a liner, you can get waxpaper on a flat surface and epoxy it all on there, then just sand off the paper flat.

  6. #6
    Das HandleMeister apicius9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Don Nguyen View Post
    I suggest using a liner with all those components. Have all the pieces cut out and squared up, the clamp and glue to the liner. Then you'll have essentially one big block to worry about, instead of many different pieces. G10 or micarta works well as a liner (I'm more a fan of G10, much more).

    EDIT: Are you doing a 3 piece handle with exposed tang or a hidden tang?
    Quote Originally Posted by Don Nguyen View Post
    If you don't want to do a liner, you can get waxpaper on a flat surface and epoxy it all on there, then just sand off the paper flat.
    Not that I ever did one, but that's exactly what I was thinking.

    Stefan

  7. #7
    Senior Member hobbitling's Avatar
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    I've been pondering this some more. I don't really want a visible liner, so here is my tentative plan.

    -Rough shape segments and spacers before gluing, to minimize shaping of the glued up segments. This will be especially important for the metal spacers.

    -sand all glued surfaces at 50 grit.

    - For additional glue penetration, I'm thinking of drilling shallow pinholes to add even more texture for the glue to adhere to, possibly using an actual sewing needle or other similarly ultra thin bit.

    -I'll probably do a "hidden liner". I'll dremel a shallow channel on the inner surface (the surface that will face the tang) of each handle component, and inlay either a thin strip of wood (coffee stirrer), or possibly some fabric, saturated with epoxy, (which would basically become a strip of micarta) that will serve a function similar to the dowel on a wa handle.

    -clamp the scale segments and hidden liner to a flat surface with a waxed paper backing, and carefully sand it flat after it's all cured.

    -glue the scales to the handle using hidden pins. I think with spacers and pins it would look to "busy".

    -final shaping (slowly to avoid heat damage), sand, finish


    Geez, that's going to be a lot of steps.

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