Quantcast

Wa Handle Construction - Martell Knives

Kitchen Knife Forums

Help Support Kitchen Knife Forums:

Dave Martell

Forum Founder
Professional Craftsman
Joined
Feb 27, 2011
Messages
14,108
Reaction score
1,133
Location
Airville, PA
So this is mostly a post for the other makers out there having issues with making wa handles......but maybe my customers might like to see it too?



It's common for most (wa) handle makers today to use a dowel internally to provide stability/security while shaping the handle (off knife). This is sort of like making a dowel to work like (what we get from) a tang when shaping a handle while it's mounted on the knife. This is especially important to a maker when metal spacers are involved in the build as they tend to hold onto heat and melt the epoxy allowing the handle to come apart but when a dowel is used this problem pretty much isn't an issue.

Using dowels internally does add a lot of strength for to a handle, for sure, but I don't believe it's necessary for kitchen knives since they're not used in a manner that requires such characteristics like say a camp knife would require (chopping, etc). I only use dowels for the reasons noted.

I first used a single dowel in my wa handles, like most other makers employ, but I found this limiting and looked for another method. The reasons for this...

1. When a single (large) hole is drilled it's difficult to keep the hole running straight as the depth increases.

2. Bigger drill bits cost more money and are harder to find. The same is true for dowels.

3. The size of the hole/dowel limits the size/shape that the finished handle can be brought to. Using a large internal hole/dowel often meant wider handles than I wanted to provide, especially the case on small petty handles.

4. When making handles for several different size knives one needs to make different sized handles, this means many different size dowels and drill bits to keep on hand. With the double dowel method I can use one size drill and dowel for all handles.



This is my construction method for wa handles. Thoughts?



Martell_Knives_Wa_Handle_Construction1.jpg
 
Last edited:

birdsfan

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 31, 2019
Messages
476
Reaction score
658
Location
Philly Suburbs
I would have never considered that approach. I envision some alignment benefits during assembly too and the ability to predrill a bunch of components to have on hand. Pretty cool!
 

Dave Martell

Forum Founder
Professional Craftsman
Joined
Feb 27, 2011
Messages
14,108
Reaction score
1,133
Location
Airville, PA
What types of tools/abrasives do you use the shape the metal spacers?

The most helpful tool I have for spacer work is my 9" disc grinder that I use to square up the spacers so that I can mount them in the drill press vise.
 

Dave Martell

Forum Founder
Professional Craftsman
Joined
Feb 27, 2011
Messages
14,108
Reaction score
1,133
Location
Airville, PA
One thing I forgot to mention as a positive to using two smaller holes stacked vs one large hole is that you won't see the internal components through lighter colored materials,like blond buffalo horn, when the handle is complete.
 

rogue108

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 16, 2011
Messages
452
Reaction score
36
Genius. This solves so many problems I have with wa handle construction other than I'm not good at it.
.
If you don't mind me asking.

What diameter are the holes? 3/8"?

How are you determining the amount of overlap and centering each hole to be drilled?

Thanks
 

Dave Martell

Forum Founder
Professional Craftsman
Joined
Feb 27, 2011
Messages
14,108
Reaction score
1,133
Location
Airville, PA
Genius. This solves so many problems I have with wa handle construction other than I'm not good at it.
.
If you don't mind me asking.

What diameter are the holes? 3/8"?

How are you determining the amount of overlap and centering each hole to be drilled?

Thanks

Hi Andrew,
You guessed correct on the size - I'm using 3/8" dowels . The holes are drilled slightly oversize to allow for a bit of wiggle room, can't recall the bit size off the top of my head though. I can give a tip that I should have mentioned before - use a brad point drill bit here - this will allow you to drill an overlapped (2nd) hole without the bit walking into the already drilled (1st) hole.

Regarding the overlap sizing, how I do this is that I use the height of the tang to determine this measurement. Basically I mark the material (on the end that needs drilling) by tracing the tang and then drill the holes inside these marks, this gives me the correct overlay for the specific tang I'm working with. To then size the dowels to fit is simply a matter of removing material until they both fit together and slide into the holes.
 

gregfisk

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 9, 2020
Messages
278
Reaction score
238
Location
Seattle
Your two dowel system seems like a good idea! I have been grinding my tangs down thinner and drilling a 5/16” hole. I only keep the tang thicker on the first half inch and drill that area a little larger. Then I use a 5/16” dowel and the larger area gets filled up with epoxy. This works fine on smaller knives 6” or less but I’m not sure about strength on larger ones. I’m not making wa handles but I am making hidden tang handles so I run into the same issues.
 

gregfisk

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 9, 2020
Messages
278
Reaction score
238
Location
Seattle
Dave, do you have a source you can share for the nickel silver material? Thanks
 

gregfisk

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 9, 2020
Messages
278
Reaction score
238
Location
Seattle
Thanks Carter, I’ve seen it on Amazon but I was wondering if there was a better source that wasn’t a prized secret. It’s not super expensive on Amazon but it’s not cheap either. I’ve been using aluminum for my cap material and spacers. It has its pluses and minuses.
 
Joined
Jun 9, 2017
Messages
24
Reaction score
20
Thanks Carter, I’ve seen it on Amazon but I was wondering if there was a better source that wasn’t a prized secret. It’s not super expensive on Amazon but it’s not cheap either. I’ve been using aluminum for my cap material and spacers. It has its pluses and minuses.
I don't know the price difference between the supply shops and Amazon, I order from both. Generally, the shipping will be free from Amazon (assuming Prime), it will not be free from the supply shops, so I order from the shops when I need addtl knife making supplies.

NS is much better than Alum....when I started making handles, I used a bunch of Alum....almost never use it now. You will generally need two thicknesses of NS, one for spacers in the ferrule and the other thicker for a spacer at the endcap.
 

gregfisk

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 9, 2020
Messages
278
Reaction score
238
Location
Seattle
I make hidden tang handles but they’re not wa handles. I use the aluminum for spacers throughout the handle which are thinner and then use thicker aluminum for the end caps. I’m sure ns is better overall. I like the color of ns better than aluminum too.
 

SeattleB

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 24, 2020
Messages
79
Reaction score
50
Location
Seattle
I've never worked on knife handles. I know a bit about woodworking and there are mortising bits available down to 1/4 inch. I'm suspect you've considered them. What would be the pros/cons?
 
Joined
Jun 9, 2017
Messages
24
Reaction score
20
Here are a couple of western handles. NS polishes a bit better than alum and is more scratch resistant. Also, NS is more common for pins and other adornments. Sorry for the black blob, I have to hide my logo when posting here.



 

Rom

Member
Joined
Jun 18, 2020
Messages
19
Reaction score
15
Location
Philippines
So this is mostly a post for the other makers out there having issues with making wa handles......but maybe my customers might like to see it too?



It's common for most (wa) handle makers today to use a dowel internally to provide stability/security while shaping the handle (off knife). This is sort of like making a dowel to work like (what we get from) a tang when shaping a handle while it's mounted on the knife. This is especially important to a maker when metal spacers are involved in the build as they tend to hold onto heat and melt the epoxy allowing the handle to come apart but when a dowel is used this problem pretty much isn't an issue.

Using dowels internally does add a lot of strength for to a handle, for sure, but I don't believe it's necessary for kitchen knives since they're not used in a manner that requires such characteristics like say a camp knife would require (chopping, etc). I only use dowels for the reasons noted.

I first used a single dowel in my wa handles, like most other makers employ, but I found this limiting and looked for another method. The reasons for this...

1. When a single (large) hole is drilled it's difficult to keep the hole running straight as the depth increases.

2. Bigger drill bits cost more money and are harder to find. The same is true for dowels.

3. The size of the hole/dowel limits the size/shape that the finished handle can be brought to. Using a large internal hole/dowel often meant wider handles than I wanted to provide, especially the case on small petty handles.

4. When making handles for several different size knives one needs to make different sized handles, this means many different size dowels and drill bits to keep on hand. With the double dowel method I can use one size drill and dowel for all handles.



This is my construction method for wa handles. Thoughts?



View attachment 98239
This is a great handle construction method.
 

Dave Martell

Forum Founder
Professional Craftsman
Joined
Feb 27, 2011
Messages
14,108
Reaction score
1,133
Location
Airville, PA
Dave, do you have a source you can share for the nickel silver material? Thanks
You can get nickel silver sheets and rods/bars at any of the knife maker supply shops and on Amazon.
Thanks Carter, I’ve seen it on Amazon but I was wondering if there was a better source that wasn’t a prized secret. It’s not super expensive on Amazon but it’s not cheap either. I’ve been using aluminum for my cap material and spacers. It has its pluses and minuses.
I don't know the price difference between the supply shops and Amazon, I order from both. Generally, the shipping will be free from Amazon (assuming Prime), it will not be free from the supply shops, so I order from the shops when I need addtl knife making supplies.

NS is much better than Alum....when I started making handles, I used a bunch of Alum....almost never use it now. You will generally need two thicknesses of NS, one for spacers in the ferrule and the other thicker for a spacer at the endcap.

I buy nickel silver sheets (and bars) from most all of the knifemaker supply places. I think most of what I have now is from Jantz because I ordered when I was getting some other stuff. My copper pin stock came from ebay many years ago, I bought like 2 dozen 5 ft lengths, it was super cheap going this way.
 

Dave Martell

Forum Founder
Professional Craftsman
Joined
Feb 27, 2011
Messages
14,108
Reaction score
1,133
Location
Airville, PA
I've never worked on knife handles. I know a bit about woodworking and there are mortising bits available down to 1/4 inch. I'm suspect you've considered them. What would be the pros/cons?
I considered them but never took the chance to buy them and try.
 

northside

Member
Joined
Dec 22, 2020
Messages
10
Reaction score
15
Location
Melbourne, Australia
I never considered using two pieces of dowel. I imagine that you would likely get better surface area for your glue using two dowel as opposed to one. I use quite a bit of blonde horn so I’ll be sure to give this a shot in the future. Thanks for sharing!
 

gregfisk

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 9, 2020
Messages
278
Reaction score
238
Location
Seattle
I thought you might find this interesting. I have been stacking several different types of wood, aluminum, copper, G10 and micarta to make these paring knife handles.
8834C22F-9363-4B7C-85C2-A9803F421C55.jpeg
Because the pieces don’t want to stay together when I’m grinding the handles into shape, I first drill two 1/8” holes the length of the handle. Then I glue in two bamboo skewers. Once those have dried I drill my hole for the tang. Then I can grind my handles into shape without fear of them coming apart.
 

Dave Martell

Forum Founder
Professional Craftsman
Joined
Feb 27, 2011
Messages
14,108
Reaction score
1,133
Location
Airville, PA
I thought you might find this interesting. I have been stacking several different types of wood, aluminum, copper, G10 and micarta to make these paring knife handles. View attachment 112655Because the pieces don’t want to stay together when I’m grinding the handles into shape, I first drill two 1/8” holes the length of the handle. Then I glue in two bamboo skewers. Once those have dried I drill my hole for the tang. Then I can grind my handles into shape without fear of them coming apart.

Cool idea!
 

Dave Martell

Forum Founder
Professional Craftsman
Joined
Feb 27, 2011
Messages
14,108
Reaction score
1,133
Location
Airville, PA
Today I was putting together a handle that's going to be mounted onto a small 160mm nakiri that has a pretty small tang. Because the tang is so small, and the handle will not be large, I decided to use only a single 3/8" dowel for internal support. This brought up yet another issue that I had forgot to mention on my initial post and that is in using double dowels (in a figure 8 configuration) the slot in the dowels remain aligned while assembling/glue up is occurring. I had forgot how a single dowel can spin if the hole is even the slightest bit oversized. Anyway, just another reason why I like this double dowel method. ;)
 

JoBone

Jobone_craftsman
Hobbyist Craftsman
Supporting Member
Joined
Apr 14, 2018
Messages
217
Reaction score
276
Location
NC
I think that double dowel is pretty slick.

I moved away from the clamps that you turn to tighten to help avoid the spin. Even so, it periodically happens and I need to spend extra time with my files.
 
Top