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Wa Handle Construction - Martell Knives

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Dave Martell

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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
 
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birdsfan

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.
 
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