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Wa Knife Handles: To Dowel or Not to Dowel

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blorp

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I'm looking into getting into the knife making game. I'm starting off with handles first and going from there.

I'll start out by just broaching a tang hole in a uni-body piece of wood. Using a small-width drill bit, a drill press, jig saw blade, and files. I've done enough research to figure this bit out on my own.

For handles with ferrules, would it be possible to make a wa style handle without using a dowel?

From my understanding the dowel helps with stability by giving the epoxy more surface area to adhere and thus giving a stronger bond; especially resistant to shear. Let me know if there is more to this, or if I'm getting something wrong.
 

Dave Martell

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A dowel is really only required if shaping a handle "off knife" (no internal support from epoxy and tang) and even only then it is overkill unless metal (that heats up and melts glue), or fragile, pieces are used in the construction.

Something to keep in mind with using dowels is that the size of the dowel will restrict the outside dimensions as well as the shape you can create.
 

HSC /// Knives

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I don't think you need a dowel at all... unless you use a metal spacer in between the wood.
If you are gluing 2 pcs of wood together, try 2P-10, I like the middle weight (not thick or thin)
It has high lap shear strength and works great with wood to wood. https://www.fastcap.com/files/catalog/2P-10-TDS.pdf

Glue 2 pcs of wood together with the 2p-10 and see how much effort it takes to break them apart,
 

blorp

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I don't think you need a dowel at all... unless you use a metal spacer in between the wood.
If you are gluing 2 pcs of wood together, try 2P-10, I like the middle weight (not thick or thin)
It has high lap shear strength and works great with wood to wood. https://www.fastcap.com/files/catalog/2P-10-TDS.pdf

Glue 2 pcs of wood together with the 2p-10 and see how much effort it takes to break them apart,
Which specific 2p-10 product? looks like there are quite a few
 

Caleb Cox

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I had a few epoxy failures when shaping wa handle blocks glued with Brownells Acra Glas, but after switching to G/Flex I have had zero failures not using dowels. I think another appeal of dowels is that round holes are way easier to make than narrow slots.
 

Tim Rowland

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Dowels are not (necessary) in most applications.
As Dave mentions there are certain instances like when using metal spacers that it helps. Other instances where it is a hindrance.
G-flex epoxy is plenty strong for just about any task. Though when doing metal to g-10/micarta/carbon fiber/etc I use StickFast CA glue (flexible) it seems to bond better and can take a bit more friction heat while grinding.
One area that I think a dowel can help a lot is if making a buttcap. A small 1/2 long piece of dowel locking the handle barrel to the buttcap can help with internal strength against a mishap/bump/drop. Some people will just use a piece of mosiac pin through the cap to give it some extra flash and up the value.
 

inferno

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i dont use dowel for anything but i understand why one would want to. you just have to drill a hole in the ferrule and the main handle. and then just saw the dowel to fit the tang. its super easy and fast.
 

TB_London

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People were making handles for years before I posted the idea of using a dowel to simplify making the slot.
 

Dendrobatez

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The other reason for a dowel is it allows for a slight burn in and tight fit on woods that wouldn't like the heat. If the handle will be epoxied in you dont really need one, I like it on handles that will be installed with wax or hot glue.
 

connie

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I'm looking into getting into the knife making game. I'm starting off with handles first and going from there.

I'll start out by just broaching a tang hole in a uni-body piece of wood. Using a small-width drill bit, a drill press, jig saw blade, and files. I've done enough research to figure this bit out on my own.

For handles with ferrules, would it be possible to make a wa style handle without using a dowel?

From my understanding the dowel helps with stability by giving the epoxy more surface area to adhere and thus giving a stronger bond; especially resistant to shear. Let me know if there is more to this, or if I'm getting something wrong.
I suggest that make a drawing first. The drawing show how the blade and handle get together, then you can start easily. The knife handle has 3 ways to install to the blade: 1. the tang knocks into the handle directly. 2. Use the neils(normally 3pcs) to fix the handle to the tang. 3. Use the injection molding machine to make the handle: put the PP raw mateial and the blade into the machine, when it come out again, the blade is with the handle) .
 

blorp

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I suggest that make a drawing first. The drawing show how the blade and handle get together, then you can start easily. The knife handle has 3 ways to install to the blade: 1. the tang knocks into the handle directly. 2. Use the neils(normally 3pcs) to fix the handle to the tang. 3. Use the injection molding machine to make the handle: put the PP raw mateial and the blade into the machine, when it come out again, the blade is with the handle) .
I come from a design background so I won't have any issues with drawings. I'm assuming that I probably over prototype more than most on here.

While you're correct that those methods are options, I'll be sticking with Wa handles. Of course there's so many different methods and variations, but as I said I'll start with a single piece and go from there. Just wanted to know when a dowel is necessary or not.
 

blorp

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The other reason for a dowel is it allows for a slight burn in and tight fit on woods that wouldn't like the heat. If the handle will be epoxied in you dont really need one, I like it on handles that will be installed with wax or hot glue.
That's a very good point thank you
 

blorp

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Dowels are not (necessary) in most applications.
As Dave mentions there are certain instances like when using metal spacers that it helps. Other instances where it is a hindrance.
G-flex epoxy is plenty strong for just about any task. Though when doing metal to g-10/micarta/carbon fiber/etc I use StickFast CA glue (flexible) it seems to bond better and can take a bit more friction heat while grinding.
One area that I think a dowel can help a lot is if making a buttcap. A small 1/2 long piece of dowel locking the handle barrel to the buttcap can help with internal strength against a mishap/bump/drop. Some people will just use a piece of mosiac pin through the cap to give it some extra flash and up the value.
Thanks again Tim, extremely helpful as always
 

birdsfan

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Since I am a newbie at this also, I will throw in my 2 cents. I have used the dowel method. and it really did simplify the process. In one of the ones I did, I had to slightly enlarge the slot to accomodate a slightly broader tang near the blade. Doing that stuff with a file is tedious. Both of mine required a tightly fitted slot in the ferrule/face plate...again tedious. I am glad I started with the dowel method. It allowed an easier path to a first success.

My guess is that once you start doing handle work, you will enjoy the creative process as much as we all do, and you will do many of them. Plenty of time to experiment with all of the methods that are out there.
 

Beau Nidle

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I haven't used a dowel in years, even for multi part handles that use metal. I keep a clean bucket of water on hand when shaping and dip the handle in to keep the metal from getting too hot and melting the glue.
 

NO ChoP!

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I use dowel construction. Things tend to move during glue up, and I like to have everything fitted prior to clamping. I use mostly undersized 3/8" dowels and hand file the slot in each piece individually. I use a mock tang made of scrap metal to keep things in place and spread the dowel while drying. If it's a big knife with a big tang, I will use a 1/2" dowel. Something about using a 1/2" drill bit, though...failure rate goes up exponentially. Once epoxy is dry, all I have to do is clean up the tang hole a bit and off to shaping.

I'm over 400 on sayas and have that down to a science. I'm still under 100 on wa handles, but I have limited my failure rate basically through making every mistake in the book, lol.


(As an add on to failure with 1/2" drill bits; blocks have to be oversized to handle the stress. You can get away with using smaller pieces of wood with smaller dowels or no dowel.)
 

JoBone

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When I make a handle, I want it to last a lifetime.

My method involves drilling, so I always use a dowel or other pinning methods. If you are hand filing or burning in, then you can get away with it if the spacers have no metal or are not complex. If there is an endcap, it needs to be pinned.

As a note, I’ve had quite a few knives sent to me to rehandle as a result of poor construction.
 

JoBone

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Taking off a Takeda handle today, I was surprised to see he also uses a hidden dowel

CECE9A65-A702-46A1-811B-2E502CD5C7E7.jpeg
 

Dendrobatez

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You've got the right idea with the hammer, last takeda I pulled off was so hard to keep whole - not worth the effort
 

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