"a tool handle, particularly for knives."
May 7, 2013 8:33 PM   Subscribe

How-To: Paper Micarta, Micarta from blue jeans, How To Make Homemade Micarta. Micarta is a genericized name for any paper or fabric, layered, soaked in resin, then dried, shaped, and polished.
posted by the man of twists and turns (17 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
The video in "How to Make..." is a bit too real-time (we wait through the instructor adding 90 drops of hardener into his epoxy) and short on finishing details, but what a cool-looking result.
posted by xingcat at 8:56 PM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Does this not include basically all FRP construction of anything, from boats to Corvette bodies to 787 Dreamliners, as "micarta"? Typical carbon fiber construction is cloth soaked is resin, dried, sanded and polished.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:12 PM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Can you make guns from it? That seems to be the important question these days.
posted by XMLicious at 9:20 PM on May 7, 2013

Micarta boat (maybe that is a little generic for a definition of Micarta)
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 9:39 PM on May 7, 2013

Nice post though, I do like finding old Micarta things.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 9:43 PM on May 7, 2013

I did that once. I had a piece of steel, a used blade from a gas powered edger, that I decided would make a good knife. Cut up some old chinos, soaked it in some polyester resin, and sandwiched it with clamps between a couple sheets of saran wrap and 2x4s. The results, after cutting and shaping were... good enough. Nowhere near as pretty a job as some of the stuff here. But once cured, it's really tough stuff. Far more durable than traditional materials like bone or wood. I ought to give it a try again.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:49 PM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

These are beautiful. Will be showing this to my horseshoer, who is also a knife maker. My husband gave him a chunk of resin laminated exotic woods to make a knife with, and he was intrigued with that--he normally works with horn or metal. Hope this stuff is new to him.
posted by BlueHorse at 10:26 PM on May 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

George Westinghouse developed Micarta in 1910. At one time it could be purchased for furniture counter tops instead of Formica. How odd to diy something that needs heat and pressure.
posted by Cranberry at 11:56 PM on May 7, 2013

This is pretty neat. I saw a video the other day of a guy doing something similar with a leather handle for a knife. It was coated in something that made it sandable - i assume resin, but don't know and the video didn't say.

I'm curious as to what size pieces can be made with this method, and how rigid/durable they are? The micarta boat looked cool but.. how does that differ from fiberglass?

Not sure what search terms to use - most of the results I found related to knife handles.
posted by dubold at 4:18 AM on May 8, 2013

At one time it could be purchased for furniture counter tops instead of Formica.

Still can be. Phenolic resin plastics strengthened with compressed paper are in wide use as durable bench tops. I just bought a whole bunch for a lab renovation. When coloured black, it looks much like slate.
posted by bonehead at 5:35 AM on May 8, 2013

What the hell is it with knives?
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:52 AM on May 8, 2013

Quote from The Last Whole Earth Catalog (which was probably a quote from something else, but I've lost the reference), "A knife is a tool for making distinctions. The sharper the tool, the finer the distinctions."
posted by Bruce H. at 7:55 AM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm curious as to what size pieces can be made with this method, and how rigid/durable they are?

From Fendley's notes on their micarta toughness:
"Now we were wondering if micarta is inherently this tough or if it was something special about our LM105. I know it is impossible to compare apples to apple since many different resins and fabrics may be used in various pieces of micarta but just for giggles we grabbed a scrap of some micarta we had purchased from a commercial dealer.

We used our medium sized hammer and gave it a couple medium hard licks. It cracked on the 2nd blow and split in two with the 3rd blow, against the grain."

They abused their product much more, but they used high quality resins in the proper ratio, cured under careful pressure conditions. Who knows how the commercial products are made.
posted by a halcyon day at 8:34 AM on May 8, 2013

charlie don't surf: What the hell is it with knives?
They're essentially art pieces to collectors, so decoration of the handle is terribly important, but frankly: most of the talent and money of the knifemakers is invariably spent on the blade. So, how to make the handles stand up to the beauty of the blades?

Handles made of anything but the toughest woods can break or splinter under stress, especially if the handle is thin, and finding a near-free material to work that becomes so beautiful really appeals to the kind of person that would spend 10-40 hours folding steel in a coke fire to achieve pattern-blades from scrap iron.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:33 AM on May 8, 2013

a near-free material

The fiber part is easy to scrounge, yes, but the epoxy they were using costs $50 a quart. Enough that you don't really want to make mistakes with it.
posted by echo target at 11:10 AM on May 8, 2013

As much as I don't care about knife handles, I did enjoy the pieces posted by this majestically-coiffed Argentinian gentleman. Especially halfway down the thread where he uses dried beans to create a "raindrop" effect.
posted by wreckingball at 11:50 AM on May 8, 2013

I love my micarta pocket knife. It's so thin and light I forget it's in my pocket. I've carried it for about 7 years, and it doesn't show more than minor wear. The thing has been through the laundry countless times with no issues. I've mislaid it more than once, but it has always come back to me.

It's damn useful, too.
posted by Quonab at 1:11 PM on May 8, 2013

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