Project MAXIMUM PUNISHMENT, Chapter Three – Handle Materials

Tools for Micarta Making
One needs only a handful of tools to make micarta. A respirator, goggles and latex gloves are must have, beer is optional

 

While George is working around the clock to finish the belt grinder in time, the rest of the crew started to work on the handles to prepare everything by the time the blades arrive from heat treatment.

As it was mentioned earlier, Peter and Matt chose simple micarta for the handle scales, but the specific types were still unknown at the time. A short trip to a nearby piece goods vendor solved that problem – Peter got some fabric that he thought would look good on the blades.

Cutting the Fabric
Matt is carefully tracing out his handle to have the proper size of micarta sheet

Matt was not that careful with that issue. His material of choice was carpet that he got somewhere and wanted to see how it would look , making frantic outbursts when he was asked how it was gonna feel to have carpet on his knife.

Anyway, micarta is not rocket science. It has been around for decades in custom knifemaking, and is very popular for its toughness and wide range of materials. Virtually every kind of fabric ended up in a micarta handle at some point, since all it needs is introduction of some resin to a porous fabric in several layers and mild pressure to work it into a solid block. When the resin sets, micarta can be worked just like wood, only it doesn’t need to be stabilized.

Matt and Peter used plain polyester resin. This is a simple, two component resin that sets within 24 hours and makes a tough, transparent material (bathtubs and small boats, for example, are also made with it). A good thing with micarta like most of the composite works is that it can be done in a shed with standard DIY tools and some very simple purpose made devices, since the know-how is what really matters. Matt’s workshop, where the operation took place doesn’t offer much more than that (standard DIY tools and rigged devices), but the know-how was there.

Resin Impregnation
Impregnating with polyester resin. Matt had to work fast, or else the resin would gel on him

The fabric was cut, the resin was mixed and soon the whole block sat under Matt’s anvil until the resin was set. Next day, Matt took the blocks and stored them for later use.

Meanwhile, George took a different path. His initial plan was to make the handle from rubber, experiment a little with materials, technologies and prototyping. So he retired to his workshop and started to work on the handle prototypes. The idea is to first make a clay prototype, digitalize it, modify it, 3D-print a second prototype, make final modifications, then 3D-print the pattern or the mold itself.

Clay Handle Sculpting
George’s girlfriend is carefully sculpting the handle

Clay may sound odd when mentioned together with latest technology, but inf act, it is an excellent prototyping material. It is readily available in any quantity, anything can be shaped out of it with little to no tools, and adjustments can be made to the model within minutes. It is especially good for the early stages of prototyping, when the model changes are frequent and huge. Pro modelers use it, industrial designers use it, so George had no shame using it either.

First he took an earlier blade prototype and worked the clay around it. The initial sketch outlined how it should look, and constant trial led to a satisfactory shape.

Finished Clay Model
The finished clay model gives a rough idea about how the handle should look like in the end

To be honest, credits go to George’s SO, who did most of the work, so he could concentrate on the belt grinder. Being an engineer as he is, the almighty belt grinder project got out of his hands and now the thing looks more like a steampunk fantasy than an ordinary KMG clone. Apart from that, the stuff is slowly coming to life, so hopefully it will eat away steel next weekend like there’s no tomorrow.

By that time, if everything goes right, the blade blanks will arrive from the suppliers. The crew is now learning its lesson the hard way, but more about that next time. See you later!

Selfie
The Crew is not a great fan of selfies, but we just had to take a group photo at the end of the day

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