View Full Version : Micarta experimentation

10-29-2010, 08:21 PM
Started yesterday working out how to make micarta scales, first test I used 15 layers of fiberglass cloth, set for around 24 hours, which gave me this ugly thing
http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc4/hs766.snc4/66660_1692365951433_1306305885_1853860_1119652_n.j pg

the 15 layers was no where near enough to try allot of shaping with, as its only about 1/8th of an inch thick, though I decided to go ahead and hacksaw it a bit and use some files to shape it a little, and see about drilling holes to match my practice bar

http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash2/hs394.ash2/67221_1692473194114_1306305885_1854029_4196645_n.j pg
http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc4/hs955.snc4/74880_1692479994284_1306305885_1854041_3789462_n.j pg
http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc4/hs892.snc4/72513_1692504274891_1306305885_1854079_6721858_n.j pg
this thing is ugly as can be

few observations made: the fibers did not become impregnated with the epoxy and fray on any angled sanding, More epoxy is needed to make it more uniform, MUCH more layers of fabric, Needs longer set time(paper towels I used to cushion against my vice stuck to it), need more pressure on the clamps to bring the layers together better. Also: fiberglass is itchy, and I will never use it again. I'm really glad I only did a small one with the fiberglass cloth, It would have been a frustrating waist of time to do anything bigger.

but, I Just got back from a shopping trip and snagged a yard of tan canvas material, I'm going to cut out around 35 12inchx2inch strips and epoxy them tomorrow. I look forward to applying and advancing what I learned from run 1!

also does anyone have a good recommendation on how to finish up on micarta?

10-29-2010, 08:35 PM
thats cool! i was thinking about trying the blue jean micarta. keep us informed on how it goes.


C Craft
10-29-2010, 08:46 PM
To cure the burn and itch of fiberglass take a bottle of the wife's fingernail polish remover to the shower with you, the cheap kind that has acetone in it and a wash cloth. Saturate the wash cloth in the fingernail polish remover and wash the afllected area. Then take your normal shower with soap and water. The acetone in the finger nail polish remover is mild enough not to hurt but strong enough to melt the fiberglass fiber stuck in your skin and that is what causes the burn and the itch! It will usally stop all problems by the time you exit the shower!!!!!!!!!

10-29-2010, 08:53 PM
Will do, I'm thinking it'll probably be around the 4th generation before I can get a good hang of it, so there should be a few weeks of updates, this next one I'm going to cure for 3 days so it sets up good.

To cure the burn and itch of fiberglass take a bottle of the wife's fingernail polish remover to the shower with you, the cheap kind that has acetone in it and a wash cloth. Saturate the wash cloth in the fingernail polish remover and wash the afllected area. Then take your normal shower with soap and water. The acetone in the finger nail polish remover is mild enough not to hurt but strong enough to melt the fiberglass fiber stuck in your skin and that is what causes the burn and the itch! It will usally stop all problems by the time you exit the shower!!!!!!!!!
Now THAT would have been helpful 3 hours ago

T. Hunter

10-29-2010, 09:08 PM
Nice. I am another newbie, who has considering trying to make my own handle material. That being said I have played with epoxy more than a couple of times. I think G10 is usually fiberglass based, whereas micarta is other stuff. But I'm not 100% on that.

Ideas. Maybe try a lighter weight fiberglass cloth, that should help with the fraying. You could try some of pigments for your epoxy. In a "How to" for micarta I ran across somewhere, they compressed it. I think that was to make the cured slab easier to work, ie less fraying.

Overall, I jealous that I didn't try it first. Well I guess I have a new project, hehe. But keep it up. I'll be following to see your results.


10-29-2010, 10:30 PM
Oh, I'm not the first, plenty of others have made them with great success. For compression I used 2 foot-long sections of hardwood and some spring clamps, which probably was not enough compression, so I'm going to switch to some twist clamps for the next run.

T. Hunter

Mike Carter
10-30-2010, 01:21 AM
You might want to take a look at the tutorial I put on Cliff Fendley's website when we were learning to make it. Maybe there are some tips there that can save you some trouble. http://www.fendleyknives.com/LM105.htm

In our opinion, for common colors and styles, it's cheaper to buy it than to make it. We only make it for unual patterns that aren't available commercially.

Rudy Joly
10-30-2010, 01:31 PM
I was asked to make some custom Jolycarta a few weeks ago. This was my first foray into laminates in a looong time. I've never been partial to the stuff and only made a couple knives with it. This is the method I came up with and turned out to be very simple and effective.

I cut some scrap 2x2 box tubing in half as a mold and some scrap aluminum box tubing as a squishing device . Lined the mold with wax paper and started laying in cloth strips, working the epoxy in with my (gloved) finger. It takes about 22-28 strips to achieve a finished 3/8". When lay-up is complete you fold over the ends of the wax paper, put on the squishing tube and tighten it up in a vise. (luckily I have 3 vises set up) After the initial tightening I wait a couple minutes and give it another light crank on the vise. Wait overnite to set up, remove from vise and let the whole thing sit for at least another day. Then you're done. The first set was made from the background cloth, the second set was some camo cloth and the last set was an old chamy shirt with a couple of dark layers as liners. These were experiments but came out better than I expected.


Hope this helps someone considering trying it.


Jessica Bybee Walker
10-30-2010, 02:43 PM
I think G10 is usually fiberglass based, whereas micarta is other stuff. But I'm not 100% on that.

You are correct. G10 is fiberglass and epoxy and micarta is typically canvas, linen, or paper and phenolic resin. They are similar, but different. They are enough differences that its good to be accurate on which is which.

Thunter124, I am with you on the itchiness! Before we started cutting our G10 wet the dust drove me nuts! I would be itching all over for the next couple days. At least its not as bad as CF

10-31-2010, 03:26 PM
Well lets hope that canvas wont make me itchy because its time for!

ROUND 2!!!

differences from last time: this time using canvas instead of fiberglass, c-clamps to get everything tight instead of $1 spring clips, baggy to hold the stuff instead of sandwiched in between two plastic strips, using a dip and lay method as apposed to ladle and spread.

here is a quick overview of the stuff I'm using: fiberglass epoxy resin stuff, around 35 strips of tan canvas, hardwood blocks and clamps, a trash-bag to keep it the table clean, mixing cup, gloves, and I'm trying a baggy this time to hold the block.
http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc4/hs026.snc4/33647_1695655913680_1306305885_1861646_563667_n.jp g

alright so this time I decided to try pouring all the resin in the pan and then dripping strips, squeezing out the excess and layering em on the table as seen in Mike's stuff. I liked this method much better as well and will probably do it this way from now on, the only thing is you have to be quick about it, I missed 7 pieces of canvas in the end when it started to set up on me. I'm sorry I got no pics of doing this as I am only one person, but this is the finished piece
http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc4/hs971.snc4/76448_1695656753701_1306305885_1861650_4344652_n.j pg
(note the gellitan-ized bits that came out with the last strip)

At this point I started to clamp up the the bag in the blocks. It took a good bit of fumbling to hold the blocks together, in one position and still manage to keep the clamp in line and tighten it at the same time, next time I'll clamp the bottom piece to the table like Mike(there's a pattern here...). Unfortunately the first time I got it in the blocks the edge decided to squirt out the edge, along with melting the bag I put it in.
http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc4/hs891.snc4/72485_1695659193762_1306305885_1861661_755009_n.jp g

I would also like to point out that this apparatus was starting to generate a lot of heat and getting increasingly harder to deal with, but non the less I managed to get everything straitened out.
http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc4/hs886.snc4/71912_1695661913830_1306305885_1861675_386406_n.jp g

first things first, what have I learned: listen to your elders; epoxy gets hot; secure your rig, never work with it loose; speed is key; ziploc bags can and will melt with heat and pressure; find more hands

I hope this turns out well, I'm going to wait until at least Tuesday before breaking it out its mold. for run three I think I will take some of our scrap steel and mock up the rig at the end of Mikes LM105 pt 3. Hopefully I can get more space worked out in our workshop (http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc4/hs975.snc4/76859_1695662913855_1306305885_1861679_1170390_n.j pg)

T. Hunter

Mike Carter
10-31-2010, 05:31 PM
Yes, you do have to work fast. That's why me and Cliff like to work together on it so we can move it along faster. One person dipping the pieces and the other person stacking works well. The West System epoxy we use gives us about a 20 minute window before it starts set up. When it does start to react it does get HOT. We have seen smoke rising from it and it got so got that we couldn't hold it even with gloves on when trying to twist it.

11-01-2010, 04:02 PM
Ill see if I cant get my dad to help me next time. Couple questions for you also, what all materials have y'all tried, any paper or just fabrics I have a lot of bright origami paper(I'm a master of origami, years of boredom in classes) that could make for interesting scales.

I had one thought today after looking at your angle bar rig, what if you used angle bar to block off the ends of the mold, then cut the fabric to fit into the mold. Calculate off of the mold the volume of it and then measure out about three quarters of that in resin, then instead of dipping or spreading on every layer you pour into the mold at set layers of the fabric. Say like start at the bottom of the mold(covered with thick contractor bag) with a thick layer of resin, then 5 layers of fabric, another layer of resin, 5 layers of fabric, and so on depending on thickness and porousness of the fabric in question. Then the press bar that you use for the mold will compress the resin through the layers of the fabric instead of spreading outward due to all the angle bar. Now a few things that I see as complicating this: resin not flowing between all the layers(would require layer control and more porous fabrics) as well as the resin leaking out without a proper seal around it(luckily Ive learned a good few sealing techniques through origami)

now this could possibly be test three, or maybe test four depending on how test 2 comes out, I may need more run through under normal conditions before moving on.

T. Hunter

Mike Carter
11-01-2010, 05:41 PM
So far we have just used cotton materials. We did find that all do not give the same results. It looks like the higher thread count materials work better. The last pieces I made turned much better than some of previous attempts. I used material that I bought at a fabric store. I didn't realize it would make so much difference so I didn't keep notes of exactly what the material composition or thread count was.

My only concern about saturation method you described is to make sure you get full saturation in each layer. If you have an air pocket or dry spot it's going to show up big time when you grind into it.

Edited to add: Freezer bags won't melt.

Rudy Joly
11-01-2010, 07:09 PM
Out of the three experiments I've done recently, I found that the chamy (chamois) shirt material worked the best. Maybe the cotton fleece type knit holds the epoxy better (?). It came out looking and working closest to real linen micarta. BTW, although it's somewhat expensive, the Crystal Clear epoxy I use gives me 40 minutes work time and is as they say...crystal clear when dry.


Mike Carter
11-01-2010, 07:15 PM
That's a good point. Some epoxies have UV screening additives to help prevent yellowing.

11-01-2010, 07:35 PM
Yea the ziploc was fine after all, it was just a tear in it. I broke the block out clamps, couldn't manage to wait until Tuesday, but I wont work on it until tomorrow. I really need to increase the layer count, this is nowhere near enough to make something workable.

http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc4/hs956.snc4/74933_1698177816726_1306305885_1869393_6520380_n.j pg

I have got to find the clear epoxy as that just looks horrible, got a good supplier Joly?

Rudy Joly
11-01-2010, 08:11 PM
You can call me Rudy.
Here's a link to the seller.

11-01-2010, 08:49 PM
Thank ya kindly, new rig is jerry-rigged for tomorrow, we'll see how my idea works out. Its a 3/2" x 9" channel so It wont be a very big slab, but I'm going to press my layer count as much as possible.

11-01-2010, 09:29 PM
When I was building my canoe, I always dealt with raka epoxy, http://www.raka.com/. They were always very help. You may like to try a slower setting epoxy. This has less heat build up, since it has more time to disperse. It will also give you more time to work with things and use thinker material because of more soak time. The only hold back is that it can up to 3 days to set, and a week before you can work with it. I would suggest giving them a call. Just as a warning, good epoxy isn't as cheap as the stuff from the big box stores.


Mike Carter
11-02-2010, 08:36 AM
We use the West System epoxy and get it from a local auto repair business. It is very expensive but we have been impressed with how good it looks and it is super tough. I don't know how much the brand of epoxy has to do with it but the stuff we made is almost indestructable and in our tests it proved to be much tougher than some of the commercial Micarta that we bought.

Cliff Fendley
11-02-2010, 04:41 PM
The West Systems is available at many marine dealers that do boat building and repair. It dries crystal clear and is a great product but as Mike said it's pricey.

11-03-2010, 10:10 PM
I'll get me some west epoxy once I get past this rig testing stage


highly experimental method: pour and press

http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc4/hs974.snc4/76743_1699988822000_1306305885_1874464_1066716_n.j pg
http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc4/hs985.snc4/75853_1699990542043_1306305885_1874465_1616457_n.j pg
http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash2/hs458.ash2/73115_1699991382064_1306305885_1874467_2024128_n.j pg
http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc4/hs963.snc4/75614_1699991502067_1306305885_1874468_4196555_n.j pg
http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc4/hs1124.snc4/148619_1699991902077_1306305885_1874469_7628010_n. jpg
http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc4/hs1153.snc4/149520_1699992262086_1306305885_1874470_1573139_n. jpg

Hopefully you can see in picture number number 3 that I'm actually working in a pool of the epoxy. it seemed to be all well and good as I was going through all of layers. But today when I went to try to break it out of the mold, I had to literally break it out of the mold, with a hammer. On the plus side, that is one SMOOTH piece of composite

http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash2/hs568.ash2/149063_1701718705246_1306305885_1877156_2181848_n. jpg
http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc4/hs978.snc4/77131_1701719425264_1306305885_1877157_477004_n.jp g

I'm going to finish breaking it out of all of its wrappings tomorrow as its around 11 o'clock on my front. I am not sure this is going to be a viable method though as the layers started wrapping up around the sides and some didn't get pressed down far enough into the pool of epoxy and there are some large pockets of epoxy that I can see on the edges.

as a final note, here is everything I've done so far

http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash2/hs487.ash2/76076_1701719945277_1306305885_1877159_5239415_n.j pg

Todd Robbins
11-10-2010, 09:39 AM
I'm planning on trying that pretty soon, because I can't get the color I'm looking for commercialy. I had planned to use wax paper on the top and bottom of the stack, but I hadn't taken the heat from the epoxy curing into account. Has anyone tried it with wax paper?

Where in Missippi are you from THunter?

11-10-2010, 10:50 AM
Mike Carter has done it with wax paper, but I would recommend using some kind of cut up trash bag, something like hefty that you can rip off the scale without it tearing. Haven't been able to do any shop work, managed to catch a nasty bug wich has taken me from strep to bronchitis over a weeks time.

I'm from the Jackson area

Todd Robbins
11-10-2010, 12:47 PM
I'm from Monticello, but I went to high school at Northwest Rankin, and still have friends in the area.

I'll try a block with wax paper this weekend and post how it turns out.

Mike Carter
11-10-2010, 01:21 PM
We found that the curing process will melt wax paper and may do the same with garbage bags. The expoxy we use gets HOT when it starts to set up. We have seen it smoking so much we were afraid it was going to burst into flames. The freezer bags have worked best for us. I think because they are also boiling bags.

It's mostly to keep your equipment clean anyway. If whatever you use sticks to the Micarta you are going to grind off the top layer anyway.

Cliff Fendley
11-10-2010, 02:41 PM
Actually those last bags we used peeled right away from the last denim we made Mike. I don't know what brand they were. Sharon brought them from the house while we were working so hopefully she knows. I don't know if they had a film or what but the epoxy didn't stick to them at all. I just took them out of the press and peeled the material out of the bag and it was ready to go.

The freezer bags are the only way to go. I'm also looking into doing some vacuum bagging.

Rudy Joly
11-10-2010, 02:41 PM
I've made several sets of scales with the wax paper and it peels right off for the most part. No major problems ......but on the other hand, I haven't seen my epoxy smoking yet. :scared:

I smoke enough for both of us.:biggrin:


11-11-2010, 09:14 AM
You might be able to try parchment paper? Its like wax paper but used for baking. Dont know if would hold up any better just a thought.

Todd Robbins
11-11-2010, 12:34 PM
Parchment paper is actually what I've got. I'll let everybody know how it works.

I see a lot of folks from KY here. I lived in Boston, KY for a while and have family there and in Bardstown and La Grange.

11-12-2010, 06:54 PM
I have made several slabs and used wax paper each time and like Rudy says ,it peels right off. I have actually seen my resi start to smoke ,didn't seem to hurt anything and again the wax paper peeled off. atleast for me it did good luck

Vance C.
11-27-2010, 01:55 AM
I tried to make a little piece the other day, and even with my astounding foresight, i neglected the fact that i had no warm place to keep it during the cure, ("no place warm" being outside, in below freezing temps) so it came out all kinds of messed up. it didn't dry overnight, and it bubbled up, i think because it froze something in the resin. Thankfully it was a test piece, but i wont get to do it again until i can think of somewhere/thing to keep it warm, or until colorado thaws out

11-27-2010, 09:33 AM
Try bringing it inside and putting some more pressure on it, If you wanted you could even drop it in a cooler with some heat packs if its too cold inside and out.

11-27-2010, 03:48 PM
I have been using Bondo Polyester Fiberglass Resin ( http://www.acehardware.com/product/index.jsp?productId=1414937&CAWELAID=109384216 ) and the cheap wax paper from the Dollar Tree with great results.
The wax paper peels off nicely and I haven't had a problem with the resin setting up properly even in cold weather.

Vance C.
Maybe try putting it under a heat lamp?

Rudy Joly
11-27-2010, 06:11 PM
If you're using fiberglass resin, you can mix it hot by adding a few more drops of hardener (MEK). The down side is it gives you less working time. For epoxies, you can also buy hardeners for different applications such as tropical weather or cold weather. I doubt they have an application for sub-zero weather though. With epoxy in cold weather, even if your mix is right, it can take weeks to totally solidify and it will look cloudy. If you have to work in the cold, fiberglass resin is your best bet because of it's exothermic properties.


11-27-2010, 09:49 PM
Well I just got me a 1x30 harbor freight grinder, soon as I got home I got strait to work. Using the second micarta slab I made, a piece of scrap metal, and some standard nuts and bolts and drill bits, I set to making KSO#2
http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc4/hs980.snc4/75372_1740807122432_1306305885_1946658_4654574_n.j pg

few things learned: my drill press is very imprecise, I need step bits and better screws and bolts, I really need to make some more consistent micarta, and I need more practice and work with my accuracy.

Next set of blocks I'm going to be using a thinner material, plain boards for compression, now that I have a grinder I'm more motivated to work on this.

Rudy Joly
11-28-2010, 07:45 AM
After having done this a few times now.....
8 or 9 bucks ain't bad for store bought scales, is it ? But how much fun it is.


11-28-2010, 08:23 AM
Its a ton of fun, its a great for working on other parts of knife making while I wait for my burners

edit: Also I just found out I live two streets over from Jim Burke, so that should also help some.

11-28-2010, 09:21 AM
Here are a couple pictures of my denim gun stock for those who haven't seen it yet.
I used MAX CLR-HP epoxy system, which Is cheaper then West Systems. I picked it
up on Ebay. It was a real workout shaping, and took a nice shine. Waxed paper stuck
pretty bad and had to be scrubbed off.
Pictures are lousy, but are the best I have


Rudy Joly
11-28-2010, 09:37 AM
That's alot of layup ! Nice work.
I use the same epoxy and have no problems peeling the wax paper off. It isn't an issue anyway once you're done shaping. Did you vacuum bag a piece that big ?
How many pairs of pants are you missing ?


11-28-2010, 11:31 AM
I used cheep waxed paper. That might have been the problem.
No vacuum bag was used. I used boards, and clamps.
It took around 100 layers, which was 10 yards of denim, and
1 1/4 gallons of epoxy. Layup was done about 1/4 inch at the time,
and it turned out real nice.

11-28-2010, 04:16 PM
Well got my 4th block rigged up now, starting to get more fluid at this
http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc4/hs1136.snc4/149889_1742072674070_1306305885_1949838_3529578_n. jpg
http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc4/hs1199.snc4/155143_1742124995378_1306305885_1949914_5602192_n. jpg

Wound up forty layers of the green cloth, the thinner material was harder to work with, it would move whenever I touched it. Probably going to be really thin, but Ill I'm going to go for a pin construction so it won't matter as much, 2 days and then we'll see.

11-29-2010, 03:07 PM
Very interesting thread. I have made one attempt at this so far - probably about a year ago. I intend to try it again and this is just serving to push me that way.

Not to hi-jack the thread but - that rifle stock is impressive. Beautiful work. How much does that thing weigh?

11-29-2010, 06:59 PM
I used cheep waxed paper. That might have been the problem.
No vacuum bag was used. I used boards, and clamps.
It took around 100 layers, which was 10 yards of denim, and
1 1/4 gallons of epoxy. Layup was done about 1/4 inch at the time,
and it turned out real nice.

That is a great looking rifle stock. That may be one-of-a-kind!

12-03-2010, 09:19 PM
Alright, its about time to wrap up my experimenting now, I've found a setup that will work wonders every time. This last slab turned out interesting, what started as an olive colored fabric, when mixed with the brown fiberglass resin, turned into a black color, which when sanded gets a green tint to it until you reach higher grits. Once I get back from running the St.Jude marathon tomorrow I will finish up the KOS I'm testing out my pin construction method on with this slab.

I'm looking at also building a "micarta tree" to make and have multiple slabs curing on at once.

12-08-2010, 03:26 PM
here is the second kso made with that last run of micarta, its makes for an interesting color that's for sure.
http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash2/hs351.ash2/63181_1756652318552_1306305885_1978952_6945796_n.j pg

12-31-2010, 08:13 PM
i love making micarta. my next trial will be a combo of old grey jeans and black cloth. i compress mine with a 1 ton press, too much pressure though and it will push the goopy mixture out of one side.

01-06-2011, 02:11 PM
Looks like you are getting the hang of the process...

01-23-2011, 10:23 AM
The general idea is there, but there is more I would like to try, and now that I have my forge built I'll be able to start working some serviceable blades to make handles for. One thing, has anyone tried making micarta around a knife? I'm looking at taking one or two long strips of fabric dipped in epoxy and wrapping em around the handle of a knife with a good distal taper, hopefully I can get a good hidden tang build with that will give unique grind patterns.