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pjkozy
10-09-2009, 11:51 AM
I have been looking for some legal tortoise shell for a folder for years. It will be a personal folder for myself. Can any DOGS give me a source or better yet have some product I can buy..?? I've used the look alike plastic in the past but is just isn't the same. ......... Pete

rocksalt
10-10-2009, 07:53 AM
Tortoise shell is a tough one.

Here are some of the things I know for certain:

1. The only legal tortoise shell is that which was made into a product prior to the CITES enactment, the Marine Mammal Act and I believe there is one more law that addresses sea turtles as well. These products have had to be made prior to 1973.

2. If you take one of these products, let's say a shoehorn, and cut it up to make scales for your knife, you are in violation of all of the above federal and international laws. The law that makes it even stronger is the Lacey Act. If you re-fabricate existing items, you turn it back into raw materail. The raw material is illegal even to have in your possession, not to mention it violates all the other laws governing endangered species.

3. Finsihed products (referenced above) which are legal to own still cannot be shipped internationally "for commercial purposes" and there is even some question as to whether these items can be moved from State to State within the United States.

4. Even artists who do restoration work to existing tortoise shell pieces are in violation of all the laws mentioned above because they are converting some pieces back to raw material to use to repair other items

I would suggest that you not concern yourself with using actual tortoise shell on your knife. The penalties are stiff if someone wants to make an issue. Believe me, there are a few Fish and Wildlife people who want to make an issue. For the most part Fish and Wildlife officials are very knowledgeable, informed and dedicated to the laws they enforce both in fact and in principle. Tortoise shell issues are serious for those folks, as they should be. They are good people, and they do their jobs well. Don't make a problem for yourself.


Now, as to potential look-a-likes. There are some possibilities:

1. You can purchase celluloid scales from some suppliers. I think Culpepper carries the celluloid scales. But, you run the risk of ruining the knife from the gasses that come off the celluloid as it ages. Also, celluloid is flammable and a wee-bit dicey to work with if you are not careful. So, celluloid is a tough choice.

2. There are several plastics out there that try to imitate tortoise shell, but as you said, they do a lousy job. Most of these plastics are new. To be honest, there is little incentive to duplicate the tortoise shell look in plastic these days because it is just not popular. So what is being done, just is not done very well.

3. You can purchase antique caseine scales on occasion that have great pattern and color. Just remember that caseine, while looking like plastic, is actually a natural material made from milk proteins. It will expand and contract, as well as shrink over time. There are things you can do to make it easier to use the caseine, but remember that it is a delicate natural material and needs to be treated like one.

4. One of the best options for getting material for scales, is antique pieces made from bakelite and other more inert plastic (not celluloid.) If you shop ebay, you can find some outstanding material. There are many things that you can do to make it look even more like original tortoise shell. While I won't go into them all, the most notable way to spice up that nice piece of bakelite is to gold leaf the liner before putting the plastic scale down. This was actually a common practice with tortoise shell in the past which was used by better makers. Tortoise shell is semi-transparent. To get the light to reflect back out, and to cover the metal of the liner, gold leaf was used. This gave the tortoise shell that extra rich look that you expect to see. It can have the same effect with antique bakelite. Gold leafing is simple and yes, please use the real gold. Real gold not only adds to the value of the knife, but it adds to the authenticity and the overall beauty of the bakelite. You can create a beautiful effect using well-chosen antique bakelite and gold leaf. (just a note, keep the piece of bakelite you cut in the event there is any confusion about the material on your knife. If you ever need to prove it is not tortoise shell, it is the easiest and non-destructive way to do so.)

I hope this helps. I've tried to include as much as I know about the tortoise shell. It has taken me years to accumulate this knowledge. I have acted as a confidential informant on several occasions for the U.S Division of Fish and Wildlife. I was part of the team that convicted and jailed the ONLY foreign national in history. She was smuggling elephant ivory out of Africa. So, I'm not making this stuff up. I've lived it and lived with it for many years.

If any of my experience and knowledge has, or will help, it is my priveledge to share it.

Be good.............

Tim

stabber
10-10-2009, 08:32 AM
:eek:Wow! The first #2? If it is already something but you use it to make something else, NG. Unbelievable!!

pjkozy
10-10-2009, 10:09 AM
Tim...
Thanks for the in depth reply. I had no idea the laws were so restrictive. I have used celluloid in the past and it looks pretty good however it was a bear to work with. I have also used the brown streaked clear buffalo horn but the effect is not the same. I will investigate the bakelite idea.

As for tortoise shell itself, I just shut the door on that idea. Thanks again for the effort you put into this reply.

............ Pete

Mark Behnke
10-10-2009, 11:07 AM
What a wealth of information. I don't think you could buy it at any price.
Truly generous.

rocksalt
10-10-2009, 11:16 AM
Pete,

Take a long look at the bakelite.

Ebay has all kinds of things that are antique/vintage and the patterns are very nice. You can use gold leaf under the translucent materials. You can also paint the backs of the scales to create different effects in coloration.

The other thing you can do is to jig the bottoms of the scales, the part that is against the liners. I have seen some carving done, and some jigging done on translucent scale material that really neat.

Also, when you use an antique piece of bakelite, it tends to have a 'story' or an intrinsic value. I hate plastic, micarta, g-10 and all the other stuff because it is just stuff. It has no story or intrinsic value on its own.

If you find a nice old antique that is busted or broken and you can ressurect it into knife handles, you can tell the story and the knife has some inherent uniqueness to it. Makes it fun........

Good luck and let me know if you run into any questions or problems along the way. I'm always full of suggestions.

Well, most people will say I'm full of...............something........................ .:D

Take Care,

Tim

Frank Niro
10-10-2009, 12:26 PM
I appreciate this well. written and precise information. The dealer I work with suggested I look for some old but true material say in a small box or whatever and then use it, He said this would be a legal. Well now, here he is trying to help me but because he didn't know the truth it could have hurt - lots. Thanks. Frank

pjkozy
10-10-2009, 04:18 PM
Pete,

Take a long look at the bakelite.

Ebay has all kinds of things that are antique/vintage and the patterns are very nice. You can use gold leaf under the translucent materials. You can also paint the backs of the scales to create different effects in coloration.

The other thing you can do is to jig the bottoms of the scales, the part that is against the liners. I have seen some carving done, and some jigging done on translucent scale material that really neat.

Also, when you use an antique piece of bakelite, it tends to have a 'story' or an intrinsic value. I hate plastic, micarta, g-10 and all the other stuff because it is just stuff. It has no story or intrinsic value on its own.

If you find a nice old antique that is busted or broken and you can ressurect it into knife handles, you can tell the story and the knife has some inherent uniqueness to it. Makes it fun........

Good luck and let me know if you run into any questions or problems along the way. I'm always full of suggestions.

Well, most people will say I'm full of...............something........................ .:D

Take Care,

Tim

Tim...
Thanks for the further advise. I'll let you know how this goes.
........ Pete

rocksalt
11-08-2009, 09:52 AM
I was able to acquire a complete tortoise shell from an estate just a few days ago. It is not very large, maybe 14" from top to bottom and about the same width.

I'll not cut it up, or do anything to modify it, but I thought you all might just want to see what the real deal looks like.

I am very lucky to even have this complete shell with the scutes all intact and not peeling away. It is beautiful from any angle.

Regrettably, it is for sale as I don't have the means to keep it. But it is nice to have it for a while. It's a privilege actually.

So take a look and enjoy!!

http://knifedogs.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=2761&stc=1&d=1257699086

pjkozy
11-09-2009, 10:52 AM
Really beautiful... you can see why it was such a desired decoration material. Perhaps if we had been better stewards of the planet we would not have pushed this to the endangered status. Thanks for sharing.

SteelSlaver
11-09-2009, 08:25 PM
What about stuff like snapping turtle shell? Can one use that and if what would it look like and can it be tinted or anything. Some of them get fairly big.

murphda2
11-09-2009, 09:35 PM
I have no idea what the shell would look like, but I'm sure you could. I believe most states regulate the harvest of them though. I know a guy that used to have a half dozen or so large (approximately 24"+ diameter) snapper shells in his business. They don't really look like anything I would want to use.

SteelSlaver
11-10-2009, 04:57 AM
I have come across several fishing in Montana rivers. I know they don't look so hot in the natural state. But, I am wondering about after sanded and polished up. I guess next time I get one its turtle soup and then some sanding and polishing. I have never seen any restrictions on them in Montana. I will ask the Fish and Game and then proceed. Curious George ya know.

rocksalt
11-10-2009, 04:37 PM
For the most part, domestic turtle shells will not work for handle material. The color is generally not good and the structure of the shell does not lend itself to making scales.

The scutes (sections of shell) come apart from the hard part of the shell and from one another. With sea tortoise, the scutes could be fused together in layers if they came from a smaller shell. If from a larger one, they were thick enough already.

Even most antique tortoise you see on tea boxes and trays, etc. are all thin layers adhered to wood or other substrate.

I am working on some things right now that involve different species of legal tortoise that are not endangered where the shell are available and completely legal. The problem still exists with the scutes being thin, but I've got some shell now that I'm experimenting with for scales.

This is a photo of the scutes off another species of tortoise that is legal. They have great color and texture, and they are 100% legal and moral to use.

http://knifedogs.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=2836&stc=1&d=1257896098

Another photo of some other scutes I'm playing with..........

http://knifedogs.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=2837&stc=1&d=1257896586

I'll let you know how it goes.

-tim