Now that you've quenched, sanded, and tempered, it's time for handle scales! You’re getting closer to the finish line and it’s time to pick out handle material and pins, then get ready to assemble your knife handle.
Before you get bogged down with the seemingly endless choices for handle scales, I’ll make your first knife a little easier on you by giving you some bulletproof options...
Micarta or G10 - These are my favorite scales to work with. They’re 100% waterproof and as a result, they don’t expand or contract which can cause gaps or separation from your knife. They also come in lots of colors and combinations of colors. Micarta is a brand name but G10 is nearly the same. G10 and Micarta can consist of canvas, linen, or paper laminated with fiberglass resin (these are dope, I'll probably get this set next).
The one caveat to using these materials is you MUST wear a good respirator when sanding and if possible, be in a well ventilated area (I use this). The dust created by the resin is toxic to your blood stream, so DO NOT skip out on protecting yourself. A dust mask will do you absolutely no good. Here's a decent respirator at a lower price point.
Stabilized Wood - If you fancy the look of wood instead, try a set of pre-stabilized wood scales. These scales are treated to prevent expanding and contracting like G10. Ironwood is a popular go-to and finish as well (I love this one). Make sure you apply the same caution in regards to safety, and protect your lungs with a decent respirator.
Pins - Your choice in handle pins aren’t that critical to anything but the aesthetic. They can really add to the overall look of your knife. You can use solid pin stock or hollow pin stock in stainless steel, brass, or copper, but the options don’t end there. I use this and this.
Mosaic Pins - Mosaic pins are a great way to add some bling to your knife. Basically, it’s functional art. There are many designs to choose from and even though they cost a bit more, you really only need one mosaic pin to enhance the finished blade. Click on the images below to see the details (price, dimensions, metal type, etc).
Epoxy - I usually use 5min epoxy for a standard set of knife scales. This allows me to get back to finishing the handle sooner, but there is the added stress of clamping everything down before it starts to set up. If you’re a little more patient, you can use other types of epoxies with slower curing times. If you’re nervous making your first knife, the slower epoxy is a good option two-fold. Not only can you take your time, but slow cure epoxy has a much stronger bond when finished. Five minute epoxy is not weak, but these are some facts you want to be aware of.
Remember that these choices are barely scratching the surface of the vast amount of handle materials that are available to you.
I want to show you these options to help you get a usable finished product you can be proud of with the least amount of hassle. By all means, shop around and get artistic if you feel like experimenting a bit more. It’s your knife! Make it something special to you.