Micarta (Tufnol) vs Stabilised wood on stainless steel?

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C_Claycomb

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I know this is an old topic, but I think the membership has changed a little since it was last discussed. What do folks prefer for the handles of their knives, and their bushcraft/outdoors knives in particular? If you had a choice between phenolic laminate (Micarta or Tufnol) and a figured stabilised wood, which would you preferr? Does it make a difference if they knife is O-1 vs, say 12C27 stainless or similar?

For reference, this is the sort of wood I am thinking of.
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and this is natural Tufnol and black Micarta
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TLM

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Nov 16, 2019
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Just a reminder, half of wood (lignin) is a natural phenolic polymer. So cotton fabric and phenol resin is chemically very close to wood, lignin and cellulose.
 

bobnewboy

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Jul 2, 2014
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For me, preferably figured stabilised wood, horn and antler in the handle; but absolutely no brass, bronze or copper parts at all. Bolsters, butts, pins or tubes from stainless steel, nickel silver, or carbon fibre are fine.
 

Broch

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Jan 18, 2009
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I know my perspective on this is off kilter with most on this forum :) - but:

Handles on my knives get damaged - I go for seasoned well oiled woods held in with soft (copper or brass) pins that I can get out easily. I can change the handle on my knives in less than an hour unless I'm looking for a 'beautiful' finish. That doesn't mean I don't look for a nice bit of figured wood; I just don't fuss about it because it's designed to be changed - it's a handle on a tool after all :)
 

Turnip

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Sep 28, 2010
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Just going to start off by saying that those two knives with the natural micarta/Tufnol are beauts!
I used to have a lot of knives with stabilised figured wood on but these days I sort of like natural wood so you get that satisfaction of the maintenance process. or micarta/Tufnol for my more go to knives, I don't mind what sort of situation they get in and just give then a quick scrub in the sink after.
I'm currently rehandling a JLT knife I've had for years, going for tufnol handle and pins, not exciting maybe, but it just works! :)
 

Murat_Cyp

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Sep 16, 2020
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Have both and like both. If if it has a stainless steel blade and is a regular user in wet conditions, then prefer micarta over wood. In terms of look and feel I can not say one is better over the other they both feel and look good but different to each other. G10, on the other hand, is another story, it does not look or feel good, but it is as durable as a nail. The only issue with wood apart from the well know one (e.g. getting shrunk, rotten, cracking and etc with time) there is more variability in end results relative to the micarta depending on the quality of the wood, preprocessing methods and finish. Whilst, with micarta you know what the end result would be depending on the preferred brand and abrasive used.
 

Tvividr

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Jan 13, 2004
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First: Very nice knives Chris !
For me a nice figured and stabilised wood will always be first choice, but I also like Micarta like the type shown in the last photo.
It might also depend on the knife. I have made several knives for my brother who hunts a LOT of roedeer every year. The best handle on a hunting knife that he has ever used (and now want me to rehandle 2 knives with the same), is homemade micarta that I made from layers of old denim trousers and epoxy. It makes a very "grippy" handle when working in "slippery conditions". I agree, and the knives that I use when I am hunting wild boar have the same type of handle.
For bushcraft / general outdoors knives I want a figured and stabilised wood handle.
 

Kadushu

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Jul 29, 2014
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I do like linen micarta with a rough finish for it's grippiness but the right piece of wood can be stunningly beautiful. In terms of durability I don't think there's much difference if the wood is properly stabilised.
 

Toddy

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Jan 21, 2005
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Those are nice, Chris :) very appealing

Wood's beautiful, but I'm a practical little lady, and my micarta handled knives don't fret me the same way as the wooden handled ones do. I often work in the wet, in the mud, in the sticky, sappy (rarely gory) sort of stuff. The micarta ones I just clean and dry and put them past. The wooden ones need a bit more care and attention.
I'm not careless with my tools, but they're meant for work, iimmc ?

The stacked handled kind made from birch bark though, that somehow seems quicker and easier to deal with than the other wooden handled types.

I have one of Chris's Bushcrafter knives (the Spyderco BcUK one), that he handled for me in the green micarta shown above. It's a superb knife, and the handle is not only comfortable, no hot spots, no discomfort with long use, but easy to care for. I've been using it for years now and it still looks good.


M
 

Redhand Jack

Tenderfoot
Jan 25, 2021
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My personal preference for workaday knives and tools is plain wood handles, simple steels and leather sheaths whenever possible, but if I were to treat myself a fancy steel blade with a burlap or hessian micarta handle and maybe a kydex sheath would probably be top of my wish list.
 

Billy-o

Native
Apr 19, 2018
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Micarta

But I have a knife handels in partridge wood and another in lig vit and another in sneezewood. They are all pretty plain pieces of wood (it is the figuration that I don't like) tough, and which pretty much look after themselves.

So, really, I'd say micarta or wood, so long as the wood is plain-ish and self maintaining :)
 

C_Claycomb

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My personal preference for workaday knives and tools is plain wood handles, simple steels and leather sheaths whenever possible, but if I were to treat myself a fancy steel blade with a burlap or hessian micarta handle and maybe a kydex sheath would probably be top of my wish list.
:lmao:
 
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Laurentius

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Aug 13, 2009
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I really do not like Formica or whatever it is called these days, but then you know some folks like plastic so what can you do? It is purely a matter of personal aesthetic preference and what you find comfortable to use. I like antler, wood I have grown myself or leather (which I have not grown myself not really a good idea to go poaching my neighbours cows) My favourite wood is willow (I can hear the howls of derision already)
 

Nice65

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Micarta, I love the canvas, burlap and tweed micarta. May not be best on a working/game prep/wet conditions knife as the material is absorbent. I think it isn’t popular in colder climates because it can freeze if wetted.

Wood I like, though thinking about it I don’t own any wood handled knives.

My ideal is G10, bolted through the handle. They can be removed for cleaning, and G10 doesn’t soak up any muck.
 
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plastic-ninja

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Jan 11, 2011
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I like both. My favourite fixed blade is handled in olive wood ( by A.Branch of this parish. ) and my favourite folder is in blue denim Micarta by Willem O Kelly.
 

C_Claycomb

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I thought the thread could do with some more pictures, since no one else is posting any...HINT!!!

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Bocote
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Oil finished curly ash...cannot say this was nice to work as the open early wood takes a LOT of wet sanding to fill.
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Oil finishing walnut is much easier.
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Stabilised wood isn't always plain sailing, this piece of spalted birch had an impenetrable layer of black fungus, so had to perform a super-glue finish to even it up.DSC01447.JPG

Micara and G10 can be more predicable and can be funIMG_5738.JPG
 

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Nice65

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Cheers for pics, hint taken. So much easier to post pics here than using Postimage or Photobucketmugger. Strangely, as an arborist with experience in joinery, furniture and French polishing, and a very wood passionate bloke, the olive canvas is the one I’d choose. I don’t know why.

I have just had these made for a Spyderco Military, in the same material, sandblasted and distressed with oil in the canvas. Obviously it is a different type of knife and no comparison to anything fixed blade for woodwork and bushcraft.


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Did these years ago, the Yew is wonderful, but it moves about.

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Brushed Wenge looks very good too. The man that worked wood and materials into his knife handles like a mad Mik Penillion was the Transylvanian maker, Hellize.

He embellished his builds with excellent tales of goblins and orcs, but unfortunately was banned for being told to rein it in a bit with the detail and went on a deleting post spree. Ridiculous, and a loss to the forum, this thread particularly because he did things with wood and bits of antler he found in the forest that appeal far more than a chunk of stabilised Lacewood or whatever.
 
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Nice65

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While we’re on, any idea if Ferric Chloride will blacken S30V? I’m looking to make the Millie look pretty dirty like the Cuscadi Dr Jones knives. But without Cuscadi prices ;)

 
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