Wood for scales

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Halfbore
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Wood for scales

Postby Halfbore » Mon Apr 12, 2021 8:34 am

Hi all.
I'm pretty new here. I was attracted to Spyderco because of the recent mule buzz. Had two in my cart, went to hit checkout, and felt guilty due to the demand from true Spyderco fans. Felt like I was taking from those that deserve it more. ANyway, didn't go through with the order and greatly regret that now. But I digress. I will hopefully not miss out on the next, and maybe I'll even get lucky enough to buy two and trade one for a SPY27.
Here's my question as I look forward to this release.
I spent this last weekend tearing down an old building on our farm. I don't know how old it was, except that when the family settled here in 1870 it was already built and abandoned and that's where they lived the first year while building the house we live in now. Most of the wood was in real bad shape and went to the burn pile. I was able to cut out some of the beams that supported the attic floor and save them. The ends had some rot but the bulk of the beam was solid. And I do mean solid. Almost rock hard. As I consider things to do with them, one of the first things I thought of was a set of scales for a mule. It would be pretty cool to be able to have something useful to keep the history around. My question is if anyone knows enough about wood that they may know if this would work? I know some wood has to be stabilized but don't know much more than that.
Just a thought if anyone has any input. I believe (but don't know for sure) that the wood is tamarack as it would have been cut from the land here.

GnifeGnut
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Re: Wood for scales

Postby GnifeGnut » Mon Apr 12, 2021 12:45 pm

Hi Halfbore. Welcome to the forum. Old dry tamarack should work fine for a mule. Most any wood can be made to work as long as it's sealed appropriately, but your tamarack may not even need that. If you want to be extra safe, after you shape the scales, wax them or cover them with a coat of CA glue. Polished up, they will have a nice shine and keep the water out.

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TkoK83Spy
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Re: Wood for scales

Postby TkoK83Spy » Mon Apr 12, 2021 12:46 pm

This will be very cool once you get it going! I know there's a few guys in here that do work with wood, hopefully they see your post and can give you some pointers. Good luck!
23 :spyder:'s in 14 different steels
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yablanowitz
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Re: Wood for scales

Postby yablanowitz » Mon Apr 12, 2021 4:09 pm

150 years should be enough drying time, but some woods need stabilization anyway. Since you don't know for certain what kind it is, it would be a good idea to have it professionally stabilized.

Of course, if it was me, I'd cut a couple of slabs, slap them on, sand them down and give them a couple of coats of boiled linseed oil, then see what happened. That stuff has already lasted longer than I'll live.

Cool idea, and welcome aboard!

Halfbore
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Re: Wood for scales

Postby Halfbore » Mon Apr 12, 2021 4:13 pm

Thanks guys. I think worst case I make them, they look horrible, don’t last and then I take them off.

Thinking about it in the mean time, if there’s someone that knows what they’re doing and had an interest, I might be willing to throw a chunk in the mail if someone wanted to try it out.

TomAiello
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Re: Wood for scales

Postby TomAiello » Mon Apr 12, 2021 6:23 pm

I'd stabilize it. You can have that done professionally with minimal trouble. The chance that a structural timber in the USA was made from a wood that wouldn't benefit from stabilizing is minimal. And there's basically no chance of hurting the wood by stabilizing it.
Last edited by TomAiello on Mon Apr 12, 2021 8:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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RustyIron
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Re: Wood for scales

Postby RustyIron » Mon Apr 12, 2021 6:59 pm

Halfbore wrote:
Mon Apr 12, 2021 4:13 pm
Thanks guys. I think worst case I make them, they look horrible, don’t last and then I take them off.
I'm not a woodworker, but sometimes I make stuff out of wood. More than once I've had well-aged wood change shape after the project is complete. Most recently, it was a Mule, where I made the scales fit the blade VERY closely. Over the space of a week or two, the scales shrank. It's been several months, and I just measured it as I sit here. In the greatest dimension, shrinkage is 0.004". Most people wouldn't notice it. I think what happens is in the original chunk of wood, there are internal stresses. When you cut away some of the fibers, the stresses are no longer equalized, and distortion results. The next time I work on a project like this, I'll get the dimensions into the ballpark, then let the parts sit for a week or two. Anyway, that's my hypothesis. Could be right, could be way off base.

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Xplorer
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Re: Wood for scales

Postby Xplorer » Mon Apr 12, 2021 9:25 pm

If you choose to go the extra mile, stabilizing will ensure it lasts a lifetime but with a 150 year old wood beam you probably don't need to go that far.
Coating the shaped handle with boiled linseed oil daily for 5 days (steel wool between coats if grain lifts) and then finishing with a wood wax should be enough to protect it from hand oils and water. Re-wax once per year or after significant wet usage. This is the type of treatment/protection you would typically find on a high quality walnut rifle stock.
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standy99
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Re: Wood for scales

Postby standy99 » Tue Apr 13, 2021 12:08 am

I would soak in mineral oil for a week. Take out and dry on a few pieces of dowel for a week.
Should be fine being as old as it is.
(It is a softwood which I would tend not to use)

I try to stick to the rule of the top 33 / 25% of the Janka hardness scale is OK without stabilisation.

Tamarack has a Janka rating of 590 lb LARCH on the below scale I find one of the handiest to use.

https://www.scrollsawvillage.com/articl ... scale-r62/
Im a vegetarian as technically cows are made of grass and water.

Halfbore
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Re: Wood for scales

Postby Halfbore » Tue Apr 13, 2021 5:33 am

I’ve been trying to do more reading about tamarack as I’m almost positive that’s what it is. It seems that it’s a great wood for use in wet conditions. I know as I was cutting it it has an almost waxy texture to it. I think the only thing to do is try it.
Perhaps one of my next days off I’ll try to cut a couple pieces and get a better idea of the grain.

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standy99
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Re: Wood for scales

Postby standy99 » Tue Apr 13, 2021 7:21 am

Halfbore wrote:
Tue Apr 13, 2021 5:33 am
I’ve been trying to do more reading about tamarack as I’m almost positive that’s what it is. It seems that it’s a great wood for use in wet conditions. I know as I was cutting it it has an almost waxy texture to it. I think the only thing to do is try it.
Perhaps one of my next days off I’ll try to cut a couple pieces and get a better idea of the grain.


Was used in boats in the early days

Here is a wealth of information for you....

https://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/documnts/usda ... 8tamar.pdf
Im a vegetarian as technically cows are made of grass and water.

Train
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Re: Wood for scales

Postby Train » Fri Apr 30, 2021 3:52 am

I wouldn't do it if I were you. Unless it has a great sentimental value. Then it's up to you really.
Otherwise it has no decorative qualities worth mentioning and it does not matter how dry or hard it looks as a beam it will not be that hard or dry as knife scales. Unless you stabilize it as advised - mostly to make it harder and keep moisture away. But then it is probably not worth it since again it has zero decorative value. Basically any hardwood or traditional scale synthetic material will be better.

macatac
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Re: Wood for scales

Postby macatac » Fri Apr 30, 2021 8:06 am

Train wrote:
Fri Apr 30, 2021 3:52 am
I wouldn't do it if I were you. Unless it has a great sentimental value. Then it's up to you really.
Otherwise it has no decorative qualities worth mentioning and it does not matter how dry or hard it looks as a beam it will not be that hard or dry as knife scales. Unless you stabilize it as advised - mostly to make it harder and keep moisture away. But then it is probably not worth it since again it has zero decorative value. Basically any hardwood or traditional scale synthetic material will be better.
I think it is safe to say it has sentimental value. It was taken from a building where his family lived when they first settled the property, in 1870. I think that it would give a great story for that blade, regardless of it's visual appeal.
Macatac

TomAiello
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Re: Wood for scales

Postby TomAiello » Fri Apr 30, 2021 9:00 am

Stabilizing doesn't really make the wood harder. It's more about filling the (natural) air spaces with resin so that the wood is protected against moisture (both inside and out). It also makes the wood easier to work (at least in my experience) and reduces the chance that you'll crack or chip it.

If I had a piece of wood that had sentimental value, I'd want it to last forever in whatever form I used it. If it was going to be a knife handle, I'd stabilize it so that I was more confident it would survive for the next generation to inherit (along with it's family story).

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JRinFL
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Re: Wood for scales

Postby JRinFL » Fri Apr 30, 2021 10:07 am

I seems like a good project for the sentimental value alone. Maybe if you quarter saw a piece you can get a more interesting grain?
The PDF in Standy's post above indicates it takes finishes poorly, so that might make stabilization more difficult.
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austrian_spyder_fan
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Re: Wood for scales

Postby austrian_spyder_fan » Sat May 01, 2021 1:47 pm

Hi everyone,

what dimensions must the handle have?
Im looking for stabilized wood.

ASF

TomAiello
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Re: Wood for scales

Postby TomAiello » Sat May 01, 2021 1:55 pm

You can make a wood handle from 1.5" x 5". I prefer 3/8" to make more 3d contours, but 1/4" works too (especially if you are using a liner).

If it's your first time out, you might find it's more comfortable to work with something slightly larger, and (at least in the USA) 2" x 6" is a pretty common scale size.

I've bought some really nice stabilized wood to work with on Etsy, sold by sellers in (mostly eastern) Europe. I've also bought some not very well stabilized stuff (one seller in Russia, and one in the USA which has since disappeared from Etsy). I have bought from 10 or 12 sellers at this point, and my experiences have mostly been good.

Most of the USA knife supply websites sell stabilized wood as well, but the really artistic pieces are mostly on Etsy (and have individual photos of the actual pieces you are buying).

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standy99
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Re: Wood for scales

Postby standy99 » Sat May 01, 2021 8:46 pm

As above Etsy is good but truly there are so many places nowadays to buy good stabilised wood scales from it is hard to advise.

Here is a plug for a Aussie guy who is small but has some nice stuff

https://www.georges-bits-of-timber.com/ ... ife-blanks
Im a vegetarian as technically cows are made of grass and water.

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standy99
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Re: Wood for scales

Postby standy99 » Sat May 01, 2021 8:58 pm

austrian_spyder_fan wrote:
Sat May 01, 2021 1:47 pm
Hi everyone,

what dimensions must the handle have?
Im looking for stabilized wood.

ASF
My above link is Australian $$s so would make Euro attractive even though you will have 20% VAT
Im a vegetarian as technically cows are made of grass and water.

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Bolster
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Re: Wood for scales

Postby Bolster » Thu May 06, 2021 3:05 pm

Looking forward to drying my own wood and making scales from my own trees. Below, Mesquite and Apricot I just cut up. Have never successfully dried wood before, so we'll see where this goes. The ends are coated in urethane to slow the drying process. Now to wait months (?) and try to get the moisture content down to 7% or so. Not sure how pretty Mesquite will be, but Apricot (too small for Mules) is beautiful orange and highly figured.
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