View Full Version : Sawing thick scales

01-14-2003, 04:36 PM
A newbie question:
Scales are available only 3/8 in. thick - they are definitely too thick for a folding knife.

I tried to saw them into 3 pieces, each less than 1/8 in. thick. Results are not good enough:(.

I used the rasor saw, hacksaw and the coping saw.

The hacksaw works fast enough, but always goes out of parallel plane.
The rasor saw has better accuracy but is so slow, and a widest blade is not wide enough to made a one cut through all the scale.
With a coping saw I was out of luck at all...

What else can I try? Low-noise handtools preferably - residential area, you know.

And what should be final thickness for decorative scales for a folding knives usually?


mike koller
01-14-2003, 04:46 PM
Welcome to the CKD!

I believe that offers scales that are thinner then most.

Other then that a bandsaw with a wide re-saw blade will be your best option.

01-14-2003, 05:38 PM
Thank you for the source!


01-14-2003, 05:51 PM
check around the woodworker's supply places for japanese hand saws like these ( blades are very thin and they work on the pull stroke. for me, they are quite accurate.

Ray Rogers
01-14-2003, 06:20 PM
What those other guys said. Also, if you must cut your own scales with a hand saw, then buy the blocks of wood and not the 3/8 scales. Usually, the blocks are a bit cheaper and they are bigger so you'll get more scales from it. Then, if you can't get the accuracy you want just cut the scales over sized and sand them down a little....

Alain M-D
01-14-2003, 06:35 PM
You can buy your handles wood in block instead of scales.
You will be able to cut it more easily in small sections with
a band saw or a table saw.

If you do not have a band saw or table saw, you can ask to
a friend or ask to a cabinetmaker, that will be easier
(and more accurate) that with a hacksaw...

Also, here are several materials for handle which can be bought
in several thicknesses like the micarta or G10 (1/16, 1/8, 1/4, etc.)

Good luck !

Alain M-D

01-14-2003, 06:42 PM
hi brett
you can get japanese hand saws at rona l'entrepot

Jason Cutter
01-15-2003, 05:12 AM
I have 2 I use for fine timbers and once you've got the practice in, it literally slices off slivers of wood. The thinnest flat cut I've achieved has been a 0.1inch thick set of scales. The important step for me was to learn to develop a dead straight initial cut, the rest of the blade just follows. In the end, you could always just do it oversized as suggested and sand back. Cutting everything to the right thickness is not easy, don't expect the cut to be dead straight, there's a lot of adjustment to be done afterwards. But as you can imagine, it is absolutely imperative that you do get things parallel and flat otherwise it mucks up your alignments.

In terms of the bandsaw, I have had luck with using my metal cutting bandsaw and I fabricated an adjustable fence to cut the right thicknesses. I find the wood cutting bandsaw, espceially the cheap ones, just don't have enough blade stability to cut a wider piece like a scale.

Everything gets better with practise. Cheers.

01-16-2003, 08:08 AM
Thank you all for the replies!

I shall order a japanese hand saws set. Is the biggest saw flexible? I saw similar one at the biggest hardware chain store, but at bigger scale - approximately 1ft long blade. The second japanese saw with the reinforced spine looks quite like a rasor saw. Which one you are using for scales (or blocks)?

For now I solved the problem by using the usual fine-tooth hand saw and cut 3/8 in. scales in a half. Quite accurate, but a little bit thick and have to be sanded down.

Now I have to find a some tool to keep this 3-4 mm thick scale at place, parallel to the table when sanding to make an even thickness. Do you know any tools to accomplish this? Thanks again!

What is usual thickness for the finished decorative scales without affecting durability of the natural hardwood or polyester pearl, 2 mm (little more than 1/16 in.) ? This is the my first trial.

Next time I'll order the thinner scales (not too much choice, unfortunately) or the blocks, thanks for advice.

And the last question, how easily workable is G10 in comparison to the hardwood or steel? Is it possible to cut scales with a hand tools?


Jason Cutter
01-16-2003, 04:32 PM
making that decision to go ahead is the most difficult bit. Good Luck.

Remember with the pull saw is that is is exactly that - a pull saw. It not only won't cut on the push stroke, you could bend and damage the saw. The pull saws are extremely thin and flop around like a piece of plastic. But on the pull stroke, they cut straight and true. Takes a bit of getting used to if you have mainly used traditional crosscut saws. Practice on soft woods like pine or some oak. Once you get used to it (doesn't take long), you never know how you'd get by without one.

Of course, some people just never seem to like it. Other makers I've met do a very good job with a 12inch hacksaw, doing a lot of little adjustments along the way to split the slabs. If you don't like the saw, I can't think of too mahy woodworkers and joiners who'd refuse to trade a nice pull saw, even secondhand. I'd chose the saw WITHOUT THE REINFORCED BACK. Thats just me though.

I also thought of using a jig but it ended up being so fiddly making the jig that I found it better use of time to just get in some practise. I just clamp the bottom 1inch of the block material in my vice. Of course I markwith dark indelible ink the line I'm going to chose. Concentrate on the first inch of the cut and then yiou can relax and make big slicing actions - the saw will just follow the first inch or so of the cut. Take it out of the vice when you've gotten within 1/2inch of the top of the vice. I've made the mistake of destroying one precious saw by accidentally sawing into the top of the vice ! Take it out and clamp it in the vice by one 1/2 of the slab you are trying to saw and finish the cut.

To answer your other questions :-

1) Thickness depends on the application, but I find 1/16inch a bit too thin unless you are making small folders. Most of my scales are greater than 1/8inch thick. Wood and other opaque materials are less problematic, but translucent stuff like polyester pearl becomes almost transparent and just looks like cloudy plastic if too thin - its happened to me ! If you want it really thin, the newer Inlace Acrylester from Texas Knifemaker's has more "figure" in it so it doesn't look strange.

Also remember than many natural hardwoods and even those stabilised, can and will warp if ground too thin due to the architecture of the wood fibres, especailly any irregular-grained pieces like burls and fiddlebacks.

2) G-10 is a matter of preference. Many people have looked at the proliferation of G-10 handled knives out there and shelled out money for some and then gone back to black linen Micarta. Same goes for carbon fibre. Both do work a little differently from Micarta. I find G-10 and CF to be strange materials. The matrix is hard and abrasive while the bonding resin - ?epoxy, is softer, so if you aren't careful, sanding it can result in dipping into the softer resin, leaving the tougher matrix to stand out. Some people like this texture but many have said it "rubs them the wrong way." There are other links about G-10, but everyone will tell you to use a good respirator and it helps to use fine-tooth eg.- 24tpi bimetal blades (can use a hand hacksaw) and clean sharp belts. I suggest hand finishing with wet and dry using a hard backing, eg.- scrap Micarta or a stick of aluminium. Leather is too soft and will result in that "dipping" problem.

I like G-10 because it has a subtle 3D effect that Micarta doesn't have, and depending on where you get it from the colours can be interesting - I personally like bright blue G-10 on my outdoors knives. Animals are mostly colour blind and its hard to lose a bright blue knife in the wild - nothing natural is that colour ! It can also be cheaper than Micarta in some stores. But yes, its only a little more difficult to work than Micarta and it dulls your tools a bit quicker.

Hope this helps. And good luck again. Cheers.

01-17-2003, 07:53 AM
Great info, thank you very much!

Can you tell me more about Micarta: what kind of it (paper based, linen- and canvas-based) should be used for what purpose? Or is it just a matter of how it looks?

I am working with 3-4 in. bladed folding knives.

Thanks again,

01-17-2003, 08:39 PM
on knives that small, i would use linen for work knives, paper for something fancier - matter of taste. paper has almost no grain at all, linen has fine grain and canvas the heaviest.
it may also depend on what color you want, as not all bases come in all of the colors that are available.
also don't forget g10, carbon fibre, ivory, pearl, bone, etc.... :D

01-18-2003, 03:19 PM