Mycarta v. Wood

Discussion in 'Edged Tools' started by Bush Billy, Aug 20, 2019.

  1. Bush Billy

    Bush Billy Supporter Supporter

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    Hi Guys, Before I pull the trigger on purchasing a new knife I was wondering. . . what everyone’s take was on wooden vs. mycarta handles? Do you have a preference, and if so which one and why? Both of my sheath knives are Mora knives with the rubberized grip (the HD Companion and the Garberg). I find them both capable and comfortable, but it’s time for a change. Aesthetically, I’m drawn to the wooden handles, but I prefer function over form since this won’t be a “wall hanger”. This knife will often be used in cold weather outings as well so gloved hands will be part of the equation. I realize handle size and shape are huge factors, but I’d really like to focus on the material for this thread.
     
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  2. J.M.

    J.M. Scout

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    Micarta is tougher, and will not swell or shrink due to moisture/humidity issues. Its also tougher than most wood so holds up better to hard use.
     
  3. rhino on INGO

    rhino on INGO Supporter Supporter

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    Most wood handles get a little slippery when wet without some texturing. By contrast, Micarta seems to be even "grippier" when it's wet. That's another reason to prefer Micarta.
     
  4. Mikewood

    Mikewood Supporter Supporter

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    Wood is a nice product. It’s durable, grippy and beautiful to look at. It’s almost as strong as mycarta. For a handsome knife I would go with a beautiful piece of desert iron wood or spalted maple. I don’t think you will be dissatisfied with the performance. I know it’s a tool and many knives are hyper strong and industrial looking but they are not beautiful. Sounds like you are spending the money on something nice and the material that makes up the grips will play a large part in the direction you want the knife to go.
     
  5. Lazarusaurus

    Lazarusaurus Idot Supporter

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    I prefer micarta myself. Grippy and tough as nails.
     
  6. PLackey

    PLackey Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    Wood is natural feeling and visually appealing. There's a connection to the tool you only get with wood. I like wood handles on tools like axes and hammers.

    But for hard use and low maintenance there's no question that micarta and G10 are the way to go.
     
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  7. lodge camper

    lodge camper Supporter Supporter

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    i don't like knives with micarta scales, liners or designer pins. even less if there is something written on the blade.
     
  8. OutdoorsFamilyMan

    OutdoorsFamilyMan Supporter Supporter

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    I'm a bigger fan of micarta than wood. As it was stated above, wood is too temperamental. Micarta is grippier when wet, but dont get polished micarta...I prefer g10 over micarta,though. It doesnt get as tacky as micarta does when wet and isnt as porous so it won't soak up what it comes into contact with. As with micarta though, you have to make sure it comes with a texture you like. They can all come smooth,polished and slippery
     
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  9. Enzo

    Enzo Supporter Supporter

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    Both wood and micarta will function well. I like both, although I usually go with wood. Micarta stains easily and is harder to clean. I use my knife a lot, but I keep it sanitized because I also use it for eating. Wood is much easier to keep clean in my experience. And as long as you treat the wood with mineral oil whenever you’re piling the rest of your knife, it’ll remain perfectly reliable. My favorite woods for handle scales are desert ironwood and african rosewood.

    Both wood and micarta will stand up to a lot of use, and both are good for cold weather.

    My hard-use knife has african rosewood scales, and I use this knife all the time. Even earlier today I did a lot of heavy work with it. The handles never have any issues, and they’re always comfortable.

    AACE2802-99EF-4AD9-AE41-7E3EF0BC64C8.jpeg

    Everything except for the grass was cut down with this knife. The picture above was taken when I finished. The wood scales show no signs of wear.

    1F1A06F7-F974-43E1-8271-C841BA4E2015.jpeg
    6C4139F2-CBB8-496B-9070-15C467A3375A.jpeg

    During the winter I process my kindling and tinder with this knife, and do a lot of batoning to make said kindling. The scales aren’t affected.
     
  10. Wasp

    Wasp DOWN IN DIXIE Supporter

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    Depends, I like both. Bigger fan of wood. Id rather have G10 than micarta in lots of instances given the option.
     
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  11. OldFatMan

    OldFatMan Tracker

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    for me, for bushcraft, its all about the experience, the aesthetic, the mental picture I draw for myself while I'm out in the woods.....

    when I go out and play bushcraft for the day, or even an over nighter....weekend.... its wood, always wood..... but I have forsaken anything newish, that may remind me of the world I'm trying to leave behind for a few hours.... no nylon, plastic, rubber.....its all wood, leather, canvas....cast iron and brass...

    now, if I were headed out for a 90 day trip...ALA Alone.... or, something of the sort, I'll opt for micarta as it is a more durable material....

    the difference I guess between us is, I have many options to choose from when it comes to knives, where as it sounds like you may be more limited....

    if I were in YOUR situation, looking to buy 1 long term primary investment knife as my go to for the foreseeable future.... I'd definitely opt for the micarta.....and after you use, abuse, and beat on it for years and get that itch that only a forge scaled wood handled knife in an oiled leather sheath can scratch.......then get something pretty to make you happy..... at that point you'll have the old micarta workhorse for days when you wanna go hammer it thru logs and grin.... and the wooden grail for those days when you just want a small fire, cup of tea, and some quiet reflection in the woods without all the trying to construct a shelter and whatnot......

    there ain't no wrong way to do it.....whatever you decide....

    /shrug
     
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  12. A Seedy Lot

    A Seedy Lot Supporter Supporter

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    I stopped using wood for scales on my knives and went to Micarta as i see it as the better material for a grippy handle that will last generetions with zero issues.

    Not all Micarta is created equal, i have found out i prefer Ultrex Micarta, US made and very high quality.
     
  13. Ptpalpha

    Ptpalpha Bushmaster

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    Micarta for me. I prefer it over organic materials by a very wide margin.
    Why? All my reasons are posted above, but the biggest one is stability over time. I've had my heart broken too many times when my "exhibition grade" supposedly stabilized wood scales shrunk.
    Never
    Again.
     
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  14. Bartonceek

    Bartonceek Tracker

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    I like both and both have their respect in ownership. A micarta handle if not polished and finished to a high grit will be gripper than wood, if it's finished and waxed it will definitely be less grippy as would highly polished wood. Some micartas are more attractive than others just as wood would be. I own both micarta and wood handled knives and wouldn't feel left out taking either out for the long haul, however with that said micarta will not shrink nor split nor crack so that is a personal decision.
     
  15. 08H3

    08H3 God, Family and Freedom Vendor Supporter

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    If your not after elegant looks, micarta is where it's at. As others have said it wont shrink or swell and performs great when wet or bloody. 98% of all my custom knives have gotten either micarta or g10.
     
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  16. JerseyDevilJeeper

    JerseyDevilJeeper Professional Guide Supporter

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    Well, then you’ve already made the choice. As others here have said and said well; Micarta
     
  17. Mr. Tettnanger

    Mr. Tettnanger Supporter Supporter

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    Micarta for me.

    I've given up on wooden handle scales. For my use and abuse, micarta is the way to go.
     
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  18. ExAF1N1

    ExAF1N1 Member of a small but fierce tribe. LB-42 Supporter

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    I have both also, far more synthetics than wood.

    As long as the shape "works" for you, and it's got the grippiness that works too, it's all down to maintenance or lack thereof.
    If you're making it, cost may be a factor too.

    My 2 cents.
     
  19. blue333

    blue333 “O’l Slickboots” Supporter

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    I have many of both and much prefer micarta. Will outlast wood period!
    Micarta also gets a nice patina with use & is super easy to clean as well.
    Dawn Dish soap (does a great job at removing hand oils), hot water and the rough side of a two sided sponge will get it looking back to new!
     
  20. bluecow

    bluecow Scout

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    I have both. have a custom knife with Micarta scales since 79 it's still just as tough as the day i got it. on the other hand it's vary cold to hold onto in the winter. I prefer wood. warmer more of a live (?) feel to it. there are plenty of 100+ yeas old knives with wood handle around. I don't expect to be around in 50 let alone 100 so wood will do just fine.
     
  21. Bush Billy

    Bush Billy Supporter Supporter

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    I greatly appreciate all of your comments, insight and expertise. I'm definitely tipping toward the mircarta scales (see what I did there . . .tipping. . .scales) :). In all honesty I think I knew the answer before I started this thread, I just needed some affirmation and some backing to look away from the desert ironwood handle. . .it is beautify if not memorizing, but as time goes by a good grip is a bigger issue for me. If you own a nice wooden handled piece, I'm jealous and envious. It looks like micarta for me. . .aaahhh. . .or maybe desert ironwood. No micrata. . .definitely micarta. I'm a 100% right 33% of the time.
     
  22. JD Miller

    JD Miller Guide

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    Is that Florida ? ......:14:

    [​IMG]
     
  23. dbltap45acp

    dbltap45acp Supporter Supporter

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    I use micarta in my hard use knives, they are just bomb proof. I have a couple knives with wood but the only wood I have found that can take some abuse if needed and doesn’t deal with a ton of swelling and shrinking is desert iron wood.
     
  24. Ptpalpha

    Ptpalpha Bushmaster

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    The knife that was my reason for switching 100% to micarta had the prettiest (stabilized) desert ironwood scales I've ever owned. After 4 years the wood shrunk just enough to leave the stainless corby bolts proud of the scales.
    I still own the knife, and will likely refinish the handle at some point, once I'm convinced it won't shrink any more.
     
  25. SonsOfLiberty

    SonsOfLiberty Student of Life Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    Sure love me some Desert Ironwood.

    Show me some Micarta that looks like that.

    D400EF05-772A-4B31-B997-131E69C316B7.jpeg
     
  26. blue333

    blue333 “O’l Slickboots” Supporter

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    While I agree that DI is pretty dang hard to beat, I can tell you that there’s also some pretty awesome micarta out there!

    Here is just a few pieces that a company from down here in SoCal (GIHansenandsons) is putting out these days.
    Some serious stuff that people are starting to pick up on.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  27. dbltap45acp

    dbltap45acp Supporter Supporter

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    A72CBE65-CE5E-471B-96EB-6E49BCED07B2.jpeg 43A84508-2CC0-4AF9-A13C-5B194590B64C.jpeg
    Desert iron wood Burl is pretty, but micarta is grippy and functional. That’s why I always have a little of both.
     
  28. SonsOfLiberty

    SonsOfLiberty Student of Life Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    Wow. It says they are in Elk Grove? That’s near me- Nor Cal
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2019
  29. NevadaBlue

    NevadaBlue —- Roughian #7 -— --- Graybeard -— Supporter Bushcraft Friend Bushclass I

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    Micarta makes great electrical insulators. Wood works well for power poles too.

    I like wood scales on knives, or rubber or micarta, depending on the knife and use. Antler is nice too.
     
  30. OldFatMan

    OldFatMan Tracker

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    odd thought as I reread this thread...... if micarta is a thin material laminated with epoxy in thin layers, cured under pressure......

    why could you not make a wood micarta?.... use some thin cuts off a planer or something?....almost paper thin shavings..... epoxy the hell out of em and cure in a press......

    would you not end up with the look of wood, and the durability of micarta?............./ponder

    Birchbark Micarta anyone?
     
  31. SonsOfLiberty

    SonsOfLiberty Student of Life Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    That’s an interesting idea. I’m guessing it could be done, but would be cost-prohibitive due to the time to make it?
     
  32. dbltap45acp

    dbltap45acp Supporter Supporter

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    Would that react any different then stabilized wood?
     
  33. LMT66

    LMT66 Supporter Supporter

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    I love a nice desert-wood handle but micarta is more secure in hand in all seasons so I prefer it. I cant stand G10.

    Sandpaper and a little time will make a polished micarta handle more grippy. Blasting it with the right media really does a good job too.
     
  34. OldFatMan

    OldFatMan Tracker

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    Meh, probably not for a large scale production type thing, but for a 1 off from a home maker perhaps if you wanted something less..... inorganic I guess?..... than traditional paper or linen micarta? hard to say if it would be worth the time involved, but micarta is not terribly hard to make at home, I've made coffee bag and denim micarta before with good results...... I think taking something thinish like birch bark would be easy, but I'd REALLY like to see it done with some purple heartwood from a nice cedar limb.... shaved down thin.... heck, you could ALMOST do it on a soft wood like that with a steady hand and a good draw knife I'd think....

    My understanding is stabilized wood is a natural wood block that has been resin impregnated thru the use of a vacuum chamber which draws the resin down into the natural pores and holes in the wood..... it would be about 85% wood and 15% resin by my guesstimate...... doing it this way in shaved layers, making a true micarta, my guess is the ratio would come out closer to a 60/40 .....but, you'd have full coverage between the layers which would, at least imho, make it substantially more solid and durable than a primarily solid block of wood forced to soak resin to fill the voids......the wood, where its solid, won't really take much resin....so the whole thing would only be as strong as the weakest part of the wood.......where as a wood layer micarta, the wood would need to supply much less structural filler for it to gain its strength.....

    I fear I lack the vocabulary to really convey my thoughts..... perhaps a fiddling project for this weekend, and a follow up thread so we don't fully hijack this man's thread unintentionally.... >.> stay tuned, I feel inspired!
     
  35. BusyDad

    BusyDad Tinder Gatherer

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    There are a few laminated wood products out there. Diamond wood is the only brand I can think of, but I've read of others.

    Buck Knives used Diamond wood on their 110's, 112's and a few other models from 1992 until just recently when they went back to ebony.
     
  36. Scotchmon

    Scotchmon Supporter Supporter

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    I only have one Micarta scaled knife, a Condor Bushlore.
    I’ve yet to purchase any scale materials for the knives I make as I prefer to repurpose wood for full tang scales or stack my own leather.
    If I was to purchase another blade and had an option of scale material I’d choose Micarta.
     
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  37. Elgatodeacero

    Elgatodeacero Scout

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    Micarta is ok, and durable, but a truly fine knife must have birch bark, leather, desert ironwood, masur birch, black ebony, or lignum vitae handles to be fine tool.

    Wood/birch bark is best in cold weather, and cannot absorb blood and other gunk like micarta.

    Birch bark has an excellent feel in hand, and is very durable.
     
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  38. Richinva

    Richinva Lover of Sharpened Bits of Steel... Supporter

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    The plant in Rutland burned down in 2014 so no more new of that, although there is some material remaining out in the market (apparently the fire wasn't their only issue). Stratabond is similar, but not the same. I still have some turning stock of the Rutland stuff. Hard as woodpecker lips and hard on tool edges. Colorwood was another mfg/supplier, only in small pieces, but I don't find available stock of that any more.
     
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  39. MJGEGB

    MJGEGB Bushmaster

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    Yup like @BusyDad pointed out it's already being done. I've got a buck knife with diamond wood scales. Not the same as micarta but an interesting idea I suppose.
     
  40. Bartonceek

    Bartonceek Tracker

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    Don’t forget there are different types of micarta - canvas, linen and paper. Of the three canvas would yield the best grip. Without opening a can of worms (and i’m certainly no historian or expert) but true Micarta was produced by Westinghouse and their vintage Micarta is sought out for its quality. What we call Micarta today is material fused with epoxy/phenolic resin and can vary in quality. That’s my understanding in a nutshell.
     
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  41. Unistat76

    Unistat76 Nerd Supporter Bushclass I

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    I have a slightly different take.

    If it's going to go with my leather, canvas, and traditional style kit then I'd choose wood.
    Leather sheath=wood scales.

    If it's going with my kydex, nylon, and more modern kit then I'd choose micarta.
    Kydex sheath=micarta scales.

    I'd even go so far as having a set of each scales and switching them out depending on which kit I'm packing.
     
  42. kamagong

    kamagong Scout

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    I don't like synthetics. Have enough of it in my everyday life.

    Make mine wood. Is it as tough and durable as micarta? Not by a long shot. But it's tough and durable enough. I enjoy the aesthetic qualities of wood. I like the way it feels in hand better too.

    [​IMG]

    I don't expect my steel blade to last forever, I don't expect the handle to either.
     
  43. Elgatodeacero

    Elgatodeacero Scout

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    walnut, ebony, black ash, yew, and masur birch x 2
    AC6DC8BB-1E26-436A-BB62-8C1DA21AF433.jpeg
     
  44. A Seedy Lot

    A Seedy Lot Supporter Supporter

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    UltreX™ paper and cotton phenolic materials use the original production methods of Westinghouse, updated with today’s process and environmental controls. And unlike other “micarta” available in the market, UltreX™ Micarta® is produced in the USA.

    After using Ultrex Micarta on a few knives i will no longer be buying cheaper Micarta as the Ultrex is that good.
     
  45. Enzo

    Enzo Supporter Supporter

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    Beautiful. Absolutely gorgeous.
     
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  46. americanstrat98

    americanstrat98 Wanderer Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    I'm a walnut lover. I like American, Bastogne, English, Turkish Walnut and birch bark handles. Mix a little bone from a recent harvest in the mix and you have a beautifully handled knife.

    The only reason I don't have more knives in walnut is because I'm not at a point in my life where things are slowing down yet. Still going full speed through rain, mud, snow, so for the time being I'll go with the cheaper materials.
     
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  47. Noddy

    Noddy Scout

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    I am for both. Woods differ in characteristic depending on the variety .. so too does micarta, coem to think of it, to an extent at least. Micarta is heavier often, again depending, but not as heavy as G10.

    Stabilized wood is a happy medium. All the decorative characteristics of the wood, sometimes more as it can be dyed, but doesn't shrik or shift or have grime ingrained.

    But black micarta looks great after a few years :)
     
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  48. Enzo

    Enzo Supporter Supporter

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    Pittsburgh. Sometimes the summer feels like Florida. Thankfully though, we don’t have to deal with Florida Man.
     
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  49. Bartonceek

    Bartonceek Tracker

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    I’ll have to check Ultrex out. Thanks!
     
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  50. Scarywoody

    Scarywoody Scout

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    IMHO, nothing comes close to the look of nice piece of wood. I have several well loved knives that have amazing woods on them. Then I look at the knives I actually carry and use. They all have mostly Micarta scales.
     
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