This is part of a set of walkthroughs I posted on the knifemaking 101 list on facebook. Since I went to the trouble to do all the photography and editing I thought I may as well keep them here, too, in case anyone ever starts searching for this sort of material.
Here we are using Alumilite water clear liquid epoxy resin, pigment, and inclusions to produce possibly interesting-looking handle materials. These are intended to be epoxied in turn to the sides of a knife’s tang and shaped down into blades. Elsewhere I describe the process for making the kind of silicone mold that I’m using here [stderr] – if you want a block mold for an inserted/drilled-through tang, you’d simply make a square mold out of a different master.
The hardest part for me to figure out was how tiny an amount of pigment or glitter is necessary to change the looks of resin mix. In this example, I’m using 1/3 of a drop of blue pigment (make the drop hang on the end of the pigment bottle and twirl a bit off with a popsicle stick)
Start by laying everything out. If you’re not crazy, you’ll put down wax paper or polypropylene sheet to keep epoxy off your counter-top. I’ve gotten very good at just flicking cured epoxy off the stone with the edge of a knife.
Alumilite is mixed 1:1, resin and hardener, which should be at room temperature. Usually I put all my additives in one of the cups and then stir it in to get it looking right before adding it to the other. See the bamboo chopstick on the right? That’s the tip of what I used to get the glitter flakes (from the white jar).
I also added some chopped gold leaf, because I thought it would look cool – and it does! I’m a patient person so I do most of my slabs in two pours. This has a huge advantage of allowing me to let gravity keep my objects in place (resin is heavy; anything lighter than resin will bob to the surface) – I do one pour and let it cure, then add more objects and do a top-off pour.
Here I have added the mixed resin to the mold. Next I arrange objects in it.
Chunks of broken abalone shell! About $12/lb on Ebay. I leave this on the radiator overnight so it cures. Epoxy cures with heat, so leaving it somewhere warm makes it cure nicely. Also: the mice don’t jump on the radiators much, so I won’t have little resin-covered mouse-prints all over the counter-top.
The next day, I add another few pieces of shell and make another batch of the same blue with gold flakes, then pour it on top.
Look at all the bubbles! They reach the surface and vanish within the first hour of curing. Put them back on the radiator for the night.
Demolded, the slabs are clear as water, and kind of pretty – like I intended.
I don’t have a knife to mount them on right now, and I’m not really sure if resin handles are my idea of a fun thing. Wood is my favorite and it’s actually much more predictable than resin and I don’t have to worry about solvents or incompatibility in glues.
Next up, I did a base layer in “smoke black” – that is to say, “a tiny bit of black pigment” and laid down a layer of Dentalia Aprinum shells (“white tusk” shells).
A nice thing about gluing everything down with a separate pour is that shells may hold air and it’s nice to be able to keep them down – also to arrange them so that the holes are open upward so that the next pour will sink down into the shells. This appears to be working well since the resin soaks a bit into the material.
Preparing for the over-pour, final layer.
Demolded, the next morning. I’m going to see if I can get these over to the shop and hit them with one of the grinders to see what the surface looks like once it’s shaped a bit.
There are many, many possibilities that can be explored. Some handle-makers use cactus-wood, driftwood, and even pinecones. I saw one handle made of mini pinecones that looked pretty cool once the handle was shaped through them. One modern style that the “tactical knife” set enjoy is to use aluminum hexagonal honeycomb, which strengthens the handle a bit and looks really neat when it’s shaped through. I have a friend who collects bones and she says she may be willing to give me a couple tablespoons of mouse and snake vertebrae from her collection of spare parts; I think those would look interesting in a black handle.
My next handle slab project is waiting for parts – I am going to try to do a dozen or two small pours of black with gold leaf interleaved between, so it looks sort of like damascus.
Here is a hint if you have trouble with matching colors: put all your colorants in “Part A” and make a batch of “Part A” with the colorant, then make batches from that for each ‘pour.’
The beginning of what will be multi-layers of blue and gold.
The slabs with shells, test-ground and polished with a 1200-grit sanding belt.