Author Topic: leather and birch bark handle help  (Read 1182 times)

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Offline Spyder1958

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leather and birch bark handle help
« on: April 02, 2017, 01:56:03 PM »
I have a few stick tang blanks to assemble handles on soon. JB sent me some birch bark and I've been cutting leather spacers. Not sure of the use of other spacer material, but brass, wood and antler will most likely be used.

I did a search here for any advise from others and I didn't find a thread that covered the info.

Questions I have are:
1. is it best to glue the spacers as they are stacked?
2. I've read coating with super glue then finish sanding, not sure if this is a good ideal.would think it would prevent a natural feel and would not absorb any finish/oils applied.
Any and all advise are welcome
Thanks
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Offline Sarge

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Re: leather and birch bark handle help
« Reply #1 on: April 02, 2017, 03:26:51 PM »
I'll be watching this one too, Spyder. Never tried birch bark but love the look.
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Offline wolfy

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Re: leather and birch bark handle help
« Reply #2 on: April 02, 2017, 03:30:03 PM »
I have no experience with birchbark and don't want to influence your decision either way, because my experience with layered LEATHER handles is limited to my old Estwing hatchet, Dad's old Estwing hammer handle and two of my old Western brand knives.   They were ALL gorgeous when they were new because of the shiny varnish (I think) that they were coated with, but as that stuff chipped or wore off over the years the handles all ended up the same color.....a real dark brown/black.   Most of them got a little 'lumpy' or uneven as the years passed, too.....even though they were treated with whatever we had available in those days to treat leather.  I recall a green can of Nor-V-Gen shoe grease in the junk drawer out on the farm.....most likely what Dad used on the claw-hammer.  I used either Sno-Seal or pure neatsfoot oil.....probably both.  None of them rotted or became dry & loose like some leather handles I've seen, but no matter what they were treated with over the years, they all ended up looking the same......dark and uneven.  I suspect the unevenness comes from the differences in the porosity of each of the leather pieces and their ability to soak up whatever you treat them with.  If the varnish finish had been maintained they would all probably look just like they did when they were new.   I've never tried a superglue saturation on a leather handle, but it makes sense and sounds like it might work. :shrug:

Here's something that might help, too.....

http://www.instructables.com/id/Birch-Bark-Knife-Handle/?ALLSTEPS
« Last Edit: April 02, 2017, 03:42:40 PM by wolfy »
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Offline Unknown

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Re: leather and birch bark handle help
« Reply #3 on: April 02, 2017, 07:11:33 PM »
I haven't found much benefit to glue between each piece during assembly. The way birch bark separates into layers seems to make it pretty useless. However, if you don't make the holes tight to the tang there is always a chance a wafer will shift later even with a huge amount of compression.

I've had that happen on a leather stack. Fixed it with thin superglue. In that case, (oversized holes) a dab of epoxy to fill any gaps around the tang could help. Also if you use 1/4" thick leather there are a lot fewer pieces to stack compared to bark so it is easier to glue.

I've always used the thin titebond CA glue. It will make leather and bark hard as a rock. No need to add other finishes afterward. I imagine there is some kind of middle ground which would keep some of the tactile feel you mentioned(especially with bark) before you get to the multiple coats and micarta like feel.

I've gone back and sanded through most of the superglue on my birch hilt because I wanted a little less slick feel. Still I would guess that there is still a lot of glue that soaked in between. You can also do the same with leather to a lesser degree(?)  I say that because the color, "finish" just doesn't come back as well as bark.

I guess one way to try it out might be to squirt and wipe a coat on the hilt before you reach the final shape. Giving yourself plenty of room to cut back through it as you finish up the shaping. I can't promise that the handle material will return back to its virgin state, but close.

CA does turn the leather dark.

Not sure any of that will help. There's also shrinking the leather and using thin metal spacers as clamps-lots of fun and experimenting to do.
Best luck spyder
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Offline Spyder1958

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Re: leather and birch bark handle help
« Reply #4 on: April 02, 2017, 09:33:53 PM »
Thanks guy's for the response and info.
Unknown you mention shrinking the leather. I was thinking about soaking in water and compressing until dry, before assembling. was this what you meant?
Thanks Craig for the link, I learned a trick or two from the info.
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Offline Unknown

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Re: leather and birch bark handle help
« Reply #5 on: April 03, 2017, 07:44:33 AM »
Not soaking.

I've only tried it once. I had all the oversized pieces stacked and clamped down. Then poured boiling water over the leather.

Try a test piece and see what happens.

I can't say whether clamping was good or bad. It did limit the amount of shrink. But after it dried the pieces were quite stuck to the tang and hardened. Of course, when you punch holes for a tight fit in the first place they also feel stuck on.
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Offline Unknown

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Re: leather and birch bark handle help
« Reply #6 on: April 03, 2017, 01:47:26 PM »
Every thread needs a pic.

This is the boil treated one with CA glue cut through with file.




This same old one with CA finish intact. The difference maybe now it looks more plain and grungy
« Last Edit: April 03, 2017, 01:58:58 PM by Unknown »
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Offline Spyder1958

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Re: leather and birch bark handle help
« Reply #7 on: April 05, 2017, 06:45:23 PM »
Thanks unknown, boy I'm loving that second one with the birch. Hadn't thought about a birch sheath, but I'm going to give that some thought.

Here's one step by step, I found.

http://imageevent.com/paleoaleo/makingabirchbarkknifehandle?p=0&w=1&n=1&c=3&m=45&s=0&y=1&z=2&l=0
You are free to choose but you are not free from the consequences of your choice.
Zig Ziglar