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#173219 - 07/21/18 07:59 PM Micarta - Opinions
eLarry Offline
Knife Enthusiast

Registered: 10/02/13
Posts: 31
Loc: Georgia
Was looking for brown canvas block and came across Alpha Knife Supply. Was good to go until I read their posted disclaimer. I would not have thought Micarta would have these concerns with it being resin base. Am aware of color change, but not of moisture absorption. I welcome your opinion.
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The material we identify as Micarta is cloth or paper bonded by phenolic resin. The material is made by Norplex. Any phenolic laminate that is not made by Norplex should not be called micarta.

Micarta is an excellent handle material. It is lightweight, strong, looks good and is inexpensive.

However, micarta does have flaws:

Dimensional Stability
It is not as dimensionally stable as people think it is. We had a .500” x 36 x 24” sheet of natural canvas micarta that was left outside leaned against a shed with lumber. After a few months, the sheet had a significant curve. Micarta sheet also has runout. We rarely see a sheet that is straight.

Moisture Absorption
Another flaw is it will pick up moisture. We had an emergency ax we kept in our truck. The handle scales are natural canvas micarta. After a windstorm, the ax was used to clear branches. The ax was used with bare, sweaty hands. After the work was complete, the ax was put back in the truck and was not used for a few months. The next time the ax was needed, the micarta scales were moldy. The sweat and dirt from working had soaked into the micarta and mold started growing. This led me to the conclusion that micarta should never be used on kitchen knives.

Color Darkening
Over time, micarta will get darker and/or change. Especially natural micarta. The color changes are not a problem unless you are trying to match a previous color. We’ve noticed maroon and olive drab green get darker over time. Ivory starts off as light off white and gradually darkens to an aged ivory color. Natural micarta changes the most. It is very light when first cut and gradually changes to brown, dark brown or even a very dark burgundy. If you are concerned about the color getting darker, used black micarta.

Micarta is a great handle material as long as you are aware of and work within its limitations.

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#173247 - 07/22/18 05:17 PM Re: Micarta - Opinions [Re: eLarry]
pappy19 Online
Knife Enthusiast

Registered: 10/31/07
Posts: 5229
Loc: Garden Valley, Idaho
I have a Model 6 filet with a 9" blade that has the blue/red micarta and is my principle user for kitchen projects. I've had it for 5-6 years. It looks the same today as the day the Capt sent it to me. Obviously it never goes in the dish washer, and gets dried off and sharpened at every use. Like a lot of other things in this world, the quality of the product depends on where it is made. I've never heard of any Randall micarta handle molding or coming apart. Some do have color differences when aging, but only the lighter colored ones.

Pap
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#173250 - 07/22/18 07:29 PM Re: Micarta - Opinions [Re: pappy19]
W Polidori Offline
Knife Enthusiast

Registered: 02/09/16
Posts: 4492
Loc: Central New York
Where's Tom the Bomb?
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#173423 - 07/30/18 11:05 AM Re: Micarta - Opinions [Re: eLarry]
Captain Chris Stanaback Offline
Knife Enthusiast

Registered: 09/14/05
Posts: 10535
Loc: Central Florida
So...Alpha's micarta= GOOD
Anyone else's would be= BAD?
I think we can all figure this one out...
Best, Capt. Chris
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#173430 - 07/30/18 05:38 PM Re: Micarta - Opinions [Re: Captain Chris Stanaback]
LarryWW1246 Offline
Knife Enthusiast

Registered: 03/20/06
Posts: 891
It sounds as if Alpha has had problems with the Micarta that they sell, and maybe generalizing to avoid people coming back on them if their Micarta misbehaves.

I can understand the larger sheet taking a bend if left in a propped (i.e., stressed) position. Gravity is unforgiving.

As for the axe handle--we don't know whether it was polished smooth which would work against any moisture, skin cells, other organics being left on the surface to grow out.... Some of these EDC tools are left with a rough finish--maybe to improve the grip, maybe to make them look more "tactical."

Color shift does occur, but that alone doesn't deter us from using Micarta on knives.

Larry
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RKCC #CM-041
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#173594 - 08/06/18 04:35 PM Re: Micarta - Opinions [Re: LarryWW1246]
Leatherman Offline
Knife Enthusiast

Registered: 01/06/06
Posts: 1326
Loc: IL
I ride my bike on a very regular basis. Obviously I'm sweating a ton. Even after I bring it inside into A/c house or near the de humidifier when brought back outside the sweat will still be moist. The paint on the frame is not absorbent nor are the rubber grips. Sweat does not always dry like water. Micarta will not absorb water. Even oils will not soak into the Micarta on my Randall shop Micarta.

The spacers however aren't chemical resistant and I'm not 100% sure they are watertight either. I have had them soften after some oil got on them. I'm speaking to the standard red/white/blue spacers.
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