Upgrading Knives with Wooden Scales

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Project by CatUpATree posted 04-26-2022 08:16 AM 602 views 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

My original fascination with making something from wood started with a pocket knife and a stick when I was maybe 5 or 6yrs old. I used the knife to sharpen one end of the stick to a point and suddenly I had an arrow. From that time, I always had a small pocket knife with me.

On a whim, I picked up this cheap pocket knife for $1 at the Habitat for Humanity store as a possible restoration project.

This simple restoration project turned into six restoration projects. All of there were done in a similar manner where I replaced cheap or wrecked scales with nice wooden ones plus brass liners and pins. I didn’t document the process too carefully for a single knife, so the pictures of my process will be a mix from the six knives (okay… to be precise, five knives and one razor) I restored.

For most of the knives, I noticed that the “scales” were nothing more than thin pieces of stamped metal with stickers to give a fake look of wood. In addition, the liners were thin pieces of metal and very rusty.

It was a similar story for the Barlow knife, which had a wooden handle.

Personal opinion… I don’t like the look or feel of the Barlow knife’s handle, so I had no interest in rehabbing the original wood scales.

In the end, I only kept the blades and the springs. Everything else was made new.

Here is the fish knife with new liners and brass rods that will be the pins without the scales.

A note on brass materials… The brass rods were bought on Amazon and the brass plates were from brass door plates I picked up for cheap at a local building reclaim place. They are thicker and cheaper than if I bought them as brass plates meant for hobbies/projects.

I used the old metal liners from each knife as a template for the brass liners and the scales. Here’s a very rough cut out of the scales from the the fish knife. These scales are made from an old bamboo cutting board that fell apart. I also drilled the hole where the brass pins will go. This was very helpful for aligning the metal and brass during glue up.

The scales were glued to the brass liners with epoxy.

I taped the brass and wood together as well as small nails through the hole for the pins to maintain alignment before adding plenty of clamps. After the glue dried, I assembled the knives and used epoxy to glue in the pins. It was absolutely critical as this stage to clamp the knife together tightly, especially where the blade is pinned. The tiniest of gaps would create side-to-side wiggle of the blade. This is a pain to redo… ask me how I know.

Once gluing is done, it’s time to shape the scales on the 1×30 belt sander. (What a useful tool!)

From there, I went to my go-to finish: french polishing followed by paste wax applied with 0000 steel wool. Makes the knife handles feel super nice.

A couple of final words about the scales…

The woods used for the knives are

Main Image 1 (l-to-r): zebrawood, purpleheart, and bamboo
Main Image 2 (l-to-r): purpleheart, zebrawood, and padauk

You might notice the scales are quite thick. This was not planned for the first knife. I didn’t know what was doing, so I started with thicker scales than for a typical knife. I expected to make mistakes shaping the scales, so I wanted to have extra material just in case. Turns out, I really liked the feel of the thicker handle. It made the knife much easier to hold and control, so I did this deliberately for the other knives. This hasn’t been an issue for carrying around the little pen knife (my current EDC) in my pocket.

I now plan to use these knives… that is, except for the cut-throat razor. They’ll be used for general purposes as was a woodcarving.

Thanks for checking out my project!

7 comments so far

View Eric's profile


5693 posts in 1363 days

#1 posted 04-26-2022 11:00 AM

Nicely done restoration.

-- Eric, building the dream. the "Loft"

View LittleBlackDuck's profile


9454 posts in 2311 days

#2 posted 04-26-2022 11:25 AM

Nice reclamation CUAT... and thanks for the walkthrough.

-- If your first cut is too short... Take the second cut from the longer end... LBD

View recycle1943's profile


7061 posts in 3112 days

#3 posted 04-26-2022 12:37 PM

you’ve got a few good lookers now – nice job

-- Dick, Malvern Ohio - my biggest fear is that when I die, my wife sells my toys for what I told her I paid for them

View CatUpATree's profile


58 posts in 1295 days

#4 posted 04-26-2022 03:48 PM


Nicely done restoration.

- Eric

View CatUpATree's profile


58 posts in 1295 days

#5 posted 04-26-2022 03:49 PM

Thank you!

Nice reclamation CUAT... and thanks for the walkthrough.

- LittleBlackDuck

View CatUpATree's profile


58 posts in 1295 days

#6 posted 04-26-2022 03:50 PM

Thank you, sir!

you ve got a few good lookers now – nice job

- recycle1943

View swirt's profile


7771 posts in 4462 days

#7 posted 04-27-2022 12:04 AM

Nice work on them all, tehy look great.

-- Galootish log blog,

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