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Getting ready to order handle material, question about pins

Discussion in 'Shop Talk - BladeSmith Questions and Answers' started by Shannon Carter, May 20, 2012.

  1. Shannon Carter

    Shannon Carter

    Mar 26, 2012
    I'm getting ready to order handle material for my first set of knives and I have a question about pins. I'm thinking about using black pins, is carbon fiber the best? Will that produce the darkest color or is micarta good enough? I've found micarta pin material at a few places, but is there a recommended source for carbon fiber if that is the way to go? Also, regarding hole size, should I drill the holes in the tang about 1/64" over the size of the pin material?

  2. TooQuiet


    May 5, 2011
    Only advise I can give you is this; if you want to use 1/4" pins, drill holes with an "F" size bit. I didn't know this and broke 3 different drill bits drilling through hardened S35VN. Also when using solid carbide bits(for the hardened steel mistakes) use a drill press, go slow(or snap a few $30+ bits) and use a cutting lubricant. Good Luck!!
  3. Minibear464


    Jul 14, 2011
    I've never had black micarta pins, but the black micarta scale material I have is pure black. Carbon fiber is expensive, and by using it as a pin, you barely show off any of that incredible design. Unless your scales are made of carbon fiber, and you want a "blended" look, I'd suggest micarta since it gives you the same black without the heavy price tag. And it's a solid black, while carbon fiber has that design. Depends on the project.
  4. jonnymac44


    Sep 27, 2007
    Best advice here is to drill all your holes pre heat treat with either HSS bits or preferably cobalt bits. No need for pricey carbide for tang holes as long as you think ahead and get it all done before the steel is hard. When annealed, I have no problem drilling any steel whether it's CPM-154 stainless, D2, 3V, S35VN, whatever. Drill before hardening and you don't have to worry about it. And yes, when you do need to use carbide, for god's sake do it in a rigid setup. Even a small amount of lateral pressure will snap a carbide bit. Use a solid drill press with good clamping.

    As to the OP's question about rods, you can also try the black fiberglass rods from Alpha Knife supply. They're a nice solid black and a good price. As far as using an "F" size bit.....I don't know. Not even sure what an "F" size bit is. What I do know is that you really don't want your pins to slide loosely through the tang and your handle material. You want the fit to be nice and snug, maybe even requiring some light taps with a rubber mallet to get the pins into place. Rather than drill oversize and risk a loose fit, I prefer to drill the true size, then if it's too tight for the pin to fit, and it usually is.....I wrap a bit of 280 grit paper around a steel rod slightly smaller than my pin size and ream the hole by hand just a tiny bit at a time until I have the snug fit I'm after. Some might worry that a snug fit will prevent any epoxy from getting in between the pin and the tang/handle but that's fine. In addition to the regular bond of epoxy to tang, I also do a substantial countersink on both sides of the tang and on the backside of the handle material in the pin holes,creating a good place for epoxy to collect around the pins, increasing the bond even more.
  5. Shannon Carter

    Shannon Carter

    Mar 26, 2012
    Thanks for the replies, I appreciate it. This will give me a good place to start.

  6. watercrawl


    Jun 2, 2006
    I've used the micarta rods as pins a couple of times and they're not pure black as I recall. The fiber in them kind of shows off. When polished, it wasn't REAL obvious that they weren't pure black...but you could tell if you looked close. Was trying to find a picture for you, but I can't...sorry!
  7. grizzled gizzard

    grizzled gizzard Basic Member Basic Member

    Aug 31, 2010
    If it were me, starting out with metal pins would be easier, I would think. It takes a little practice!

    Even with a full set of bits, the kind with fractional bits, numbered bits, and lettered bits, I still have to adjust the pins or the hole often.

    I use a tapered reamer as well, but I only use it from the outside. With metal pins, this gives a mechanical lock.

    If I were using non-mushrooming pins, I think Jonny Mac's opposite use of the reamer would work well for getting a great epoxy bond.
  8. jll346

    jll346 Knife maker Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    May 29, 2006
    I too highly recommend some size "F" drill bits for your handle work. A 1/4" bit is .25". A size F is .257". It will provide a much better bond and leave NO gap what so ever. You do not want to have to fight to get pins in.
  9. Salem Straub

    Salem Straub KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 20, 2008
    Occasionally I will use a large counterbore with a 3/16" or 1/8" pilot removed, on the drill press, to cut micarta pins from scrap in whatever color I need. It works with micarta but takes a little practice, as micarta will shear from the friction at a certain point. Works even better with G10. If that is interesting to you, I can elucidate upon request. I have also turned micarta pins with a wood lathe, and metal lathe... but the drill press is quick and everyone has that. Or, you can even use a drill press as a small lathe to turn pins. This also applies well to sanding them slightly smaller. I like the relative ease of shrinking a pin's diameter over having to lap a pin hole larger.

    Hey Toolguy, you signed up just now, and used your first post to shill a purveyor? Sounds kinda like spam to me...
  10. S.Alexander

    S.Alexander KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jul 7, 2013
    Carbon fibre pins are not expensive. I found some at a local hobby store that sold parts for remote controlled helicopters and cars. I found 1/8 stock in 3 foot lengths for about $7. It's pure black and looks really good on a knife handle. Here's an example[​IMG]
  11. C_Claycomb

    C_Claycomb Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 11, 2000
    I was going to suggest the carbon fibre solid rods used in making high performance kites. Not used it myself, but have seen it at a friend's and it looked like it would work.

    Drilling, you can also go metric, 1/4" = 6.35mm, so can use 6.5mm (0.256"). Drilling out shrunken holes, universal carbide tipped drills (like the Bosch ones) are a lot cheaper and they won't snap, may just get chipped edges. Carbide burrs in rotary tools can also work.

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