what is micarta?

I see handles made of linen or polished micarta and can't find out what it is? Please help.
Def 1: IT is a layered linen or canvas or paper product impregnated with phenolic resin under pressure and heat, made by Westinghouse and super durable as well as very attractive.
Def 2: My bill in Spanish!

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Others can add or correct, but Micarta is a trade name for a phenolic laminate made of cloth and epoxy glue. You may see it called phenolic, too, but even that is a catch-all term.

It was developed by Westinghouse and used for things like electrical insolators. Now it's used for handle material.

It can be made of linen, canvas or even wood, but I think the wood is rare today. It is easily shaped and doesn't shrink. If you plan on working it, use a respirator.

Hope that helps,

I believe Micarta is a trademarked name for a Westinghouse resin based composite (invented in 1910). Basically it is a material like cloth or other celulose based fiber saturated with a plastic resin. The type of plastic is phenolic. I think that makes it a heat-set plastic. The combination of resin and fiber has some of the advantages you see in fiber glass. The fiber makes the material stiff and strong while the resin provides filler and keeps the fibers from being brittle. The colors and types of fiber can be changed to give texture and visual effects. Micarta is very durable.

[This message has been edited by Jeff Clark (edited 03-22-2001).]


Musical Director
Mar 22, 1999
As has been explained, it is a man-made product consisting of layers of paper or cloth and a resin which is cured under heat and pressure. It was originally intended and is still widely used for electrical insulators. The phenolic resin is an excellent insulator, but lacks structural strenth. So, the paper or cloth provides that structure.

Now, while it was originally made for electrical insulators, it quickly found other uses. It's easy to cut and shape, it's tough and durable. It's dimensionally stable, doesn't crack, split, checker, etc. It remains stable over extremes of temperature and humidity.

It can be made in many different colors. Depending on the nature of the paper or cloth used, it can have different "grain" characteristics many of which are quite attractive and quite unique. While it's a manufactured product, the nature of the process with paper or cloth under pressure makes each piece just a little bit unique. So, it has character.

Fine-grained paper Micarta can look very much like ivory only unlike real ivory, it's inexpensive, stable, and durable. Furthermore, it can be skrimshawed just like Ivory.

Micarta is still widely used as an electrical insulator. It's also used to construct many other things especially when temperature or humidity variations can be expected. It's especially popular in prototype or model shops because it's easy to work with.

So, there you have it.

Balisongs -- because it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing!
And it stinks..actually once it's in knife handle/scale form, it seems to take on the odor of whatever it's around. Mine smells like shibbay. lol
Originally posted by tom mayo:
Def 1: IT is a layered linen or canvas or paper product impregnated with phenolic resin under pressure and heat, made by Westinghouse and super durable as well as very attractive.

The well known linen is actually finely woven cotten cloth. Micarta® also is made with fiberglass and other exotic materials. Because it might contain fiberglass or other materials which would ruin your lungs when reduced to dust and breathed in, even through a mask: you should NEVER use salvaged laminate materials unless you KNOW they are safe. A. G.
Didn't someone make their own a few months back? Mr Mitin perhaps?

As I recall, it looked pretty good.
Steve-O: yup, on his customized CRKT bear claw. A nice tan sort of micarta-ish handle. Many were quick to point out that it wasn't true micarta, which can only be made (I assume) with nasty chemicals and a manufacturing-plant type of setup.

Originally posted by george tichbourne:
International Paper decorative products division make a paper micarta and label it as such.

Is this company owned by Westinghouse? I would really like to see the label. Would you scan it and post it where it can be seen? Many thanks, A. G.

Though I am not a fan of this type material, I can see how some interesting patterns could be generated by using the appropiate uneven surface, lateral waves or a field of dimples would produce results similar to some types of damascus.

Damn! Thinking again...