Testing Carta Handle Materials
Recently I’ve been using some Micarta on some in stock knife handles. Micarta is a very widely used and popular synthetic knife handle material.
Micarta is a brand name for composites of linen, canvas, paper or just about any material that will absorb resin. Westinghouse invented Micarta during the early 1900s.Today it is used throughout industry as an electrical insulation, in heavy equipment manufacturing, aerospace, office equipment, furniture and the list goes on and on. It has been used as knife handles for many years as it is hard, grippy, water resistant and very durable.
There is a whole cottage industry in the making of home made micarta. It is a relatively easy but messy process. I’ve done it a couple of times using some cut up pieces of denim from an old pair of jeans. Even came out pretty darn good once, the other time was an abject failure. These home made “cartas” as they are called can become very ingenious with the materials used. Canvas, burlap, fire hose, denim, rags and just about any material can be used it just has to absorb resin.
The Coyote handled in Jean Carta
I was able to locally source some cartas, which we were able to have them made up with some fabrics that we supplied. We had a lot of denim (literally from some of my old Wranglers), some canvas, burlap and a couple unique to us. We had some made up with some of our sandwashed silk from cutting out wildrags and also some wool left over from Nichole’s vests. So we coined the terms silk carta, wool carta and jean carta. It took 80 layers of silk to make up a 1/4” thick piece of silk carta.
In the knife world Micarta has the reputation as being almost indestructible, literally almost bulletproof. So l decided to test this out one day. I had a few extra pieces of jean carta so I set them up and shot them with a variety of different guns. Most pieces were 3/16” to 3/8” thick and all were shot at ten paces.
So they weren't bullet proof. But it was surprising to see how tough this stuff really was. A 3/8” piece stopped a .22, while a 3/16” didn’t. A 3/16” piece stopped a 12 gauge, the pellets simply didn’t penetrate. Larger caliber handguns penetrated straight through, but it took multiple shots from two .45s and a .40 before it started chipping apart.
I probably won’t offer micarta as a standard handle material, as the supply is kind of hit and miss. Sometimes its easy to get and sometimes not. But when I can get it I will continue to use it on some in stock knives. While not bulletproof, it is pretty tough stuff. So as long as you don’t set your knife up as a plinking target, a knife handled in this stuff ought to last you a very, very long time.
The Cowboy handled in Burlap Carta