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If the Aluminum is Al 7075 then it is an aluminum alloy, with zinc as the primary alloying element. It is strong, with strength comparable to many steels, and has good fatigue strength an average machinability. Al 7075 is a relatively high cost aluminum that is normally used where other types of materials would be unacceptable. Because only small amounts are required for knife scales, it is sometimes used in nautical rescue knives and other high-end sailing knives built on a tactical frame. It resists heat, is non-magnetic, does not shrink, and normally will not warp or crack. If you see low priced knives being marketed with aircraft aluminum, it probably is not Al 7075 but a cheaper grade of aluminum.Alox is an aluminum oxide alloy used in the production of Swiss Army Knives made by Victorinox and Wenger. it is used for liners and in some instances the sclaes of Swiss Army Knives.
Bakelite is one of the earliest synthetic plastics is the forerunner of products such as Delrin and G 10. While it is not used much today, many of the British issued clasp knives up and through World War II used Bakelite as their handle material.
While Bakelite is considered brittle, it is also tough, doesn’t shrink and is water resistant. It can also be molded Bakelite decline is use due primarily to the expense of producing it. Products such as Delrin are less expensive to produce and result in a better quality synthetic plastic.
Bone is normally cut from the long bones of the animals going with the direction of the grain. When the supply of stag (deer antler) became low bone was jigged (that is cut) and dyed to look like stag. Today bone is sometimes bleached and sanded smooth to imitate ivory. During the preperation process, bone is allowed to dry and then is soaked in resins to fill the natural pores; creating a stronger water-tight material.
The positive aspects of bone are that it is hard, waterproof, and will not shrink. The negative sides are that it is brittle, prone to cracking and depending on the quality of dye, can fade.
The problem of dezincification was remedied between WWI and WWII by adding a small amount of arsenic to the brass. This proved to stopped dezincification
Admiralty or Naval Brass is brass used in the maritime service for numerous tasks. Depite having a high amount of zinc (30%) it is able to resist dezincification due to the addition of tin (1%) . While the tin seemed to reduce the problem of dezincification it did not completely solve it. A better solution was the introduction of Aluminum Brass. Aluminum Brass is also known as Nordic-Gold. Its composition is 89% copper, 5% aluminum, 5% zinc, and 1% tin. The low zinc content, combined with the aluminum and tin make a highly reflective brass that is virtually free of dezincification and for this reason it is the brass of choice for maritime use.
The joy of Delrin® is it is inexpensive, can be molded and mass produced. Color possibilities are also endless. It is sometimes jigged to appear as bone or stag but it can just as easily be made with non-slip checkered grips. It is often referred to as “Composition”.
A major drawback of Delrin® is chlorine and other chemicals can cause it to break down overtime. Boiling water can also cause a breakdown of Delrin®, thus it is poor choice around swimming pools and you probably should stir your coffee or clean a knife with Delrin handles using hot water.
Popular trademarked GRPs are G-10, Kevlar, Kraton & Zytel to name a few. They all have similar strengths and weaknesses.
Second Cut Stag is cut from the inside portion of the horn and then jigged to look like the out side portion of the stag. It is normally considered a lesser quality stag.
It is very rare for stag to be used on sailing knives today and is even somewhat uncommon on older sailing knives.
Typically the handles are made of heavy, dense woods such as rosewood, desert itonwood,oak, teak, mahogany, ebony and other woods commonly used in ship building. The dense wood is better at repelling water. Wood handles require more care than other handles. Rubbing wood handles with linseed oil will normally keep the would resilient and water proof.
Laminated woods are also quite popular. Laminates are thin layers of wood glued together using strong epoxies. Typically the woods are pressed together under high temperatures forcing the epoxies into the wood grain and making a wood durable, impervious to climate, and water resistant. (see Pakkawood)
The type of Zytel used in sheaths is more flexible than the Zytel used in handles. The sheath Zytel can be remolded and stiffened by the application of heat allowing a sheath to fitted and possibly refitted to a knife if it loosens over time.