How do I change handles on my knives?

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These instructions guide you through how to remove and replace handles on our fixed blade knives. Most people will never have to or want to remove their handles, but you might if you are extremely curious or you want to change handle scales for some reason.

Before you start

The scales on older models are attached with 4-40 screws with hex socket heads. You will need two 1/16 inch allen keys to loosen and tighten the screws. Our Lynx and newer models use 6-32 screws with T15 (Torx drive) heads; usually a single driver is all you need. You will also need a thin yet strong knife or putty knife to aid in separating scales from the tang.

Prepare a clean work space, like a table or bench top, so that if you drop any of the small parts, they don’t get away. Lots of light helps too. It is a good idea to tape the edge of the blade so that you don’t cut yourself. A cutting board can be used as the actual work surface to avoid possibly marring a nice table top.

Removing the old handle scales

  1. Lay the spine of the knife on the work surface and insert one of the hex keys on either side of one of the sets of screws (eg the front pair). Ensure the tools seat all the way into the screw heads and are nice and square to the head before applying turning force. The screw steel is not as hard as the tools and can be stripped out quite easily if the hex keys aren’t all the way into the sockets.
  2. Turn one of the tools counter-clockwise while holding the other side from turning. The screw should break free and one side or the other will unthread from the inner pin. Repeat for the other pair (or pairs, depending on the model) of screws.
  3. Try to thread out all the remaining screws. If the inner pin turns instead of the screw, it may be possible to push the pin and remaining screw out together with either a 4mm or 5/32″ rod, drill bit or a small torx or other screwdriver. Most likely the pins will be quite tight and not easy to push out (accumulated grime).
  4. In that case, if you can get the screws out of one side of the knife, that scale can be teased off the pins. With all the screws removed from one scale, gently insert a thin putty knife or other thin blade between the tang and the scale near the front of the handle. Try to avoid damaging the old scale in case you want to use it again in the future. With the blade under the scale, slide it toward the back end of the handle to create a  gap. Keep moving to where the gap between scale and tang is the smallest (typically from one end to another) and gradually pry the scale off. Remove the second scale using the same technique.
  5. TIP: screws can be very useful push tools when removing stubborn pins from tangs or scales: just insert an already removed screw a turn or so into the end of the pin you wish to push on.

Preparation before installing new handle scales

  1. Clean the tang of the knife of any accumulated grime. A wash cloth or perhaps a scrub pad should get most of it.
  2. Get your screws and pins ready. If the old hardware is in good shape, try to reuse it (particularly the pins because you should not have issues getting them to fit in the tang). Test the fit of the pins in the tang holes. If they do not press in with finger pressure when squarely pushed into the tang, use some very fine sandpaper or a sharpening stone (220 grit or so) to remove any burrs from the end corners of the pins. If pins don’t push in, it’s usually because they are hanging up on the edge of the tang hole.
  3. If you installing wood scales, it can help to have some paste wax handy to apply to the joints between the tang and scales as an extra measure of protection to minimize water incursion under the scales.

Attaching the scales

  1. Start by pushing the pins into the front and rear holes of one scale (ie don’t put the middle pin in yet for models with 3 pairs of screws). The pins to use by model are:
    • Trillium and Mallard: pins 5/16″ long
    • All other models: pins 3/8″ long
  2. Leave the pin sticking out far enough so that it will extend through both the tang and into the mating scale. Check that the pins are reasonably square to the scale.
  3. Drop the tang onto the scale with the pins and guide it onto the pins. Ensure that the pins still stick through the tang, ready to snap the other side scale on
  4. Drop the second scale into place and press it over the pins. This should leave you with a sandwich of 2 scales and the tang, all fitting snugly together with no significant gaps. If your model has a middle hole, push the pin for it into the hole. If the pin hangs up on the tang, hold the sandwich together and push down on the protruding pin (push down on your cutting board) to push it into the assembly
  5. Start the appropriate screws into all the holes on both sides but do not thread in more and 1 or two turns. The screw lengths to use are different per model:
    • Trillium and Mallard: all screws 1/4″ long
    • Sitka and Alder: front screws 5/16″, others  3/8″ long
    • Kermode 6 and 9″: front screws 1/4″, mid screws: one 5/16″ and one 3/8″, rear screws 3/8″
    • Lynx: front screws 1/4″, mid and rear screws 5/16″
  6. With the screws all started, you now want to adjust them so they protrude approximately equally from each side (ie that the inner pin is centred). Push the screw heads against the work surface as needed to center each hardware set.
  7. Use the two tools in opposing screws and tighten equally until the screw heads make snug contact with the scales. A gentle snugness is all you need. Be careful not to over tighten or you may either pull the screw through a wood scale (or split it) or risk stripping the screw head.

Finishing up

Inspect your work. Make sure there are no significant gaps between handle and scales that would indicate something got trapped underneath. On wood handles, we recommend applying some paste wax at the joint between scale and tang along the perimeter of both scales to seal water out as much as possible.