Editor’s note: “Micarta” has become the Kleenex of knife handles. It’s used so generically that it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that the word refers to something specific.
That’s why BLADE is bringing you this quick rundown of Micarta® from Kevin Brainard, a business development manager and 45-year veteran of Norplex, the company that owns Micarta® (the real deal). You may have caught the company at BLADE Show, where it runs the UltreX booth.
The goal of this piece is for knifemakers and knife collectors to become more aware of what is and isn’t actually Micarta®.
Hint: If it didn’t come from Norplex, it’s not genuine Micarta®!
by Kevin Brainard
1 – Micarta® is a Registered Trademark of Norplex/Micarta
We own several registrations for our Micarta® mark around the world, including U.S. Trademark Registration Nos. 0096374 (issued in 1914), 0320374 (issued in 1934), and 0324365 (issued in 1935), covering our high-quality industrial laminates.
In addition to our common law rights in the Micarta® mark, our incontestable federal trademark registrations constitute conclusive evidence of the validity of the mark, the registration thereof, and of our ownership and exclusive right to use Micarta® in connection with these products.
2 – Micarta® is Made in the USA
Available in several different colors, combinations, and surface treatments, UltreX
paper and cotton phenolic materials use the original production methods of Westinghouse,
updated with today’s process and environmental controls.
And unlike some of the other “micarta” available in the market, UltreX
3 – G-10 is Not Micarta®
Micarta® is made with a cloth or paper substrate and coated with phenolic or melamine resin. G-10 is woven fiberglass and coated with epoxy resin.
The processes to make both materials are very similar in the fact that both are consolidated under heat and pressure to make the final laminate. There is a chemical reaction that is called polymerization that bonds the layers together into a high-pressure thermoset laminate.
According to the trademarks, G-10 is not Micarta®.
4 – “Micarta” Refers to a Specific Product
Like so many other trade names, Micarta® name is used like Kleenex is for facial tissue. Instead of calling it a “thermoset laminate” it is easier to call it Micarta®. This is true in the knife scales, handles and gun grip markets. We have similar issues with the Micarta® name in our other markets.
5 – Micarta® Goes Back to 1912
It was originally designed to be used as electrical insulation back in 1912 by George Westinghouse using a phenolic resin developed by Leo Baekeland called Bakelite.