Notes About 'Bookmatching'

'Bookmatched' knife scales have been cut from a block that has been split down the middle and then opened like a book.  The 'insides' of the resulting scales should be the mirror image of the other, but special care must be taken to preserve this desirable effect.

Burl woods are prized for their unusual grain structure which can whirl and swirl in many different directions.

Likewise with the swirls and whorls of different colored shimmering urethane resin. Because of the method used to pour the blank blocks, there is no guarantee that the pattern will remain constant throughout the thickness of the scale. The bookmatching effect can be destroyed by removing too much material from the face of the scales.

For this reason it is important, when shaping the scales for thickness, that material is removed from the back side to preserve bookmatching.

Obviously, to make a nicely contoured handle material will have to be removed from the face of the scales as well and this may result in minor variations in the bookmatched pattern, but overall the effect will be preserved.

Important note before beginning work:

Mark the inside (against the tang) and outside (against the hand) to make sure you are removing material from the side you think you are. In the knifemaking classes I teach I have students put a piece of masking tape on the outside faces of the scales and keep it there until they are ground to final thickness.

To sum up:

  1. 1. The pattern in either wood or resin may not be consistent throughout the thickness of the scales.
  2. To achieve the desired thickness, remove material only from the back side (the side that will lie flush against the tang)
  3. Other than necessary contouring, to preserve bookmatching minimize material removal from the face (the side against the hand) of the scales