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Guide to Knife Handle Materials: Natural, Synthetic, and Hybrids

Experienced knife users know the handle may be just as important as the blade. Beyond adding a touch of style and individuality, a handle provides a grip for you to hold and wield a knife safely. Whether you’re making a fully custom piece ormaking a knife from a kit , there are many handle materials from which to choose. Far from being purely cosmetic, these materials each have their own unique qualities, as well as pros and cons that can affect how the knife performs when used.

 

This guide offers beginners and experts a detailed overview of several popularknife handle materials. Learn about each material and decide which one best suits your needs and personal preferences. This is a great resource for those choosing their first knife or enthusiasts who want to try a new type of handle.

 

Natural Knife Handle Materials

Natural knife handles are organic and can be found in nature. Their legacy dates all the way back to humanity’s ancient ancestors, who used knives and other tools made purely from what they could find in the wild. If you want to re-create one of history’s most iconic edged weapons or a  truly unique, classic-looking knife that harkens back to our survivalist past, a natural handle is the way to go.

 

Wood

A large variety ofnatural woods are used to create knife handles. These include maple, walnut, olive wood, rosewood, mesquite, desert ironwood, and pink ivory. The natural grain adds a beautiful, elegant touch to any blade, and wood can easily be carved and shaped to your liking. Wood handles are durable and typically not too expensive, either. However, they can become warped or damaged by excess exposure to moisture. Wooden handles are also porous, making them prone to cracking or breaking.  Proper treatment of your handles with oils such asLinspeed Oil can protect your wood from damage.

 

If you want a handle that offers the natural look of wood but is a bit more resistant to the elements, you may consider one made ofstabilized wood. This is wood that has been injected with polymer resin and treated under high pressure to make it denser and more durable.

 

Bone and Horns

Bones from animals are a popular knife handle material because they provide a traditional yet eye-catching look. Cow bones are a common choice, and you can even usegiraffe bone knife handles are a very popular choice as the bones are very dense and readily available while adding an exotic touch to your finished knife.  It is important to note that, like wood, handles made from bone are porous and can crack or become deformed over time. Many of them are already stabilized and dyed with resins for added protection and beauty.

 

Similar to bone, materials likeSpringbok, Blesbok, Kudu and Merino Ram’s Horn make distinctive knife handles. Most horn is considered an advanced material to work as it can be difficult to shape.  Advanced knifemakers tend to work with the natural shape of the horn and bone to keep the materials’ natural shape as part of the knife design.  Other traditional horn material includesdeer horn andbuffalo horn which also make distinctive knife handles for outdoor enthusiasts.

 

Mother of Pearl

If you want a regal knife that really stands out from the crowd, try a mother of pearl handle. Mother of pearl, also known as nacre, is produced by oysters and other mollusks. It coats the inner shells of these creatures, and over time layers of the material can form a pearl. Mother of pearl handles give off an iridescent glow that makes them feel right at home on high-end knives. Of course, it’s not surprising that they’re significantly more expensive than other materials.

 

Those on a smaller budget may considerfabricated mother of pearl handles, which offer the beauty of genuine mother of pearl at a much lower price.

 

Pine Cone

Pine cone knife handles are made by casting natural pine cones in resin and then cutting them into scales to fit a knife blade. The resin can be dyed any number of colors including blue, red, green, orange, yellow, black, and white. Given the unique nature of pine cones, no two patterns are exactly alike. When making a unique knife that captures the look and feel of the great outdoors, a pine cone handle is a creative choice.

 

Synthetic Knife Handle Materials

Synthetic knife handles are constructed of man-made materials. As a result, they can range from the conventional to the exotic, giving users significant freedom in expressing their personal identity and sense of style through their knife handle. Synthetic handles may be mass produced or hand made one piece at a time.  In many cases you will find synthetics are a better choice when durability comes to mind but educating yourself is essential as some synthetics can be brittle, fragile, or hard to work.  

 

Carbon Fiber

Carbon fiber is a strong, durable polymer also known as graphite fiber. Carbon fiber is made from organic polymers by combining carbon fibers with another material like plastic resin.Carbon fiber knife handles are very stiff, lightweight, resistant to chemicals, and able to withstand high temperatures. They’re stronger yet lighter than virtually any other handle material choice, which is great for those who want a sturdy knife that won’t weigh them down.

 

G10

G10 is a high-pressure fiberglass composite laminate made by stacking layers of glass cloth, soaking them in epoxy resin, and then compressing them under high heat. The result is a material that’s quite similar to carbon fiber, though much less expensive.

 

G10 knife handles offer many of the same qualities that make carbon fiber appealing: They’re strong, durable, lightweight, and highly resistant to moisture, heat, and chemicals. You can choose from a large selection of colors and designs to show off your personality. G10 handles can also be easily carved, peened or engraved to provide a more textured grip. You can findtextured G10 scales with honeycomb, diamond, and other patterns.

 

SureTouch is a handle material with layers of G10 and rubber alternating to form a shock resistant material that is perfect for hard working knives, hatchets, and choppers.  The layers of rubber also make SureTouch G10 an excellent choice for a handle with good grip.

 

Micarta

Micarta is the brand name of a composite made from linen, canvas, paper, fiberglass, carbon fiber, or other fabrics soaked in phenolic resin and baked under high pressure. Norplex-Micarta is the original manufacturer of Micarta and considered the best quality Micarta in the world.  Similar material to Micarta is commonly known as Phenolic handle material.  If you want to be sure you are getting the original ask about the manufacturer.  Like its fellow synthetics,micarta and phenolic knife handles are extremely durable and lightweight. They range in price from very cost effective to mid-priced for handle material making Micarta and Phenolic extremely popular. 

 

Micarta is naturally smooth to the touch but can be given texture by peening away the resin to expose the base material.  It’s also available in a range of colors, providing the user some flexibility in personalizing the look of their knife. 

 

Where Can I Buy Knife Handle Materials?

Jantz Supply offers a large selection ofmaterials for making knife handles, including many of the natural and synthetic options mentioned in this guide. You can also find other high-quality materials like fabricated ivory, Juma, unique resins, rubber, Fantasy Marble, and more. The handle adds character and personality to a blade, so choose the material that feels right to you!

 

Have questions about certain materials or any other aspect of knifemaking?Contact our knifemaking experts and we’ll respond as quickly as possible.