Antique Knife Handle
What is the Best Material for a Knife Handle?
The first thing I have to say is, there is no such thing as the best material for a knife handle. Choosing a knife handle is like choosing a knife, it all depends on what you plan to use the knife for, hunting, fishing, diving, camping, as a decorative knife or for heavy use. Do you want your knife to look good? Or to be as tough as possible? Are you going to be using it in extreme environments? There are so many variables in choosing a knife handle material. The best that I can do is give you a list of the most popular materials used, and let you choose the one that best suits your needs .
What Kinds of Materials Have Been Used as a Knife Handle?
The answer would be nearly every kind of material you can think of. Materials have been chosen based on aesthetic qualities, durability, resilience, comfort, and in some cases convenience, using what ever happened to be handy as a make do knife handle. Since I cannot list every single type of material ever used, I will list the most popular and practical ones.
Buck 119BR Special
Wooden Knife Handle
This is the MOST popular knife handle material in the world today, it is pleasing to look at, practical and easily replaced if broken. Depending on the type of wood, and the finish, wood handles are durable, require minimal maintenance, are very comfortable to hold and are one of my favorite handle materials. Try to keep your wood handle knife dry, if it gets wet, clean it, wipe it down, then let it dry naturally, do not dry it over a heater or by putting it near a fireplace.
Carbon Fiber Knife Handle
Carbon Fiber : Thin strands of carbon that are set in resin. While a little bit costly, this is a good lightweight synthetic material. But has a tendency to crack if dropped numerous times on a hard surface. Makes a good knife handle material, as long as you are not very rough with it. Not suitable for extremely heavy duty use.
G10 Knife Handle
G10 : Layers of fiberglass mesh, soaked in resin and then baked under a high heat, G10 is a hard, strong material that does not absorb water, it is one of the most popular materials used in tactical knives. Often textured to give a more firm grip and manufactured in a wide variety of colors. G10 is a popular choice for knife owners.
FRN Knife Handle
FRN (Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon) : A cheaper alternative to the G10. Most of the big knife companies that mass produce knives, have at least one range of products with FRN handles, It is a cheap to produce material, that is strong and can take a surprising amount of abuse. It has a slightly less solid feel to it then the G10 and Micarta handles. But this could just be my imagination. Spyderco, CRKT and Gerber all produce knives with FRN handles.
Aluminium Knife Handle
Aluminium : Lightweight and durable, has a high corrosion resistance, make sure you choose a textured handle if you choose aluminium as your handle material, as it is very slippery when wet.
Bone Knife Handle
Bone has been used as a knife handle for ages, while not as strong or durable as a lot of the other materials used for knife handles, it is one of the more attractive materials. It has fallen out of favor for big fixed bladed knives, but is still commonly used for pocket knives due to the fact that it looks real nice. Not my material of choice.
Leather Wrapped Knife Handle
Leather handles are rarely seen on modern knife handles. Leather is not a practical material in my opinion. It takes a lot of maintenance, is not durable, is not water resistant, and when wet is very uncomfortable to hold. Its only advantage is that it looks nice. Not a good choice. I do not recommend buying knives with leather handles.
Although if you are in a situation where your knife handle breaks, and you have to repair it yourself, a makeshift leather handle is a good solution. As leather or wood is the easiest material to find in the wild.
Stainless Steel Knife Handle
An extremely durable, strong, corrosion resistant material, the only disadvantages are, it is a heavy material and will add quite a bit of weight to your knife, and that it does not make for a good grip, which is why a lot of stainless steel handled knives have a plastic or rubber cover added over them for added friction. The ones that do not have a cover over them are textured for added friction.
Titanium Knife Handle
A higher end alternative to Stainless Steel handles, it is tougher, has a higher corrosion resistance and is lighter then stainless steel,
The disadvantage, it is quite a bit more expensive. A good choice if you are willing to bear the extra cost.
Zytel Knife Handle
A thermoplastic material made by Dupont. Durable and cheap. It will lower the cost of a knife, thus lowering the cost for the end user. When textured it has a nice feel to it. A good choice of materials. No maintenance required at all.
White Mother of Pearl Knife Handles, a Prized Material, Commonly Found in Higher End Gentleman's Pocket Knives
White Mother of Pearl / Black Mother of Pearl : A very attractive material, usually used for fancy pocketknives, collectibles or decorative knives. Not a very practical choice if you want a good strong handle. Generally for light use only. it is an expensive material. A popular choice due to its attractiveness, I personally do not like Mother of pearl handles
Knife handle materials
Abalone Knife Handle
A slightly cheaper alternative to the white mother of pearl material. Durability, pro's and con's are the same as the mother of pearl.
Animal Horn Knife Handle
Animal Horns / Antlers : Depending on the animal the horn came from, the quality of the horn, the knife makers skill ( a badly fitted tang to horn/antler will weaken the integrity of the horn handle ). An animal horn knife handle looks very nice, and makes a pretty decent knife handle. Its natural texture makes for a solid grip.
Micarta Knife Handle
Micarta : Any fibrous material in resin is now being called micarta, I have seen some very nice high quality micarta knife handles, I have heard people argue that the G10 is a stronger material, and while this might be true, I myself have never felt the difference. A durable material that makes a good knife handle. Maintenance free, lightweight and has a nice feel to it.
Paracord Knife Handle
Paracord : A novelty or fad in my opinion, wrapping a paracord around a tang/handle to make a handle material might make the knife look tough and feel tough, but it is impractical,
I have heard people say the advantages are, you are carrying a strong survival cord with you which will be handy in an emergency, it is really easy to replace your knife handle ( well of course it is, its just cord wrapped around the handle ).
Now here are the disadvantages, it is uncomfortable to grip. When wet, it is even more uncomfortable, if you lose your knife you lose your paracord, if you need your paracord and unwind it from your knife, then your knife is left with a skeletal grip. Get a paracord bracelet if you want to carry a paracord around
This is a very short list
I have not even scratched the surface of the different materials that have been used to make knife handles, everything ranging from bicycle chains, to animal body parts. People will come up with all sorts of ideas for what would make a good knife handle. I am however confident that with this list you should be able to choose a knife handle material that suits you.
Choose the Perfect Blade and Knife Handle Material
Choose the right knife blade and handle material and your knife, will serve you well for many years. If you can afford it spend a little more money. It is most definitely worth it.
The choice is Yours
Choosing a knife handle is like choosing a car, do you want a sports car for speed or a four wheel drive for off road terrain, or maybe just a classy car to show off with. As with cars there is no all in one solution, choose your knife handle wisely.
William Leverne Smith from Hollister, MO on February 25, 2016:
Very useful and interesting information. Thank you for sharing here!! ;-)
Ebo on July 18, 2014:
Well-reasoned opinions here. Interesting how knife fashions have changed in 60 years - my father's old Case hunting knife dressed deer, bear, cut wood, but looks like a toy next to modern "Rambo" poseur knives. If you want a hatchet, carry one (he did); don't confuse one with the other, or expect it to work as well as the separate tools did.
Any suggestions on treating to preserve/restore really old antler handle material?
Ed Palumbo from Tualatin, OR on December 28, 2013:
I've enjoyed your article. Black micarta and G10 have worked well for me as handle material on knives I actually use in the field.
ketage (author) from Croatia on May 12, 2013:
yeah, midget38 , I got the wrong sized handle on one of my knives it was very hard to use, eventually gave it to a friend and got myself another knife. thanks for commenting :)
Michelle Liew from Singapore on May 12, 2013:
Informative! The wrong handle means that the knife can slip easily and that cuts can occur. Thanks for sharing!
ketage (author) from Croatia on May 11, 2013:
Thanks Ceres Schwarz , it was difficult to choose which knife handle materials to write about, so i tried to pick the most popular ones.
Ceres Schwarz on May 09, 2013:
Very informative hub on knife handles. Since there are so many knife handles out there, it can be difficult to choose. It's good to be able to see many details about the knife handles like pros and cons so they can make an informed decision about what knife handle to buy.