Aside from the blade (steel and shape), the knife handle material also plays a major role in an efficient and reliable knife. It is impossible to use such a powerful utility if you are not comfortable with its grip or if it is not sturdy enough. So which properties are important in all knife handle materials? In my opinion, they are grip, durability, cost-efficiency, and the derivation and manufacturing procedure as well.
There are numerous types of knife handle material. Each of which varies in purpose and convenience. The materials are divided into three major subcategories: 1) natural; 2) metal, and 3) synthetic. The following are some of the most common knife handle materials, which you can consider for your next purchase.
From the term itself, knife handle materials under this category are manufactured with natural elements as their key components.
This material is one of the most exclusive types. Given the short supply, it is also one of the most expensive knife handle materials. It is derived from the Red Abalone shells exclusively from the Northern-California-Southern-Oregon coast. This material is highly favored by both knife manufacturers and consumers, because of the lip and heart sections, which are profoundly appealing.
Case Cutlery 12003 Lockback Knife with Abalone handle on Amazon (★★★★★ with ~20 reviews)
Bone is the most familiar and economic material type derived from deceased animals. There is a broad range of animals, but the most common are the abundant cow bone. Moreover, it is one of the oldest knife handle material. It usually comes with pick bone and jigged bone surface texture; hence the name. This handle material is usually dyed in either black or blue.
Case Cutlery 7049 with Medium Navy Blue Bone on Amazon (★★★★★ with ~100 reviews)
This material is somehow rare on most knives, expect on those used in the military and for hunting. Usually, leather wraps another material. However, some procedures involve the compressing and stacking of leather washers on knife tangs.
Mother of Pearl (MOP)
Generally, MOP is made up of various shell species. To flatten and combine the shells, manufacturers sand or grind them, which explains the sanding or grinding marks. It boasts with what appears to be a translucent 3D look and reflective colors. White MOP is the most common kind, which is made up of pearls from Australia’s South Seas.
Wood is recommended for high-end knives and not ideal for pocket knives. It requires a high level of maintenance, particularly drying. Given that, it is the perfect knife handle for kitchen use. Various wood materials can be utilized. Some of the most common types include hardwoods, softwoods, and exotic woods. Hardwoods are derived from deciduous trees while softwoods from coniferous trees. There are also stabilized woods that come from birch trees. To come up with stronger custom knife handles, the woods are injected with a polymer resin. Afterward, they are compressed under extremely high pressure.
Buck Knives 385 Toothpick Knife Wood Handle on Amazon (★★★★½ with ~160 reviews)
Metal knife materials are primarily composed of metals that undergo intense laboring procedures.
This nonferrous metal gives off a robust yet lightweight handling feel. Commonly, aluminum knife handles are finished off by anodizing.
Stainless steel (you can also read about different types of steel used in knife making industry here) exhibits sturdiness and corrosion-resistant characteristics. Stainless steel handles are just as durable as the stainless steel blades. However, it is not lightweight. It is usually used in fine dining sets. Moreover, it has a slippery grip and thus cannot be used for everyday carry (EDC) knives.
Titanium, a lightweight metal alloy, gives off a warm grip feeling. This metal alloy can also be used for locking liner knives primarily because of its light characteristic. Like aluminum knife handles, titanium can also be anodized to achieve a unique appearance. It can also undergo bead-blasting to improve its texture for enhanced grip.
Kershaw Cryo Knife with Titanium handle on Amazon (★★★★½ with ~1500 reviews)
Synthetic or man-made materials are produced using various combinations of different components to achieve the perfect blend of sturdiness.
This knife handle material is made up of carbon woven together, giving off a modern appeal. The patterns offer added texture that yields comfortable handling. Carbon fiber is mostly considered as the strongest lightweight synthetic material. Because of the intensive labor required to produce this material, it can be slightly costlier than the others.
Boker Plus Anti-Grav with Carbon Fiber Handle on Amazon (★★★★½ with ~126 reviews)
A G-10 knife handle material is extremely hard and strong while maintaining lightweights. It is made up of fiberglass cloth soaked in resin, which is later on compressed and baked. Moreover, G-10 has a surface texture.
Kraton, Kraton Polymers’ brand of items made out of Styrenic Block Copolymer (SBC). A Kraton knife handle is almost similar to rubber, except that it is man-made. It has a vigorous and efficient grip. Furthermore, Kraton is low-maintenance and durable, which is why it appeals to customers. It is perfect for knives used for outdoor activities.
A Kraton-handle knife on Amazon (★★★★★ with ~700 reviews)
Micarta is made up of fiberglass cloth soaked in phenolic resin. As a result, the material is both hard and lightweight. However, it has a smooth touch, unlike the G-10. Given that, it is almost scratch-proof. A Micarta handle material is slightly more expensive because of the detailed hand laboring.
Puma Coyote Hunting Knife, with Micarta handle on Amazon (★★★★★ with ~40 reviews)
Zytel, DuPont’s trademark, is probably the cheapest knife handle material available in the market today, which is why it is the most popular one. It is a form of Fiberglass Reinforces Nylon (FRN). Aside from being extremely affordable, Zytel is also capable of resisting abrasions and impact. What makes it more practical than the rest is that it is nearly indestructible. Consequently, it is ideal for EDC use.
SOG Speciality Knives & Tools E37T-K Elite Knife with Zytel handle on Amazon (★★★★½ with ~140 reviews)
Quite many Knife Handle Materials, huh?
Knife handle materials are not solely limited to the types above. Given the versatility of today’s market, customers have a wide range of custom knife handles to choose from. Of course, the perfect knife handle material depends on the type of knife you use and on the activity of which you use it.
You might also want to see this video, where Ben Orford talks about different types of handle materials, their benefits and why you would choose one material over another.References