Types of knife handle materials

All knives, even the simplest ones, have a lot of parts that affect their performance and maintenance. If you are a new it could be hard to imagine how different parts of the knife (including the jimping, notch, or in this case handle) has anything to do with the knife's performance. The reality is the type of handle determines many factors including; the level of hand control on the blade, cut performance, amount of grip, water/temperature resistance, durability, and of course style.

Whether you're searching for a survival knife, collector knife, tactical knife, hunting knife, or a knife for your daily use, this blog will help you determine the best knife handle material to suit your needs.

1. Aluminum

Anodized for hardness, color, and protection, aluminum is a popular and durable option for a knife handle.
Aluminum is substantial, comfortable to use and also provides a perfect grip when textured properly. Being a low-density metal means it offers a nice, hefty feel without weighing the knife down. T6-6061 is the most common type of aluminum used today and has tremendous tensile strength.

• Strong material
• Light-weighted
• Durable
• Offers a good amount of resistance from corrosion
• Can be anodized to offer a variety of color options

• Cold and uncomfortable to hold during cold weather situation
• Can be a little slippery
• Susceptible to scratches

2. Stainless Steel

The benefits that you get from a blade made of stainless steel are transferred to the handle. It is quite often combined with other materials like rubber or plastic to make it easier to grip.

• Strong
• Provides excellent durability
• Extremely resistant to rusting and corrosion
• Easy to clean

• Heavy
• Can be slippery when wet
• Not a very good choice for everyday use
• No color variety available

3. Titanium

There’s a lot to love about a titanium knife handle!
Titanium is a metal just like aluminum but comparatively a more premium and durable option. Out of all the alloy metal handles, titanium has the best rust and corrosion resistance properties. Also it offers a warm feeling when touched, so if you are looking for a knife to use in the colder months or regions, this option a fantastic option for you.

• A Strong material
• Comparatively a light weighted option than aluminum
• Offer great corrosion resistant
• Available in a variety of colors
• Has a warm feel to it that makes it an ideal option for colder seasons

• Expensive
• Like all the metals, titanium can be slippery to hold
• Prone to scratches

4. Wood

A decent quality wood handle can be an attractive, durable and relatively economical choice for heavy-duty knives.
Different types of woods are available in the market that can be used as blade handles. You need to pick wisely based on your preferences and purpose for buying the knife. The most common wood scales are rosewood, African blackwood, desert ironwood, walnut and cocobolo - these are both solid and stable and don't contract or expand in extreme temperatures. If you are going to use it in wet conditions often, avoid buying a knife with soft or fine wooden handles like a black walnut. For such uses, it’s better to go for a knife handle made of a hardwood or a stabilized wood or even a wood injected with plastic. Hardwoods like oak, rosewood and maple are good choices for hunting knives.

• Available in lots of variety
• Attractive to look
• Durable
• Comfortable to hold
• Practical and easily replaced if broken
• Require minimal maintenance

• Porous in nature so can trap bacteria
• Unstable

 5. Bone

Bone handles have been utilized since the dawn of man and are still exceptionally prominent among the knife collectors. In fact, this is the most widely recognized material today for classic pocket knives and many hunting knives. Bones used as handles are derived from naturally deceased creatures like cows, elk and deer, but can be more exotic.
Apart from bone, materials like antler, tusks and horns are often used.

• Inexpensive
• Use of dyes create eye-catching designs
• Classic and traditional
• Provides a decent grip
• Most of the knives are an effectively unique and great choice to add to your knife collection

• Porous so it can be prone to deformation and can crack over time
• somewhat slippery
• not resistant to light, temperate, weathering or moisture
• Not a great choice for an everyday knife or a utility knife

6. Leather

Leather knife handles are seen on some classic hunting and military knives.
The handles are prepared by wrapping the leather firmly around other materials. In a few cases, multiple layers of leather washers are stacked on the blade tang and held together with contact cement.
Though leather knife handles are decent looking they tend to lack in strength and durability. Not the best choice while making a tactical or utility knife. They are frequently utilized to accent knife handles made of wood, bone or other natural materials.

• Traditional look that offers an aesthetic appeal to the knife
• If you are in a situation where your knife handles break, and you have to repair it yourself, a makeshift leather handle is a good solution

• Comparatively expensive
• Lacks strength and durability
• Not a good choice if you are looking for a water resistant knife

7. Carbon Fiber

Carbon fiber knife handles are made of thin strands of carbon, which are then woven together tightly and set in resin. The result? A tremendously strong yet lightweight material that is also rather expensive.  But since they are made of thin strands of carbon, they can also be brittle and can crack from impacts.

• Lightweight
• Strong, durable construction
• Non-metallic (no rust or corrosion)
• Resistant to heat

• A bit on higher price point
• Brittle when subjected to heavy impacts
• Limited grip and contour capabilities due to the construction

8. Micarta

Micarta knife handles are a type of phenolic, which refers to a group of substances made with a kind of resin known as phenol. This type of knife handle material is hard as well as lightweight. However the material lacks texturization, making it very slippery and difficult to use.

• Strong, hard, and durable
• lightweight
• Resistant to scratches, and impacts, except from sharpened steel

• Smooth and slippery, making them difficult to use
• Expensive

9. G-10

G-10 refers to a grade of Garolite, which is a laminate composite made of fiberglass. Though similar to carbon fiber handles, G-10 is much more affordable. Layers of fiberglass cloth are soaked in resin then compressed and baked under pressure creating a knife handle that is hard, tough and strong.

• Tough, strong and durable
• Lightweight
• Resistant to moisture
• More affordable than other comparable handles, such as micarta and carbon fiber
• Gives excellent grip
• Available in a variety of styles and patterns

• Look and feel like plastic
• Do not resist impacts
Apart from the above handle materials, some commonly used scales are FRN/Zytel, Kraton, Paracord, rubber, plastics and otherwise exotic or rare materials like meteorite or mother of pearl.
Handle material plays a large part in the comfort, safety and overall durability of a knife. However if the goal is just adding to your collection the choice of handle material is truly a matter of preference.
You can explore the huge range of best quality knives offered by Atlanta Cutlery.
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