G-10 and micarta are sometimes thought to be interchangeable. This is not a true statement. G-10 and micarta a very similar, but they do sport some key differences. Today we are going to go in depth about what each one is, what they have that makes them unique, and why they are different from each other.
What is G-10?
G-10 is known as a fiberglass based laminate. So what does that mean? To make G-10, you take fiberglass cloths that are soaked in an epoxy resin. To fully understand this process, let’s talk about what resin actually is. Resin can be found in a natural or synthetic form, but the kind on most G-10 handles is the synthetic form. Resin is known to be a viscous liquid, which means that it has a high resistance and can stand up to a high level of stressors and wear and tear. Once the resin hardens, it is permanently hard. While synthetic resin is already a very hard and durable substance, an epoxy resin is said to be two times stronger than concrete, seamless, and waterproof. Okay, back to the G-10 process: once the fiberglass cloths are soaked in an epoxy resin, they are layered on top of each other. Heat and pressure is then added to compress it into the wanted shape. This is the same process that is used for micarta and carbon fiber handles; however, G-10 is unique because this process uses fiberglass while the other two do not.
What is micarta?
One of the most common forms of micarta is linen micarta. Micarta is made extremely similar to G-10. The layers of linen are coated in a resin, but in micarta it is a phenolic resin. Phenolic resin is slightly different than an epoxy resin. Phenolic resin is made with an organic compound called Phenol, creating a synthetic material. After these layers are soaked with a phenolic resin, just like in G-10, they have heat and pressure applied to create the strong material.
Differences: While G-10 is made with an epoxy resin and micarta is made with a phenolic resin, most people wouldn’t be able to explain or tell a difference. The main difference between what these two materials really are is that G-10 is made out of fiberglass and micarta is usually made with linen, but is often made with canvas, and sometimes even papers or burlaps. Because of this, micarta can have very unique looks compared to G-10, where it is always made out of the same material. Many people think that micarta looks a little more rugged, because the base material has more texture than fiberglass does.
Is G-10 a strong material?
One of the main defining characteristics of G-10 is the strength that it possesses. For starters, the main “ingredient” of G-10 is fiberglass. Fiberglass is known for being crazy strong and durable. But then in the G-10 process, the fiberglass is woven together. The weaving makes this material even stronger than it already is. Lastly, this woven fiberglass is soaked in an epoxy resin, which creates a hard, almost plastic material. Almost any of the G-10 users will attest to its insane strength. Actually, G-10 is considered to be the toughest of any of the fiberglass resin laminates. And while many people think that Micarta is the stronger out of the two, G-10 has been ranked as the stronger material.
Is micarta a strong material?
Micarta has been called “The Steel of the Plastic Industry”, so yes, micarta is a strong material. Because micarta is soaked and baked in a resin, it creates the same hard, almost plastic material that G-10 is. Compared to many other knife materials, micarta is a very strong handle material. But, because the different base materials aren’t woven like the fiberglass can be, micarta loses out on that aspect of the strength.
Differences: Once again, it really comes down to the base material used. Because fiber glass can be woven, it creates a stronger, more durable material. The base materials of micarta are softer materials and can be scratched if not treated properly; however, when it is treated correctly, it is extremely hard to scratch, and is almost as scratch resistant as G-10. Determining which one of is stronger is a very close competition, but G-10 pulls out as barely stronger.
G-10 is a smooth material; is there any grip to it?
Yes, G-10 is a smooth material in its natural state. However, the manufacturers know how vital grip is on a knife, especially a knife that is durable enough for heavy duty tasks. Most commonly found is checkering to create the texture on the handle, but almost any pattern can be added to the G-10 material to create a custom look for your handle. Also, the fiberglass cloth is woven to create the strength that G-10 is known for, but by weaving the fiberglass in different ways, it creates different creative textures that you wouldn’t be able to find in many other knife handle materials. While it is water resistant, this material can feel less grippy when it is wet.
Micarta is an extremely smooth material; how is there any grip?
Yes, micarta truly has no surface texture. When first created, it is slippery, smooth, and has no grip whatsoever. Because it is so smooth, it takes more hand labor to achieve the desired texture. To achieve the desired grip, a texture is actually carved into this knife handle. Because it takes so much extra hand labor, it makes micarta a more expensive priced knife. While micarta is also water resistant, it can actually feel more grippy while wet, because the base materials are natural and their textures come out more while wet.
Differences: In their natural state, both materials are very slick. However, G-10 is slightly less slick. G-10 is a little easier to get texture into and can actually have its fiberglass woven into a texture. While micarta is virtually texture-less at first, a texture can be carved into the handle. This takes more manual labor than creating texture on G-10 and so micarta is costlier. G-10 is slicker when wet, while micarta actually gains some traction while wet. When deciding which one to get, look at the task at hand, if the knife is likely to become wet, such as during a fishing trip, micarta might be your best bet.
Why is G-10 such a customizable material?
G-10 is one of the most customizable materials for blade handles. This is because of a few reasons. One of the ways that G-10 can be customizable is the handle pattern. In the previous paragraph, we talked about how texture is added to the G-10 and while checkering is most common, really any pattern can be added. This gives the G-10 a unique look that you aren’t going to be able to find on too many other materials for your knife handles.
Another reason that is so customizable is because of the different colors that you can make G-10 from. G-10 is most commonly found in black, but fiberglass can be found in many colors and so can the epoxy resin. This means that you can create the handle in a huge variety of colors and mixes of colors. Sometimes, the fiberglass cloths will have layers of different colors which adds a pleasing aesthetic that you wouldn’t be able to find in other materials.
Lastly, because G-10 is made from layers of cloth, it is very easy to get different thicknesses for your handle. All the manufacturer has to do is layer more or less of the fiberglass.
Customizing G-10 is a very cheap process because it is so easy to change up so many different aspects of the materials used.
Can I customize my micarta handle?
Because micarta is made out of natural materials as its base material, there are less color options available. Often times, micarta comes in a natural color such as yellows and browns. On the flip side, there are multiple natural materials that you can make your micarta handle out of, which would all give you a different look. Canvas has a chunkier texture to it than linen. Paper doesn’t have a texture to it. And burlap can give you the chunkiest look to it.
With a micarta handle, you cannot get special patterns in the knife, because with a G-10 knife, you just have to weave the fiberglass in different ways. There is no other way to weave the natural material, because they are already woven.
Lastly, it is very easy to get different widths of micarta for your handle, because it is made by a layering process. It is very simple to have more or less layers for a thicker or thinner look.
Differences: While G-10 comes in a huge variety of colors, there are select few colors for micarta handles to be made out of. However, with a micarta handle, you can get many different looks because of the natural base material. With a G-10 handle, it will always look plastic-y. With both of the materials, it is easy to change the thickness or thinness, because they are both made from the layering process. While you can get a variety of different looks with either material, they have very different looks from each other. G-10 is more of a cold/modern look, because it is more plastic-y looking, while micarta will give you a more natural and rugged look. Often times, people think micarta adds a classier element to your knife, as opposed to G-10.
Is G-10 an easy material to maintain?
Yes! G-10 is one of the easiest materials to maintain because it so strong, durable, and tough. G-10 is resistant to rust because it is a synthetic plastic-like material. Also, it doesn’t become brittle or soften over time—basically what you see is what you get. Plus, G-10 is non-porous, so no liquid or dirt can be sucked up into the handle, making it brittle. Because it isn’t porous, it is very easy to clean and you don’t have to worry about transferring liquids or particles if you have this type of handle on a knife that you use for hunting or fishing. Some handle materials, such as mother of pearl, are prone to chipping, but G-10 is completely or almost completely resistant to any chipping.
Is micarta an easy material to maintain?
While micarta is a synthetic material, the base “ingredient” for micarta is a natural material, so it does require some upkeep. A good way to take care of micarta is to oil it pretty often. If it is left un-oiled, it can start to soak up blood, sweat, dirt, etc. and becomes an un-hygienic knife. Oiling it is a simple process and the benefits from keeping up on it and taking care of it outweigh the process of taking care of it.
Differences: G-10 is much easier to maintain because you don’t actually have to do anything to maintain it. Because micarta’s base material is a natural substance, it can lead to soaking up of any extra fluid or dirt. With micarta, you are going to want to keep it constantly oiled, but all-in-all, it’s not too bad of a process to keep it looking and feeling its best.
What types of knives is G-10 best for?
G-10 is an ideal type of handle material for tactical knives. This is because it is extremely strong, extremely sturdy, and won’t soak up any extra fluids or residue. You do not have to maintain G-10, so having it in a survivor situation would be perfect.
What types of knives is micarta best for?
Micarta is also a great option for tactical knives. Micarta is very strong and very sturdy. They stand up against many elements and actually feel like they have better grip while wet. These are great for hunting and fishing knives as well. The only drawback is that you do have to keep your micarta handle oiled to keep it in best condition.
At first glance, G-10 and micarta seem like an almost identical knife handle material. However, they do have differences and these differences are what is going to help you decide which one is a better candidate for you and your task at hand. Both are fantastic, strong, and durable options. But they do have characteristics that keep each handle and each knife unique.