So far we have discussed the different steel types that a knife can have and the different popular knife shapes. For the last segment of the beginner’s series, we are going to talk about the different popular knife handle materials.
Carbon fiber knife handle:
A carbon fiber knife handle is a woven handle made up of thing strands of carbon, which is then set in epoxy resin. Many times, you can see the weave-like pattern in the handle, which can be varied, and there are different epoxy colors, so you can get a wide variety with this material. Because of how this handle material is made, this option is a very light weight handle. But, it is still one of the strongest handle options out there—it can be stronger than steel. However, because of how carbon fiber is woven, it can suffer from being very brittle. This is caused by the pattern of the weave, the handle is very strong in the direction of the weave, but when it is stressed in other directions, the weave starts to break apart. This means that it is prone to cracking upon sharp impacts. Another thing about carbon fiber is that it is a labor intensive process, so knives with this handle material are not going to be found cheap.
Advantages of a carbon fiber knife handle:
- Extremely strong.
- This is a very lightweight option.
- Can get variety because of the different weave patterns and the different colors of epoxy resin.
Disadvantages of a carbon fiber knife handle:
- This material is a more expensive handle option.
- Brittle, so it might break upon sharp impact.
G-10 knife handle:
A G-10 knife handle is a material that is made out of fiberglass that is then soaked in a resin, compressed, and then baked under pressure. G-10 was originally designed to be in circuit boards, so it can stand up to elements such as acids, water, and oils very well. This material is very similar to carbon fiber; however, it can be found for a much cheaper cost. G-10 can be made from many colors, but is most often found in black. Then the material is can be finished in another variety of ways, which gives it different textures to serve different purposes. Fixed blade knifes and tactical folders are commonly found with this type of handle because it is so durable and still lightweight.
Advantages of a G-10 knife handle:
- Very tough, so it can stand up to any surprises.
- This is a very lightweight option.
- This material is very durable.
- Can be made in different colors.
- Can have different textures, so you have options to pick the one that works best for you and your needs.
Disadvantages of a G-10 knife handle:
- This is still a brittle option because it is made of fiberglass and resin.
- Even though this option is cheaper than a carbon fiber handle, the process is still lengthy, so it is still a more expensive option.
Micarta knife handle:
Another popular knife handle material is micarta. The technical description for micarta is a “fabric reinforced phenolic laminate”, which means that it is created by soaking linen cloths in a phenolic resin, and then pressing them together. This process is repeated until the desired thickness of the handle. This process is very similar to the G-10 material’s process. Micarta can be made in a variety of different colors and can be finished in a variety of different ways, one of which being a very smooth finish. This material is a much smoother finish than other options and to get a good texture, it needs hand labor to carve out a texture, making it a pricey option. Micarta was originally designed to be an electrical insulator, so it is easily one of the best plastic options for a knife handle. Micarta is very tough and durable and will not scratch easily.
Advantages of a micarta knife handle:
- This is a very durable material and will not scratch easily.
- This is a very light material.
- This is a very tough material.
- Many people think that micarta is a more aesthetically pleasing material as opposed to G-10.
Disadvantages of a micarta knife handle:
- Because of the building process, this material is a more expensive option.
- This material can be brittle.
Kraton knife handle:
Kraton material is actually a synthetic replacement to rubber. Because of this, the material has excellent flexibility, high traction, and sealing abilities, but because it is a synthetic replacement, it offers more—kraton has an increased resistance to heat, chemicals, and weathering. In most cases, a kraton handle is actually made by molding the kraton onto a harder handle material. By adding the kraton onto the other material, it works to add grip and increases the comfort of your knife handle. Kraton can also come in different degrees of hardness, depending on your preference. This material is usually used in utility knives, because there aren’t color options.
Advantages of a kraton knife handle:
- Adds grip, which makes it a good option for a utility knife.
- Gives your handle a more comfortable grip.
- Because it is a synthetic material, it has high resistance to weathering.
- This is a very durable handle material.
Disadvantages of a kraton knife handle:
- This is not a very aesthetically pleasing material—there isn’t a variety of options to look.
- Because it is similar to rubber, it can slowly start to soak up some of the fluids and other residue, making it a harder material to get it feeling clean.
- Because it is porous, it can soak up fluids and slowly damage the material, making it brittle and weaker.
Aluminum knife handle:
Aluminum is a popular option for a knife handle because it is a very durable material. Aluminum is normally anodized for some extra protection and to make the handle harder. The anodizing process can add a variety of colors. Aluminum is also a lightweight option for a handle and when properly texturized, the aluminum can have a reasonably secure grip. Aluminum is also a comfortable material to hold in your hand, which makes this material a great option for extended use. This material is used often in new knives; however, this material is not as strong or durable as a titanium handle.
Advantages of an aluminum knife handle:
- This is a strong material.
- Even though it is a metal handle, aluminum is still a lightweight option for a knife handle.
- Aluminum feels heftier or sturdier than other options, but isn’t heavy.
- Aluminum has good corrosion resistance properties.
- Can be anodized to get a variety of colors, so it is aesthetically pleasing.
Disadvantages of an aluminum knife handle:
- This metal can feel slippery, especially when not properly texturized.
- Aluminum can be cold to hold, so it is not ideal for being used often in cold weather situations.
- This material can be scratched up easier than a more premium metal, such as titanium.
Titanium knife handle:
Titanium is a metal, just like aluminum; however, it is a more durable option than aluminum. It is also heavier than aluminum, but still not heavy. For the extra weight, you get a lot of extra strength. Out of all the alloy metal handle options, titanium offers the best rust resistance properties. Titanium is considered a premium metal for your knife handle. Oddly enough, titanium has a warm feel to it, so if you are going to be mainly using your knife in the colder months, this option is a fantastic one. Even though titanium is a premium metal, it is still prone to scratches, especially when being compared to a stainless steel. Titanium can be textured through a process known as bead-blasting, which is when a stream of abrasive material is used to rough up a smooth surface such as this. And, just like aluminum, titanium can have different colors added to it through the anodization process. This material is often used on new pocket knives.
Advantages of a titanium knife handle:
- Titanium offers a strong material.
- Although titanium is heavier than other materials, it is still considered a lightweight option.
- Out of all the alloy metal handle options, titanium is the most resistant to rusting.
- You can get this material in a variety of different colors.
- Has a warm feel to it, so it is an ideal option for colder seasons/areas.
- Considered a premium metal.
Disadvantages of a titanium knife handle:
- Titanium is pretty expensive.
- Titanium is prone to scratching.
Stainless steel knife handle:
Stainless steel is one of the most durable knife handle materials. Stainless steel is also extremely resistant to corrosion and rust. Stainless steel is a heavier handle option than many of the other materials. When looking for a knife for every-day carry and heavy duty knives, I would recommend not choosing stainless steel because of the heaviness to them. This material can be slippery, so often times the manufacturer will have added ridges and etchings into the handle to give it more friction. Still, stainless steel is commonly seen with rubbers, synthetic rubbers, and plastics to give it better friction and grip than what it would have with the etchings. Stainless steel doesn’t come in a variety of colors, so the silver look can look cold to some.
Advantages of a stainless steel knife handle:
- Stainless steel is a very strong knife handle option.
- Stainless steel is a very durable material.
- Stainless steel is extremely resistant to rusting and corrosion, making it a long lasting handle option.
Disadvantages of a stainless steel knife handle:
- Stainless steel is a heavy material, so it is not great for every day carry.
- No color variety.
- Stainless steel is slippery, sometimes even after being etched into to add texture.
Zytel knife handle:
Zytel was developed by Du Pont and it is considered to be unbreakable. Zytel is a thermoplastic that is made by combining fiberglass and nylon and then being heated to nearly 600 degrees Fahrenheit. During this process, it is injected into a mold to get the wanted form. Zytel has the nylon fibers arranged randomly and haphazardly, which makes it stronger than G-10, Carbon Fiber, and Micarta because those fibers are arranged in the same direction. This material is very resistant to bending and abrasion. Zytel is a very cheap material to make, so having this material on your knife is a cheaper option. This material is so durable and cheap, so it has become a very popular option for handles. However, some people say that it looks cheap and feels hollow. It all comes down to personal preference. On its own, Zytel is pretty smooth, but often has better grip added to it during the molding process. But, if you are looking solely for grip, G-10 would be your best bet.
Advantages of a Zytel knife handle:
- This is one of the strongest knife handle materials that you can get.
- Zytel is a very tough material.
- Zero maintenance because it is nearly indestructible.
- An inexpensive option.
Disadvantages of a Zytel knife handle:
- Some people think that this material can feel cheap and hollow.
- Does not have as solid of a grip as a G-10 handle.
Bone knife handle:
Having a bone knife handle is a very classic material. The bone can come from almost any type of bone, but popular kinds are giraffe bones, elephant bones, and of course a cow bone. Sometimes it is not actually bone, but a different material such as antler, horns, or tusks that makes up the handle. Bone knife handles are a popular option in the knife collector community. A drawback to a bone handle is that it is porous, so it can be prone to deformation and cracking over time. Bone is not resistant to weathering, temperate, light, or moisture. This is not a choice for every day knife or a utility knife.
Advantages of a bone knife handle:
- Bone is an inexpensive material.
- A bone knife handle is a very classic and traditional choice.
- Dye can be used on it to create a variety of different looks.
- Great for a collector’s knife.
Disadvantages of a bone knife handle:
- Bone is very porous.
- Bone is prone to cracking.
- Bone is not resistant to weathering.
- Not a good option for a utility knife or an everyday carry knife.
- Can be slippery.
We have now discussed steel types, blade shapes, and handle materials. After this beginner’s series of articles, you will now be equipped to go out and purchase your ideal knife for you and your purpose.