Knife handles explained

Knife handles explained.

Even more so than the mind boggling array of different steels to be found in the blades of knives is the array of materials to be found in the knife handle. Here we will look at some of the ones your likely to come across when your shopping for that hunting knife, Bowie knife, pocket knife etc. lets start with the original knife handle materials in use for 1000s of years and still widely used today, if its not broke don`t fix it right.

1. Animal byproducts, bone, antlers and horn are widely used still in the production of knife handles and in fairness for all the modern advancements in knife handle materials the sheer beauty and tactile nature of a stag handled knife cant be beat, all things being subjective of course. Sourced from dead animal carcasses a material that would otherwise end up in  some cases  taken up space in a landfill somewhere gets a new lease of life. Did you know that bone is the most commonly used handle material  for classic pocket knives currently.

Example of a very nice stag handled hunting knife

stag handle hunting knife

2. Wood, much like the above wood had been used as a knife handle since knives first came into being. All things being modern we break the wood knife handles into two broad categories, natural woods and stabilized woods, firstly natural woods which is as it says good old natural woods, teak and olive wood are a  popular choice though the list is endless, the natural grain when treated correctly brings a beautiful finish to the handle.

Example of olive wood handle bush craft knife.

Olive wood handle knife

Stabilized woods, like Staminawood®, and Pakkawood® are plywood's normally made from birch.  Manufacturers inject polymer resin and then compress under high pressure to create a very dense and durable material that can provide some truly stunning handles, it hard to top a high polished Staminawood® handle for visually impact.

Example of Staminawood® handle knife,

 stamina wood handle knife

3. Micarta®, thin layers of linen cloths are soaked in a phenolic resin, producing a material  which is very lightweight and very strong, quite pleasing on the eye. It was originally created as an electrical insulator and is one of the best plastics out there for knife handles.

The labor involved in its production and finishing will add to the price of the knife.

Example of Micarta® handle knife.


4. G-10, much loved handle material by top manufacturers such as Smith & Wesson and most definitely my favorite modern tech handle material. G-10 is a grade of Garolite that is a laminate composite made of fiberglass.  It has very similar properties to carbon fiber but at a fraction of the cost.  

The various patterns add texture to the knife handle, which gives a high level of grip.  G-10 is  durable, lightweight and non-porous making it an ideal material for a knife handle.

Example of a G-10 handle knife.



 5. Aluminum, is a very durable material for knife handles. It’s a low density metal that gives a sturdy feel to the handle while retaining lightness.

When textured correctly,  aluminum handles give a good secure grip.

Example of an aluminum handle knife.



6. Leather,  not too often will you see knives with leather handles except on classic knives and the occasional ode to yester year such as the Boker Magnum Bowie. The manufacturing process normally consists of wrapping the leather tightly around another material.  Sometimes a series of leather washers are compressed and stacked onto the knife tang and bonded with epoxy.

Example of a leather handle knife.

leather handle knife


There are many many more knife handle materials, a quick mention to stainless steel, OK as an accent but a complete stainless steel handle just not for me, in fact the only place you should ever see such a thing is in the kitchen. Titanium and carbon fiber no doubt about it these are amazing materials this is very much factored in to the price, not cheap.