Traditional material, wood is still one of the most used materials for the production of knife handles. The wooden handle brings a natural and elegant look to the knife, wooden handles feel very comfortable in the hand. Most commonly used types of wood are, for example, beech, birch (Scandinavian knives), oak, olive, walnut, or exotic woods such as bubinga, bocote, cocobolo or rosewood. Wood is prone to moisture, what is considered to be the biggest disadvantage of wooden handles. However, this can be reduced by soaking the wood in oil (e.g. linseed oil).
Another traditional material, antler is used mainly for hunting knives. Deer antler or reindeer antler is most often used. Antler is a very durable material, that will last the lifetime. Each knife handle made of antler is unique in its own way. Antler knife handles may be slippery when wet.
Horn is used mainly on traditional, elegant folding knives. The buffalo horn is most often used. The horn gives the knives an exclusive look, but the big disadvantage of the material is the slipperiness in the wet state. Also, knives with horn handle are should not be used for harder work - there is a risk of cracks in the horn.
The stainless steel handle gives the knife excellent strength and durability. It is almost unbreakable, making it a good choice for heavy duty folding knives. On the other hand it is quite heavy, and slippery in wet conditions. For this reason, manufacturers often use various 3D patterns on the handle that improves grip. When used in cold weather, the knife handle feels considerably cool.
Like all metals used in the manufacture of knife handles, aluminum is a very durable and long-lasting material. The undeniable advantage is low weight. To improve the grip, a certain handle texture is suitable. When used in cold weather, the knife handle feels cold. It must be taken into account that aluminum, as well as its more exclusive brother titanium, are prone to scratching. Aluminium may be anodized to any color.
Titanium is a light, strong, shiny metal with a steel appearance, resistant to corrosion (even in seawater or acids). Titanium is used as a component of durable and light alloys. On the knife handles you will most often find an alloy of titanium with aluminum and vanadium (90% Ti, 6% Al, 4% V). It is mainly used on exclusive folding knives. The great advantage of titanium is its low weight and the fact, that the material is "warm" to the touch even at low temperatures. The disadvantage is the higher price and its prone to scratches.
The number of polymer knife handle materials used is very wide. Most common materials are GFN (glass filled nylon), FRN (fiberglas reinforced nylon), Zytel, Kraton, ABS plastic, and a number of other polymers. The advantage of polymer handle is the low price, lightweight and its toughness. Those materials are practically indestructible and can withstand harsh handling. They are therefore often used on work knives or tactical knives, where functionality is taken into account more than design.
G-10 is a strong and durable composite material based on glass fiber. G10 is produced by dipping several layers of glass fibers in epoxy resin and subsequent processing under high pressure and temperature. The resulting material is very strong, hard and at the same time light and pleasant to the touch. G-10 can sustain a lot of harsh usage, chemical abuse, and moisture environment. In hand, G10 is very grippy even when the handle is wet or greasy. Currently, the G-10 is one of the most widely used materials on the handles of folding knives.
Micarta is a material similar to G-10, but instead of glass fibers, a fabric is used, most often linen or canvas. Micarta characteristics are very similar to those of the G-10. It is a very strong, hard and light material, pleasant to the touch. At the same time, micarta gives the knife a more elegant look than other synthetic materials.
Author: Roman Miklas, kniland.com