9 Popular Knife Handle Materials

9 Popular Knife Handle Materials

Most people believe that handles are secondary to a knife’s functionality.

They assume that handles only provide an aesthetic appeal to the blade that does all the work in a knife.

But the reality is a little different. Knife handles don’t just add to the look of a knife, but they also provide structural support to the blade and a gripping plane to the holder.

In the absence of a sturdy handle, holding a knife with ease can become a nightmare.

When a person carries a knife, they want to flick and flap it deftly as done in the movies. And that’s only possible with the assistance of a smooth yet robust knife handle.

Choosing the right knife handle can be tricky business because the options are endless.

And especially, if you are a newbie, then knife handle materials can leave you cross-eyed.

To help you make the most suitable handle choice for your knife, we have put together an extensive guide on knife handle materials.

Now you can make an informed choice based on your specific knife-needs.

Here’s an in-depth evaluation of popular knife handle choices.

Natural Choices

Horns Handles

Horn Handle On Japanese Knife

Horn handles are made of horns of naturally deceased animals such as cows, buffalo, or sheep.

They are quite similar to bone handles, as both are made from organic material.

Horn handles may have varied appearances based on the part of the horns used in making the handle.

That is, a handle made from antlers is going to be different than that made from tusks.

Horn handles are not durable. They are brittle and can retain moisture.

You also can’t leave them out in the sun for prolonged durations as they might crack or lose their shape.

Horn handles are also pretty slippery, which makes them a lousy choice for everyday use.

Aside from their affordability and aesthetic appeal, horn handles don’t have much to offer and are quite high maintenance.

However, for someone who likes to collect knives as a hobby and doesn’t use them, then horn knives are definitely worth collecting.

Cleaning and Maintaining

Horn handles require a substantial amount of tender love and care (TLC). You need to hand-wash them and dry them up right after.

Grip

Poor, slippery

Durability

Poor

Appearance

Horn handles are alluring due to their intrinsic designs and colors. You can even customize them by dying the horn.

Pros

  • Horn handles are easy on the pocket
  • They are a sight for the eyes
  • They can be customized according to the user’s preference

Cons

  • Horn handles don’t offer a firm gripping plane; they are quite slippery.
  • They are not suitable for daily use.
  • They lack durability.
  • They are porous and can easily break.
  • They require rigorous cleaning

Bone Handles

Damascus Steel Knife

Bone handles, as the name suggests, are made of the bones of animals who pass away naturally.

They are slippery and non-durable, much like horn handles. Bone handles are famous for their looks and affordability.

Some people also opt for bone handles because of their long-established image of the most popular knife handle choice in early civilizations.

Bone handles are prone to cracking and deforming. They cannot withstand harsh weather conditions or rash usage.

Just like horn handles, bone handles are porous and can retain moisture, which can compromise their structural integrity.

Cleaning and Maintaining

Bone handles are high maintenance; you need to wash them by hand and then dry them immediately to avoid moisture retention.

Grip

Poor, slippery

Durability

Poor

Appearance

Bone handles are aesthetically pleasing and can add an archaic touch to a knife.

Pros

  • Bone handles are easily affordable
  • They are known for their natural beauty
  • They can be designed in multiple colors and patterns.

Cons

  • Bone handles are slippery
  • They are susceptible to breaking
  • They are porous and can deform easily
  • They are not durable enough for daily use

Abalone Handles

Abalone Handle

Abalone handles are made of the shells of mollusks. Every abalone handle is different from the other since every mollusk shell is unique in its appearance.

Abalone handles are thin and brittle. They are known for their natural beauty and affordability.

They are also quite slippery and hard to maneuver owing to their slippery texture.

Cleaning and Maintaining

Abalone handles are not high maintenance per se, they can be conveniently washed with water.

However, they are incredibly delicate; hence they can break quickly. Thus, one must handle them with care while cleaning.

Grip

Extremely poor, too slippery to hold firmly

Durability

Poor

Appearance

Abalone handles are probably one of the most aesthetically appealing knife handles

Pros

  • Abalone handles can be easily afforded if the shell used is not too rare.
  • They are pleasing to the eyes

Cons

  • Abalone handles are fragile
  • They are very slippery
  • They are not durable

Wood Handles

Wooden Handle Kitchen Knife

Wood handles are the most commonly used natural knife handles. Knife experts use a wide variety of wood options for creating knife handles which may include:

  • Pakkawood
  • Birch
  • Black Walnut
  • Burlwood

Most wood options offer the same advantages; however, some may be less durable than others.

Regardless of the wood choice in a knife handle, wood provides an excellent grip on any knife.

The only drawback of some wood options is their porous nature, which makes them susceptible to warping.

Porous wood handles can retain water and lose their structural integrity. But that can be avoided by following the proper cleaning and securing protocol.

Cleaning and Maintaining

Wood handles require special care due to their adverse reaction to water exposure. You must dry them immediately after washing them with water.

Grip

Secure and smooth

Durability

Good, when not exposed to water

Appearance

Wood handles are known more for their functionality than their looks. However, they can be carved into multiple designs and patterns to create customized looks.

Pros

  • Wood handles are easy on the pocket
  • They have a wide variety of options
  • They are pretty durable if kept dry
  • They offer a firm grip
  • They carry a traditional look

Cons

They can lose their durability when exposed to water frequently.

Metal and Synthetic Materials

Aluminum

Aluminum Handle Knife

Aluminum is a popular knife handle material which offers high durability to the user.

Aluminum handles are often anodized or coated to create an extra layer on top to make the handle more robust.

They are resistant to corrosion; however, they can be scratched and scraped with pressure.

Aluminum handles are not heavy per se, but they feel substantial in hand. They also feel considerably cold to the touch in the chilly season due to aluminum’s conductive properties.

That is, aluminum can instantly pick up the surrounding temperature. One downside to using an aluminum handle is its slippery grip, but that can be fixed by texturization.

Cleaning and Maintaining

Aluminum knife handles are easy to maintain. They don’t require special care; however, they must not be washed in the dishwasher due to their susceptibility to getting scratched.

Grip

Not too great but can be fixed with some texturization.

Durability

Good

Appearance

Not as beautiful as natural handles; however, aluminum handles offer a variety of colors.

Pros

  • Aluminum handles are highly durable.
  • They are corrosion-resistant
  • They are not as heavy as most other metal handles

Cons

  • They are prone to get scratched and bumped under blunt force
  • They can pick up the surrounding temperature and can get uncomfortable to touch during extreme weathers
  • Aluminum handles don’t offer a firm grip, owing to their slippery texture

Titanium

Camping Knife

Titanium handles are probably the best knife handle option in terms of durability, strength, and lightweight.

They are resistant to corrosion and rust more than any other material. They are lightweight, which makes them easy to carry around.

However, titanium handles are slippery, so you need to get them texturized to improve their grip.

Titanium, like aluminum, can get scratches and dings. But it’s not as conducive as aluminum. You can hold titanium handles easily during extreme weather.

Cleaning and Maintaining

Titanium handles are quite easy to maintain. But since they are susceptible to getting scratches and dings, a little care while cleaning is advisable.

Make sure to handle them gently while washing. Once you are done, dry them up instantly.

Grip

Poor

Durability

Extremely high

Appearance

Titanium handles are not highly rated for their looks. They typically have bland silver or gray appearance.

Pros

  • Titanium handles are extremely long-lasting
  • They are easy to maintain
  • They are the most corrosion and rust-resistant handle material
  • They are lightweight yet sturdy

Cons

  • Even though titanium handles are known or their robust nature, they can get scratches and dings now and then
  • They cost more and are a little heavier than aluminum handles
  • They are pretty slippery which makes for an inferior gripping plane

Stainless Steel

Knife With Stainless Steel Handle

Stainless steel knife handles are durable and resistant to rust and impact. However, they are slippery and quite heavy to carry around all day every day.

Cleaning and Maintaining

Since stainless steel handles are highly durable, they are quite rough and tough. They don’t require special care.

Just a run under the tap water and thorough drying later are sufficient to keep stainless steel handles in tiptop shape.

Grip

Not good, stainless steel handles are very slippery

Durability

Stainless steel handles are incredibly durable

Appearance

They have a shiny silver appearance

Pros

  • Stainless steel handles are long-lasting
  • They not only resist rust and corrosion, but they also withstand impact without incurring scratched or dents.

Cons

  • They are slippery, but their grip can be improved by sufficient texturizing.
  • They are the heaviest metal handle option. Steel handles are not suitable for knives that are used daily.

Carbon Fiber Handles

Carbon Fiber Knife

Carbon fiber handles are made by weaving carbon strands together and set in resin afterward. They are sturdy and lightweight.

However, they can crack under impact, so they are not durable enough to last longer durations.

Cleaning and Maintaining

Since carbon fiber handles can easily break apart, one must handle them with care. You must not put them in the dishwasher or expose them to high pressures.

Grip

Good owing to the texture of the carbon strands

Durability

Poor as the strands in carbon fiber handles can come loose under impact

Appearance

Carbon fiber handles offer a wider variety of textures, patterns, and designs for knife enthusiasts.

Pros

  • Carbon fiber handles are lightweight
  • They are sturdy as long as the strands are not stressed in multiple directions
  • They offer a secure grip
  • They come in a bunch of designs and textures due to the numerous ways in which the strands can be woven

Cons

  • They are not durable enough
  • They are expensive due to the labor-intensive procedure of making carbon fiber

Micarta

Knife With Black Micarta Handle

Micarta is actually a brand name that’s known for making phenolic handles. Phenolic handles are made from phenol, a type of resin.

Micarta or phenolic handles are sturdy, lightweight, and durable. They are nor susceptible to picking up scratches and dents.

However, they are slippery, therefore difficult to handle. Some companies add textures or etching to phenolic handles to improve their grip.

Cleaning and Maintaining

Micarta knives are pretty great at withstanding impact, so you don’t need to be extra careful while cleaning them. Soap and water are enough to get them sparkling clean.

Grip

Poor

Durability

Excellent

Appearance

They typically have a bland black or gray appearance like most utility products

Pros

  • Micarta handles are durable and lightweight
  • They are resistant to dents and dings
  • They have a sturdy structure, which makes them tough and resilient to force/impact.

Cons

  • Micarta handles don’t offer a secure grip
  • They can substantially add to a knife’s cost
  • They can be damaged by steel

Conclusion

Choosing the right knife handle material is essential so that you can make the most out of your knife.

It’s as critical as selecting the right blade material and shape so that you can use your knife like a pro.

Know your knife-needs and then venture out to buy a knife for yourself.

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