Knife Handle Materials
There is an endless array of knife handle materials. Virtually any solid material can be used to make a knife handle. Types of handle materials are only limited by imagination. But there are some materials that work better than others. Here are some of the most popular knife handle materials:
Stag : a natural handle material derived from shed deer, elk or moose antlers. It has a unique, rough texture, which lends itself well to knives for both usable and collectable purposes. The most popular type of stag is Sambar Stag from India. But since India put a ban on the exportation of natural materials, the price of stag has risen, and other types of stag, including Red Stag, White Tail, Elk, and Moose Stag have gained in popularity. A popular form of stag is known as burnt stag. This is when the stag material is exposed to an open flame in order to create a rich, antique look. Another popular form of stag is known as second cut stag. This is the second layer of stag, after the sought after top layer has been removed.
Bone : a natural handle material usually derived from shin bone of a cow. Bone is often given a surface texture, most commonly in the forms of pick bone, jigged bone or stag bone. Stag bone is bone material that is processed to look like genuine stag. Bone is naturally white in color, but is often dyed many different colors. Bone is one of the most common knife handle materials.
Buffalo Horn : a popular handle material made from the shed horn of a buffalo. It is usually dark brown or blonde in color, or a swirled mix of both. It has similar properties as stag.
Ram’s Horn : a rough, durable natural handle material made from the horn of a ram. It has a distinct rough, bumpy texture. It has similar properties as buffalo horn.
Impala Horn : a natural handle material made from the horn of an impala. It has a distinctive texture and dark brown color. It is similar in characteristics to buffalo horn.
Wood : wood knife handles generally provide a good gripping surface. It is a very popular knife handle material. There are many different types of wood that are used as knife handle materials. Some of the most popular include: Cocobolo, Amaranth (Purple Heart), Blackwood, Black Palm, Ebony, Kingwood, Maple (Birdseye), Mesquite, Olivewood, Bloodwood, Bocote, Bois d’ Arc, Rosewood, Snakewood, Thuya Burl, Tulipwood, Walnut, Zebra, Ziricote, Oak, California Buckeye, Amboina Burl, and Dessert Ironwood.
Stabilized Wood : also known as wood epoxy laminate, resinwood, laminated wood, or Dymondwood. It is made from wood that is compressed under high pressure and then impregnated with clear resin. The result is a dimensionally stable product with the natural beauty of wood and a high resistance to heat and moisture. It is a hard material that can be shaped, sanded, buffed and polished similar to micarta.
Stacked Leather : made from stacked leather washers. Popular on hunting and military fixed blade knives. It is a durable handle material that can be formed and polished. It offers a comfortable gripping surface.
Mother of Pearl : a natural handle material that is formed on the shell lining of mollusks, including oysters. It is iridescent and smooth. It is usually white in color with deep reflections of purples, pinks, yellows and greens. Gold Lip Pearl is a form of mother of pearl that is golden in color, with deep reflections of purples, pinks, yellows and greens. It is a high-end handle material that is used mainly for its beautiful visual appearance. It can be difficult to work with, due to its fragility.
Abalone: a natural handle material that is formed on the shell lining of abalones. It displays a beautifully brilliant rainbow of deep, glistening colors. It has the most stunning visual appearance of all natural handle materials. It is similar in nature to mother of pearl. It can be difficult to work with, due to its fragility.
G-10 : a laminate handle material made of epoxy filled with fiberglass. Layers of fiberglass cloth are soaked in resin and are compressed and baked. The resulting material is very hard, lightweight, and strong. A checkered surface texture is added for grip. It is available in limited colors, usually black. It is impervious to temperature change.
Carbon Fiber : a newer material composed of thin strands of carbon, tightly woven in a weave pattern, that are set in an epoxy resin. It is possibly the strongest of all synthetic handle materials. The main visual attraction of this material is the ability of the carbon strands to reflect light, creating a three-dimensional pattern. It is a lightweight, higher end handle material.
Zytel : a thermoplastic material developed by Du Pont. It is a relatively inexpensive handle material. It resists impact and abrasion very well. Zytel has a slight surface texture, but additional texture is often added for better grip.
Hytrel : a Du-Pont thermoplastic polyester elastomer that provides the flexibility of rubber, the strength of plastic, and the processibility of thermoplastics. It resists tearing and abrasion. It offers strength and stiffness plus outstanding toughness while resisting hydrocarbons and many other fluids. Hytrel can be processed easily by injection molding. It is a cost effective handle material.
Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon (FRN) : a lightweight handle material that is made of a nylon polymer mixed with glass fibers. The glass fibers make it much stronger than nylon alone. It can be injection molded for a cost effective handle material.
Kraton : a soft flexible thermoplastic polymer handle material. It is most often used as an inlay on knife handles. It provides for a better gripping surface. It is also used by itself, as a tang coating handle material.
Kydex : a high strength thermoplastic that is often used as sheath material. It is a registered trademark of Kleerdex Company, LLC. It comes in many colors, but by far the most popular color is black. It was originally designed for use in aircraft interiors. It is easy to form and is impervious to moisture.
Sermollan : A rubberized thermoplastic handle material used on kitchen knives. It provides a secure grip as well as resistance to bacteria.
Molded Plastic or Composition : often used on inexpensive knives and on kitchen cutlery. It is ideal for culinary knives in that it is imperviousness to water, food particles and microorganisms. Although it can become brittle over time, and it does not grip as well as a wood handle.
Polyester : often used to make faux pearl, faux ivory or other marbled swirl designs. It is easy to work with and cost effective. The colors and designs that can be made with this material are virtually endless.
Acrylester : a new material that is similar to polyester. It can be made in a variety of colors and marbled swirls. It is often laced with metal dust, to create a sparkling appearance. It is a cost effective handle material. It is very easy to work with.
Kevlar : developed by Du-Pont, Kevlar is a multipurpose material. It is an extremely strong and lightweight material that derives its strength from its spider web-like weave. It is up to 20 times stronger than steel. When it is stabilized with resin, it becomes a rigid material that is impervious to moisture and temperature.
Corian : a Du-Pont material that is made of natural minerals and high-performance acrylic. It has the smoothness and substance associated with stone and the workability of fine wood. It can be carved, sanded and polished to create a variety of shapes, textures and finishes. It can also be thermoformed or shaped using heat. It comes in many different colors.
Titanium : a nonferrous metal alloy. The most common form of titanium in the knife industry is 6AL/4V, which is made of 6% aluminum, 4% vanadium, and 90% titanium. It is a lightweight, high tensile strength metal alloy with unsurpassed corrosion resistance of all the metals. It can be finished by anodizing or bead blasting. Titanium is used as a handle material, as well as liner and blade material. It is often used for the frame on frame-lock folding knives, due to its high elasticity.
Stainless Steel : stainless steel is used often on kitchen knife handles. It offers durability and strength, but can reduce gripping ability. Due to its relatively heavy weight, it is not often used as a handle material on knives, other than on kitchen knives.
Serpentine Stone : a rock material composed primarily of hydrated magnesium silicate that is green, yellow, or brown in color. It is also used in the flooring industry. It gets its name due to the resemblance to the skin of a serpent. It is often confused with marble. It can be difficult to work with, due to its fragility.
Tiger Coral : a natural handle material that is real coral from the ocean. It has a distinct pattern that looks similar to tiger stripes. It has a rich tan background that is laced with stripes and dark brown colors. It can be very difficult to work, due to its fragility.
Reconstituted Stone : a handle material that is a mixture of a powdered gemstone and polyester, polyethylene, or acrylic. It is also known as stabilized stone. The reconstituted forms of gemstones are much easier to work with than the raw stones, and are impervious to moisture. Examples of reconstituted stones include: turquoise, azurite, malachite, chrysocolla, jade, jasper, black onyx, lapis, rhodonite, blue river agate, marine agate, leopard skin agate, amber, amethyst, cabochons, charolite, copralite, coral, emerald, chrysoprase, hematite, larimar, opal, conch shell, rhodochrosite, sugalite, variscite and spiney oyster.
Turquoise : a light blue to blue-green mineral made of aluminum and copper. It is prized as a gemstone in its polished blue form. But most turquoise handle materials are actually polyester, polyethylene, or acrylic mixed with turquoise dust. It is also known as reconstituted or stabilized turquoise. The reconstituted form of turquoise is much easier to work with and is impervious to moisture.
Azurite : a soft, deep blue, vitreous copper mineral formed by the weathering of copper ore deposits. It is used as a copper ore and as a gemstone. But most azurite handle materials are actually polyester, polyethylene, or acrylic mixed with azurite dust. It is also known as reconstituted or stabilized azurite. The reconstituted form of azurite is much easier to work with and is impervious to moisture. It is similar to malachite.
Malachite : a soft, green color, vitreous copper mineral formed by the weathering of copper ore deposits. It is used as a copper ore and as a gemstone. But most malachite handle materials are actually polyester, polyethylene, or acrylic mixed with malachite dust. It is also known as reconstituted or stabilized malachite. The reconstituted form of malachite is much easier to work with and is impervious to moisture. It is similar to azurite.
Jade : a green mineral that is a prized gemstone in its polished green form. But most jade handle materials are actually polyester, polyethylene, or acrylic mixed with jade dust. It is also known as reconstituted or stabilized jade. The reconstituted form of jade is much easier to work with and is impervious to moisture.
Jasper : an opaque cryptocrystalline mineral that is a variety of quartz. It may be red, yellow or brown in color. It is a prized gemstone in its polished form. But most jasper handle materials are actually polyester, polyethylene, or acrylic mixed with jasper dust. It is also known as reconstituted or stabilized jasper. The reconstituted form of jasper is much easier to work with and is impervious to moisture.
Black Onyx : a cryptocrystalline form of quartz. It is black in color and it is a prized gemstone in its polished form. But most onyx handle materials are actually polyester, polyethylene, or acrylic mixed with onyx dust. It is also known as reconstituted or stabilized onyx. The reconstituted form of onyx is much easier to work with and is impervious to moisture.
Lapis : a crystalline mineral that is opaque blue in color. It is usually referred to as blue lapis. It is a prized gemstone in its polished form. But most lapis handle materials are actually polyester, polyethylene, or acrylic mixed with lapis dust. It is also known as reconstituted or stabilized lapis. The reconstituted form of lapis is much easier to work with and is impervious to moisture.
Elephant Ivory : a natural handle material made from the ivory tusk of an elephant. Due to the ban on imports of elephant ivory into the United States, which is meant to reduce the poaching of elephants and preserve elephant populations, elephant ivory had become rare and expensive. It is one of the finest and most sight after natural handle materials available. It is often used as a scrimshaw material. Mammoth ivory has gained in popularity as a replacement for elephant ivory.
Mammoth Bark Ivory : a natural handle material made from fossilized mammoth tusks. It is referred to as mammoth ivory or mammoth bark. It is rare in nature and can be difficult to work with. It is a high-end handle material and is often used for scrimshawing. It is an alternative to elephant ivory. Fossilized mammoth tooth is also becoming a popular handle material.
Mastodon Ivory : a natural handle material made from fossilized mastodon tusks. It is rare in nature and can be difficult to work with. It is a high-end handle. It is an alternative to elephant ivory and mammoth bark ivory. Fossilized mastodon tooth is also becoming a popular handle material.
Walrus Ivory : a natural handle material made from fossilized walrus tusks. The color of the ivory is dependent on the length of time buried and the color of the soil. It is often used a scrimshaw material.
Oosic : a handle material made from the penis bone or baculum from a male walrus. Natural materials such as these, are gaining in popularity due to the ban on elephant ivory. It can be difficult to work with due to its fragility. It has similar properties to the different forms of ivory.