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
: 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
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
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 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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Micarta : there are two forms of micarta: linen
and paper fabric. Linen micarta is the strongest and
most popular. Layers of linen cloths or paper fabric are
soaked in a phoenolic resin. The resulting material is
lightweight, strong and visually appealing. Micarta does
not normally have a surface texture. It can be either
bead blasted or polished.
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.
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.
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.
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
A rubberized thermoplastic handle material used on
kitchen knives. It provides a secure grip as well as
resistance to bacteria.
Molded Plastic or
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Aluminum : a nonferrous metal. Aluminum is used
as a handle material, as well as pommels, guards and
bolsters. The most common form of aluminum used in the
knife industry is T6-6061, a heat treatable grade.
Aluminum can be anodized or coated with almite, which is
similar to anodizing, and tinted to many different
colors. Anodizing is an electrolytic action which coats
the aluminum with a protective and decorative film.
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.
a relatively new product to the knife
industry. It has the appearance of faux ivory. It is
actually made protein of dairy products. It is a hard
material that has similar sanding and buffing properties
as Corian. It is impervious to heat and moisture. It is
a high-end product that is quickly gaining in
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
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 : 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
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
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 as the
different forms of ivory.