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Home > Choosing The Knife Handle Materials

Here's a brief breakdown of the most common type of handle materials and their characteristics.

Stainless Steel
Stainless steel provides excellent durability and resistance to corrosion but is not particularly lightweight.  In addition, stainless steel handles can be rather slippery so manufacturers have to incorporate etching or ridges to provide the required friction. 

Pros: Strong, durable and corrosion resistant
Cons: Heavy, can be slippery


Aluminum, usually anodized for color, hardness and protection, is a very durable material for knife handles. It’s a low density metal that provides for a nice, hefty feel to the knife without weighing the knife down. The most common type of aluminum used today is the T6-6061 alloy which has tremendous tensile strength.

Pros: Strong, light, durable, resistant to corrosion
Cons: Cold to hold, can be a little slippery, susceptible to scratches and dings


Titanium is a lightweight metal alloy, and it offers the best corrosion (rust) resistance of any metal.  It’s a little heavier than aluminum but still considered a lightweight metal and much stronger.  

Pros: Strong, light, corrosion resistance
Cons: Relatively expensive, prone to scratches


Carbon Fiber
Carbon fiber is a somewhat generic term referring to thin strands of carbon being tightly woven then set in resin.  Carbon fiber reinforced polymer is what you get when you buy a knife marketed with a ‘carbon fiber handle’. 

Pros: Strong, lightweight, eye-catching
Cons: Expensive, brittle


Micarta is a popular branded example of a phelonic – which refers to different substances made with the organic compound Phenol(a type of resin).Thin layers of linen cloths are soaked in a phenolic resin, producing a product that is lightweight, strong, and looks somewhat dressier than G-10. It was originally introduced as an electrical insulator and easily one of the best plastics out there for making knife handles.

Pros: Tough, light, durable
Cons: Expensive, brittle


G-10 is a grade of Garolite that is a laminate composite made of fiberglass. The manufacturer takes layers of fiberglass cloth and soaks them in resin, then compresses them and bakes them under pressure. The material that results it extremely tough, hard, very lightweight, and strong. 

Pros: Tough, light, durable
Cons: Brittle, lacks elegance


Zytel is a type of Fiberglass Reinforces Nylon (FRN), a thermoplastic material which was introduced by American chemical company DuPont.Zytel is super strong, resistant to bending, abrasion and practically indestructible.  

Pros: Strong, tough, zero maintenance, inexpensive
Cons: Cheap plastic feel, less grippy than G-10


The bone is derived from naturally deceased animals, and a wide variety of animals at that—including elephant and giraffe. Still, the most common and cost effective bone used today is the abundant cow bone.   Aside from bone, similar materials like antler (deer, elk, etc.), horns (sheep, cow, buffalo, etc.) and tusks (i.e. elephant, walrus) will often be used.

Pros: Inexpensive, use of dyes create eye-catching designs, traditional
Cons: Porous, susceptible to cracking, somewhat slippery


Hardwoods originate from deciduous trees whereas softwoods largely come from coniferous trees.  There are hundreds of so-called exotic hardwoods used in knife making today and each displaying unique characteristics that excite us as knife collectors.
Examples of stabilized woods include Dymondwood, Staminawood, and Pakkawood which are plywoods typically made from birch.  Manufacturers inject polymer resin and then compress under high pressure to create a very dense and durable material than still exhibits natural beauty. 

Pros: Lots of variety, attractive, durable, comfortable to hold
Cons: Porous and instable

Mother of Pearl

Mother of Pearl is the stuff that can eventually turn into pearls (hence the name).  It is of course an expensive material but extremely stylish and strong making it ideal for dressy and upscale knife production.  The Mother of Pearl material is relatively easy to manipulate in the workshop and can be ground and sculpted into a variety of shapes.   On the slightly cheaper end, consider Abalone which is taken from the shell of the mollusks and is also beautiful but lacks durability. 

Pros: Natural beauty
Cons: Expensive, slippy


The production process typically involves wrapping the leather tightly around another material.   In some cases a series of leather washers are compressed and stacked on the knife tang and held together with contact cement.  These are then profiled through grinding and finished to reveal an attractive look.

Pros: Inexpensive, traditional
Cons: Lacks strength and durability