The Importance of Knife Handle Materials

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11 min read
Image of Group of Knives with different Handle Materials

When it comes to choosing a knife, the handle material is often overlooked. People tend to focus on blade quality and sharpness, but the truth is, the handle material plays a crucial role in the overall performance and experience of using a knife.

A small Warning

When reading this guide, please bear in mind that even the same materials come in a variety of different grades and qualities, not all wood is the same and not all aluminum is worked with the same attention to detail.

This guide will not cover all the details that go into this deep subject, it should give you more of an overview of what you can roughly expect of each of those well-known handle materials.

Introduction to Handle Materials

Knife handles come in various materials, each with its unique properties and characteristics. These materials can be broadly categorized as natural, synthetic, and metal. The choice of handle material affects factors such as weight, grip, durability, and, of course, aesthetics. Let’s dive into the most commonly used handle materials and discuss their pros and cons.

Boker Magnum Folder

Natural handle materials

Natural materials like wood and antler provide a unique look that can’t be achieved with other materials, adding a unique touch to any knife. Another great benefit of this type of handles is that they don’t transfer much heat away from you especially in cold conditions.

Synthetic handle materials

Synthetic materials like G-10, FRN or Micarta offer a lot of great benefits for knives. These handles are generally lightweight, robust and they come in all Shapes and Colors.

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Metal handles

Metal handles, such as titanium and aluminum, are durable and lightweight, while steel handles, on the other hand will weight much more but will be pretty indestructible. However, metal handles can be cold and uncomfortable in cold conditions and if the handle offers no ridges for some grip they can also become slippery.

Natural Handle Materials

Wood Handles

Wooden handles have been a popular choice since the invention of knives. They are widely available, easy to work with, and come in a vast array of colors and grains. Wood handles can be both durable and comfortable to hold, depending on the type of wood used.

Pros of Wood Handles

  • Attractive and aesthetically pleasing
  • Comfortable to hold
  • Durable, depending on the wood type

Cons of Wood Handles

  • Porous and unstable, making them susceptible to warping or cracking
  • Can be slippery when wet

Bone Handles

Bone handles have a rich history and are still popular among knife collectors. Commonly used bones include cow, giraffe, and elephant. Other similar materials, such as antlers, horns, and tusks, can also be used as handles. Bone handles can be dyed or textured for added grip and visual appeal.

Pros of Bone Handles

  • Traditional and classic appearance
  • Can be dyed and textured for customization
  • Inexpensive compared to some synthetic materials

Cons of Bone Handles

  • Porous, leading to potential cracking or deformation
  • Can be slippery and lack grip
Kizer Mini Critical Micarta Black - black background - detail view
Synthetic Handle - on an Kizer Critical Mini

Synthetic Handle Materials

G10 Handles

G10 is a type of fiberglass laminate, made by soaking layers of fiberglass cloth in resin and compressing them under heat and pressure. G10 handles are extremely tough, lightweight, and durable. They can be made in various colors and textures, providing excellent grip and versatility.

Pros of G10 Handles

  • Tough and durable
  • Lightweight
  • Available in different colors and textures

Cons of G10 Handles

  • Brittle and prone to chipping or cracking
  • Lacks the elegance of natural materials

Micarta Handles

Micarta is a fabric-reinforced phenolic laminate created by soaking layers of linen cloth in a phenolic resin and compressing them. This material is tough, lightweight, and durable, although it can be brittle. Micarta handles can be made in various colors and textures, offering versatility and customization.

Pros of Micarta Handles

  • Tough and durable
  • Lightweight
  • Available in different colors and textures

Cons of Micarta Handles

  • Expensive compared to other synthetic materials

Carbon Fiber Handles

Carbon fiber handles are made by weaving thin strands of carbon together and setting them in epoxy resin. This material is incredibly strong and lightweight but can be brittle and expensive. Carbon fiber handles can be made in various weave patterns and epoxy colors, providing a unique and eye-catching appearance.

Pros of Carbon Fiber Handles

  • Extremely strong and lightweight
  • Distinctive and attractive appearance

Cons of Carbon Fiber Handles

  • Expensive
  • Brittle and prone to cracking

FRN/Zytel Handles

Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon (FRN) is a thermoplastic material that combines the strength of fiberglass with the durability of nylon. Zytel is a popular brand of FRN. These handles are strong, tough, and virtually indestructible, making them a popular choice for utility knives.

Pros of FRN/Zytel Handles

  • Strong and tough
  • Low maintenance and durable
  • Inexpensive

Cons of FRN/Zytel Handles

  • Can feel cheap or hollow
Kershaw Knife - Full Metal Knife
Metal Handle on an Kershaw

Metal Handle Materials

Aluminum Handles

Aluminum handles are lightweight, strong, and resistant to corrosion. They can be anodized for added hardness, protection, and color options. Properly textured aluminum handles can provide a secure and comfortable grip.

Pros of Aluminum Handles

  • Strong and lightweight
  • Durable and corrosion-resistant
  • Available in different colors and textures

Cons of Aluminum Handles

  • Can be slippery if not textured
  • Susceptible to scratches and dings

Titanium Handles

Titanium handles are lightweight, strong, and offer excellent corrosion resistance. They have a warm feel, making them comfortable to hold in cold conditions. Titanium handles can be anodized for added color and texture options, and are often considered a premium handle material.

Pros of Titanium Handles

  • Strong and lightweight
  • Excellent corrosion resistance
  • Available in different colors and textures

Cons of Titanium Handles

  • Relatively expensive
  • Prone to scratches

Stainless Steel Handles

Stainless steel handles are strong, durable, and corrosion-resistant. However, they are heavier than other metal handle materials and can be slippery if not properly textured. Stainless steel handles are often combined with rubber, plastic, or other materials to improve grip.

Pros of Stainless Steel Handles

  • Strong and durable
  • Corrosion-resistant

Cons of Stainless Steel Handles

  • Heavy
  • Can be slippery


When choosing a knife, the handle material is important for weight, grip, durability, and cost. Knowing the pros and cons of each material helps in making an informed decision. Wood or bone handles have a classic look, while synthetic materials like G10 or carbon fiber offer better performance and durability. There’s a knife handle material for everyone’s needs.