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What's your choice for bushcraft knife handle material?

Discussion in 'Outdoor Gear, Survival Equipment & More' started by fmajor007, Jan 13, 2012.

  1. fmajor007

    fmajor007

    Apr 1, 2010
    What handle material would you choose for your *user* Bushcraft knife in a non-tropical, non-coastal environment - allowing for lake/river environments. So, essentially any topography from continental/mountainous/plains and may include rivers, streams, springs as well as lakes, water-sheds, etc.

    Natural materials (wood, etc)?

    Man-made materials - micarta? G10? polymer? Grivory?

    What's the reason for your choice?


    Again, by this i mean the handle material on the knife you would actually bring with you and *use* for bushcraft tasks.

    I'm absolutely not interested in "Safe-Queen's" or high-end, museum works of art - only knives you would use in the backcountry (or for training/practice).

    Before it gets asked; Yes, i understand the water-resistant properties of man-made materials.

    Thanks!
     
  2. swonut

    swonut KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jan 1, 2007
    I think it's hard to beat an orange G-10 or natural canvas micarta. You can work it by hand to suit your finish needs with sandpaper and files (coarse, fine, polished) you can't really damage it under "normal use." It looks good, works hard, isn't too effected by moisture, oil or weather.
     
  3. baldtaco-II

    baldtaco-II

    Feb 28, 2006
    Some sort of rubber for me. I think it has excellent damping properties in a big cutter going by my old Swamp Rat Camp Tramp. Although that probably depends a lot on the tang design because the Camp Tramp was better than my much older Blackjack Anaconda which it replaced in that regard. Horse stable matting still seems popular with competition cutters, although that's outside of stuff I know a lot about, but I suspect grip and damping are why they use it too. On smaller knives it's all about grip, weather resistance and maintenance. It also comes moulded in shapes with a nuance that many seem to find hard to get out of other materials by removing stock. The handle on the little Boker I've used a lot over the past few years is an excellent example of that. Every small knife I've intuitively reached for in ages has a rubber handle – that Boker, the F1, Linder Super Edge, Master Hunter. Even when I plotted up on a Micarta handled Enzo it was with a view to putting inner tube bands on it to improve grip, ab ovo.
     
  4. Mannlicher

    Mannlicher

    Nov 19, 2008
    I like wood, such as Bocote, or canvas Micarta
     
  5. fmajor007

    fmajor007

    Apr 1, 2010
    One more than the other?

    Why?
     
  6. Shotgun

    Shotgun

    Feb 3, 2006
    You know I used to be a micarta only man but nowadays I'm all over the place. Micarta, plastic, cord wrap, and wood all seem to do fine. I've found that if you do the minimal upkeep there's not really an issue and half my camping is on the coast. I'm currently using the one below by Farmer and loving it. It's osage.

    [​IMG]
     
  7. TheGame

    TheGame

    Sep 24, 2008
    I prefer micarta, mainly because it just feels better to me. I have no issues with wood at all, but it just doesn't feel as comfortable in use to me.
     
  8. FortyTwoBlades

    FortyTwoBlades Baryonyx walkeri Dealer / Materials Provider

    Mar 8, 2008
    Micarta or polypropylene, mostly. Wood when that's what the model comes with.
     
  9. canadiantrailman

    canadiantrailman

    615
    Jan 11, 2010
    registered user
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2012
  10. Diomedes Industries

    Diomedes Industries KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Mar 19, 2007
    If I want Bomb proof - G-10 or Micarta.

    However - I have used natural materials and laminated natural and man made materials - with little difference.

    TF
     
  11. fmajor007

    fmajor007

    Apr 1, 2010
    I didn't know canvas micarta absorbs fluids?

    Great replies guys! Keep 'em coming - especially the "why" part of your choice!

    thanks
     
  12. FortyTwoBlades

    FortyTwoBlades Baryonyx walkeri Dealer / Materials Provider

    Mar 8, 2008
    Micarta does NOT absorb fluids to any significant degree. Because it's made of layers of fabric, the exposed fibers can soak up a little moisture, but only at the surface level. It's not a sponge.
     
  13. fmajor007

    fmajor007

    Apr 1, 2010
    Thanks 42 - that's what i was thinking... but i don't have any of it nor tested it.

    I would *think* (usually the 1st step in a wrong direction...) that the resin would've soaked thoroughly into the linen/canvas thereby making it liquid impregnable....
     
  14. canadiantrailman

    canadiantrailman

    615
    Jan 11, 2010
    registered user
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2012
  15. fmajor007

    fmajor007

    Apr 1, 2010
    Interesting. I was just reading about color changing different materials (chiefly G10 and Micarta). Your experience as others have - the colors tend to get darker when in contact with oils....

    I wonder if a sealant of some sort would/could prevent this?
     
  16. FortyTwoBlades

    FortyTwoBlades Baryonyx walkeri Dealer / Materials Provider

    Mar 8, 2008
    All you have to do is give it a quick wash with soap and water and allow it to dry. Always works for me. :confused:
     
  17. rocketbomb

    rocketbomb

    Apr 25, 2007
    If I wasn't doing lots of game and food processing, wood's a fine material. I really like the looks of Osage Orange.

    However, since my knives are covered in blood and guts often, I usually use G10. Stable, strong, and doesn't absorb stuff.

    The differences in grip between materials (save for rubber) is really overblown if you ask me. Any of them seem to do pretty well in my experience.

    Micartas seem to absorb stuff because they're usually made with cloth fibers of some sort (canvas and linen being pretty common). Cleans up pretty well if you scrub them with soap and water. G10 uses fiberglass, which isn't particularly absorbent in the first place.
     
  18. fmajor007

    fmajor007

    Apr 1, 2010
    Thanks RB - at the heart of my question is really 'gription' (a friend passed the term on to me - i take no credit for it!) - how much traction/grip will the given material have when its all bloodied and covered in tissue/fur/etc and it's 26F outside. Almost anything will work when it's sunny and 70, but drop the temp below freezing, add some blood or water and then lets evaluate how well something works - particularly when us weak humans gotta be working the knife - cold/wet/sleep-deprived.

    Really, the question is; How well does the handle material stand up to the rigors a bushcraft knife requires? I really like the look of some of these *beautiful* wood-handled bushcraft knives, but am curious how well that wood holds up in a more demanding environment.
     
  19. Shotgun

    Shotgun

    Feb 3, 2006
    I generally coat the whole knife in mineral oil including the scales. Not sure why you would consider soaking up oil a problem since it would then repel water. I've noticed after it dries it doesn't soak up sweat like it did before the oil or if it does at all.
     
  20. rocketbomb

    rocketbomb

    Apr 25, 2007
    If it's below freezing and there's blood or water on the knife, it's going to freeze to your hand! Trust me on that one.

    I've tried all kinds of knife handle materials while doing game prep and honestly once there's a coating of blood and fat on the knife, you don't really feel the handle material that much and handle shape makes as much of a difference as anything else. Once the stuff starts drying a bit the handle material means diddly squat as you're holding onto a layer of dried blood and gunk, which is generally pretty sticky stuff.

    Handle shape, in my opinion, is a ton more important than handle material. The shape is very personal and depends heavily on somebody's style of use, what the knife is mostly used for, and just plain personal preference.

    Another point to consider is that a "bushcraft" knife and a "survival" knife aren't necessarily one and the same thing. Depends on your outlook. Often the idea of a survival knife thrown around here is (this is pretty hyperbolic) the ONE AND ONLY tool you'll have on you when you get in trouble and you'll need to use it to do everything from make a fire to pry open car doors to defend yourself. A bushcraft knife, on the other hand, is in my mind, and in the vein of what I've gathered as the bushcraft spirit, a tool among a collection of other tools for wilderness living. The other tools can include things like an axe, saw, crook or hook knives, and other kinds of cutting tools where each tool has a more specialized purpose, so you're typically using your knife for cutting stuff. On that basis, those two knives can have very, very different designs.

    Personally I'm a bit jaded toward both categories in certain ways. I carry an SAK and a small fixed blade every day, and on trips when I need more I take the knife pictured below, and maybe a small axe when camping and feel perfectly comfortable. If you don't have the proper mindset, no knife is going to save you in a "survival" situation, and no bushcraft knife is going to make your wilderness experience refreshing and easy. A good knife in the hands of a competent woodsman is a worth much though. (I make no claims to being a competent woodsman, so take my words as you will!)
    [​IMG]

    As an aside, a lot of fancy burls used in knifemaking these days are stabilized, which makes them fairly tough. Some woods are tougher and more stable than others also--osage orange is a good example, and there are other really tough ones too.

    Well that's a nice wall of text isn't it? Hopefully some of it was coherent and helpful.
     

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