Number one is Pearl, then ivory then stag for the better grade knives. Woods don't sell too well unless they are on a special knife (reproduction of a classic). For the low to medium priced knives stag sells 3-1 over anything else. Just my observation, your's may be different.
I know this is dull, but I never get tired of black linen micarta. Takes a beautiful shine, neat layers, and is stable and as tough as anything out there. I like a fancy handle material as much as the next guy (though natural materials that aren't stable drive me nuts!) but if knives only came in black-and-silver I wouldn't be too unhappy, either. Just boring, I guess
Little Bear Knives
I don't know why the woods don't sell well, but some of them should. One of my favorite materials is Desert Ironwood. It can be as fancy and figured as the wildest Pearls, It is far tougher and more durable, and it doesn't even need to be sealed. My experience so far shows it to be as stable as the micarta's.
Aside from this I tend to agree with the preceeding posts. Linen or canvas micarts for tacticals and stag, Ivory or pearl for the dressier pieces.
Yeah, wood wood wood. The problem is that no one wants to sift through boards or scraps of exotic wood to find the "perfect" pieace. The fact is that there is much waste with wood if it is done right. Example: I know of someone who obtained a 10mm Colt in a trade for some custom archery epuipment. The scales are suposed to be custom cocobolo. All you see however when you look at it is a redish-brown, nearly grainless piece of wood stock. If you look close, you notice that you're looking at end grain. What a joke! Obviously, that piece of wood, which should have been trash-canned, was used up to save money. No wonder people think of wood as boring. It may not compete with pearl and such, but when done correctly, a well finished, charactered sample of the right wood should make you silly.
For me, its gotta show something. Pearl, stag and highly figured woods. Ironwood, kingwood, cocobolo, and some of the stabilized, softer woods really do it for me. Of course, I'm not selling into a market that dictates what it wants to buy.
For older collectable folders, Remington bone and some of the more exotic celluloids are very, very nice.
I know that the death knell has been sounded for wood, but I (and many of MY customers like it, if it's naturally impregnated with oils [cocobolo, desert ironwood, etc.]), or stabilized. I just can't get used to plastic, with the exception being kitchen or fillet knives.
I'm just completing a fairly large stabilizer, and am playing around with various media in order to find exactly what works best. Cultivating friends in the firewood business to look for burls and wild grain patterns pays big dividends!
Stag is great, but before long I'll wager sellers will need to keep and supply letters of legal possession for knives sold, same as with ivory nowadays.
From my experience in selling custom knives. Here is what I find:
For Folders: (the top 4 are close)
1. Pearl (black lip, white, gold)
2. Fossil Ivory (bark)
5. Sheep Horn or Stag
6. Jig Bone
(other good choices for fancy folders might include coral, lapis, dinosaur bone, oosic, fossil bone
For Tactical Folders:
1. Carbon Fiber (way ahead of the rest)
2. All Titanium
Hunters & Bowies:
1. Ivory & Fossil Ivory(usually with damascus on high end knives)
2. Stag & Sheep Horn
Micarta seems to be the handle of choice for fixed tactical blades.
I do a lot of custom rehandle work for a contractor and I use a lot of Sheep Horn, Cocobolo, Desert Ironwood and Stag. For my own customers I use a lot of my stabilized woods,(burls) as well as wood stabilized by other sources. Presentation Bowies normally either Stag or Elk; For Hunters I use stabilized Moose antlers, & Stag, Sheep Horn, and various stabilized woods; For Folders I have been using a lot of Ivory, Pearl, Sheep Horn, and stabilized Burls.
I am not a maker but felt compelled to post since I am a dealer and collector and have bought and sold customs. I have a weakness for Desert Ironwood if it has a lot of the lighter coloring in it. whenever I see a knife with such a piece I am automatically interested it. Can't say the same about stag. Pearl and Ivory tend to get my attentiong first though. I agree stag sells 5 to 1 and wood is not generally very popular.
Now selling fossil ivory, jade, amber, opal, sandstone, dino bone etc...
Email me for info. The new items will be added to cga online in the near future.