Handle materials, your choice?


HPIC - Hatas gonna Hate
Staff member
Super Mod
Oct 2, 1998
I've been comparing the various knives I've been seeing lately, and trying to figure out which handle materials I like the best. Some woods, and polished G10 look the nicest IMHO, but I really like the feel of Kraton inserts despite all of it's bad qualities.

What do you guys prefer on your knives? Do you like the feel of solid metal, like on the Reeve's One Piece line, or the polymer of Kevin McClung?

Stag handles or hardwood? G10, linen micarta, or good old fashioned plastic?


Kevin Jon Schlossberg
SysOp and Administrator for BladeForums.com

Insert witty quip here
That's a great question and even though my head says, G-10 or one of the other fancy grips, I like the handle on the Spydie Moran the most. It has a fiberglass reinforced nylon resin with rubber polymer inlays. It's a nice, secure feeling and is quite comfortable. Also, even though I love my Spydie Military with its G-10, I have to admit that the plain old plastic on my Endura and Native give me no reason to complain. Also, my Buck Master Series Squire has a neat feel to it when you grip the emerald dyamond wood scales. Now I haven't held some of the other handles so I will be interested to hear what everyone else likes.

Greg Mete
Kodiak Alaska
1. G-10
2. Micarta
3. Aluminum
4. Zytel
5. Kraton

1. Carnivore jawbone with teeth still attached
2. Fossilized dinosaur poop
3. Titanium or anything else with Pepto Bismol highlights
4. Ossified pinniped genitalia
5. Wax

And yes, you CAN argue about taste.
David Rock

Spark, you're almost "asking the wrong question".

I think.

The right one might be:
"How do you want the knife to be retained in your hand, by friction against skin or by grip shape?"

What I prefer is a grip whose *shape* is what keeps it in hand but the actual material is on the slick side. That allows fast transitions; not necessarily point-forward to reverse, it can be as simple as going from a "pinch grip" where you're grabbing mainly with thumb and forefinger to "saber" to "FMA style" with middle through pinkie doing most of the squeeze versus "Gorilla" versus "forward reach" versus....etc.

See also the review of the Black Cloud "Friend" in Tactical Knives on the shelf now. It's a *classic* example of smooth wood shaped for retention. I have a slight preference for canvas Micarta backed by full-tang full-width steel (as in The Outsider) because I feel it'll take less long-term care than wood.

Ernie Mayer of Black Cloud thinks there's a certain extra "something" in natural materials like wood relating to feel and performance. I've heard such theories talked about by others; I'm not 100% certain what he means but he's not alone so I can't discount it.

Jim March
Argh. Jim March beat me to it.
For me, what matters more is good handle design rather than the materials used. That being said, my personal list mirrors David Rock's. Never tried a Mad Dog though. Personally, I think wood's a preference, similar to polymer frames vs. checkered wood panels in pistols.
For heavy use, I have really started to like G10, good feel and indestructable(Dropped ~25' onto cement with nothing more than a white mark). For beauty, I like small amounts of Ti, and I really like MOB or abolone with steel*
* I was lookign at the AZ custom knives page, and one caught my eye
For me....

Hi polish Ti with mastodon inlays or carbon fiber..

Don't call me hi-tech

Joel Pirela
Graphic & Knife Designer

Spark, you didnt ask the wrong question at all, ergonomics aside, what trips your trigger! For me I absolutely love, though not necessarily in this order, it all depends on the knife! Mammoth ivory,(feels cool in the hand and has a certain amount of "ancient magic" Mother of pearl, (to quote General Patton, only a New Orleans pimp would have pearl handles on his gun")But I like it. Bighorn Sheep, Sticky when wet in the smooth form, and a bumpy palm massager in the bark form. Any kind of good hardwood, always warm and solid. And then their is Micarta and G-10, when you absolutetly positively cant destroy it over night! Sorry guys, had to spout here, I just had my 3rd Scotch!

Well, I think Jim has a valid point (no pun intended) about the ergonomic aspect. But, given the correct ("for me") handle shape, lately I've been leaning towards good G10 more and more. My Spyderco Wegner (big one) is just the right shape and feel for me and my digits. The G10 is very well finished with just the right sort of checkering for a secure grip w/o being too rough. Gee, I think I like it
I do have some other knives with good handle ergonomics that use other materials, but that G10 is so nice and warm...

I really appreciate this thread as I'm contemplating an exotic handle now and have little experience with some of the materials available.

Jim has a point that ergonomics are paramount, but I agree with Rob that for this thread ergonomics must be a given... the issue now is materials.

Of the stag, pakkawood, G-10, kraton, buffalo horn, aluminum, titanium, micarta, zytel, and other odds and ends that I've experienced, my eye and hand are drawn to sambar stag. Rob's comments about mammoth ivory and sheepshorn are extremely valuable to me in giving insight to these materials which I have not experienced first hand. More posts of this nature would be invaluable. (Rob, it also helped to know that we share a taste for the scotch...hopefully it's a bit of the malt variety too <grin>)!!!


Bald is beautiful! Rub a dome for luck today!

"Jim has a point that ergonomics are paramount, but I agree with Rob that for this
thread ergonomics must be a given... the issue now is materials."

Erm...the materials need to work with the ergonomic style/technique you're trying to achieve. I don't think the shape and the materials can or should be discussed seperately.

Jim March
You all are clueless, get a grip (just kidding, pun intended). The best LOOKING material is green micarta (it is actually very brown). It looks like fake wood. Almost so good, if it's done right, that some people will know that it can't be wood.