most ergonomic handle design(s)?

Apr 4, 2001
I was wondering what opinions were on best handle design. I understand asthetics will always be part of knive design -- but if you had to list the best ergonomic features of a handle, what would they be?
Some of my guesses are (I'm new at this):
Never just round, you lose blade orientation.
A palm swell, which of course limits the blade to a right or left hander.
A finger guard to keep from slipping into the blade.
A lanyard hole for the option of lanyard or not.
A smooth finish won't give you blisters as fast a rubberized or rough finish would.
'best' handles for a hunter would probably be much different than for a tactical fighter.

Some of my questions are:
What about length? Should the top or bottom of the handle have more thickness? How thick over all? Straight or curved down?

Tracy Mickley
Tracy the sky,s the limit on what every one think,s if you go to my site you can see what i do. by the way, Welcome
Good thread! THis will be interesting...

Forst, a lanyard or the presence of a guard may not have anything to add to comfort!

But anyways, like all things guys like, handles must have some sexy curves in them! I like single finger grips. Look at a Mad Dog handle to see what style I mean, or go to the Randall knives site to check out their single finger grips. These, if done right, seem to lock my hand into the handle.

Sub hilt handles give an amazing grip as well. They are like a single finger grip handle, but the dun hilt adds to the gripability, as far as I have found.

But it also depends on what youa re doing with the knife! I would want a different handle on a chef's knife than on a reverse grip fighter. If you want to use a reverse grip when fighting, the butt end should be rounded and angled such that you get a good thump purchase on it, and so that the thumb won't slide off of the angled butt. I just got a Greco Defender, and the butt it pointed. Great for pommel strikes, but bad for reverse grip fighting! Oh, finger gripped handles may give a great grip, but probably only holding the knife in one way.

Well, hopefully some more knowledgeable makers (those that have made more than 4 knives!) will post here so we all can learn.
The best handle shape will depend on the type of knife, the weight, length, and balance of the blade, and largely on how the knife will be used. For a large chopping blade it is better to use a curved handle so you can snap extra velocity into the blade by closing your fingers and pulling the handle up during the swing. With fighters you want to be able to apply force to both the bottom and top edge without shifting your grip.

But more significantly, althought we seldom talk about it, each of us uses their knives differently. Even if I were to put the same knife in the hands of 10 different guys we would probably see 10 different kinds of behavior. Some of it is physical, we all have different size hands, different height, strength, etc. Some of it is acquired skill, like cutting through a joint instead of chopping through with a heavier edge. Much of it is just a reflection of our personality.

A hundred years ago we each would have had a clear preference, but, today few of us get to really use our knives hard, so most of us make due with any reasonably sound handle. I am sure that if we had to used our favorite knives for 4-6 hours a day most of us would be that much more exacting.

I can only suggest that you try as many handles as you can and go with the one that works for you. Do avoid soft rubber handles since these are usually problem for most folks.

I'd suggest going to the General forum, and posting questions about what handles forumites like for whatever types of knives you're thinkning of making. If you have some ability to check out the production pieces lots of people champion, then I think you could get a very good idea.

Of course, you could ask it about custom knives as well, and probably the best are to be found there. But, checking them out, other than pictures might prove difficult. Course you could go to a big show like Blade, Blade West, Guild show, etc., with a camera with a wide angle lens and a tape recorder -- or just say an 8mm camcorder -- and grab onto knives, and talk right into your machine about what works, what doesn't, rough measurements, etc.

I think handles are incredibly important on knives. They are the interface between the user and the knife. They are the point of contact. Have read a lot of reviews which started out praising a knife, including handlee, then after some extended use of it, bad thigs to say about the handles. One grip that I've heard few complaints about from anyone, that I've tried on 2 of their knives, are the Becker K&T series: Campanion/Brute, etc. Have read a # of reviews where people say they can chop for extended periods of time with no hot spots, blisters, etc. Newt Livesay is praised for the grips on many of his knives. Ed Fowler's knives are described as feeling like they grow out of your hand.

I think lanyard holes are very important for any knife that is likely to be used for chopping. Much safer, just like in the rope cutting contests, where lanyards are mandatory. No need to have super sharp knives flying around the area.
the things that got me into knife making was that the knives available wouldn't fit your hand and they wouldn't hold an edge.

years ago when I was aprenticeing, I noticed that Frank (my master)was missing 2 joint off all the fingers on his right hand (a shaper axident) all the handles of all his tools had been modified to fit his hands.

I like to fit tools to hands I have sold 6 knives in the last couple of months and the customer's main reason for choosing mine was the way the handle felt in their hands. I also custom fit handles to injured or dammaged hands.

I don't do art, just a good tool.
My best story on handle design is a sale. A neighbor had expressed curiosity about what I am doing when I'm making a lot of noise. I showed him around my shop. One of the first things I showed him was a forged knife with a black walnut handle. He didn't put it down during all the time he was in the shop. He just kept turning it over and over in his hand. Before he left the shop he bought the knife and sent a friend who also bought one.
Make it "user friendly", Lynn