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OPINION: Stag, Horn, and Ivory?

Discussion in 'Traditional Folders and Fixed Blades' started by afishhunter, Oct 17, 2020.

Stags/Antler, Horns, Ancient Ivory Are Best Suited For?

  1. Fancy Go to Meetin' or to Impress

    2 vote(s)
  2. Moderate to Heavy use Work Knife

    1 vote(s)
  3. "Either - Or"

    14 vote(s)
  4. Antler & Horn Moderate/Hard Use Work; Ivories Formal/Office

    19 vote(s)
  1. afishhunter

    afishhunter Basic Member Basic Member

    Oct 21, 2014
    In your opinion, are the Stags (to include Elk/Moose/Deer) the various horns, various ancient Ivories (Mastodon, Elephant, Walrus, Elephant Seal, etc.), and new legal ivory, such as Warthog, used for knife covers more for a fancy impress everyone formal attire "Go to Meetin'" or office knife, or for an every-day work knife for say a farmer or other moderate to hard use user?

    Historically, I think the Stag/Antler/Horn was for moderate to hard use knives.
    In the old catalogs, Ivory (and Pearl) seems more common on the light duty pen and smaller jackknives you'd expect to see in an office setting or Church Social.

    Did the usage change post WW2?
  2. guy g

    guy g Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 22, 2000
    I've never had ivory, so I can't opine there. I have an old gerber with abalone covers and used to edc it at the time.
    I have a few with stag and I'm not afraid to use any of them.
  3. Stelth


    Jul 15, 2007
    I'm not partial to any of those materials and wouldn't buy a knife handled with them. I like wood, Micarta, or G10.
  4. black mamba

    black mamba Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 21, 2009
    I definitely put ivory and pearl in a separate category from stag and horn. Stag and horn are among the grippiest and most durable of all natural handle materials, so make great users. Ivory and pearl just seem more elegant to me, so more of a special occasion material.
    Bull71, meako and JohnDF like this.
  5. Hickory n steel

    Hickory n steel Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 11, 2016
    Unless you drop it im sure all are durable enough for any use and the only real consideration would be if some kind of smooth covers will become slippery, or whether the material is going to get stained.
  6. Norcaldude

    Norcaldude Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 19, 2014
    I love stag, especially once it's had some wear and usage, and have no problem with it being on a 'working knife'.
    Dislike Mother of Pearl. Really dislike it.
    Wouldn't have a knife made of elephant ivory.
    Will Power likes this.
  7. Chui

    Chui Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 10, 2012
    - great question.

    Both my conscious and subconscious err on the side of yin~yan for many things in life - as it is with knives.

    Together with the man made sharp steeliness of the blade should be something softer, curved and more tactile from Mother Nature - be it beautiful burr, antler, horn or ivory - the combination of the two give me more pleasure.

    How they’re made and finished has a significant bearing too. Stag, for example, is equally at home on a rugged man-mountain Bowie as it is on a fine gentleman’s folder slipped into a jacket pocket, just down to how it’s selected and finished.

    Have a great love for Warthog, generally for me, far more attractive than Ele Ivory - far better to use for obvious reasons. Have many Warthog knives, all as stable and solid as the day I received them.

    Perhaps MOP is the most impressive and devoted towards gentleman’s accessories.

    Am guessing but perhaps usage for these animal products has changed relative to their sad yet increasing scarcity.
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2020
  8. rdave

    rdave Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 13, 2013
    Musk Ox can make a good solid handle...
    Matt_WY, WValtakis, GeofS and 2 others like this.
  9. BDubbs

    BDubbs Gold Member Gold Member

    May 25, 2020
    I think maybe those ivories and stag are relegated more and more to light/no use because of the expense/rarity/difficulty to repair. I look at materials like micarta as more of a regular use material.

    gratuitous knife photo
    JohnDF, meako, willc and 1 other person like this.
  10. Will Power

    Will Power Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 18, 2007
    Stag is remarkably durable stuff, much more so than Bone I find. It's more 'springy' so it doesn't chip or crack was easily as Bone. However agéd Bone looks really good. Stag can take wettish conditions (how do I know? Left a knife out in the garden by accident for a whole week, was dismayed the Stag looked bulbous, bloated but with slow drying it resumed its former shape:D) So, I'd argue that Stag can take a lot of work- you only have to look at some of the old Pruners on view.

    Horn, when properly selected and cured is durable yet elegant, especially Ram's Horn. Here in Europe, Mufflon (kind of Sheep) has been used for hundreds of years as a workmen's knife in Italy, Sardinia, Spain France. tough it can be yet superb.

    MOP and Ivory have never attracted me at all, rather the opposite. difficult to work, costly and therefore appreciated;) Fragile material used in my opinion, on expensive show knives. Susceptible to climactic changes.

    Tortoiseshell which admittedly wasn't mentioned is a beautiful material made from sea Turtle-probably a special species but my ethical principles rule out owning a knife made of it. It is also extremely expensive (big lure for some just for that reason:rolleyes:) Fortunately, GEC has offered a very fine acrylic Tortoiseshell that is a good imitation, durable and doesn't involve the extermination of a rare & noble creature to get it:cool:

    Last edited: Oct 17, 2020
  11. afishhunter

    afishhunter Basic Member Basic Member

    Oct 21, 2014
    @Will Power
    I didn't mention tortoise shell, because it is my understanding is genuine tortoise shell has been internationally outlawed for going on 50 or 60 years. Even more restrictions on possessing or owning than elephant ivory. Can't get genuine tortoise shell on a new knife or even to replace the covers on an old one.

    The species it comes from is (allegedly) "critically endangered". It could actually be, I don't know. Or, it could be like the Coelacanth. Thought to be extinct for millions of years when I was young, but was found alive and thriving off the coast of Madagascar about what? Ten years back? :)
    "Scientists" "think" they know how many of any critter or fish there is. They don't. They keep "discovering" new critters, birds, fish, reptiles, plants, and bugs the local populations have known about for millennia. :D
  12. Danke42


    Feb 10, 2015
    You know Turtles breath air right? They won't be a bunch of them hiding out 2 000 feet down with the coelacanths.

    Fancy rare materials = fancy rare knives. Horn and fossil ivory are not in the same category at all.
    Grateful and sitflyer like this.
  13. afishhunter

    afishhunter Basic Member Basic Member

    Oct 21, 2014
    Whereas tortoise live on land.
    Sea Turtles can hold their breath, and some species are known to go 2000 foot under in search of prey. Whales of course can/do go deeper. :)
  14. JohnDF

    JohnDF Gold Member Gold Member

    May 14, 2018
    Of the choices, I really only like the bone options anyways.
    I prefer wood or micarta on my medium to heavy use knives.
  15. JB in SC

    JB in SC Basic Member Basic Member

    May 19, 2001
    Stag is tough, but really good stag is getting difficult to find. It takes a real expert to fit correctly. Tony Bose is a master at finding the best for a particular pattern.

    Nothing beats ivory for beauty, it develops a lovely patina. But it requires effort to maintain properly.

    I like bone okay but it’s very easy to damage. Micarta is my favorite material, the best stuff looks nice on a working folder.
  16. Mitt


    Aug 31, 2017
    I tend to reserve stag for more formal occasions. Horn can be some tough stuff and I wish GEC would use it more.

    Buffalo horn carried for over 25 years of use and abuse, it has been tossed and dropped countless times. In all this time its only lost its shield and gotten one small chip. I cant say the same for the bone knife that replaced it, it got dropped once and there is a chip just waiting to break away.
    JohnDF and sitflyer like this.
  17. BDubbs

    BDubbs Gold Member Gold Member

    May 25, 2020
    I could see how back in the day of only natural materials those that were hardest to acquire would be on the more expensive knives (exotic wood, bones or ivory) while run of the mill cow bone, deer and elk antler or common tree species would be used on your less expensive common knives.

    Not to run too far from the original post but are there handles made from other types of pig or is it just warthog?
  18. jsdistin

    jsdistin KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    May 27, 2016
    I’ve worked with all of them and they seem to all be of similar toughness. Seems like they all have the same or similar use for the animals they come from. Would the antler a deer used to hit another deer be any tougher that the tusk an elephant uses to hit another elephant? I definitely put ivory on daily users.
  19. Danke42


    Feb 10, 2015
    Yeah regardless of being able to hold their breath for hours there isn't a big pocket of undiscovered seat turtles waiting to become knife scales and Italian sunglasses. They're selfish that way.
  20. BDubbs

    BDubbs Gold Member Gold Member

    May 25, 2020
    Don’t think that was the point being made.

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