Stag or bone - is one more durable?

Discussion in 'Traditional Folders and Fixed Blades' started by Andya27, Jan 10, 2014.

  1. Andya27


    Dec 26, 2013
    Regrets if this has been posted in the past, but I didn't find it in my searches. I'll be purchasing another knife soon, and the handle choices are either bone or stag. Both look great. And so I'm wondering, does one handle material tend to hold up longer over time? Thanks.
  2. John L

    John L

    Oct 28, 2004 a long shot. I have never seen or rarely seen a split or cracked piece of stag and have seen hundreds of cracked bone scales. Stag can loose its coloring just like bone.
  3. jackknife

    jackknife Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 2, 2004
    If it was a choice between one or the other on the same knife, I'd go with stag. Like John, I've seen cracked and chipped bone, but very very rare a cracked stag. Even when that stag is a hundred years old.
  4. black mamba

    black mamba Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 21, 2009
    In addition to being tougher, stag doesn't seem to crack from swelling and contracting, especially around pins, like bone does.
  5. Andya27


    Dec 26, 2013
    Many thanks - I ordered the stag. Cost a bit more, but it is a beauty.
  6. The one thing it might do, in response to swelling or contracting, is warp. I have a couple of stag-handled Buck folders that I'd purchased in Texas (Austin) back in the '90s. Having moved from there to NM (much drier here) in 2010, I've noticed both knives have had their scale covers warp, with their ends lifting away from the liners. I never saw that coming; those knives had remained as stable as could be, while in Texas for 20 years. But they dried excessively in the relatively short ~3 years after moving to the desert southwest. Obviously, treating the stag with something to keep it moisturized might've helped; so that's something to think about, if they experience a drastic change in humidity. I've also had one or two stag-handled knives flake off some material, but that's pretty rare and more reflective of the individual quality of specific pieces.

    I agree with other comments, in that stag does seem more resistant to cracking/chipping than bone. Having said all that, in modern/recent-production knives, I wouldn't worry much about durability of either material. Most of the cracked bone I've seen has been on much older knives, and a lot of cracking/chipping issues can be avoided if the manufacturer does a good job in machining/drilling, mounting & pinning the bone. I tend to believe a lot of cracks or breaks/chips start out with damage done around pin locations, when the handles are first drilled and/or mounted. Small chips or cracks initiated during that process will often spread, eventually.

  7. Andya27


    Dec 26, 2013
    We're thinking about moving from Northeast Ohio to Las Cruces - just visited over the holidays. You're not kidding about New Mexico having low humidity. Nice thing - Southern New Mexico doesn't get snow.
  8. Usually. ;)

    Sometimes the entirety of the state will get snow & other nasty weather (usually happens starting right around Christmas). Not nearly so frequent or abundant as where you're coming from, but it happens at times, and the highways can become a mess. When previously living in Texas, I'd drive back to NM pretty regularly (parents and other family are here), and often at Christmastime. On one trip, I left Austin in early a.m. @ ~70°F with heavy humidity there; I sweated through my shirt in loading the vehicle. Going west through the TX hill country, I encountered (in order) light rain, heavy rain, hail, snow, sideways snow (wind-driven @ 30-40mph) and then detoured further west on I-10 to El Paso & north through Cruces towards Albuquerque on I-25, because the northbound roads further east were hazardous (snow/ice/thick fog). Didn't actually get away from snowy/icy conditions until I was a couple hours south of Albuquerque.

    Las Cruces is a beautiful area though; wouldn't mind living down there myself. :)

  9. jon_slider


    Aug 24, 2010
    Stag is the more premium material and I would always pick it over the shin bone of a dead cow. Please post a photo of your stag knife choice so we can enjoy your purchase vicariously. Stag horn is also available from shed antler, so the creature does not necessarily have to die for you to enjoy your handle.

    here is a fantastic thread full of stag handled knives
  10. John L

    John L

    Oct 28, 2004
    Jon: No Sambar stag deer died to give us his antlers. They are all sheds picked up by farmers, generally, brought at various collection points and then distributed. All collection of Sambar stag ended about 10 years ago with one final distribution.
  11. Andya27


    Dec 26, 2013
    It is in fact a Northwoods Burnside Jack, and I imagine it will arrive sometime next week. I will most certainly post a few photos when it makes it to Cleveland.

    It will be my second Northwoods. My first - a green camel bone bullet jack - arrived yesterday. I was really impressed with the quality of both the design and execution. The bullet jack is just a great knife for my rather small hands. It's going to get a lot of use.
  12. jon_slider


    Aug 24, 2010
    YES! Antler from a living Sambar Stag it is :)
    I had to see a pic, this from the KSF site
  13. rarreola


    Dec 4, 2010
    The use or abuse is a another factor. I use the bone knives on my front pocket with coins and keys more than the stag knives.
    I care more the stag ones.


    Jan 29, 2007
    Both beautiful but, stag seems to last longer and is quite a bit more costly.
  15. wazu013


    Dec 14, 2011
    Stag works for me
  16. Will Power

    Will Power

    Jan 18, 2007
    Stag is more elastic (not that surprising as I believe it's like horn, a kind of 'hair'). It can shrink back in dry conditions but it more often than not regains its former shape when humidity rises. I've dropped a couple of stag knives and they've been OK in situations where bone would've chipped or cracked. I don't really agree that only older bone knives would be prone to pin cracks, two recent GECs have displayed this unpleasant feature. Being shed by the deer in the course of their life unlike other materials where the animal must die before you can use the tusks/bones, is another positive aspect. As others have already pointed out.

    Frankly, when stag is great it's the stuff of the gods:D:thumbup:

    Regards, Will
  17. lambertiana

    lambertiana Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 7, 2000
    Horn is keratin, compressed hair fibers. Stag is antler, which is bone. Depending on the species, stag can be fairly porous or very dense. Sambar is dense.
  18. Assuming that's in reference to my comment (the word 'only' wasn't anywhere in it, BTW, but instead "Most of the cracked bone I've seen..." ;) ). I brought that up mainly to point out that manufacturing has seemingly improved in how more recent knives' handles are machined/drilled/mounted. A lot of older bone-handled knives also had rather thin covers (I think this was the biggest difference I've noticed), as compared to what I see nowadays. Combined with small chips or cracks in drilling or mounting them, or pin holes drilled too close to the edges of the bone, and stresses created by flex/bend in the handles/frame (especially on large patterns like folding hunters), they seemed to crack more easily and more often.

    In other words, less about the material itself deteriorating due to age, and more due to how newer knives' construction seems a bit better in how bone handle covers are manufactured and mounted. They do still crack/break occasionally, especially if dropped or impacted hard. But, I don't notice this nearly as much on more recent knives. Lots of examples of the older broken ones on the 'bay and other secondary market sites. I passed on buying/bidding on a bunch of these, due to cracks/chips so often seen around the pins.

    Last edited: Jan 12, 2014
  19. festerfromnzed


    Aug 18, 2008 it.....................FES

  20. Humppa


    Jul 25, 2010
    In my experience stag is more durable. I have seen old knives (100 years +) with stag covers that got that buttery appearance, with is just plain beautiful and somehow smooth. Bone gets that as well, during time. But most of the old bone covers I´ve seen (or handled) have more or less small(er) cracks.

    So my personal vote goes for stag, without a doubt.

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