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What's the toughest handle material- G10, micarta, or carbon fiber?

Discussion in 'Maintenance, Tinkering & Embellishment' started by Ad, Apr 14, 2002.

  1. Ad


    Mar 9, 2000
    I'm hoping to get input as to the pros/cons of each material. Thanks.
  2. fishbulb


    Sep 18, 2001
    I've never noticed much of a functional differance between G-10 and Micarta, so I can't be much help there. Lots of people seem to like them though.

    Carbon fiber is extremely light and strong, but it is brittle and can easily crack if dropped or impacted, so I wouldn't consider it to be ideal for a tough knife. If uncoated it scratches easily. It works well for lightweight structural members (on aircraft, for example) but on knives it is more of a decorative feature because of the way it catches and reflects light. Due to the high cost, there is also a bit of luxury appeal attached to carbon fiber, which is why some cars use imitation carbon fiber on the interior.

    If you simply want the strongest handle material for a user knife I would recommend you look at Zytel and other FRNs. When combined with full steel liners, this is very strong and resistant both to bending and impact. Some people decry Zytel as feeling hollow or cheap, but that doesn't change the fact that it is light, chemicly stable, and virtually indestructable.
  3. King Grinch

    King Grinch

    Feb 6, 2000
    The Strongest is micarta them G10
  4. JGardnerA


    Aug 22, 2000
    Micarta may be stronger than G-10, but it is generally smoother. I prefer G-10 because of the good grip you can get on it.
  5. The Magician

    The Magician Illusionist

    Jan 19, 2000
    Micarta I believe is made from linen, paper, canvas, etc. Some kind of epoxy is used too. G10 I believe is an epoxy and fiberglass resin compressed under tremendous force. I may be wrong on this, but AI think it is pretty close. The smoothness of Micarta will vary with type and finish. Canvas with a low grit finish will feel like a cat tongue. Paper is usually very smooth. I like Micarta, because that is what is on the Spyderco Viele. I actually never thought Carbon Fiber scales were that great. JMO.
  6. ROBB


    Nov 14, 1999
    I once asked Allen Elishewitz whish was stronger G10 or carbon fiber.He said G10.I know carbon fiber is more expensive.
  7. Keith Montgomery

    Keith Montgomery

    May 9, 2000
    G-10 and Micarta are both really tough. The only exception to this is Paper Micarta. Paper Micarta was developed so that those working with it could get a smooth, high polished finish that was impossible to get with the cotton fabric that is used to make regular Micarta. Paper is not as tough a cotton so it makes for a more delicate material that finishes up real nice and will take scrimshanding.

    Also, as a bit of trivia, Linen Micarta is not made with linen. It is actually made with a heavier grade of cotton.
  8. dePaul


    Aug 8, 2000
    There are several reasons; It´s less expensive than Micarta, it´s prettier than Zytel and it´s tougher and "grippier" (mostly) than CF. Also, it does not shrink or expand due to humid, dry, cold or wet conditions. Micarta and SS does (according to Sal Glesser of Spyderco).
  9. Crayola


    Sep 23, 1999
    Some more thoughts on micarta vs. G10...

    I think that G10 has more tensile strength than micarta, if I remember correctly. But, anything you'd be doing that would damage micarta would damage G10 as well. Think of it this way: suppose you were wanting to buy a car for city driving only, and you were trying to choose between a porsche and a Ferarri, based on how fast they can go. If you're stuck to 30 MPH in the city streets, what does it matter how fast the cars go? Micarta and G10 are plenty strong for knife handles.

    To pick between them, you have to look at other features. If Sal says micarta shrinks, that is something you should look in to. I have never had problems with micarta though. I find micarta to have more character than g10.

    Oh, as far as grippiness goes, g10 and micarta cam be made just as grippy as you want, really. I have seen micarta polished more often than micarta, so I think that is why some may think that g-10 is grippier. A green linen micarta handle that has been blasted is a thing of beauty. And it stays in your hand!
    Freespoolin and Bruce9561 like this.
  10. SkinnyJoe

    SkinnyJoe Banned BANNED

    Jun 9, 2007
    Can someone rank these materials based on ability to resist solvents and fuels?

  11. TLR

    TLR Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 5, 1998
    I have heard of the linen in micarta wicking fluids up in to them where as with g10's fiberglass strands I don't think that this is possible.
  12. yoda4561


    May 28, 1999
    The very surface of canvas and linen micarta may absorb a very small amount of solvent in the exposed fibers. STR did some solvent and fuel soak tests with micarta handles and found that once that little bit of fuel burns off the surface there's no affect to the material.


    *edit* Wow this is an ancient thread
  13. G. Scott H.

    G. Scott H. Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 9, 2006
    That sounds about right. The first time I oiled up my Ranger RD9 (canvas micarta scales), the oil (3-in-1) seemd to soak into the scales and make them darker. I was sort of freaked out, but when I looked at it the next day, the scales looked normal again. You'd never know oil had ever touched them.
  14. mmmotorcycle

    mmmotorcycle Platinum Member Platinum Member

    Jun 17, 2006
    I enjoy micarta more. With my applications they are functionally the same. Some of my maroon micarta handled customs have been mistaken for hardwood. I really love the look of my "hardwood"! :D
  15. cbxer55


    Feb 13, 2006

    Tell that to my Lone Wolf Harsey Tactical!
  16. allenC


    Jun 18, 2000
    Wow, there's been alot of "strength" questions about knives lately....I just don't get it.
    All three are going to be strong enough for anything a knife should be doing.
    I've never even broke a Opinel handle myself.;)
    GABaus likes this.
  17. bearcut


    Sep 3, 2006
    I agree.
    They're all really tough.

    I would be more concerned about the fastening system used.

    The Busse Battle Mistress destruction test showed the handle falling off {!} due to fastener failure.

    At least the one piece molded handles don't do that. {quality ones, Fallkniven, etc.}
  18. Elen


    Apr 10, 2007
    I would go for G10 for looks and Micarta for grip, but that's just a generalization. While carbon fiber looks nice and all, it does not take impact well at all.

    I agree. It's important to know how good the fastening system is.

    In the case of the Battle Mistress test, though, I can't help but point out the fact that: the part of the test that caused the Battle Mistress' handles to fall off was the same part that broke most other knives, including Fällkniven A1, into pieces. ;) It doesn't really matter very much if the handle is intact or not, if the knife itself is in two pieces. ;)
  19. mitchshrader


    Oct 8, 2005
    until somebody does an impact test to destruction of the materials in question with identical testing procedures, apples to apples, you won't get a definitive answer. the G10 may be technically 'potentially' stronger and not be stronger in a particular handle due to construction methods or design (shape). micarta is a little more old school and G10 is a little more high tech and both of them are dependent on their own quality of construction, not all micarta (or G10) is necessarily created equal.

    being as i've seen properly mounted stag slabs on handles, 75 years old without major damage, i expect good grade micarta or G10 will either one outlive the original owner. That makes the point esoteric and unprovable and irrelevant all three. Get some of what you like.
    Michael Sankewitsch likes this.
  20. knarfeng

    knarfeng senex morosus moderator Staff Member Super Mod Moderator

    Jul 30, 2006
    G10, micarta, and carbon fiber are epoxy resin impregnated
    fiber glass fabric, cloth / canvas, and carbon fiber fabric respectively.

    The ability to resist fuels or solvents is entirely dependent on what epoxy resin was used to make the material in question. It has nothing to do with which reinforcing material was used.

    Since there are thousands of epoxy resin variations you can have thousands of different results.

    Also, since there are really no controlling specifications for these materials as made for knife handles, there is no way to rank them for strength as it will depend on exactly which weaves were used, how many plies, and the diameters of the fibers used in the weaves.

    Further, again since there is no controlling specification at all for surface finish of these materials, the surface finish can vary micarta to micarta, G10 to G10, Carbon fiber to Carbon fiber. Usually, the handles of a given material from a single maker will be fairly uniform in strength, finish, and solvent resistance.

    Suffice to say that any of these will make a very strong handle. Your best bet is to talk to people who have handles of the material you are interested in from the maker you are looking at. Better is to actually handle one that makers products to see how that maker finishes that material.

    Hope that helps,

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