Knife Handle Materials
For knife aficionados or even for those who work with knife for the bulk of the day, knife handles become as important as the other important part of the knife - the blade. Knife handles should be carefully selected or made as they can affect the experience of using the knife. Also, the knife handle gives you a choice to personalize the knife in many ways - be it decorating it with designs, or etching or engraving your name or message, adorning it with stones etc. Knife handles thus provide a place to show case the personality of the user or the knife maker.
Learn how to craft your own knife handle.
Knife handles can be made from many different materials ranging form simple material like kitchen linoleum to many kinds of hard woods like rosewood to exotic material like Caribou antlers or woolly mammoth ivory. Each material has its own characteristics and the best material is the one that matches the needs of the user and fits him or her.
Hard wood is one of the most popular materials for knife handles. Hard woods like cocobolo, rosewood, ebony are used very frequently. They are relatively inexpensive and are easy to be shaped by the knife maker. A well shaped and polished hard wood handle feels extraordinarily good in hand while holding it or using it for cutting and slicing and they also look aesthetically very nice. Stag is another material that is extremely popular although it is becoming more and more costly and rare. The charm of stag comes from the rough texture of the surface that gives a nice grip to the user. Some feel that it makes it hard to use. Stag handles should be carefully chosen after trying out the grip. These days many artificial handles are available to replace stag handles. Rubber or textured handles are also available, as these are soft on the hands and provide a pretty good grip during wet conditions.
Micarta, a composite synthetic material made of linen or paper with epoxy resin is another commonly used handle material. This is very strong, extremely durable and light. This comes in glossy or matte finish for grips and can be extremely durable. These are one of the best choices for tough heavy duty knives. Paper, linen and denim micartas are available for different degrees of toughness. Micarta handles also come in many different bright colors. Many different polymer materials are available, the best among them being ABS which is a high strength polymer that can be molded very easily and kraton - a springy polymer, mostly used as a flexible inlay in the grip. Fiberglass reinforced nylon (FRN) is a polymer that can be molded using injection molding.
Titanium is a popular choice for handles chosen due to its high tensile strength, corrosion resistant qualities and light weight. This is a very strong metal used in many special applications. Many other exotic handles are available which are aesthetically beautiful, but might not be very practical to heavy use. These would include beautiful mother of pearl, the rare elephant ivory - which was once the most sought after material for exquisite handles, Caribou antler, moose horn, petrified wood etc. Many stones like jade, turquoise and others also make good handles, but these are normally heavy and not usable for a working knife.
Knife handle materials need special attention and care. Do not allow kitchen knives to soak at the bottom of a sink full of water and dirty dishes as it will destroy the surface texture. Automatic dishwashers are not good for knives as the temperature in the machines are too high and this will affect the steel as well as organic handle material like wood, bone, ivory, horn etc. Natural wood handles need to be tended carefully with polish and cleaning regularly. As most of the wood used for handles has been treated with tung oil and coated many times until it developed a nice sheen, the best way to preserve the wood is to restore the finish with an occasional coat of tung oil and wiping it with a clean, dry cloth. It will be good to let the knife dry overnight and buff it with another clean dry cloth before using it. It is not a good idea to soak knifes with natural handles in hot soapy water. Micarta and other artificial material that are impervious to moisture can be soaked thus, but natural material will be affected by such a practice.
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