When we talk about using knives in the field, we often discuss blade design, action, and steel type, and yet the handle material remains a mystery.
Knife handles are made from many materials, and each has certain advantages or potential disadvantages. Full-line knife makers like Cuda and Camillus uses all of the following materials to offer each individual maximum choice in their assortment.
Let’s have a look at some of the more popular options.
Glass-filled nylon handles are found on many knives on the market. Glass-filled materials are added to polypropylene, ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) and other substrates in order to provide a strong, rigid handle. This material performs well under stress and in most impact situations. It is also economical, relative to other materials. We utilize glass-filled nylon in our Tigersharp replaceable blade knife handles. We also include a TPR insert to improve grip.
Bamboo is an environmentally sustainable organic material that regenerates faster than any wood. This means Camillus is helping preserve the environment. Some of our fixed and folding knives are offered with bamboo handles; they’re also moisture and stain resistant while providing good grip.
Carbon fiber is made from a polymer called polyacrylonitrile combined with woven Kevlar as part of a complicated heating process. It is widely used because it has characteristics that make it ideal for products that need to be lightweight, but strong.
Carbon fiber is five times stronger than steel and lighter than aluminum. It has a pleasing, trendy appearance, but it can be fragile. Dropping an expensive carbon fiber knife handle on a rock will stop your heart for a moment.
Camillus uses carbon fiber primarily in EDC (everyday carry) and compact folding knives. They are generally not necessary for hunting knives, unless every ounce counts on a hike to the summit for sheep or goats.
Micarta is a synthetic material made from paper, linen or thick canvas impregnated with resin under pressure. It is extremely resistant to water, cold, heat, rot or corrosion, making it perfect for field knife handles. Micarta is a registered trademark of Norplex-Micarta.
Camillus offers several models in both folding and fixed blades that employ Micarta.
Composed of an extremely durable makeup of layers of fiberglass soaked in resin, then highly compressed and baked, G10 is impervious to liquid and physically stable when climates change.
It is a durable material that can handle stress and reasonable impact. It’s lightweight and mid-priced.
ABS is a thermoplastic polymer with plastic and rubber properties that provides durability, strength, and resistance in extreme temperatures. It is a commonly used for making knife handles.
Traditional hardwoods including maple, cherry and olive make a beautiful durable handle. Wood, over time can expand, contract, split and break if abused or subjected to a wide range of humidity, temperature or poor storage conditions.
Rivets in handles can become loose as wood contracts and full tangs become more exposed. Treat a wood knife the same way you would a fine walnut stock on your firearm, and you will enjoy its charm for decades.
Delrin is a crystalline plastic offering an excellent balance of properties that bridge the gap between metals, composites, natural materials, and plastics.
Delrin possesses high-tensile strength, toughness, and temperature resistance. It also exhibits low moisture absorption. It is often used to imitate natural stag horn handles. Camillus’ Western series knives utilize this material in the imitation stag models.
Thermoplastic rubber (TPR)
TPR is thermoplastic rubber. It gives the handle a soft, grippy feel that remains comfortable to hold, even in extreme cold.
TPR handles designed with grooves —like Cuda employs on many of its fishing knives and tools — ensures slip resistance, even when handled with wet or slimy hands. TPR is lightweight, moisture-resistant, impact resistant, ergonomic, and practical. Its weakness may be its long-term abrasion resistance, but the comfort and other inherit benefits make it a winner for both hunting and fishing.
Choose to your needs
Of course, there are also other materials like aluminum and titanium, but these materials will cover most of the knives at your nearest retailer.
So the next time you are shopping for a knife, consider your application and choose the handle material that best suits your needs.
Click here for more information about Camillus, and click here for more information about Cuda.
Posted as a paid partnership between Ontario OUT of DOORS and Acme United Ltd.