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basic knife handle info


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so i did this report on basic knife handles and figured it might be nice for other beginners like me to see so with out further ado... 

Knife Handles

By: Marlyn Lampert

Good steel is the start of a good knife, but not everything. If a knife has a bad handle it goes from a good knife to a bad knife. On the contrary if a good knife has a good handle it becomes a great knife.

There are two types of fixed blade knife handles, through tang and hidden tang.

Hidden tang knives look nicer as you have handle material on all sides. The handle is attached by putting a slot in the in the middle of the material and then putting a pin, pommel, or both to hold it in place. There is two main ways to put a handle on a hidden tang knife, with a block one solid piece of material or by stacking multiple smaller pieces together and use a pommel to hold them on. With either method it is common to use epoxy (a two-part glue) to provide a stronger and tighter fit. After the glue sets handles can be shaped with files, saws, knives, and sanding paper.

Through tang knives are usually stronger as the tang fills the handle. Scales are used on through tang handles, these are two or more pieces of handle material such as a block cut in half or a piece of sheet cut to size. These are then attached with epoxy and use pins to hold the pieces in line and add structural integrity to the handle. Due to their better strength many modern fixed blade hunting knifes are made in this style.

Wood is one of the oldest handle materials used by people, and to some people the best-looking ones. Wood scales are often book matched where they are paired together giving the same grain on both sides. Wood often requires to be stabilized so they do not crack or swell due to absorption of moister. This is done slowly drying the piece and then soaking it in certain oils or other stabilizing compounds. Wood is rated on the Janka Wood Hardness Scale with 0 being softest and 4000 being hardest. To give an example poplar wood has a hardness of 540. cherry wood has a hardness of 950. African blackwood an exotic handle material has a hardness of 3960 on the Janka scale. Wood handles allowed for a more natural look on knives.

For some people natural materials does not give the look or feel they want; this is where synthetics are nice. The two more common types of synthetics are G10 and Phenolic Laminate more often called Micarta. Both are good choices for handles, though G10 is normally cheaper. G10 is known to be gripper when dry though Phenolic Laminates are grippier than G10 when wet.

G10 is a composite made of compressed fiberglass cloth and resin. This makes for a lightweight, durable, water resistant material. Like regular fiberglass it can be coloured, and one can have anything from black or white to pink and orange. G10 is an excellent choice for a smooth, coloured finish.

Phenolic Laminates are also made with a resin. They use canvas, liner, or paper soaked and pressed in a clear resin; this allows patterns in the material to show through. Some homemade versions use jeans or other cloth scraps. The name Micarta is a trademark and product of Norplex-Micarta that is incorrectly used as a blanket name for all Phenolic Laminates. Phenolic Laminates are a little harder to shape than G10 as it is a tougher material. Phenolic Laminates are a terrific way to add to the look of a knife.

Wood, fiberglass, and Phenolic Laminates provide just a peek into the many handle materials. There are so many more synthetic and natural handle materials that the list is only about as short as your mind make. You can then take different pins to change things again. In the end a knife is still only as good as its steel bot you need a decent handle to hold it.


“Janka hardness” BELL FOREST PRODUCTS, INC https://www.bellforestproducts.com/info/janka-hardness/ (accessed Oct. 2 2020)

Richardson, Bradley. Make Your Own Bush Knives. Mount Joy: Fox Chapel Publishing Company Inc. 2020 128-131

Zerra, Laura. A Modern Guide to Knife Making. Beverly: Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc. 2018 114-115

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