Author Options:

Composites VS Plastics VS Wood VS Metal VS Antler Answered

I've been paying small amounts of attention to making a cheap, simple composite material recently (it's on my to-do list, like 17th place) and thought i could use everyone's opinion: What IS the best material to make a knife handle from? Could it be a simple Nylon block, for its longevity, The latest Composite, or Micarta? Maybe Wood? what kind? how hard? what colour? Metal, for people like myself, who like Integrals Or for that old-world charm: Antler or Bone? All posts welcome. V


I recently replaced a plastic handle on a big Mountan Man Bowie with a nice antler piece. I drilled out a perfect hole for the tang with my trusty Dremel. Then I used JB weld to make it stay on permanently. And oh yes there is a nice brass pin through it too. See attached pic. Enjoy. Triumphman.

Bowie I made!.JPG

Depends on the intended use of the knife.

the best for long term use i think would be a metal grip. however a plastic or composite grip may have a better hold.


8 years ago

i used this for a sword: a core of wood (i used a soft wood but it doesnt matter) and a hemp cord wrapped araund and glued to the core... it feels good and it never will be slippery

This may sound completely gay, but I love para cord wrapped handles.

This is one issue myself I have had to deal with many times. In the past my main materials used were wood, and antler. The wood was dark walnut, which has a beautiful look when sanded down to a smooth finish and then treated with a clear oil to make it shine. That was a sword handle that I did and it was for display only so no worries of slippage. I have also used antler as well and it worked nicely. Only thing is with antler in its whole form be sure to watch for crack while fitting your blade if you are doing a hidden tang. Super glue works wonders for stopping and securing the cracks and is almost invisible when sanded. I have also used a burn fitting method with antler but make sure you have a good air flow cause the smell is bad but the fit on the tang is stellar. I have only used hard woods for handles and that is a wide range to work with. Antler is costly in most cases but sometimes you can get lucky and find them at yard sales and the likes or even cheaply on the web. Just my little bit of experience. Hope this helps.


Reply 11 years ago

Most of a sword's function is to look pretty and threatening. Fighting (battle, not duel) is mostly done with pole-arms : ) If you want nice blades, look to the viking swords, with pattern-welded counter twists threw the center of the blade, or the indian wootz/watered blades with the dendrites dancing threw the steel. King Richards sword could cut a hanging pig in half (built to cleave heavy armor), Saladin's could cut a dropped silk cloth (built to slice quickly). Neither could do the other's task-which was the better cutting sword? Yah, we don't get a lot of sun here, either, but sunlight is not the only source of heat, as one of the executives at Levi's discovered at the campfire just before the crotch rivet was removed in their jeans : )

I'll show you..... Literally. It's on my to-do list.

Personally, i'm a fan of the japanese Tsuka, Wooden core with ray-skin wrap and metal ornaments, wrapped with cord, to make something that's not only functional (its main purpose) but also beautiful.

Other way around : ) Japanese design is beauty before function. For instance, you can tell if Japan was at war by the length of the tang on the katana-a short tang (and therefore handle) was a better accessory at court in peace-time but a longer tang had better striking leverage on the battlefield. Silk is slippery-wouldn't it make more sense to wrap your hilt in something that absorbs moisture (like wool) instead of something expensive and marginaly useful? Sorry, not a Nippon-phile : )

often, the two things went hand in hand: the guard, for example, was there to stop the user's hand from sliding up the blade (not to stop another blade) and its presence did that wonderfully. The blades themselves are stunning to look at; the grain from the welding process and the Hamon are eye-popping in good examples, but both are artifacts of the forging process. I'll admit, they are adorned with attractive fittings, when plain ones would do, but i believe Functionality was the key: A sword that's pretty but doesn't cut is worse than useless, but a sword that DOES cut, and cut and cut some more is doing its job. As for the first comment you posted on this forum, i don't get enough sun to worry about a black handle or a metal handle heating up too much.....

Go back one step-what do you want in a handle? In a knife, you don't want the handle to overbalance the blade (so metal might be out) but on a sword you might want a counterweight (but then again, a light blade is faster...). If you work outside with it, black (or metal) might get too hot in the sun for comfort and plastic (or bone or antler or leather) could be a problem to hold on to when wet. Cost is a factor, so is durability (most soft woods are out unless impregnated with some kind of hardener like epoxy or linseed oil). In many cases, beauty wins and everything else (like a full tang to support the scales, jigging and blade size) is adjusted to make the chosen material work.

Bone and antler definetly has the most charm, but can be pricy. An alternative would be leather. Dampened rawhide wrapped around the tang and secured with thread or leather lace would be very durable, while wet, can be ergonamically formed if desired. Rubbing warm beeswax into it will make it waterproof. You could also give it a wood handle, then wrap it with suede thong to give it a good grip, I'll post some pics of a sword I wrapped that way if desired.