Archaeologists discovered that knife handles date back all the way to 600 BC. In that period, knife handles were often made of carved bones. Other materials were also used such as deer antler, tortoiseshell, staghorn, and mother-of-pearl.
Much later, wood became the foremost material used for knife handles. Wood became the most popular because it was easy to carve by artisans and was readily available. However, the downside to wood was that it was difficult to maintain and was not a long-lasting option.
Soon, metals took the number one spot due to improved durability and steel became the ideal material for knife handles. With advances in technology and engineering, materials became even more diverse. Nowadays, knife handle materials are available in a wide and varied range of materials.
In recent history, composite knife handles have grown to be quite a popular option. Composite materials are generally becoming employed more and more across industries.
In fact, the global composites market size was projected to grow from USD 113.6 billion in 2022 to USD 168.6 billion by 2027. Composites have outstanding qualities that make them perfect for a variety of applications including knife handles. This material is quickly becoming the new best thing and you don’t want to ignore the chance to find out why.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through all you need to know about composite knife handles, why they are so popular, and how they can benefit you.
Composite materials, or composites, are materials made from two or more different materials that come together to produce a new material with characteristics that differ greatly from their previous individual forms.
The two main types of materials that make up composites include the matrix (the material that binds) and reinforcement materials. How does this relate to knife handles? Well, composite knife handles are also made up of two different materials – fabric and epoxy.
The fabric is usually a cloth-like material that gives strength whereas the epoxy is the material that holds everything together and adds rigidity. Moreover, additional materials used to make composite knife handles include:
- Carbon Fiber
The manufacturing process of composite handles depends on the type of raw materials used. Below, is a brief breakdown of how each type of composite knife handle is made.
Carbon fiber is a strong, durable polymer. It is made from organic polymers by combining carbon fibers with another material like plastic resin.
G-10 is a high-pressure fiberglass composite laminate made by stacking layers of glass cloth, soaking them in epoxy resin, and then compressing them under high heat.
Micarta is the brand name of a composite made from linen, canvas, paper, fiberglass, carbon fiber, or fabrics soaked in phenolic resin and baked under high pressure.
What stands out about composite knife handles is that not only are they functional and durable but there’s a creative element to them.
Unlike other materials, composites often have an artistic depth because they can be crafted to suit an individual’s tastes. So, they are both a useful tool and an expression of one’s artistry.
Composite materials are especially favorable because of how environmentally friendly and sustainable they are. Composites can be recycled and reused, unlike traditional materials.
Because of their strength and durability, composite materials are ensured to have a longer service life. This reduces the need for frequent replacement contributing to resource conservation and waste reduction. Composites, also, have a lower environmental impact because their production takes less energy and emits fewer emissions.
Finally, composite knife handles don’t contain any harmful elements. You can rest assured that they don’t discharge dangerous chemicals into the atmosphere.
There are new innovations in the composite industry every year, but there are really 3 main options when it comes to composites for knife handles.
G-10 is a high-pressure fiberglass laminate material. The fabric in G-10 is small glass fibers, with a clear epoxy resin. G-10 offers strength and durability. This material will stand firm against moisture and acids. It, also, comes in a wide variety of colors. As a low-cost option, you’ll really get your bang for your buck.
Carbon fiber has a carbon cloth for its fabric and when bound with the epoxy polymer becomes a carbon fiber-reinforced plastic. Carbon fiber is one of the strongest materials in the world. These kinds of handles make for an excellent option, especially for knives that will be heavily used.
Micarta uses a variety of fabrics including linen, canvas, paper, and other clothes. This is another solid option for a knife handle. Micarta is extremely durable and lightweight.
You can get this kind of composite handle for a very cost-effective price. It’s also available in a range of colors, providing you flexibility in personalizing the look of the knife.
AmeraGrip, while not one of the popular composite options mentioned earlier in this guide, is a great example of a recent innovation in the composites industry.
This composite is crafted by combining a proprietary G10 material with advanced Nitrile rubber. This combination creates a high-performance grip material with unrivaled traction and durability. It is suitable for various applications including professional tasks and DIY projects.
AmeraGrip stands out from other knife handles with its enhanced grip, resistance, and comfort. This material also provides superior resistance to oils, greases, and other substances encountered in various industries. Its cushioned support reduces strain and fatigue, allowing for extended use in whatever task you’re working on.
Just as every choice in every decision has its pros and cons, the same applies to knife handle materials. When it comes to making your choice, it is essential for you to take these factors into consideration considering how you plan on using the knife.
To start on a good note, here are some of the benefits of using composites for your knife handle:
Composite knife handles offer superior strength with enhanced impact resistance and resistance to wear. Unlike metals, composite materials will never rust.
Their high dimensional stability allows them to maintain their shape no matter the conditions. A composite knife handle is designed to last with minimum maintenance.
Composite knife handles are incredibly lightweight. This means less hand fatigue meaning you’ll be able to comfortably carry out various tasks for longer periods of time.
Their lightweight feel also guarantees enhanced maneuverability as well. Composite knife handles are made to be efficient and user-friendly.
Composite knife handles allow for innovative designs, providing ergonomic shapes and textures for improved grip. Composites can achieve designs that traditional materials cannot. The surface texture can be altered to mimic any finish, from smooth to textured.
Composite handles are widely moisture-resistant, minimizing the risk of warping, cracking, or bacterial growth. These handles can resist damage from weather and harsh chemicals that can severely degrade other materials.
This trait makes composite knife handles good choices for applications that face constant exposure to severe conditions.
Composite handles can be customized to the liking of the user. This material is incredibly easy to mold and shape to the user’s preference. You can quite literally get the perfect knife handle for you.
While composites have become a favorite amongst knife owners worldwide, there are a couple of drawbacks when it comes to your composite handle:
With all the benefits composite handles have to offer, it’s no surprise that these knife handles tend to have a higher price point than other handle materials. Still, while these handles are pricier, some composite types are more cost-effective than others.
Even though composite handles are known for their durability, they can still become damaged. But unfortunately, there are some issues with their repair.
For example, some materials need refrigerated transport and store. In other cases, special equipment is required for hot curing. Composite knife handles tend to need specific and extensive repairs if damaged. Ultimately a replacement can be more cost effective and time efficient than a repair.
Depending on the specific composite material used, some handles may be susceptible to scratching or showing signs of wear over time. Certain composites can be brittle and prone to chipping.
Caring for Composite Knife Handles
Considering composite knife handles are the pricier option and considering how difficult or impossible it could be to repair a composite handle, it is essential to take proper care of your knife.
One of the biggest advantages of composite knife handles is how easy it is to maintain. When it comes to cleaning, a simple combination of soap and water goes a long way.
This basic method is widely recommended for a simple cleaning. If for some reason, soap and water doesn’t do the trick, then some recommend spraying your composite handle with WD-40 and letting it soak for a couple of hours.
On top of this, it is always good practice to sharpen your blade whenever you are doing other maintenance on the knife.
The storage of composite materials really depends on the properties of the component materials. But generally, when it comes to knives, you should keep them in a block, in an in-drawer holder, or on a magnetic holder on the wall.
As we touched on before, repairing a damaged composite knife handle can be extremely challenging. The characteristics of the repaired composite are generally never a perfect replica of the original.
The three typical trade-offs to consider when implementing a composite repair are strength, stiffness, and weight. The resulting repair is often heavier and stiffer. Still, the key factors for completing a successful repair include surface preparation, adhesive choice, repair materials, and processing conditions.
Depending on the severity of the damage done to your composite knife handle, a replacement may be the better choice.
At this point, you may as well be an expert on composite knife handles! You now know why composite knife handles have taken off in popularity. Composite handles are in themselves a diverse set of materials as there are all types to choose from.
Yet, no matter the material you are guaranteed a long-lasting and durable handle. Not only are these handles designed to withstand all kinds of conditions, but they are crafted with the user’s comfort in mind. Composite knife handles are the perfect balance between tradition and innovation.
We encourage you to keep all this in mind as you consider your next knife purchase. You don’t want to miss out on what could be the best handle for you!