Hard wood is one of the most popular materials for knife handles. Hard woods like Cocobolo, Rosewood, Ebony and Bubinga are used very most often. Other more exotic woods that are used are Guayacan, Pakkawood, Rose/Root. Wood handles are more attractive than most of the other handle materials, but are more difficult to care for. 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. They do not resist water well, and will crack or warp with prolonged exposure to water. Modern stabilized and laminated woods have largely overcome these problems. Many beautiful and exotic hardwoods used when manufacturing custom knives. Whatever you do, do not let a wood handle knife soak in water. This will cause warping and delimitation of the handle. In some areas it is illegal for butchers’ knives to have wood handles, because wood is open pore and could hold bacteria.
Micarta is a reliable, durable handle material used on everyday work knives because of the composite laminated stability wet grinder. Micarta is not affected by water, and has a very good grip when wet. One most popular base materials used is a fiberglass impregnated resin called G-10. Other types of Micarta, a composite synthetic material made of linen or paper with epoxy resin is commonly used in 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. There are many different polymer materials 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 is a polymer that can be molded using injection molding.
More exotic materials usually only seen on art or ceremonial knives include: Cattle bone, mammoth tooth, mammoth ivory, walrus tusk, antler (often called stag in a knife context), sheep horn, buffalo horn. All of these materials have been used in knife handles. Stag 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.
Leather handles have been around a long time. A select few knife makers use this method of producing quality knives as seen on some hunting and survival knives. Leather handles are normally produced by stacking leather washers on a steel shank (tang) as a sleeve surrounding tang of the knife. The fabrication of the leather handle consists of soaking leather washers in a solution than stacking them one on top of the other on a sleeve then compressing them together with a clamp and let to dry. This process preshrinks the leather so it will not shrink after the knife handle is completed. Once dry the clamp is removed then contact surfaces of the wet formed dry washers then need to have contact cement applied to contact surfaces. The contact cement takes just a few minutes to dry, they are then epoxied and stacked on the knife tang exactly how they were compressed the first time, clamped and let to dry. After drying the knife handle is then formed on a belt grinder. Great care is advised here. The grinder belt will eat leather like nothing else you have ever ground. A light touch is advised! The use of square leather washers is for a grinding index. It creates an index to keep the roundness of the handle in proper prospect. Finish the leather as desired, and apply a good sealer.
Rubber or textured handles are also available, as these are soft on the hands and provide a pretty good grip during wet conditions. Rubber handles like Respirine or Kraton, are used more often over plastic due because they are more durable. The material is softer almost tacky feeling in nature. These materials will not get slick to hold onto when you are field dressing your game.Rubberized handles, due to their composition are the best grip for a hunting knife. They may not be the most appealing in appearance but are the least expensive and will hold up to vigorous day to day use.
An important decision that you should considered while buying a hunting knife is the grip offered by it. The handle should offer very strong grip because you will face such situations where blood will affect your grip on the handle. Pay attention to the contour of the hand grip while selecting a handle, it should be comfortable to hold. You should also look for the right kind of balance and weight between the blade and handle when selecting the perfect hunting knife.