Whenever people talk about knives, they often talk about the blade itself. Not many people think about the other important thing a knife is made of: the handle. And that’s a mistake! when it comes to handles, that’s where the style and variety are. Different colors, shapes, and designs – they all exist down at the handle.
You could say the personality of the knife is born at the handle, and all practical uses happen at the blade. If you want a stylish, durable knife, you need to choose the right material for its handle.
Why Use Wood For Knife Handles?
There are a lot of materials you can choose to make a knife handle: plastic, metal, stag, and even bones! But there’s one thing nobody can deny: wood has the perfect combination of durability, style, and practicality.
Metal handles are durable but don’t look as good. Both stag and bone handles look great, but they aren’t as practical. Wood, in contrast to it all, can do it all.
Hardwood vs Softwood? What about stabilized wood?
There are a lot of types of woods, but only two or three categories. Most wood you will find will either fall under hardwood or softwood – and most knife handles will be made of hardwood.
Without going into specifics, hardwood is usually denser, more durable, and – as the name says – harder. Softwood, on the other hand, is hardly ever used for knife handles.
Stabilized wood is a different kind of wood altogether. Wood that goes through a process where it is dried and infused with chemicals is what we know of as stabilized. This process is often done to reinforce wood against defects or inherent weaknesses.
Most woods in the list are either hardwood or stabilized wood – as softwood is often not good enough to be used in a knife handle.
Best Types of Wood For a Knife Handle
Birch trees are virtually anywhere: they can be found in America and across Europe, all the way into Russia. This type of wood is commonly used for knives handles and plenty of other things, like furniture and boats.
There’s a reason why birch is used for so many things, besides its availability. Birch trees are environmentally friendly, as they grow rather quickly and need no processing; it needs little maintenance, which makes it perfect for kitchen and hunting knives; and if it gets discolored it can be easily restored.
All in all, birch wood is great for knives that will get beat up from frequent use and constant contact with water – and they look great as well.
You are probably familiar with walnut. It’s used in furniture, guns, musical instruments, and plenty of other things. When it comes to knives, walnut is a bit of a controversial topic – some people love it and others hate it.
The thing about walnut is that it is elegant and gorgeous but a bit unstable at the same time – not the best combination for a knife you are going to use frequently.
If you are looking for a one of a kind, unique knife handle, walnut should be your preferred choice – but only if you are going to use your knife sporadically. If you want a reliable knife to hunt or cook, you should keep looking.
If you are looking for an expensive knife handle that will give you your money’s worth, you might want to take a look at amboyna.
It is one of the most expensive types of wood when it comes to knife handle material – but it isn’t as exclusive as the price would make you think. It can easily be found anywhere nowadays, but that doesn’t mean it is stripped of its quality.
Amboyna is both stable and solid. It doesn’t oxidize easily. And it looks simple yet elegant on knife handles. This is the go-to option when it comes to knives you can carry around all day with you – but not necessarily use every day. Because of its value, it’s better for custom knives but not something you would use for a kitchen knife.
Gorgeous, stable, durable, and easy to carve. Oak is everything you are looking for in a knife handle. It’s rather cheap as well – at least when it comes to wood. That’s what makes it so commonly used.
If you ever grabbed a beautiful knife with some sort of inscription or design on its wooden handle, you probably touched oak wood.
Oak is usually found on the lighter side of the color palette. Knives with an oak handle will sport a light brown color. A color you are probably familiar with, as oak is often used for kitchen knives – probably the best option to do so.
Similar to oak, but much darker, rosewood is also a cheap alternative for your knife handle needs. Needless to say, it is easily found all over the world – and it is also different all over the world.
If you are looking for good rosewood, you need to look for Indian rosewood. It is dark, it is durable, and it is so resistant not even termites can take a crack at it.
Rosewood is great for all things knives. Kitchen knives, hunting knives, and ornamental knives as well. Because of its durability, it’s best to choose it for knives used in day-to-day activities.
Beautiful color, durable, stable, and gorgeous feel. All these four things define bloodwood – especially when it’s used for a knife handle. It is usually not used for knife handles, because of other, more preferred types of wood like rosewood or oak.
Regardless, it’s a great choice for knives enthusiasts everywhere – especially for those who do not care for the common colors of both oak and rosewood, but instead look for a more vivid red-looking knife handle.
Bloodwood is great for kitchen knives, hunting knives, and custom knives. Its only downside is it needs a little bit of maintenance to keep its beautiful color.
Bocote is an exotic-looking wood. It will make any knife handle stand from the rest. It has a yellow-ish color mixed with black stripes that cross throughout it. It is as durable as it is stylish – but all of these things come with a price, a rather expensive price.
This kind of exotic wood will be found on the expensive side of things – which makes it rather rare to be found on a knife handle. Because of its exotic traits and rarity, it’s perfect for custom or ornamental knives.
Cocobolo is probably the most durable wood of all – or at least one of the most durable of them all. It is naturally resistant to most things, including insects. It is also good for both dry and wet conditions – a knife handle made of cocobolo wood is a knife made to last for a long time, no matter how much you use it.
Due to its durability and a long range of colors (from yellow, red, and purple to black and everything in between), cocobolo is in high demand all over the world. And because of that, it’s always deemed as an expensive alternative.
If you can afford to use cocobolo for your knife handle, you know it’s bound to last – which makes it a great choice for all knives.
One of the best-looking woods on this list, and anywhere else. Its dark complexion makes it incredibly elegant – and also incredibly wanted. It is one of the most expensive types of wood because of how good it looks alone.
Ebony isn’t only elegant and gorgeous, it is also durable and strong – perfect for a custom knife. The only negative trait ebony has is its price.
What Type of Wood Do You Need, Then?
There is no one-wood-fits-all when it comes to knife handles. You need to think about what kind of knife you want and what kind of wood will fit its purpose.
You might love how ebony looks on knives, but you shouldn’t choose that if you want a pair of kitchen knives – instead, you’d be better off considering oak or rosewood.
If you want something elegant yet exotic looking, cocobolo wood is the right choice for you. If you want a knife handle that will survive for long enough and do not care much about how it looks, birch wood is the right call to make.
You need to find the right price to durability ratio for you. Once you are done with that, you can also bring color and style to the table, and make a decision.
The only sure thing when it comes to wood and knife handles is to choose hardwood. After that, it’s up to you and what you need. There are a lot of factors involved: color, durability, density, and price range.
Making the right choice is a combination of all four factors. But, sometimes, you will have to choose one over the other, like choosing durability over price when it comes to kitchen knives, or density over color for hunting knives. Regardless, at the end of the day, it is your knife – it’s your choice!
Take your time, though, your knife is supposed to last for a long time – make sure you get your money’s worth when you make that investment!