If you’re a bladesmith, or even just starting out, you know how important the handle is for finishing off your piece. A good handle will not only look gorgeous but provide extra support to the tang, a firm grip, and balance to the blade.
But there are so many different wood species to choose from, and sometimes the options can be overwhelming. It would be a tragedy to ruin your beautifully crafted knife with a low-quality handle.
So, what is the best wood for a knife handle? The best wood for a knife handle is hardwood that is strong yet easy to work with, beautiful, and durable. A few great options include oak, walnut, birch, rosewood, amboyna burl, and bocote.
We’ll explain why these types of wood make stunning and functional handles below, so read on!
Why Wood Handles?
Perhaps you are reading this and wondering why wood is even used for handles. What’s so special about it? Well, to answer that question, we’ll begin with a brief history of knives.
The history behind knives dates back over 4000 years ago, with the earliest knives made in flint. Over time, knives have undergone thousands of evolutions, from shape and design to the material used. Almost every culture has its own traditional versions.
Different knives have been designed for diverse purposes; there are those made specifically for fighting, crafting, or hunting, among other uses. Additionally, there are knives specifically meant for decor, which aren’t sharpened.
Now, unlike the past when these flint knives didn’t have handles and were simply gripped around the blunt end, today this rear part has proven much more useful for balance and efficiency.
Knives today can be made with a variety of materials in various colors and textures as well. There’s resin, plastic, fiberglass, horn, and of course, metal, to name a few.
While we can make the handle using any of these materials, wood handles are comparable to none for the following reasons.
- It is all-natural and eco-friendly. This is a significant factor as the world goes green.
- It is a ubiquitous, readily available material. Since you do not need much for a handle, even leftover wood blocks work.
- It is classic, beautiful, and attractive. There’s a certain appeal that is unmatched.
- It is easy to shape and carve into a design you want.
- It lasts for decades if well finished.
Wood is naturally beautiful, appealing visually to the user as well as providing them comfort while handling their knives. Wood is renewable when sustainably sourced, and as a product is abundant and easier to access than other materials.
The Best Wood for Making Knife Handles
There are several factors to consider before purchasing a wooden knife or making one. For example, if you’re making a knife for fishing purposes or will be washing your knife a lot, you’ll need warp-resistant wood that is resilient against water damage.
The best thing about wooden-handled knives is that they are inexpensive, making it possible to have a range of collections on your knife wall. The following rank as the best wood species for knife handles.
Without a doubt, oak is a readily available and suitable choice for knife handles. Being a type of hardwood, oak is durable and can survive high heat levels. It is also warp-resistant.
Considering its grainy appearance, this species of wood creates a distinctive and appealing look when finally sanded and dyed, stained, or lacquered. Chances are that knives with beautifully crafted artworks on the handle are made of oak, since this type of wood is tough yet just soft enough to inscribe.
Most oak handles come in lighter shades, usually a golden brown. Because of its light coloring, it can easily be dyed, stained, or otherwise tinted. So if you’re looking for rich, deep color at a fraction of the cost of woods with a naturally rich hue like cherrywood, staining is the way to go!
Walnut is a popular type of wood, as it is used in the manufacture of several items, including guns, furniture, and musical instruments, among other items. The fact that manufacturers prefer this species to others for various products means it is effective and supplements the quality of manufactured items.
However, walnut has experienced varied responses and feedback where some users have attested to loving every bit of it and others hating it. With a deep brown color, walnut is elegant and a great option if you’re looking for a naturally darker wood.
Walnut is less durable than oak, and you cannot count on it for frequent use. Anyone looking for uniqueness will be impressed with walnut-handled knives, but the downside is they are meant for sporadical use. Here is a bookmatched black walnut knife scale you might like.
3. Birch Laminates
One incredible thing about birch is that it is located everywhere across the world. You can find knives made of birch in almost all countries you visit, considering the availability of birch trees globally.
This type of wood provides versatility and can be used to create a variety of durable items. The best thing about birch and most wood is that it is biodegradable, meaning it is no cause for concern in terms of environmental pollution.
Birch trees take a shorter time compared to other trees to grow. Additionally, birch is a suitable material for production, as it only needs little processing to be ready for the market, cutting the production cost for manufacturers.
For users, birch laminate knives are the easiest to maintain, and in the event they become discolored, it is possible to restore them. This makes it perfect for frequent use.
Many would fail to differentiate oak from rosewood handle knives since they have undistinguishable grains. However, the best way to identify rosewood is through its darker shades.
While it is available globally and every country manufactures rosewood knives in different forms, the most preferred and loved by users are Indian rosewood knives. This type of knife is durable and resistant to cracks and warping. Apart from the kitchen, rosewood can make fantastic hunting and ornamental knives.
You can find Indian rosewood knife handle scales on Amazon.
5. Amboyna Burl
If you’re looking for luxury and don’t want to skimp on your masterpiece of a blade, this wood won’t disappoint.
While all the other knives are inexpensive, knives with amboyna burl handles will cost you a fortune. However, it is worth it since they exclusively match the high price.
Some years ago, it was difficult to find these knives in the stores, but as time passed, the demand increased, prompting an increased supply. It’s worth noting that even with the increased availability, manufactures of amboyna burl knives have maintained the initial quality.
You may be hearing the word bocote for the first time. This is an exotic wood that makes durable handles for different types of knives. The distinguishable feature of bocote is its unique black stripes. Bocote handled knives are stylish, but buyers will need to part ways with a lot of cash to have it on their block.
Owing to its expensive nature, it is rare to find knives made of Bocote in homes. However, exotic knife enthusiasts will be ecstatic to have this type of knife as an ornament. You can check out this exotic bocote knife handle scale.
Other than the above-stated wood species, there are several other kinds of wood good for manufacturing knife handles, including cocobolo, padauk, cherry, ebony, wenge, and bloodwood Satine, among others. If you are a knife lover, you may want to explore all the possibilities to decide which one is best for you.
The bottom line is that knives are crucial components in our daily lives, and therefore it is natural to want to have the best materials in your arsenal.