A simple guide to kitchen knife handle material. What’s the best knife handle material for you?
The Kitchen Knife
A chef knife is composed of the blade region and handle region, separated by the bolster. A steel might be chosen for a blade because of its ability to hold a sharp edge, durability, and resistance to stain, rust and chipping. Typically though, this same steel is not used as the material for the handle – a second material is chosen. The steel from the blade does run through the inside of the handle to help balance the knife. The outside of the handle region, however, is built from a separate knife handle material.
Desirables in a Kitchen Knife Handle Material
There are certain factors to consider when choosing a knife handle material
- Durability/Resistance to Wear (scratching, dent, rust, chipping, discoloration, warping, etc)
- Resistance to extreme temperatures
Knife handle materials are chosen with the purpose of optimizing these factors.
Most Common Types of Kitchen Knife Handle Material
1.) Steel Kitchen Knife Handles
If steel is chosen as the knife handle material, the whole knife can be constructed from one piece of steel. The same steel will make up the blade and the handle. Stainless steel is durable, easy to maintain and resistant to rust and chipping. However, a stainless steel knife handle can still scratch or dent if not taken care of properly. A steel knife handle has a sleek and efficient look that is preferable for some.
One potential issue with using stainless steel as your kitchen knife handle material is comfort and grip. Stainless steel is hard and smooth and can become slippery when wet. A common solution is to give the stainless steel a textured pattern to provide extra traction for grip. However, the hard metal may be a comfort issue for some. Another solution is to use knife handle designs that integrate stainless steel with another material that will provide better comfort and grip.
2.) Wood Kitchen Knife Handles
Wood knife handles can be placed in two categories: pure wood or wood composites. A big advantage of wood is aesthetics: wood handles look nice. There is a large variety of woods, composites, and finishes to tailor a unique attractive wood handle for a knife. Wood also can provide good grip and comfort. Wood handles can also be very durable, though durability will depend on the specific wood handle. Pure wood knife handles are made from a variety of woods including oak, walnut, rosewood, magnolia, mahogany, and cherry, and cocobolo.
Wood composite handles are built from a mixture of wood and other materials such as plastic. This keeps the aesthetic appearance of wood, but with the additional benefits of the added material – such as durability, grip, or comfort. Pakkawood is a popular wood composite used by Shun.
A wood knife handle can also be stabilized by injecting resin. This increases the durability of the handle without changing the appearance.
3.) Plastic Kitchen Knife Handles
Plastic is a very popular choice as a kitchen knife handle material. It can be relatively cheap, and it can be molded into any shape or size. Plastic can produce a knife handle with both good grip and comfort. They are durable and are designed to be resistant to extreme temperatures. Plastic knife handles can be easy to maintain and come in different colors. Generally they are dishwasher safe.
Two common plastics used as kitchen knife handle materials are polypropylene (PP) and polyoxymethylene (POM). PP handles are cheaper and are strong and lightweight. Their durability and affordability make them a popular choice for professional use knife handles. POM is pricier and more aesthetically pleasing. The knife handles for the Wusthof classic collection are made from POM. POM handles are hard, durable, and more resistant to discoloration
4.) Thermoplastic Elastomer Kitchen Knife Handles
Thermoplastic Elastomers (TPE) are a great kitchen knife handle material. The material is usually a mix between plastic and rubber. The resulting knife handle material has both a good grip and comfort. The handle is not slippery even when wet. TPE is also very durable and a good choice for professional use chef knife handles. TPE is lightweight, strong, temperature resistant, and easy to maintain.
Santoprene is a specific TPE that is used by Wusthof in their Wusthof Legende Series. Dexter and Mercer culinary are two other knife manufacturers that employ this knife handle material. It is both durable and comfortable. Another popular TPE is used by Victorinox for their Fibrox chef knife. This knife is one of the most popular chef knives due its durability and affordable price. The knife handle material is non-slip, and allows you to maintain a good grip even when wet.
5.) G10 Kitchen Knife Handle
G10 is an excellent choice of knife handle material. It is a composite material composed of resin based fibergrass laminate. Fiberglass cloth is coated in resin, and the layers of cloth are compressed under heat. The resulting material is incredibly strong but still lightweight. It is both water and temperature resistant. G10 has a textured surface that provides a good grip. This knife handle is extremely durable and can still be used for attractive kitchen knife handle designs.
6.) Micarta Kitchen Knife Handle
Micarta, like G10, is another resin based laminate composite material. Instead of fiber glass, layers of linen or cloth are coated in resin and then compressed under heat. Like G10, the resulting knife handle material is very strong yet still lightweight. Micarta is very hard and durable and resistant to most scratches and bumps. It does tend to be on the expensive side. Also, the surface is relatively smooth which is not optimal for a good grip. A texture pattern can be added on the surface of the knife handle to increase traction, but this will further increase the price of the handle.