The Ultimate Guide to Outdoor Knife Handle Materials

The Ultimate Guide to Outdoor Knife Handle Materials

The Ultimate Guide to Outdoor Knife Handle Materials

When venturing into the wilderness, a reliable outdoor knife is a must-have for any enthusiast. It's not just the blade that matters; the handle plays a crucial role in ensuring grip, comfort, and durability. The material of the knife handle affects its usability, maintenance, and aesthetic appeal. In this blog post, we'll explore various outdoor knife handle materials, including stag, different types of Micarta, ivorite, stabilized maple, walnut, Mexican desert ironwood, East Indian rosewood, thuya burl, and leather. We'll delve into their unique properties, uses, and the history behind each.


Stag handles are known for their rugged, natural beauty and excellent grip. The stag is sustainably harvested from antlers the deer naturally shed each year. They're ideal for traditional outdoor knives used in hunting and camping. The use of stag for knife handles dates back centuries, originating from a time when hunters would craft tools from the bones and antlers of their prey. This material embodies a connection to the wilderness and hunting heritage.

Green Micarta

Green Micarta, a composite made from layers of cloth infused with resin, offers a balance of durability and grip, even when wet. It's commonly used in tactical and survival knives. Micarta was developed in the early 20th century as an electrical insulator but quickly gained popularity in knife making for its strength and moisture resistance.

Maroon Micarta

Similar to its green counterpart, maroon Micarta provides the same functional benefits but with a distinctive color that adds aesthetic appeal to outdoor knives. The adoption of colored Micarta variations has allowed for more personalized and visually appealing knife designs without sacrificing performance.


Ivorite, a synthetic material resembling ivory, is used for its smooth feel and luxurious appearance, often found in collector's knives or ceremonial pieces. With the ban on ivory to protect endangered species, ivorite emerged as an ethical alternative, offering the same sophisticated look without the ecological impact.

Black Micarta

Black Micarta is favored for its sleek appearance combined with the proven durability and grip of Micarta materials, suitable for both outdoor and tactical applications. As knife makers sought materials that offered both function and style, black Micarta became popular for its ability to blend into tactical environments while maintaining performance.

Material Stabilized Maple

Stabilized maple is maple wood that has been infused with resin to enhance its durability, making it resistant to moisture and ideal for outdoor use. The technique of stabilizing wood for knife handles is relatively modern, allowing for the beauty of natural wood to be preserved and utilized in harsh conditions.

Dense Finely Grained Walnut

Walnut handles are prized for their natural beauty, strength, and comfort in hand. They're often used in high-quality outdoor knives for their balance of form and function. Walnut has been a favored material in toolmaking for centuries due to its availability, workability, and durability.

Mexican Desert Ironwood

This incredibly hard and dense wood offers exceptional durability and a distinctive, deep color, making it a premium choice for knife handles. Sourced from the deserts of the American Southwest and Mexico, desert ironwood has been used by indigenous peoples for tools and weapons for thousands of years.

East Indian Rosewood

Known for its strength and rich color, East Indian rosewood is a luxurious handle material that provides a smooth, comfortable grip. Rosewood has been valued in fine craftsmanship for centuries, including in the handles of knives, due to its durability and visual appeal.

Thuya Burl

Thuya burl, with its unique patterns and colors, is used for high-end knives, offering both beauty and a tactile grip. Sourced from Morocco, thuya burl is a rare and sought-after material, historically used in luxury goods and now in premium knives.


Leather handles provide a comfortable, non-slip grip and are often seen in traditional hunting and military knives. The use of leather for knife handles harks back to ancient times, valued for its grip, comfort, and ease of sourcing.


Each of these materials brings its own set of advantages and historical significance to the crafting of outdoor knives. Whether you prioritize durability, grip, aesthetics, or a connection to traditional practices, there is a handle material tailored to your needs and preferences. The evolution of these materials reflects both technological advancements and a deep respect for traditional craftsmanship, ensuring that whether you're a collector, a survivalist, or a casual outdoorsman, there's a knife handle that not only meets your practical needs but also resonates with your personal style and heritage.