The Best Wood for Knife Handles | What made the CUT?

Often, when people discuss types of knives, they only talk about the blade and not the handle. The handle of the knife is also pretty important when you are considering which knife to buy. When you are considering the handle of a knife, there are all sorts of things to think about including variety, styles, design, shape, and color.

It can be said that the knife’s personality is actually born at the handle, which makes any wood a great choice for its versatility and durability. Whether you want a durable or stylish knife, wood is a great choice when you consider the material that is used in the construction of the handle. Here are a few tips to help you find the best wood for knife handles.

Why Should You Use Wood for a Knife Handle?

When considering a knife handle, you have a lot of choices as far as materials. You can choose from bones, stag, metal, and plastic as well as wood.

Of all the choices, wood is really a great mix of style, durability, and practicality. While metal handles are durable, they just do not look as good. And both bone and stag handles may look really nice, but they just aren’t very practical. Wood, in comparison to both, provides both a durable and practical handle, especially for kitchen knife handles.

Types of Wood

knife handle material

As we all know, there are many different types of wood out there. However, they all fall into just a few categories. Either wood will be a softwood or a hardwood, and when it comes to knife handles, you will find that they tend to be made of hardwood.

Hardwood is more durable and typically denser than softwood. As you shop, you will notice that softwood is really rarely ever used as a knife handle. There is also stabilized wood, which is a wood that has undergone a method where the wood is dried and then infused with chemicals to stabilize it. This process will reinforce the wood against any inherent weaknesses or defects. When you shop for a knife handle, you will very rarely see softwood, but mostly see either stabilized or hardwood as a handle type.

Why use wood for a knife handle?

Widely used and also the most traditional for a knife handle, wood is usually the component you see when it comes to a knife handle. This is due to the availability of wood as well as its durability, affordability, and beauty. Wood is a great natural choice for a knife handle since you can shape it, carve it, and create patterns in it. You can also stain it in a variety of colors.  Luckily for you we have a complete guide on how to carve into wood for beginners.

Depending on the type of wood, it can vary depending on its contraction and expansion. Certain woods like the Desert Ironwood are very stable and solid while other woods need to be stable to improve the sustainability of the knife, so it’s important to consider the type of wood used in the handle when you buy a knife.

Best Wood for Knife Handles

wood knife handle

So now let’s find out which wood makes the cut for the best knife handles, pun intended.

1. Birch

You can find birch trees pretty much anywhere, especially in Europe, Russia, and America. Commonly used for knife handles, birch is also used for other things like boats and furniture. Since it is so easy to obtain, you will see birch in a lot of places.

Birch is an environmentally friendly wood since it grows pretty quickly and doesn’t need processing. It also doesn’t need a lot of maintenance making it a great choice for hunting or kitchen knives. Plus, it if becomes discolored, you can easily restore it. Birchwood is a great choice as a knife handle since it can withstand constant use in water and frequent use.

2. Walnut

Walnut is a pretty common wood that is seen in guns, musical instruments, and furniture. As far as a knife handle, it gets mixed reviews. Some people hate it while others love it.

Gorgeous and elegant, walnut can be a little unstable, so it isn’t the best choice for a knife that is used frequently. But, if you want a unique knife handle, you may want to consider walnut, especially if you plan to use the knife sporadically.

3. Amboyna Burl

While it may be on the expensive side, amboyna burl is definitely worth the investment. Solid and stable, amboyna burl won’t’ easily oxidize and has an elegant but simple appearance. If you want something durable enough to carry with you, amboyna burl is a great choice for a custom knife, although you may not want to use it for everyday use.

4. Oak

Easy to carve and durable, oak is a stable and gorgeous wood that makes a great knife handle. And, since it is so inexpensive, it is a commonly used wood for knife handles. Oak makes a great choice for a handle that you want a design or inscription in. With its light color, you will probably notice its light brown color in kitchen knives.

5. Rosewood

Like oak, rosewood is a cheap alternative for a knife handle, but it has a much darker appearance. Easy to find, rosewood is a great choice for any type of knife including hunting, kitchen, and ornamental knives. Thanks to its durability, it can withstand the day to day use of a knife. Indian rosewood is particularly durable and dark in color, plus it is also so strong that even termites can‘t penetrate it.

6. Bloodwood Satine

With a gorgeous color, the bloodwood satine is a stable and durable wood making it a nice choice for a knife handle. This is a good alternative for those that do not want the typical rosewood or oak for their knife handle and are interested in a wood with a more vivid red color. Great for custom, hunting, or kitchen knife handles, bloodwood does need maintenance in order to keep the color looking as beautiful as when you bought it.

7. Bocote

Exotic-looking and durable, bocote is a stylish wood for a knife handle that also comes with a high price tag. While it is a rare wood to find in a knife handle, you usually only see it in ornamental or custom knives.

8. Cocobolo

One of the strongest woods available, cocobolo is a naturally resistant wood, especially to insects. It is also a great choice for both wet and dry conditions, which would allow the knife to last you years no matter how often you use it.

Thanks to its durability and wide range of color choices, including black, purple, red, and yellow, cocobolo wood is high in demand the world over making it an expensive choice. If you can afford a knife with a cocobolo handle, you can be assured that it will definitely be a long-lasting knife handle.

9. Ebony

Arguably the best-looking wood available, ebony wood creates a very elegant and highly desirable knife handle. It is also one of the more expensive wood types for a knife handle thanks to how good it makes the overall appearance of the knife look. Not only is it gorgeous and elegant, but it is also strong and durable making it the perfect choice for a custom knife.

Benefits of a Wood Knife Handle

Providing a warm feeling, knives with wood handles offer an unmatched aesthetic appeal. Made from renewable resources, wood handles give you a great grip, which is probably why so many knife collectors and professional chefs prefer them. With a good quality wood handle, you not only have an eye-catching and durable handle, but you can save money with a pretty affordable material when you consider all the heavy-duty knives out there.

Made of a wide range of wood, knife handle materials tend to be based on the tasks that the knife will be used for as well as the environment that they will be used in. if you will be using your knife in wet conditions frequently, do not buy knife handles made of soft or fine wood like black walnut. You should choose a stabilized or hardwood that is durable and waterproof.

Knife Handle Material Guide

best knife wood handle

Here are a few features to look for when considering the best wood for a knife handle.

Grip

Since wood is naturally textured, it allows the handle to have a smoother grip and that can be pretty convenient in the kitchen. Wood handles are often gently rounded, which can feel really nice in your hand as well as make them the best knife handle material choice.

Variety

With such a variety of wood available, even wood that is cut from the same block can have its unique characteristics. Wood gives you a nice variety of appearances, which can provide you with a lot of options for a knife handle.

Appearance

Along with a wide variety, wood is unmatched when it comes to its visual appeal, especially when you compare it to its counterparts making it perfect for creative and artistic designs. Some of these woods can be very exotic, especially when it is compared to other types of material.

Durability

While some wood varieties can’t be placed into wood handles, many stabilized and hardwoods will work well in wet conditions thanks to their robust strength and high durability. Make sure you take the right care of your wooden handles so you can expect a high level of durability. Keep in mind that they can withstand heat and won’t melt. You will only have to do a little sanding every so often to remove the marks and stains.

Environment-friendly

Since wood is natural and renewable, this biodegradable and non-toxic resource can help you support the environment’s cause making a great choice for a knife handle.

Let’s Cut to the Chase

When it comes to the best knife handle material, hardwoods and stabilized woods are the best choices.   Whether you are new to the art of wood engraving or if it’s your first woodworking project, making a knife handle is a fun and exciting first project.  When it comes to choosing wood it depends on what you need as far as price range, density, durability, and color, wood can be an incredibly versatile choice for a knife handle. Just make sure you make the correct choice when it comes to these four factors as well as what you consider is the best choice for your needs.