A Guide to Common Knife Handle Materials

So much of the discussion and focus around custom collectors’ knives is centered around the blade of the knife. This is only natural, after all, what’s a knife without a blade? Like all things in life, we tend to place less emphasis on the foundations for those shiny things that catch our eye. Without a good foundation, the thing you want to show off has nothing to prop it up. A quality knife handle is like that, how good a knife looks is one thing—how good it feels in the hand is another. Let’s take a look at some of the most common knife handle materials and why they’re used!

Steel and Alloys

While there are many steels and alloys that are used that could be discussed in painstaking detail, the three most common knife handle you’ll see are listed below.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is a highly common material in many tools and knives are no exception. It’s notable for the high durability it possesses. Additionally, stainless steel is fantastic for resisting wear and tear through corrosion. Unfortunately, stainless steel is also quite heavy, and for that reason it is not used in many heavy-duty knives because the overall weight will be too much. There’s a big difference between a knife feeling sturdy and a knife feeling unwieldy due to the weight of it. This is also not considering how slippery stainless steel can get without etchings or additional grips.


You can’t talk about stainless steel without also addressing aluminum! You could say they are rivals in their respective uses. Stainless steel takes the edge on durability and cost, but aluminum offers great durability by weight. In other words, it’s a very lightweight material that makes for a phenomenal handle type. In terms of aesthetics, aluminum is often a quality choice when you consider it can be anodized with a wide array of colors. The result is something that still looks rugged and industrial but also stylish.


Titanium is like aluminum in that it’s a quality alloy with a strong strength to weight ratio. It also possesses some of the best corrosion resistance you’ll find. Unfortunately, this is a rather expensive alloy to machine.

Natural Materials

Ahh, natural materials are where the custom knife lover truly pays attention. While alloys can be crafted and decorated to achieve a very sleek industrial look when put together with a quality blade, many custom knives feature handles sporting natural materials due to the striking, classic look they confer upon the piece.


Wood is a unique material; it is both considered cheap and expensive at the same time. Think about furniture, you can have cheap furniture that has low-quality wood that lacks durability and grace, or you can have gorgeous antique furniture that is solid wood that has been polished and sanded to perfection. The same goes for collectors’ knives, wood can be an inexpensive handle material on entry-level knives used for day to day activities, or it can be a significant aspect of the aesthetic on higher-end collectors’ knives. You could write a whole book on the different types of wood that exist and the methods used to refine them into something beautiful.


Stag is a material that is made from deer antlers that have been shed naturally. This material is known for its beauty and durability as well as good hand feel. Stag has different varieties, and this material shows itself often collector’s knives, so much so that I’ve decided to write a post on stag alone—keep an eye out for that!


Leather is leather, what else is there to say? Much like the leather sheaths, this material is prized for its durability as well as being a timeless and classic aesthetic that hearkens back to the days of cowboys, gunslingers, and rugged outdoorsmen embarking on grand adventures. Unfortunately, that durability is one dimensional. Leather fairs quite well in ordinary environments, but should it come down to the elements, leather can become cracked from repeated exposure to water and heat.

Mother of Pearl

The last material we’ll discuss is mother of pearl. This is a material found within mollusks such as oysters. Mother of pearl is the antecedent of pearls—meaning it is the substance that eventually becomes a pearl. It’s a highly prized and expensive material that confers an exotic and premium status to a knife, especially if its Black Mother of Pearl, a highly rare variant that hails from Tahiti and the Cook Islands. This highly glossy material has a gorgeous iridescence to it, but it is also very slippery, making it more for show than for use.

Buy Rare Collectors Knives Online

Many of our knives in the Exquisite Knives shop sport one or more of these handle types. Take a look at the shop to see first-hand how many of these materials are utilized in high-end custom collector’s knives! If you have any questions about our knives or Dave’s collection, please do not hesitate to contact us here and we’d be happy to answer any questions you have about a custom knife handle or any other aspects of knives!

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