Knife Handle – The Part That Completes an EDC Knife

By Kenneth Miller
Updated on
Holding EDC knife by the handle
Image credit: Nor Gal

A knife is never complete without a proper handle. A good handle should offer the best user experience, and to ensure it does, many things need to fall into place.

First comes the material selection, then the shape of the handle, the desired grip, the locking mechanism (where applicable), which enables you to lock the blade in either the closed or opened position and finally the extra features that the knives should incorporate.

Below is a deeper insight into the EDC knife handles. 

Base & Scale Materials

Handles are typically made from multiple parts. Aside from the accessories-related parts (locks, guards, etc.), there are two key components to an average EDC knife handle – the base and the scale.

The Base

The base material is the construction main part of the handle and is most commonly made of stainless steel metal. Less often, other types of metals may serve as a base material. These include aluminum (in lightweight knives), titanium, and brass. Some other types of metal may also be used but the mentioned ones are what the majority of EDC knives use.

The Scale

The scale is a part of the handle that not all knives are equipped with. Unlike bases, which are limited to metals, there is quite a wide range of materials suitable for EDC knife scales. Everything from plastic, wood, stone, concrete, bone, fiberglass, to steel, serves well as a handle.

Despite such a wide array of options, there are some materials more often used than others. These include Zytel, G10, FRN, Micarta, metal (mainly titanium and stainless steel), and carbon fiber.

The above materials typically come attached to liners that serve as a buffer between the outer portions of the base and the scale. Liners are typically made out of stainless steel or titanium. In quality knives, scales are screwed onto the liners; they can be disassembled for proper cleaning and maintenance.

  • Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon (FRN): FRN is very rugged and sturdy, which makes it highly functional and tough. FRN is also readily available, so it is also not too pricey. Its major downside is its looks. Users able to see past the aesthetics of their EDC knife should definitely consider FRN as one of the solid options.
  • Zytel: Zytel is a special kind of thermoplastic – plastics that have been heated up, liquefied, and molded. Zytel handles are highly durable and inexpensive.
  • Micarta: Micarta is layered very similarly to FRN. To form it, layers of linen are set into a resin and compressed. It is very durable and solid.
  • G10: G10 highly resembles Micarta. The key difference here is that it is composed of layers of fiberglass compressed in an epoxy. It is also highly durable and solid.
  • Carbon fiber: Carbon fiber’s key advantage is its light weight and hardness. Carbon fiber handles are composed of alternating layers of carbon fiber threads in reinforced layers of plastic to form a very rugged compound. Carbon fiber handles tend to add very good visual appeal, which has proven to attract users.
  • Metal: In the case of metal handles, stainless steel and titanium are the most common options. They usually add to the price of the knife. Metal handles are very durable and also look very good. The main downside of metal handles lies in the grip, a lack of it, to be exact.

Handle Shape

The first factor that sets the narrative for the knife handle’s shape is whether the knife is a folding knife or a fixed blade knife.

With fixed blade knives, the handle has only one purpose – it must fit a user’s palm. On the other hand, a folding knife’s handle also needs to be able to store the blade. This greatly dictates the shape of the handle.

Cross-Section Shape

The two basic shapes used for knife handles are round and oval. The latter is way more common as it provides the ability to apply twisting force by indexing the edge. The oval shape also enables better pocket or belt fitting of the knife.

In reality, despite being referred to as ‘oval,’ the majority of folding knives come with a flat-shaped handle. From the ergonomic point of view, that is not great for long-term cutting tasks, (in this aspect, fixed blade knives are more preferred.) but it makes pocket and belt fitting better. 

Handle Grip

One of the most important aspects of a proper handle is its grip. Both the material used and the cross-section already contribute to that. However, the ergonomics elements play an even more important role.

  • Handle Swell: Handle swell plays an extremely important role in a comfortable handhold and thus in an improved grip. It keeps the palm in a fixed place on the handle.
  • Squeeze: There are many countered and formed handles on the market these days. They are a rather tricky business – if they fit the user’s grip, they are an extremely valuable asset. In reality, users have very different hand sizes and shapes, which makes it rather challenging to get a perfect fit with finger grooves. A single finger groove (for the index finger) option tends to be a better alternative.
  • Texture: Quality texture can noticeably improve the grip, especially, for users that plan to use their knives with gloves in wet conditions. However, note that the shape is more important than the texture when it comes to grip. Furthermore, rough textures tend to tear your pockets.

Additional Features Of The Handle

An EDC knife handle can be very plain or it can pack several additional features. Some of these features are highly useful, while others are simply for aesthetic purposes.

Here are some of the most important and most often present elements:

  • Locking mechanism
  • Pivot
  • Guard
  • Standoff
  • Lanyard hole
  • Lanyard
  • Pocket clip
  • Window breaker

To get familiarized with the components from the list above, we strongly recommend users to go through our article about knife components and lingo related to EDC knives.