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A Mini Guide To Knife Handle Shapes

The key to a good knife handle is that it is made from quality materials, feels good in your hand, and lets you use the knife for its specific purpose and more importantly, safely. In this guide, we’ll go over some best practices for achieving excellent results.


Knife handle designs

Crafting an effective knife handle design requires a lot of preplanning. What is the knife for and what will it be used for? There are also a number of additional factors to consider when considering the knife handle shape and design. Below is a mini guide to knife handle shapes.


Hand size

If you are using the knife for your own use then you should consider how large your hands are. If your fingers are long and slender, the handle diameter needs to be bigger to ensure a solid grip. Thicker palms and shorter fingers require a smaller diameter. Also consider other factors such as wearing gloves when using the knife as this will affect the size.


Handle dimensions

Most knife handles are between 0.75 inches and 1 inch at the shortest point. Of course, you can design the handle to be any dimension that you feel comfortable with, but if you are just starting out with knife making then it’s best to stick within these parameters.


Types of knife handle shapes

A poorly designed handle can cause your grip to be poor, can cause cramp or stress on your joints and also lead to accidents. Try to avoid square or pointed shapes as these will quickly become uncomfortable in the contours of your hand.

Oval handles offer the best shape as they work with the natural shape of your palm around the blade and help you to judge the position of the blade. You may also want to add a slight hump in the middle to ensure better contact with your palm, whilst also providing easier knife rotation.


Knife handle materials

There are a number of materials from which you can craft a knife handle. Much depends on what type of knife you are making and whether it is for practical or decorative use.



Wood is the traditional choice of material for the handle of a knife. Popular wood choices include rosewood, ebony, cocobolo, and oak. Some woods cost more than others but in general it’s a pretty affordable material, particularly in the amounts required for a knife. You might want to consider a treated wood should you wish to use your knife in a situation where it is likely to get wet.


Stainless steel

Stainless steel is obviously a highly durable material from which to make a handle. It’s difficulty lies in the fact that it is a smooth material and so ridges would need to be added for grip. It adds weight to the finished product but can look highly effective.


Stag antlers

A traditional form of knife handle using the discarded antlers of a stag. It looks very natural and is perfect for the outdoors. Antlers are not an easy material to work with however, so care should be taken if you wish to take this approach.



Micarta is a composite of paper, canvas, linen, fiberglass and other materials set in plastic. It comes in a wide range of colours, so can provide a really striking finish. It can, however, be expensive.


Carbon fiber

Carbon fiber creates a really effective finish, although it can be brittle. Sharp impact can cause carbon fiber to break apart, so it’s not really suitable for high impact applications.


How to shape a knife handle

Once you’ve decided on your knife handle shape, the next stage is to craft it. Here, we take you through a brief step-by-step guide in crafting your knife handle shape:


Step 1: Cut out the scales

Ensure that you apply some thick tape to the blade for safety and then place the section where the handle will be attached. Drill pin holes where you want the handle to be attached. Trace a shape onto your chosen material and then carefully cut out with a hacksaw to the rough shape.


Step 2: Cut and insert the pins

Once you are happy with the handle shapes (one for each side of your blade), measure up the pin holes with those on the blade and drill the same entry holes. Sand the ends of the pins you are going to use to attach the handle to the blade. After inserting them through the knife and the handle shapes, cut off any excess length protruding from the handle and sand down the edge to give a smooth finish.


Step 3: Sand the handle

Take the pins out, remove the knife, re-insert the pins into the handle and place into a clamp. Sand it roughly until the two handle sides are the same size and uniform. Then release them, lay them down on a large piece of sandpaper, and give the inside of each one a thorough sanding to make sure they’re flat and level.


Step 4: Glue the handle to the knife

Remove the pins and separate the two pieces of knife handle cleaning the blade to remove any impurities. Insert the pins into the blade ONLY and apply glue to the pins and the blade. Then apply the glue to the inside of each handle shape before attaching them to the pins, leaving around ⅛ inch of pin length sticking out at each end. Clamp the entire ensemble together and let it set overnight.


Step 5: Smooth the pins

Place the assembled knife on a solid surface and using a ball peen hammer, gently tap the ends of the pins, moving in a circular motion. Do this slowly and methodically until all the pins are flattened and look smooth.


Step 6: Shape the handle to the blade

Place the blade of your knife in a vise and sand the material where it meets the handle area. Carefully use a file to make the handle flush to the metal blade.


Step 7: Sand the handle

Use an equivalent to an 80-grit sandpaper to finish sanding the handle and the pins. Keep moving up the grit scale of sandpaper until you have achieved a smooth finish. Finally, polish and clean your finished product.


What else might you need for the perfect knife handle shape?

We have mentioned above some of the equipment that you are likely to need for a knife handle, but have you considered what else you might need? A blade requires hardness, particularly if you are utilizing a metal handle. Hardness comes through heat treating your blade.

At Soul Ceramics, we have a range of high quality heat treating ovens suited to small or large knife projects. This enables you to control the heat and programme you require and ensure that your finished project is as you had intended.

If you would like to know more about our range of heat treating ovens or you are looking to invest in a heat treating oven for your home-made knife making project, please do not hesitate to contact us and we’ll be happy to advise you on the most suited oven for your project.


Additional resources on knife making