When you’re just first learning about knives, the phrase ‘Micarta handle’ might come up quite a lot. You’ll have no idea what this means if you’re anything like us!
Even after you use a Micarta knife or hold one in your hands, you might not be able to tell the difference between it and a regular knife.
Don’t worry – we had the exact same reaction! Even more so when we tried it against a G-10 scale, only to find that they were basically the same thing…
Well, we weren’t strictly wrong, as both Micarta and G-10 are phenolic laminates, meaning that they are kind of the same thing. Thanks for reading!
However, there are still plenty of people who believe that there are significant differences between these two knife handles.
So, here we are to impart our knowledge of what we learned when comparing the two so that you can learn what it is that your knife handle is made of.
An Introduction To Micarta Handles
Micarta is a material encased within a thermoset resin. It could be linen, fiber cloth, or even paper. The handles are made by soaking the material in resin and cooking it to the desired hardness.
However, a lot of people misuse the term Micarta – as this is actually the name of a business that coined the first handle to be made this way.
Norplex Micarta creates many of the materials that are used on many of the resin knife handles on the market today.
The popularity of the company is why they have unofficially become the name of an umbrella term for resin knife handles.
They might not be the only company making knife handles with a thermoset resin, but they’re the only name most of us know associated with them.
However, Micarta knife handles are made with a specific resin composite, making them different from G-10 handles.
Micarta handles are typically made from canvas, linen, or even paper. However, the type of material could even stretch to denim or wood.
Some use different materials to create layers, resulting in a stronger handle with a more aesthetic design.
How Is Micarta Made?
Once the resin has dried, you’ll be left with a hunk of Micarta that can then be ground down into knife scales.
Depending on the manufacturer and whether it’s an industrial or small business, this method can be altered to be simplified or more intricate.
The more industrial your knife handle business, the more simplified this method is going to get.
You can alter the design of your knife handle by changing the mold shape or color of the resin.
What’s more, you can get all of the tools needed from the hardware store, so it is simple to make your very own Micarta knife handle.
What About G-10 Knife Handles?
The Grade 10 Garolite uses a number of composite materials that are heated, blended, and pressed together to create a material stronger and more resistant than standard fiberglass.
This knife is made by the brand Garolite, much like Micarta knives.
Is It Possible To Make Your Own G-10 Knife Handles?
In their most basic form, G-10 knife handles are the same thing as Micarta handles – just using fiberglass instead of linen or similar materials.
Fiberglass comes with its own set of hazards when manufacturing or dealing with the material, so many people choose not to make their own G-10 handles.
Fiberglass can irritate the skin, eyes, and even the respiratory system if inhaled.
Some people, who do not wear the correct equipment when handling fiberglass, find themselves with a rash where the fibers have embedded within their skin.
Sounds pretty gnarly, right?
However, making a G-10 knife handle is also cheaper than making a Micarta handle due to the cheaper materials.
Fiberglass is cheaper to buy in bulk as opposed to linen, so if you were going to make multiple knife handles, fiberglass would be the most cost-effective.
G-10 handles are even easier to customize than Micarta handles. Companies manufacturing G-10 handles typically make them in at least three colors, and you can do this too by using different colored resin.
Fiberglass is clear within the handle, so this will not disrupt the colors, leaving you with a cooler handle.
G-10 handles are also lighter than Micarta handles due to the fiberglass weighing next to nothing. This means that you’re only feeling the weight of the resin as you hold your knife.
Micarta Knife Handles vs G-10 Knife Handles
The answer to this will depend on your personal preference and what you need most from a knife handle. Let’s compare the Micarta and G-10 handles in the most important aspects.
If you’re looking for toughness, then the Micarta handle comes out on top.
Linen soaked in resin is going to be stronger than fiberglass soaked in resin any day of the week.
Linen absorbs some of the resin, becoming one with the resin and set as hard as the resin does. Since fiberglass cannot absorb resin, it only works alongside the resin to make the handle tougher.
We’re not suggesting that your G-10 knife handle is going to snap the first time you use it, but it might not be as tough as the Micarta alternative.
If you’re looking for resilience and durability, we suggest the Micarta handle all the way.
Comfort And Durability
The Micarta knife comes with a better grip on it and often feels more comfortable on the wrist. This might have something to do with the design and mold used, but it also works with the encapsulated material.
Using a knife handle that is stronger will be more resistant to wear and tear, which can alter your grip on the handle and leave your wrist susceptible to damage.
With that being said, however, G-10 handles come with lower moisture absorption, which can also change the shape of the handle over time and weaken its structure.
As linen can soak moisture up wherever the resin is missed, it makes Micarta handles slightly more susceptible to water damage.
Cost Of Buying and Making
G-10 handles are also cheaper to buy and manufacture than Micarta handles as the materials are less expensive to buy in bulk.
This means that you can save money and, if you were planning on selling the ones you make, earn a better profit.
With this being said, you will need to purchase additional safety equipment when making your own G-10 handle (more on this later).
This could increase the cost of the handle, actually making the Micarta handle cheaper to make.
Final Color Results
G-10 handles are also better at taking color due to fiberglass being clear. If you’re using white linen or other cloth material for your Micarta handle, you might not notice a difference in color when the resin dries.
However, if you were to use denim or wood for your Micarta handle, these dark-colored materials are going to be easier to see through the colored resin.
They will distort the resin to be darker than you intended, potentially leaving you with an unattractive knife handle.
While the G-10 handles do come with a few benefits, we think that it is still important to consider the safety of yourself and others around you.
If you are planning on making your own knife handle, we strongly recommend only trying the Micarta method.
Fiberglass is dangerous to use and its fibers can spread all over your home if you’re not careful.
This means that, while you have used all of the correct protective gear to make the handle, you could still get dangerous side effects from the leftover fibers.
G-10 handles should only be made in safety-controlled areas where the manufacturers are properly protected.
All of this safety equipment will cost you money, potentially leaving you with a knife handle that costs more than a Micarta alternative.
There are small differences between the phenolic laminates, as we have shown above.
However, when it comes down to the knife handles, these differences don’t tend to be noticeable enough for us to see – unless we’re paying attention.
If you’re a newcomer just looking for the best handle for your knife, both Micarta and G-10 handles are good options.
However, if you’re a seasoned user looking for long-awaited answers, we hope that this article has helped.
We think that the Micarta handles have a slight edge by being tougher, more resilient, and easier to make. G-10 handles are cheaper, but fiberglass can be less durable than linen, wood, or denim.