Know the keys to the best handle design to enhance your knife’s performance and safe use. Following are seven:
1) According to ABS journeyman smith Dan Farr, the size of your hand is a key to arriving at the best handle for you. Longer hands require a larger handle diameter and thicker hands a smaller diameter. Wearing gloves works best with a longer and thinner handle. Remember that an eighth-inch difference in handle diameter means approximately a 3/8-inch difference in circumference.
2) As for handle material, most synthetics tend to be stable, durable and often require no protective finish. Wood is strong for its weight, finishes well and adds beauty. Stag is somewhat limited in shape and size, but has good texture and adds traditional looks.
3) Contoured and formed grips are great if they fit your hand, but the more form fit the handle, the fewer people it fits. Finger grooves are an example. They are nice if they fit your fingers, horrible if they do not. Handles with a single finger groove for the index finger will generally be versatile enough to fit many hand sizes.
4) Round handles have no natural indexing for the blade edge (natural indexing refers to the ability to know where the edge is by how the handle feels in your hand rather than having to look at the edge to know where it is). Oval handles are much more useful. They index the edge to the handle and add the ability to use twisting force.
5) Curving the butt of the handle down—also known as the dropped handle—will improve purchase.
6) A palm swell allows a relaxed, comfortable handhold. It keeps your hand in the same place on the handle, provides a natural pivot point and helps with retention.
7) Guards are important safety features. A guard should blend with the contours of the grip and be strong, though in proportion to the rest of the knife.
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