Knife Handle Materials for Chefs

By BR Hughes

Let’s face it.  A knife handle can be made out of virtually anything, including kitchen linoleum!  There are, however a number of other materials that are more suitable, and the would-be purchaser of today’s handmade beauties is often asked for his preference at the time of placing the order.

Very quickly it must be emphasized that there is no ideal handle material.  Indeed, in my modest collection of custom cutlery can be included most of the more commonly encountered hardwoods, the various micartas, ivory, stag, oosic, etc., and there is generally something to be said for each.  Conversely, not one is perfect.

If you start asking around, you will soon discover that the majority of today’s blade smiths do not like synthetic handle materials.  Thus, if micarta is your number one choice, you may have to shop around for a maker if you opt for a forged blade.  There are also cutlers who will not make handles from mother of pearl, because of the hazards presented by the dust when grinding and polishing.  The recent action on elephant ivory may soon remove one of the more desirable materials from the option list, although some makers are already switching to Wooly Mammoth ivory as a substitute.

It is difficult to find a great deal of fault with hardwoods such as cocobolo, rosewood, ebony, etc.  Handles made from such woods feel extraordinarily good in my hand and hardwoods are relatively low in cost and are also easy for the maker to shape.  Whenever the subject of Bowie knives comes up in my presence, I generally interject the knowledge that John Johnson, better known as “Liver-eatin'” Johnson, carried an English-made Bowie with a rosewood handle for your Finest Knife.

Stag is a gorgeous material you can use for the handle of your blade.  It is becoming more and more costly.  Stag has its charm from the rough texture of it’s surface.  This can also make it hard to use.  For using knives the stag must be carefully chosen.

It is tough to cast brickbats at micarta.  The stuff is almost unbreakable, and it is relatively inexpensive.  For a tough, heavy duty knife, I don’t know of anything better.  Of the various micartas, I have found that paper micarta is probably the weakest, although it is still exceptionally rugged, and to my eyes very attractive.  Linen and denim micarta are both tough, and either of these would be a wise choice for a combat-survival knife.  One of the more appealing aspects of micarta is that it can be had in many colors, tan, black, red, green, etc.  It will shrink, not as much as wood or ivory but it will shrink.

This brings me to the “exotics”.  Some are quite good.  Caribou antler is very good indeed.  I don’t like the look of moose horn but it should also be good.  Oosic is not pretty but is novel and therefore popular.  Many stones; jade, agate, petrified wood, turquoise and others make good looking handles.  Most are too heavy and of course too slick for a working knife.  Bone is not as popular on handmade knives as it is on folders, why, nobody knows other than they cut beans very well.

A closing tip: Spend at least as much time and thought on the handle material to be used on your next custom knife as you do on the blade material.  The handle generally receives too little attention until it is too late.


Things you should know about a coffee bean grinder

A coffee bean grinder is a good purchase if you happen to be a stout lover of the beverage who enjoys the flavor and aroma of freshly ground coffee beans over store-brought product. Many people can tell the difference between fresh coffee and older one when they are brewed. Coffee is generally shipped in the form of beans, because as soon as it is ground, it starts to oxidize and change flavor, a process known by experts as ‘staling’. The sooner you can brew it into a mug of beverage, the better results you get. Because of this, people prefer purchasing an expensive blitzing machine such as a coffee grinder for a fresh, on-the-go cup.

It is helpful to know some things about this machine trending mostly in the US where a large public reports coffee as their favorite morning and midday drink. There can be two ways to grind coffee at home, either the electric machine method or the old-fashioned hand-cranked style. Electric coffee machine takes much less time and is ideal for those mornings you are running late or situations where you need to serve a hoard of guests. Provided with plenty of time, many people prefer the hand-cranked method because they enjoy the slow release of strong, addictive coffee smell as the beans slowly give in the crushing motion. It is recommended you brew the beans at the earliest opportunity to.

Electric bean grinder comes in two forms, with a blade or with a burr. A blade grinder is less expensive and less fancy than a burr version. This will ensure that the Pure Bean is chopped properly to a small powder.  It involves two fan-shaped blades rotating to crush the beans. It yields you uneven and inconsistent granules unless you blitz for longer which would then form finer morsels. A burr grinder works to produce fine, even pellets in a relatively shorter time period. A burr is basically a round steel ring, which can then have variants like flat burr, conical burr etc. A flat burr has sharp jagged cuts on the top, while a conical one is hollow at the center and sharp around the edges, both to aid grinding in a slightly different method than the other.

Ranging from as reasonable as $70 to as expensive as $400, you can choose from the array of machines available in the market, focusing primarily on what will yield you the necessary result whilst being within your budget.

You can go creative with different blends like the French vanilla or the Columbian blend. A little bit of patience will always pay off when you decide to make a home-brewed cup of coffee and enjoy it over a good magazine in the morning or a gathering of family or friends in the evening.