Handle Material (Wood Description)


As you begin to browse through this section, be aware that the material you select for the handle is responsible for much of the aura or style of the knife. Curiously, the handle is the first and third place a person’s eyes take in upon viewing a knife like this for the first time. Their eyes are immediately drawn to the beauty and any unusual aspect of the handle material. Then, they look at the blade, turn it over, touch it…but their gaze always returns to the handle.

Yes, one can possess function and beauty in a single knife. However, it is that delicate combination of the material selected and the knife maker’s craftsmanship that separates a knife that works from a work of art.

Browsing below, you will see many choice woods in “straight-grain”.  However, a specific piece of wood is considered “figured” when there are designs noticeably present in its grain. There are three terms commonly used to describe these figures. These occur in various types, but are somewhat rare exceptions to the ordinary wood. For example, while the wood from a walnut tree is indeed expensive, it’s price pales in comparison to a single piece of walnut burl.

To help in your decision making process, the “figured” types are explained below.  As you move on to the photographs of the wood available for your one of a kind knife’s Handle Material, you will have a unique understanding of the wood itself.




Spalting is any form of wood coloration caused by fungi. Most often found in dying trees, spalting also occurs in healthy, thriving trees that might have at one time experienced stress of some sort. However it happens, the unique coloration and patterns of spalted wood are highly prized and sought after by woodworkers all over the world.

Described most often by zone lines—spalting usually presents as dark dotting or winding lines…thin streaks of red, brown, black, or white. Zone lines do not occur due to any specific type of fungus, but are instead visible interaction zones in which different fungi have erected barriers to protect their “territory”. Zone lines do not damage the wood, however, if not harvested in time, the fungi responsible for creating zone lines often continue their work until the tree exhibits full decay.

One more interesting note about spalting… harvesting a tree “in time” to take advantage of the high price commanded by spalted wood is always an accident. The spalted wood grain cannot be seen or predicted from outside the tree.



Often seen as a rounded outgrowth on a tree trunk or large limb, a burl results from a tree undergone some form of stress. This may be may be injury, virus or fungus. Almost all burled  wood is covered by bark and in certain species of trees, burls can grow to great size.

Burls yield a very peculiar and highly figured wood That outward growth on a tree hides a treasure inside—wood grain that has been redirected into sweeps and swirls. Burled wood can be extremely hard to “work” because its grain is twisted and interlocked, but this wild patterning also causes the wood to be dense, resistant to splitting, and of course, beautiful to polish.

Prized for its beauty and rarity, it is much sought after by furniture makers, artists, and sculptors. Burls are so highly valued, they are most often sliced into thin veneers for inlay in fine automobiles or musical instruments. In addition, some of the most expensive shotguns in the world—with prices well into six figures—cost so much because of the burled walnut stock. It has been said that man makes steel and he can do it in a day, but only God can decide to design a single burl in a specific tree—and when He does, years go into the effort.



Curly figure in wood is an amazing look and it is not completely clear what causes the phenomenon. Seen typically as a wavy pattern in the wood, the “curl” moves from light to dark to light again, giving the wood a three dimensional appearance.

Curling occurs in many different types of trees, most commonly Maple. Many consider Koa wood from Hawaii among the most beautiful (and rare) of all curled varieties. Curly wood has traditionally been used for instruments, specifically the backs and sides of violins.

The price of curly wood varies greatly, depending upon the tightness of the curl and the intensity or depth of the pattern.

Below, I have listed and described specific types of wood appropriate for the knife you are imagining.

These are selections that—while accessed from different locations around the world—are usually available in a reasonable amount of time.

Have fun comparing the choices!

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