When we decide to buy a kitchen knife, it is nearly always the blade that receives increased attention and scrupulous consideration of all its details, including the manufacturer, quality and hardness of steel, geometry and purpose. Very often we forget that the knife is not only a blade, but also a high-quality, reliable and convenient handle that fits well in the palm of your hand and is pleasant to the touch. After all, it is exactly the handle that is responsible for ergonomics and security, the reliability of grip and the degree of fatigue of your hand when manipulating the knife for quite a while.
Generally, the technology for manufacturing handles and, most importantly, the selection of suitable material for them is not that simple as it may seem. The kitchen knife comes into contact with food, which means that its handle should be both environmentally safe and hygienic. While cooking, we often rinse the knife, which means that its handle should adequately withstand moisture, differential temperature and exposure to detergents. Of course, under no circumstances should the handle fail before the blade does.
In order to knowingly choose and buy the kitchen knife being fully aware of all the nuances, let us elaborate on the handle, what it is, what materials it is made of and which of them are preferable.
How to choose and buy the kitchen knife with a sound handle?
Before you buy the kitchen knife, take a close look at its handle.
The handle is a part of the knife that is integral with the blade. It is typically made of a different material, although there are also all-metal knives. It is designed to support the entire structure of the knife and ensure its easy manipulation. As a rule, it is located in line with the blade, at least for household kitchen tools, although among otherknife varieties there are specimens with inclined or even perpendicular (stop) handles.
The handle consists of:
1. Tang, which we grasp;
2. Spine - an upper part of the handle;
3. Belly - a part of the handle opposite to the spine;
4. Butt - an outermost part of the handle at its end.
The handle is often equipped with guards that perform the protective function and act as the knife's boss near the blade. They prevent your hand from slipping onto the blade during manipulation. In some cases, a bolster can act as a guard, although it is a separate part (not a part of the handle) that covers the joints between the metal part of the knife and the grip.
The belly is often equipped with finger grooves to improve ergonomics, with the tang featuring convex portions and surface irregularities in the form of dots or ribs. This also increases the grip firmness and prevents the knife from sliding in the palm of your hand.
With a hidden tang, the butt can additionally be equipped with a cap to conceal the nut or rivet at the end of the tang. With a full tang, the handle will reveal rivets.
As regards the handle shape, manufacturers occasionally resort to weird geometries, nevertheless, it is a regular straight shape without expansions and narrowings that is considered the most convenient. It can have an oval, round, rounded rectangular section, or it can even be D-shaped. Conical handles tapering to the blade are also common and have good ergonomics.
Therefore, the handle is not that simple as it may seem. However, being aware of its structure, you can easily pick up the kitchen knife with the most convenient and suitable shape for yourself.
What material is appropriate for the kitchen knife?
Please note that before you buy the kitchen knife, you need first to decide on the material from which the handle is made. There is a great variety of them, will all materials conditionally divided into several groups based on their origin.
In general, this group includes various steels, metals, and their alloys. It is certainly not the most popular material for the handle as it is simply not always advisable due to high price and complexity of metal processing, although such knives are sometimes come across. At various times, bronze, brass, aluminum, nickel, copper, tin, titanium, and cupronickel were used for this purpose.
This group also includes various minerals such as nephrite and obsidian. Knives with such handles can be found even now, but they can hardly be referred to as practical, rather souvenir ones as the material is too expensive, difficult to process and perishable.
Natural Organic Materials of Plant or Animal Origin
This is a comprehensive group of materials, which are now very common for handles. Basically, organic materials of plant origin include different types of wood (from common to rare and fine), bark (for example, birch bark), or burl (burled wood producing handles with an interesting texture).
In turn, organic materials of animal origin include skin of domestic and wild animals, their bones, teeth and tusks, horns and shells. A variety of animals can serve as a source of material - from ordinary pigs or cows to elephants, walruses or turtles/tortoises.
All these materials are certainly environmentally safe and beautificent following processing. However, their value or difficulty of producing trophies sometimes accounts for the sky-high price for the knives with such handles. In addition, these materials do compromise the usability, with them being not that hygienic and moisture resistant, often flammable and prone to rotting, cracking, and fracturing. If you buy a kitchen knife from such material, it will hardly serve you good time.
Except perhaps only for wood, which is impregnated with various compounds to improve its performance characteristics.
This group is not less comprehensive than the previous one. The up-to-date industry has developed a huge number of synthetic materials suitable for the manufacture of handles, and it is simply impossible to list them all. Plastics and synthetic resin, ABS and G-10, fiberglass and rubber, plexiglas and nylon, lavsan and kevlar, TPR and just a myriad of other materials.
Unlike other material types, these materials certainly take the lead since they have excellent performance characteristics and are absolutely safe for humans. They are hygienic, incombustible, moisture resistant and chemically neutral, withstand high temperatures and have no adverse affect on the products. They have low conductivity and ensure a reliable grip and pleasant tactile sensations. They are the most common materials for all knife types manufactured today.
The combination of different materials in a single handle is not that common and is typically found in piecework production by craftsmen. These products are very beautiful and unique, unleashing the author's limitless imagination for combining different material types. It can, e.g., be a combination of leather, plexiglas, wood, and plastic, or any other combination.
The strength and usability of such handles will depend largely on the materials being combined. However, it is hardly sensible and economically sound to set up the production of such goods on a commercial scale.
This group can also comprise materials that include both synthetic and natural organic components such as micarta and pakka. Micarta includes textile and cardboard or paper (wood) layers, as well as polymer film and resin binders. Pakka is a wood combined with phenolic resin. Both pakka and micarta feature all the strengths of plastics and are not inferior to wood, bone or any other natural organic material in terms of aesthetics and environmental friendliness.
It is up to you to decide what handle material to choose when buying the kitchen knife; the point is that the handle should be strong, reliable, and durable.