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Survey: Preference for Materials of Kitchen Knife Handles.

Chemicalkinetics Jan 29, 2013 05:00 PM

Do you prefer plastic handles?

Wood handles?

Metal handles?

Other handles:

A) Plastic
B) Wood
C) Metal
D) Others

This is about what you prefer to have for most of your knives, not what you currently have. Thanks for your input.

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  1. c
    Chowrin Jan 29, 2013 05:36 PM


    1 Reply
    1. re: Chowrin
      TheCarrieWatson Jan 30, 2013 01:40 PM

      Ditto for me. My Least favorite was a Global that I had briefly and sold on Ebay. I know a lot of folks love those knives but for the it wasn't a good fit.

    2. m
      mpad Jan 29, 2013 05:40 PM

      I quite like the Fibrox handles on the Forschner/Victorinox knives. Halfway between plastic and rubber it doesn't slip in your hand, even when covered in grease.

      For Japanese knives I quite like the wood handles. They also have enough texture and absorbency not to slip. Personally, I like the feel of the octagonal handles best.

      Speaking of Japanese wood handles, I was wondering whether people oil or wax them or just leave them as is.

      5 Replies
      1. re: mpad
        Chemicalkinetics Jan 29, 2013 05:55 PM

        < I was wondering whether people oil or wax them or just leave them as is.>

        Depends. Some of my wood handle knives including Japanese knives are already sealed, so oiling them is pointless. For natural wood or close to natural wood handles, I apply tung oil -- which is a drying oil. The degree of oil I use depends on my need. I can put multiple application of oil to completely seal them, so I can partially seal them.

        1. re: Chemicalkinetics
          mpad Jan 29, 2013 06:40 PM

          Does the tung oil change the feel or texture of the wood?

          1. re: mpad
            Chemicalkinetics Jan 29, 2013 06:48 PM

            <Does the tung oil change the feel or texture of the wood?>

            It does. The first couple applications do not, but the more applications you apply, the closer it comes to feel less tough.

            Have you ever use a sealed wood handle or pakkawood handle? A fully tung oil handle feels slightly closer to these.

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics
              mpad Jan 29, 2013 06:59 PM

              Thanks. Maybe I'll give it a try on one of my knives and see if I like it.

              1. re: mpad
                Chemicalkinetics Jan 29, 2013 07:02 PM

                Yeah. It is not a one-time application deal. So you can apply one layer at a time and see if you like it, and stop when you think you get to the texture you like.

                I personally use natural tung oil, but you can use the tung oil with varnish.

      2. j
        JavaBean Jan 29, 2013 06:05 PM

        Not a fan of metal and haven't considered the "others". I like plastic on boning knives bc they feel more grippy with greasy hands and are easier to clean. Otherwise I prefer wood.

        2 Replies
        1. re: JavaBean
          Chemicalkinetics Jan 29, 2013 06:33 PM

          Yeah, I have a Dexter-Russell Traditional boning knife (which means wood handle). After using it a few times, I wish I got the plastic one.

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics
            JavaBean Jan 30, 2013 06:34 AM

            In retrospect, my handle requirements vary depending upon the knife & how I grip it.  On select knives like boning knives and heavy cleavers, i hold them as i would a hammer, so their handles need to feel secure and comfortable.  

            For other knives, i use a pinch grip and am more concerned about the finger choil and spine where the blade meets the handle.  Since, i'm not holding the knife by the handle, their handles don't need to do anything, but look decent. 

        2. g
          GH1618 Jan 29, 2013 06:14 PM

          I like the rosewood handles on my Russells, but the handle I like best is morado wood on my Lamson Sharp vintage fillet knife, for the shape as well as the material.

          1. petek Jan 29, 2013 06:34 PM

            Ho wood(magnolia wood).pakkawood,Rosewood,so wood I guess... :)

            I oil my wood(handles) pretty regularly,no different from oiling a wooden cutting board.

            2 Replies
            1. re: petek
              mpad Jan 29, 2013 06:39 PM

              Are you just using regular mineral oil?

              1. re: mpad
                petek Jan 29, 2013 07:05 PM

                Are you just using regular mineral oil?
                I use Clapham's Beeswax salad bowl finish which is a combination of beeswax and mineral oil but regular mineral oil would be just fine.

            2. Chemicalkinetics Jan 29, 2013 06:45 PM

              Here is my own answer.

              Wood handle (pretty much any kind of wood is fine with me). Overall, I prefer wood handles due to the feel and aesthetic. Plastic is fine, especially for messy knives like a boning knife. Metal handles can be cold to touch during winter. I do appreciate that many metal handles are very easy to clean.

              1. b
                BruceMcK Jan 29, 2013 07:00 PM

                I like wood handles on most knives, for similar reasons to Chem. They are natural and have a nice look and solid feel, and are durable unless used really hard.

                Metal is too cold and hard and can be slippery. Plastic is OK, but just does not have the solid natural look and feel of wood.

                Overall I prefer a western shaped handle with a moderately ergonomic shape, like Hattori FH. (Nothing radically ergonomic like Shun Ken Onion or crazy like Furi or wild like Jay Fisher knives.)

                And I prefer western over Japanese style handles. Why? Because Yo! is so much cooler than Waaaaa!

                1 Reply
                1. re: BruceMcK
                  Chemicalkinetics Jan 29, 2013 07:03 PM

                  <Yo! is so much cooler than Waaaaa!>

                  Ha ha ha. You are the man.

                2. l
                  laraffinee Jan 29, 2013 07:08 PM

                  B - Wood.

                  I prefer wood. I grew up cooking with wooden handled knives, and they are most comfortable in my hand.

                  1. e
                    Eager6 Jan 29, 2013 07:40 PM

                    Stabilized wood. Wood, but plastic too. No maintenance required. Best of both worlds. Seems to be the baseline these days.

                    Plastic is too....cheap.

                    1. m
                      mikie Jan 29, 2013 09:18 PM

                      Stag horn. It's the handle on my grandfather's F. Dick sharpening steel, but it's also used for knife handles. Now I only need enough money to buy a Berti knife.

                      21 Replies
                      1. re: mikie
                        Chemicalkinetics Jan 30, 2013 06:39 AM

                        That's the example photo I had for "D: Others"

                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                          mikie Jan 31, 2013 09:05 AM

                          Well, the Stag Horn response is purely aesthetic. I like it on the sharpening steel, but I've never had or used a knife with the stag horn handle, and given the price of the Berti knives that I so admire, it's unlikely that's ever going to happen.

                          So, back in the real world, I've had Chicago Cutlery with the walnut handles and now have Wusthof Classic with the plastic handles. I prefer the Wusthofs, but this is an apples to oranges comparison as the overall quality of the Wusthof is far superior to the overall quality of the Chicago Cutlery. Thus making the less aestheticly pleasing plastic handles feel superior to the more aestheticly pleasing, but more poorly finished wooden handles. With that said, if I were to go out and purchase a new knife I would in all likelyhood get one with a wood handle that was well finished.

                          As a bit of an aside, it's my understanding that commercial applications require a plastic or metal handle and a wood handle is not allowed, perhaps this is why so many manufacturers have plastic handles on their knives. The preception that plastic is more sanitary than wood and that makes them more attractive to the average home cook.

                          1. re: mikie
                            Chemicalkinetics Jan 31, 2013 10:49 AM

                            <it's my understanding that commercial applications require a plastic or metal handle and a wood handle is not allowed, >

                            I think that may or may not be correct. I have certainly heard of this, but I have also seen many exceptions. For example, in Chinese barbecue shop (not restaurants), I have seen wood handle knives all the time. Maybe it is because these are cooked foods. Yet, I am very sure I see yanagiba (aka sushi knives) with wood handles all the time. Now, we are really talking about uncooked foods.

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                              petek Jan 31, 2013 11:05 AM

                              I guess it depends on local health codes.I use my wood handled knives all the time in a pro kitchen and never encountered any problems with the health inspector.

                              1. re: petek
                                Chemicalkinetics Jan 31, 2013 11:12 AM


                                I was just going to ask you this, because I know you and many professional cooks use wood handle knives. What about cutting boards? Are you allowed to use wood cutting board in your pro kitchens? I have seen them every now and then in professional kitchens, so I guess they are ok.

                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                  petek Jan 31, 2013 11:17 AM

                                  No wooden cutting boards at work,only poly boards.Wooden boards wouldn't last very long in a pro kitchen,unless they were at least 2-3" thick,even then....

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                    TraderJoe Feb 1, 2013 03:38 AM

                                    I've dealt with some seriously annal and terribly misguided health inspectors over the years but I've never, ever had one look at my knife handles.
                                    Cutting boards are a conundrum. Some places you can use wood as long as it's NSF rated like Boos or Michigan Maple Block. Other areas are a total no go on wood.
                                    I've seen Maple butcher blocks and even long 1" maple sandwhich boards in commercial operations that were very old. Maple will last a long time if cared for.

                                    1. re: TraderJoe
                                      TraderJoe Feb 1, 2013 04:05 AM

                                      I couldn't edit and add photos but think of the wood cutting/sandwhich boards at places like Katz's.

                                      1. re: TraderJoe
                                        Chemicalkinetics Feb 1, 2013 09:11 AM

                                        Thanks TraderJoe

                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                          TraderJoe Feb 1, 2013 11:50 AM

                                          Sure thing Chem. The thing about wood in the kitchen is that it varies a lot by region. I think a lot of the younger guys in the business have not seen as much wood, if at all because it's a lot less common now.

                                          1. re: TraderJoe
                                            knifesavers Feb 1, 2013 12:25 PM


                                            Aren't the health inspectors mainly worried about the knife having an NSF sticker regardless of handle? A company rep said while it isn't always enforced technically they could hit for that.

                                            Personally I'd be more concerned about the amount of munge on the handle and in the various ridges of some common formally white handled knives. I've cleaned some funky blades.


                                            1. re: knifesavers
                                              TraderJoe Feb 1, 2013 01:52 PM

                                              I've seen some inspectors go crazy for NSF but that's usually when your opening a new place and you gear up for your first inspection. After that the only thing to worry about with NSF is usually things that will draw their attention like cutting boards. You probably could catch a violation for no NSF rating on your knife but I've never seen it happen.
                                              The biggest thing to worry about with knives is having a sanitation bucket with test strips available.

                                            2. re: TraderJoe
                                              petek Feb 1, 2013 01:52 PM

                                              "I think a lot of the younger guys in the business have not seen as much wood"

                                              That's what she said... :D

                                          2. re: TraderJoe
                                            mikie Feb 1, 2013 07:10 PM

                                            I guess I thought the issue was with raw meat. Back in the old days, when Chicago Cuttelry got its start, meat processing houses in Chicago was their biggest customer and those knives had wooden handles as did the Dexters my grandfather used in his butcher shop. But now it seems these knives are all plastic handeled, at least the ones intended for industrial use. Perhaps chefs have more options than butchers.

                                    2. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                      Eiron Jan 31, 2013 11:30 AM

                                      I think convenience also plays into this. At the few restaurants I've worked in (serving, not cooking), they want EVERYTHING to go thru the dishwasher (for 'sanitizing'). Anything that might require the extra attention of careful hand-washing was out of the question. So... wood handles wouldn't last very long with that kind of treatment.

                                      I don't see a sushi chef throwing his yangiba into a dishwasher...

                                      1. re: Eiron
                                        Chemicalkinetics Jan 31, 2013 12:17 PM

                                        <I don't see a sushi chef throwing his yangiba into a dishwasher>

                                        Ha ha, that would be funny.

                                        1. re: Eiron
                                          petek Jan 31, 2013 01:00 PM

                                          Eiron is correct.
                                          My chef cuts me a lot of slack when it comes to me and my knives(hand wash only,by me, constantly wiping them down)
                                          Some chefs might not be so forgiving of my obsessive rituals... :D

                                          1. re: petek
                                            Chemicalkinetics Jan 31, 2013 01:45 PM

                                            <My chef cuts me a lot of slack>

                                            I thought that you are the Chef. You work as the head chef/owner for a catering company, right?

                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                              petek Jan 31, 2013 01:49 PM

                                              Nope, I'm just a cook..... :)

                                              1. re: petek
                                                Chemicalkinetics Jan 31, 2013 01:55 PM

                                                Didn't you cook for the Royal members of the England? Was it the husband of the Queen or something like that. :)

                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                  petek Jan 31, 2013 02:52 PM

                                                  Good memory there Chem!

                                                  Prince Andrew and Prince Edward..

                                2. tcamp Jan 30, 2013 07:00 AM

                                  I've grown to prefer B.

                                  Most of my knives, Henckels, are A. My least favorite is C. I know, you didn't ask for this additional information.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: tcamp
                                    Chemicalkinetics Jan 30, 2013 07:03 AM

                                    <I know, you didn't ask for this additional information.>

                                    No, no. You provided exact the information I need. Thanks.

                                  2. k
                                    Kontxesi Jan 30, 2013 07:59 AM

                                    B. It's all I've ever really used, actually....

                                    1. TraderJoe Jan 30, 2013 08:52 AM

                                      Oiled wood. Preferably WA Octagon handles.

                                      1. BiscuitBoy Jan 30, 2013 01:46 PM


                                        Tho most of my blades are synthetic (polyoxymethylene and noryl GTX )

                                        1. Chemicalkinetics Jan 30, 2013 08:10 PM

                                          Update. This is a landslide. Considering how many plastic handle knives are out there including the very famous Henckels and Wusthof, I thought more would prefer them. I guess the Chowhond crowd is a very different group than the rest of the population.

                                          Thanks for your inputs.

                                          Chowrin B
                                          mpad AB
                                          JavaBean B
                                          GH1618 B
                                          petek B
                                          Chemicalkinetics B
                                          BruceMcK B
                                          laraffinee B
                                          Eager6 B
                                          mikie D
                                          tcamp B
                                          Kontxesi B
                                          TraderJoe B
                                          BiscuitBoyg B

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                            GH1618 Jan 30, 2013 09:15 PM

                                            But even those of us who like wood have some plastic handles.

                                            1. re: GH1618
                                              Chemicalkinetics Jan 30, 2013 09:53 PM

                                              Do you mean your wood handles have some plastic in them, like Ikon blackwood handle has some metal?


                                              Or do you mean you have knives with plastic handles?

                                              I am sure the latter is true as most of the knives I see are sold with plastic handles. I am trying to understand the disconnection between what the customers may want (in the case of Chowhounders', it is wood) and what the manufacturers offer.

                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                GH1618 Jan 30, 2013 10:28 PM

                                                I mean I have a buch of knives, some with wood handles and others plastic. The latter category includes such things as my Chicago Cutlery utility knife, my Ivo slicing knife, and some steak knives.

                                            2. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                              Chowrin Feb 1, 2013 06:45 PM

                                              Pakkawood can come in flourescent yellow. Or purple. Not sure i feel right calling it wood.
                                              It's about as much wood as plywood is... or less.

                                              1. re: Chowrin
                                                Chemicalkinetics Feb 1, 2013 06:49 PM

                                                I know I know, probably less of a wood than plywood in fact.

                                            3. m
                                              mike0989 Jan 31, 2013 07:10 AM

                                              Gotta go with B

                                              I love the aesthetics of wood and did a lot of woodworking when I was younger. That said, I think the shape of the handle is as important as the material. I like the traditional\classic handle on the full tang chefs knife in general. Though I was plesantly suprised with the feel of the handles on the Shun Classic's.

                                              1. Eiron Jan 31, 2013 07:43 AM


                                                I prefer wood, but it seems like most manufacturers have relegated poorly-finished wood handles to their lower-end lines. So when I bought my knives (3+ yrs ago) I looked for versions that had epoxified wood (pakka in the Shun & Kanetsune) or paid a little more for the nicer wood versions of the same knives (Forschner Rosewood vs Victorinox Fibrox).

                                                1. juliejulez Jan 31, 2013 09:52 AM

                                                  I really like wood handles, but I've found that most wood handled knives are too large for me, I have very small hands. I have Globals (metal handle) for that reason.

                                                  1. Delucacheesemonger Jan 31, 2013 11:28 AM

                                                    As GH 1618 said, rosewood (B) on my Dexter-Russels, all my Japanese have wood as well.

                                                    1. mudcat Jan 31, 2013 03:02 PM

                                                      Prefer wood.

                                                      1. j
                                                        jhamiltonwa Feb 1, 2013 04:26 AM

                                                        Anything that can't go in a dishwasher.

                                                        1. tim irvine Feb 1, 2013 05:17 PM


                                                          1. Chemicalkinetics Feb 1, 2013 08:55 PM

                                                            Update. Somehow I didn't expect the answers to be so one-sided, but they are what they are. Thanks.

                                                            Chowrin B
                                                            mpad AB
                                                            JavaBean B
                                                            GH1618 B
                                                            petek B
                                                            Chemicalkinetics B
                                                            BruceMcK B
                                                            laraffinee B
                                                            Eager6 B
                                                            mikie D
                                                            tcamp B
                                                            Kontxesi B
                                                            TraderJoe B
                                                            BiscuitBoyg B
                                                            mike0989 B
                                                            Eiron B
                                                            juliejulez BC
                                                            Delucacheesemonger B
                                                            mudcat B
                                                            jhamiltonwa BD
                                                            tim irvine B

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                              tim irvine Feb 2, 2013 08:05 AM

                                                              Chem, given your knife guru status and stated preference for B what else could we say? I wonder if Kaleo posted what is your preference between A) heavy copper lined with tin, B) clad SS, C) CI, or D) anodized aluminum what response the god of Sn/Cu would elicit...

                                                              1. re: tim irvine
                                                                Chemicalkinetics Feb 2, 2013 04:04 PM

                                                                <Chem, given your knife guru status and stated preference for B what else could we say?>

                                                                Ha. I doubt that. On top of that, I was the 6th person who answered this poll, which means 5 people ahead of me decided they like wood handle before I entered the race. :P

                                                            2. e
                                                              Eager6 Feb 2, 2013 01:55 PM

                                                              I'm not sure if I consider "stabilized", or resin impregnated wood, as wood. I like it better in most cases, and I think it's a separate catagory. Here is how it's made:


                                                              The description of "Kitchen Knives" on Wikipedia, includes the following four catagories for handle materials, one of which they call "composite", which I call stabilized, or epoxy resin impregnated wood, or "Pakka Wood". This is what many kitchen knife handles are made with theses days. This is from Wikipedia:


                                                              The handles of kitchen knives can be made from a number of different materials, each of which has advantages and disadvantages.

                                                              1) Wood handles provide good grip, and most people consider them to be the most attractive. They are, however, slightly more difficult to care for as they must be cleaned more thoroughly and occasionally treated with mineral oil. Most wood handles, especially those of ordinary varnished hardwood, do not resist water well, and will crack or warp with prolonged exposure to water. They should be hand-washed for that reason. Some people argue that ordinary varnished wood handles can harbor more microorganisms as the varnish layer wears off, thus requiring resealing or revarnishing to seal the wood's pores.

                                                              2) Plastic handles are more easily cared for than wooden handles and do not absorb microorganisms. However, plastics may also be less resistant to ultraviolet damage and may become brittle over time, resulting in cracking. Some plastics are also slippery in the hand. The material is lighter than most other materials, which may result in a knife that is off-balance or too light for some tastes.

                                                              3) Composite knives are made from laminated wood composites impregnated with plastic resin. This is primarily DymondWood by Rutland Plywood Corporation; the same product is sold under brand names such as Pakkawood, Staminawood, Dymondwood, and Colorwood.[3] Composite handles are considered by many chefs to be the best choice because they are as easy to care for and as sanitary as plastic, they have the appearance, weight, and grip of hardwood, and are more durable than either. They often have a laminated, polished appearance, and may have intense or varied coloring.

                                                              4) Stainless steel handles are the most durable of all handles, as well as the most sanitary. Many argue, however, that they are very slippery in the hand, especially when wet. To counter this, many premium knife makers make handles with ridges, bumps, or indentations to provide extra grip. One disadvantage of some all-metal handles is that knife weight usually goes up considerably, affecting the knife's balance and increasing hand and wrist fatigue. Knife manufacturers, most notably Japan's Global, have begun addressing this issue by producing hollow-handled knives.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: Eager6
                                                                Chemicalkinetics Feb 2, 2013 03:51 PM

                                                                Probably too late to change the poll now. :) But I totally get what you are saying and that in hindsight the poll could have done differently. I didn't think of the stabilized wood, but I thought I would open a whole new can of worms. There is just too large of a gray area between pure natural wood handle and fully stabilized wood handle like the Pakkawood. I apply several layer of tung oil (drying oil). So my wood handles won't be pure natural wood handles, but they are not composite wood handles neither.

                                                              2. scubadoo97 Feb 2, 2013 04:15 PM


                                                                1. t
                                                                  taos Feb 3, 2013 11:20 AM

                                                                  A. Plastic or B. Wood, depending on the knife.

                                                                  Don't like the feel of metal.

                                                                  1. m
                                                                    Miss Priss Feb 4, 2013 07:48 AM

                                                                    I prefer wood, for tactile and esthetic reasons. I also really like the feel of the Fibrox handles on my Victorinox knives, even though their appearance does nothing for me. Conversely, I have some German knives with great-looking metal handles that always feel cold and inert, so they rarely get used.

                                                                    1. tim irvine Feb 4, 2013 05:34 PM

                                                                      This has prompted a whole new line of thought for me, taking care of handles. My hands are washed before I cook, and I have not yet washed the handle of my main knife (42 years). I hone it every time I use it, rinse and wipe after each use, and never think about the pretty old wood handle. Do people really wash their knife handles? It never seems to look as if it needs attention.

                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                      1. re: tim irvine
                                                                        Chemicalkinetics Feb 4, 2013 07:05 PM

                                                                        I do... but only like maybe once every three usage times.

                                                                        1. re: tim irvine
                                                                          scubadoo97 Feb 5, 2013 09:07 AM

                                                                          I never thought to not wash the handles. They could get pretty grody if left unwashed

                                                                          1. re: scubadoo97
                                                                            knifesavers Feb 5, 2013 09:26 AM

                                                                            Oh yeah I have flashbacks to some funky stuff both wood and plastic.

                                                                            I am going to get a small steam cleaner like the handheld Shark to deal with munge.


                                                                        2. k
                                                                          knifesavers Feb 4, 2013 08:19 PM

                                                                          I never voted but shape is more a factor for me but otherwise wood followed by soft plastic.


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