Best wood for knife scales and handles

June 6, 2022
exotic wood for knife handles

Today we are looking at rare and exotic types of wood for making knife handles. The original drawing of each of the listed types of wood gives the product individual beauty and unique design. It is important that the custom knife has a high quality and comfortable handle made of durable and stable wood. Knife makers use about 20 to 60 types of wood from the whole variety of wood types. Also, we use some of them to make our custom wood knife boxes.

What wood is good for a knife handle?

Hardwoods are ideal for making knife handles. Also the beautiful pattern of wood is highly valued, which in itself is an excellent decoration for the knife. Properly chosen wood will complement the finished knife and add functionality and durability to it. For knife-scales used Hardwoods such as Ebony, African Tamboti, Rosewood, African Blackwood, Merbau, Wenge, Boxwood, Bubinga, Rosewood Santos, Paraguayan Quebracho, Tigerwood, Leadwood, Lacewood, Paraguayan ironwood, Arizona desert ironwood, Cocobolo, Bocote and other.

Ebony (Diospyros ebenum)

Density is 1200 kg/m3

This is one of the most expensive and valuable types of wood. Very hard, heavy and dense with high wear resistance. Ebony is perfectly polished to a mirror-like gloss and has a beautiful pattern of alternating straight black and brown stripes.

knife handle wood


ebony wood blocks

African Tamboti (Spirostachys africana)

Density is 1000 kg/m3

Also known as African sandalwood. A rare and very dense breed of golden brown color with dark stripes. In some areas, fine marble patterns formed by the fibers are visible. The natural oils in the wood give it a vibrant natural sheen. Wood has excellent working characteristics. Durable and despite the high density, it is well processed on the machine. It has a pleasant sweetish aroma. This valuable wood species is used in the manufacture of luxurious furniture.

african tamboti knife handle

handmade custom knives

Indian Rosewood (Dalbergia)

Density is 900 kg/m3

This type of wood is heavy, hard and highly durable. It is excellently polished and varnished. It has a beautiful chocolate brown color with dark stripes forming an unusual pattern. This type of wood is rated as very resistant to decay and resistant to insect damage. All over the world, this wood is considered acoustic and is used in the manufacture of expensive musical instruments.

Indian Rosewood blocks

Indian rosewood for knife handles

African Blackwood (Dalbergia melanoxylon)

Density is 1500 kg/m3

The only wood that is processed like metal. After an electric planer or thicknesser, it gives shavings that look like metal. The only type of wood that can be carved like metal. This tree is resistant to changes in humidity. It is one of the three hardest woods in the world. (Janka hardness is 4500, for comparison, Eben is in 40th place). This type of wood is not only hard but also very durable. African Blackwood is 3 times harder to break than ash.

african blackwood for knife handles

Merbau (Intsia palembanica)

Density is 880 kg/m3

The texture of this type of wood is quite homogeneous with a wavy arrangement of fibers that create a decorative texture. Merbau is characterized by high mechanical properties and endurance. Red-brown exotic wood of high density and strength.

merbau knife handles

Dark Wenge (Millettia laurentii)

Density is 850 kg/m3

It is a rare and valuable species of tropical wood. Being heavy, resistant to deformation, having toughness and resistance to bending, together with exceptional wear resistance, make it an excellent material. Wenge wood has a large, straight-grained texture. Its golden and chocolate colors create a beautiful canvas, and thanks to the black veins, the tree acquires a special expressiveness and coloring.

wenge knife scales

Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens)

Density is 980 kg/m3

Boxwood is the hardest and densest wood found in Europe. Heavy, homogeneous wood species is used for products that require high wear resistance and strength. It has a uniform light yellow color. Over time, boxwood wood acquires a darker color with the same yellowish tint, but closer to brown-yellow and becomes matte. This wood is well processed. It has a unique color and characteristics. Looks great polished. After polishing, the wood becomes similar in color and texture to mammoth tusk.

boxwood knife handles

Bubinga (Guibourtia spp.)

Density is 900 kg/m3

Heavy hard wood red-brown with beautiful pink and red veins. It has an unusual texture owing to frequent changes in the direction of fiber growth and other growth deviations. Wood is well processed by all types of tools and polished to a mirror finish.

Bubinga for knife handles

mosaic damascus blades

Rosewood Santos (Machaerium scleroxylon)

Density is 900 kg/m3

Decorative dense wood of chocolate color with longitudinal dark stripes. In addition to high strength and beauty, it has an impressive weight. Wood is characterized by high hardness, resistance to the negative effects of external factors and pests, wear resistance, decorative and aesthetic qualities. When processed and finished, it gives an exceptionally smooth surface and polished surfaces bring to the fore a magnificent pattern.


Rosewood santos knife handle

Rosewood Santos blocks

Paraguayan Quebracho (Schinopsis spp)

Density is 1200 kg/m3

A very hard wood of golden red color, the density of which exceeds the density of water. The word “Quebracho” comes from the Spanish “to break an ax” and is explained by the high hardness of the wood of these trees. Wood is widely used in furniture production, construction of bridges and port facilities, as well as for the manufacture of various parts, decorative figurines and knife handles.

Quebracho wood knife handle

Tigerwood (Astronium fraxinifolium)

Density is 1000 kg/m3

Also known as Tigerwood/Goncalo Alves. The wood is brown-red in color with a contrasting striped pattern. Heavy and hard, belongs to durable breeds. Wood is excellent for processing: it is easily sanded and polished. Often used in the manufacture of handles for pistols and butts of weapons.

tigerwood blocks

Leadwood (Combretum imberbe)

Density is 1200 kg/m3

Also known as lead/crocodile wood. Rare wood, very heavy and dense, has an interesting structure. After polishing, it acquires a slightly gray metallic tint.

Leadwood for knife handles

Leadwood blocks

Lacewood (Panopsis spp.)

Density is 580 kg/m3

This type of wood is also known as silk/leopard/snake wood. Ornamental wood is pinkish or reddish-brown in color with shiny silvery spots. The clearest sign of Lacewood is the large medullary rays, which form a well-marked silky pattern of fibers. The wood pattern resembles snakeskin. The wood is dense, hard and moderately heavy

Lacewood for knife handles

Libidibia paraguariensis (Caesalpinia paraguariensis)

Density is 1420 kg/m3

The wood is chocolate brown. On the radial cut, there is a very small pattern similar to the wing of a partridge. The wood is very beautiful when polished. The wood is slightly oily, but not like Blackwood.

Libidibia paraguariensis wood knife handles

Arizona desert ironwood (Olneya tesota)

Density is 1210 kg/m3

Drowning in water.

Extremely dense wood that is polished to a mirror finish. It is famous for its strength and beauty. It has colors from red-brown to yellow-sand. With a beautiful striped pattern. Used for knife handles as well as for carving and handicrafts. Difficult to handle manually. Ironwood products do not tend to crack but can give a chip if there are sharp corners. It is recommended to adhere to smooth forms during processing.

ironwood blocks

Lignum vitae (Guaiacum officinale and G. sanctum.)

Wood density ranges from 1.1 to 1.4 kg/m3

Bocote is a hard, dense and stable wood that easily sinks in water. The heaviest wood sold on the market. Hardness of Bocote on the Janka scale, which measures the hardness of wood, is 4500. A beautiful brown with lighter stripes would look great on a knife handle.

Lignum vitae for knife handles

Bocote (Cordia gerascanthus)

Density is 770-1040 kg/m3

Several varieties of Cordia grow on the islands of the West Indies, in Central and South America (Brazil, Argentina). It is rare in its habitat and highly valued for its aesthetic properties. Bocote wood has an oily surface with variable luster and a fine to medium texture. The wood is solid.

Bocote blocks

Bocote knife scales

Bocote wood for knife handles

Cocobolo (Dalbergia retusa)

Density is 1095 kg/m3

The color is dark orange to deep dark red, darkening to black over time. Cocobolo is perfectly processed on a lathe and planed, but it is almost impossible to process it manually due to its high hardness. The wood contains a lot of resins that provide shine when polished, but this makes gluing difficult. Cocobolo is used for flooring, knife handles, inlays. This type of wood is considered very valuable and has a high cost, but due to its properties, the high price is justified.

Cocobolo blocks

Jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifolia)

Density is 870 kg/m3

It is a hard and heavy wood. The color is chocolate, brown with a beautiful pattern. Dries slowly in the open air, may crack. Jacaranda wood is very durable. It is rather difficult to machine due to increased hardness, which leads to rapid blunting of the cutting edge.

Jacaranda blocks

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Where to buy better knife handle wood?

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