Canvas Micarta vs. G10 - a few thoughts...tell me what you think

Discussion in 'Koster Knives' started by Daniel Koster, Sep 16, 2011.

  1. Daniel Koster

    Daniel Koster Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 18, 2001
    I had some time this morning - while waiting for my air compressor to get worked on - so I wrote up my reasoning on the differences between Canvas Micarta and G10. Here you go!


    "Can you explain the differences between Canvas Micarta and G10?"

    I get asked this question a lot since I make knives using both handle materials. I've put together a few thoughts and observations I've had while having made hundreds of knives with what I consider the 2 best synthetic handle materials available.

    Note #1: I heavily bead-blast my synthetic handle materials. So the notes regarding texture and finish do not carry over to polished/buffed handles.
    Note #2: Bead-blasting these materials removes the resin inbetween the fiberglass/canvas, leaving micro-divits - which is what gives it such a nice grip.

    Both G10 and Canvas Micarta can be bead-blasted for a nice grippy texture. However, there are subtle differences between the two. G10 seems grippier when dry, and Canvas Micarta's grip actually improves when wet. The reason for this is the nature of the material used. Canvas - being a natural material - when exposed to moisture behaves like wood and "opens up". The entire surface becomes grippier. G10 (made of fiberglass - a man made material) remains smooth when wet.

    Both take on a nice matte finish, but the color of G10 can change significantly more when bead-blasted. It tends to dull the bright colors, whereas with canvas micarta, it doesn't start out as bright, so bead-blasting doesn't seem to dull it much.

    Lines in the material:
    Canvas Micarta has "squiggly lines" that can be seen around the tang of the knife and the face of the handle can have slight "rings" showing the contouring of the handle.
    G10 in solid colors does not show "rings". However, in alternating color (Blue/Black or Black/Tan, for example) the pattern can be quite visually striking.

    It takes less work to maintain G10, even though both handles are synthetics....canvas is still a natural material...and benefits from the ocassional oiling. I've had some customers coat theirs with a spray-on polyurethane finish - with good results. (keeps the texture and grip)

    G10 feels "cold" when you leave your knife outside in cool weather. Micarta always feels "warm".

    G10 is more stable than Micarta, but only by a slight margin and really....we're talking about 99.5% and 99.9% dimensional stability. Both materials are very stable and won't "move" on you. I have sent my kitchen knives with G10 handles through my dishwasher hundreds of times with no delamination whatsoever.

    G10 is heavier than Micarta.

    I only offer 3 colors in Canvas Micarta: Natural (yellow/brown), Green and Black.
    There are many more colors available for G10 - here's a list in order of my preference:
    Solids = Blue, Orange, Red, Black, Tan (I do not like yellow - don't ask for it...I won't do it!)
    Patterns = Blue/Black, Black/Tan, Black/Orange

    Hopefully this helps explain some of the reasoning behind why I choose certain materials, and perhaps it will help you in making a decision on which to use.
    Thanks for reading!
    Woodsmann and Warsaw like this.
  2. meismjg


    Nov 21, 2010
    regarding materials, I think that I want a bushmaster in black g10 :)
  3. bigbcustom


    Dec 20, 2005
    I agree with your observations on the two materials. I really like micarta as a handle material. G10 not so much, but when I had a hunting knife made by another knifemaker, and I asked for a micarta handle, he stated "I don't do micarta on hunting knives as blood/bodily fluids will get into the canvas, and you can have bacteria take root there"... I don't know that I completely agree with that statement, but the jury (in my mind) is still out. Needless to say, I have that particular knife with a G10 handle, and it performs nicely, but I would still rather have micarta I think.
  4. Andster2


    Feb 18, 2007
    Great explanation regarding G10 and micarta. Ive noticed an extreme difference between G10 that is not bead blasted and G10 that is heavily bead blasted. All the knives that I purchase, I intend to use fairly hard. So heavy bead blasting is probably a necessity. Thanks for taking the time to write about the subject. I'm always interested in hearing the thoughts of gifted knife makers. Especially why you would choose this steal over that steal, heat treat/ rc, blade geometry reasoning, and sharpening techniques. Thanks again for posting this.
  5. gcgcgc


    Dec 14, 2007
    Excellent post on handle types....the website will be much stronger for it!
  6. Daniel Koster

    Daniel Koster Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 18, 2001
    bigbcustom - hot, soapy water and a toothbrush will work miracles!
  7. gdpolk


    Sep 19, 2011
    Thanks for the post. That helps.
  8. schmittie

    schmittie Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 28, 2009
    Wow, I knew I liked micarta more but I wasn't sure why til I saw your explanation. Very nice differentiation between the two. Thanks!
  9. Daniel Koster

    Daniel Koster Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 18, 2001
    You're welcome, guys!

    If you have more questions or comparisons of your own, please let me know and I'll add it to the list above.


  10. parbajtor


    Nov 24, 2010
    Bigbcustom - someone that obsessed with bacteria, probably shouldn't be hunting at all, certainly not eating what they hunt. The blood/body fluids wash off, and the bacteria will take root on any textured surface anyway irrespective of whether it's G10 or micarta, the bacterial count due to it being textured is far higher than the material it's made from. It's almost impossible to eliminate bacteria completely and there'll be bacteria in the air and in the soil that will infect the meat. Possibly one of the most spurious excuses for not using a particular material that I've ever heard of. Hunting is a dirty business, heaven forbid you wash the meat in a stream if you get any dirt on it.
  11. bigbcustom


    Dec 20, 2005
    quote from parbajtor

    I pretty much agree completely with both of you, was just stating what that other knifemaker had to say. I have gutted/skinned many animals with an old case folding knife, and I am sure there is still (now 20yrs later) dried blood somewhere in it's inner workings lol.
  12. Jmboz


    Apr 14, 2011
    Great post and very helpful.

    Thank you Dan.
  13. gdpolk


    Sep 19, 2011

    What's your opinion on liners v. no liners? Do liners serve a a pragmatic function or are they decorative touches?
  14. stormclan


    Sep 27, 2011
    What other kinds of oils can you treat the natural micarta with please?
    Somewhiteguyntx likes this.
  15. Daniel Koster

    Daniel Koster Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 18, 2001
    Any non-food-oil (don't use vegetable oil, olive oil, peanut oil, canola, etc....these will all eventually go rancid).

    You can also treat with WD-40, Ballistol and any other water-repelling solvent.

    And there's also all the waxes - they all work.


  16. Daniel Koster

    Daniel Koster Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 18, 2001
    Liners are decoratic when used with synthetics such as micarta and G10.

    But they serve a function when used with natural materials. They provide a small buffer between the natural material and the steel of the knife. Natural materials expand/contract with changes in humidity and temperature. Steel doesn't (not at the temps I'm talking about). So the liner stays put against the steel and allows some flexibility for the natural material to "move".

  17. wacki


    Sep 12, 2009
    Is it really necessary to maintain micarta? What happens when you don't? Assuming daily use, how often do you need to oil the micarta?
  18. Daniel Koster

    Daniel Koster Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 18, 2001
    Personally, I have owned a few of my own micarta-handled knives for years...coming up on a decade. I've never really oiled them or felt the need to. But I live in Arkansas where it is fairly humid.

    I've heard stories of people in arid climates using their micarta-handled knives and not taking care of them (leaving them outdoors, uncleaned, etc.) and that the micarta can delaminate under such conditions.

    So, the best all-around advice I can give - is that if you keep your knives clean after use, you just need to pull it out once a year or so and give it a wipe-down. And that should keep everything protected and happy.


  19. cdnrogue


    Oct 30, 2012
    thanks for the post. I was just about to ask "How often do you think people "oil" their micarta handles?" until I read Wacki's post. But then the next question is if oiling is required, what type of oil... mineral oil?
  20. Daniel Koster

    Daniel Koster Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 18, 2001
    I have used mineral oil and WD40. Really, any oil will be fine as long as it's not a food-based oil.


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