If you have had any exposure to the knife community or have shopped for knives, you have more than likely heard the word micarta used extensively.
Micarta is a popular handle material found in both fixed blade and folding knives, and recently has been popping up as a popular material for several everyday carry items that knife enthusiasts regularly put in their rotation.
What is micarta exactly? How is it made? Where does it come from? What makes it so great?
Let’s explore these questions one by one!
WHAT IS MICARTA & HOW IS IT MADE?
Micarta is a composite material traditionally made of paper or linen and more recently including burlap, synthetic, and glass thread options are set in and cured in liquid polymer.
Fibers of material such as cellulose paper, yarns, unwoven threads, glass fabrics, or cotton are added to a substrate, then through a chemical reaction triggered by heat and pressure these composite materials are formed into very hard and dense plastic material we know as Micarta.
HISTORY OF MICARTA
Micarta dates back to 1910, created by George Westinghouse for use as an electrical insulator.
Since then, micarta has been used for a variety of industrial purposes including aerospace parts, automotive parts, hard hats, and as an insulator in the form of Asbestos Micarta.
Micarta has also been used in furniture, pool cues, and guitar bridges.
Micarta was even used as heat shields in early ICBM missiles.
Micarta use in knives dates back to the mid-nineteen hundred’s and has since grown in popularity.
Today Micarta is owned and produced by Norplex, who currently makes over 100 different varieties that can be purchased by the sheet, tube, or rod.
WHY USE MICARTA
Many knife makers use micarta when producing both fixed blade and folding knives. The primary reason micarta is used is because of its durability. Micarta is a very durable material that does not become brittle with age and has reasonable impact resistance.
Micarta is also moisture resistant, heat resistant, and cold resistant.
The durability of micarta makes it an excellent choice for knife handles and the resistance to moisture and extreme temperatures ensures it will not warp or crack in extreme use conditions.
Simply put, a micarta handle should provide many years of reliable service for any knife user.
Micarta is a very versatile material allowing for numerous color and visual texture options, allowing knife makers to create handle scales to suit their own tastes and the tastes of their clients, as well as provide variety in their lineup.
It is not uncommon to see people own the same knife in a variety of different handle materials.
Being made from fibrous material, micarta also has a degree of texturing that can help provide grip when handling a knife, though micarta can also be sanded and polished to allow for a smoother handle scale.
With its strength, durability, and variety micarta definitely has a lot to offer, let’s take a look at some of the many applications of micarta in the marketplace.
Outdoor Fixed Blades
Micarta handle scales are widely used among both custom and production fixed blade knife makers due to its immense popularity in outdoor knife market.
It is not uncommon to see rough textured micarta scales in a great deal of outdoor/survival type knives because they maintain their grip when wet.
This is important for hikers and campers out in the field as wet conditions may be normal for these folks.
Hunters and fisherman also like the grip of rough micarta due to the presence of water and blood while processing game.
Many people will also enjoy textured micarta in bushcraft applications because of the firm grip while processing wood and other materials, but polished micarta is also used in many bushcraft knives allowing for easier manipulation of the knife in certain situations.
Tactical and Hard Use Work Knives
The TOPS Knives Poker
Micarta handles scales are popular in a variety of tactical folding knives and fixed blades because of their grip, durability, moisture resistance, and extreme temperature resistance.
First responders, military personnel, and law enforcement all rely on their knives and other edged tools for emergency and potentially life saving applications.
No matter if it is on the scene of an automobile accident on a rainy night or on a battlefield micarta is up to the task!
Those who regularly use their knives for work also appreciate micarta for its durability and grip.
Micarta maintains its grip when wet so even when drenched in sweat, oil, and grime, you can be assured you will maintain a positive grip on your knife.
The MKM Terzuola Clap
Micarta handles have become popular in higher end knives because of the virtual limitless number of colors micarta can come in.
Micarta has been used as the entire handle scale, part of a handle scale or as an inlay for other materials in a variety of high-end production and custom knives.
People value micarta for its aesthetic values allowing knife makers to utilize it for creating knives that have a classic look and feel or wildly bright and modern appearance
The ZT0308 with USA Made Blade exclusive Micarta Scale by LMF Knives
Due to the popularity of micarta handle scales many people have built businesses around creating micarta scales for productions knives that do not necessarily have micarta handle scale options from the manufacturer.
This provides people the ability to further customize their knives to suit their own individual tastes without permanently altering the knife.
Everyday Carry Trinkets
Micarta Worry Coin by The Ruthless Project
A recent trend in the knife and every day carry communities have been a variety of trinkets that people carry ranging from worry coins to knuckles. Micarta has become a popular material in the creation of these items.
Micarta is not new in the world of knives, but the popularity and variety of micarta has grown exponentially in recent years.
This incredibly durable and versatile material is ideal for knife handles and provides great utility application while bringing additional “premium” aesthetic values not found in other polymer-based handle materials.
It seems as times goes on, we see more creative applications for this amazing material; doubtless micarta will be a mainstay in the knife community for many years to come!