Is Oak Good for Knife Handles? + Best Wood Types for Knife Handles

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Knife enthusiasts often ponder the perfect material for durable and stylish knife handles. Among numerous wood types, oak emerges as a popular choice. But is oak good for knife handles?

Here, I will explore the pros and cons of oak handles, addressing a common pain point for those seeking an ideal blend of functionality and aesthetics.

Is Oak a Recommended Wood Type for a Knife Handle?

Oak has gained widespread popularity as a preferred material for knife handles due to its combination of stability, durability, and visual appeal.

The best part about working with oak is its ease of crafting. I’ve been able to carve some pretty intricate designs without breaking a sweat. It really helps elevate not just the utility but also the overall aesthetics of a knife collection.

Furthermore, oak presents an affordable option in comparison to other woods without sacrificing quality, and its light brown hue complements kitchen knives and indoor tools beautifully.

These attributes, along with its natural resilience, contribute to oak’s well-deserved reputation as a top choice for crafting knife handles that offer exceptional performance and an attractive appearance.

Holding a knife handle

Why Oak Makes the Best Option for a Wood Knife Handle

Thanks to its numerous advantages, oak has emerged as a popular and preferred material for crafting knife handles. Below is an in-depth exploration of the key pros and cons of oak in comparison to alternative wood types, emphasizing its suitability for creating knife handles.



Red Oak vs White Oak as Knife Handles

With approximately 10 oak wood species on the market, each variety boasts distinct characteristics and advantages that cater to a wide range of indoor and outdoor applications.

Red Oak and White Oak are the front-runners in the oak world, especially for knife handles. But they’re versatile—good for a bunch of other projects too. You can’t go wrong with either, but your specific needs will dictate which one edges out the other.

To aid in determining the most suitable oak wood type for your specific knife handle requirements, I’ve put together this detailed table that encompasses crucial information, comparisons, and insights.

quarter sawn Red Oak

This resource will provide you with a thorough understanding of the unique properties and advantages of each oak type, allowing you to make an informed decision that aligns with your preferences and the intended use of your knife.

By leveraging this knowledge, you can ensure that your oak knife handle not only serves its purpose effectively but also showcases the distinct qualities and aesthetic appeal inherent to the chosen oak variety.


Red Oak

White Oak


Lighter in color and reddish

Have a darker color

Grain Pattern

Dramatic and Stronger

Smoother and moderate grain

Resistant To Water

Highly water-resistant

Highest in water resistance



Costly compared to red oak

The table demonstrates that Red and White Oak share similar properties, with color being the primary difference. When it comes to choosing the right oak type for your knife handle, personal preference plays a significant role.

Both Red and White Oak serve as exceptional options and are readily available in the market, ensuring you find a suitable match for your specific taste and requirements.

Why You Should Opt for Red Oak For Knife Handles?

As previously emphasized, oak is a prime candidate for crafting knife handles due to its numerous desirable attributes.

carving red oak knife handle

 But when it comes to picking between Red Oak and White Oak, I lean towards Red Oak. Why? Well, I’ve made knife handles from both, and Red Oak just has that something extra.

What draws me to Red Oak is its rich visual texture. The grain pattern is a bit more pronounced, and it does a great job of camouflaging those inevitable dents and scratches your knife handle is bound to get.

This vital characteristic ensures that the knife handle not only remains functional but also maintains its aesthetic allure over time, even in the face of constant use and the associated wear and tear.

By opting for Red Oak, you can be confident that your knife handle will withstand the test of time while continuing to exude the beauty and charm that make oak wood a favored choice among woodworkers and knife enthusiasts alike.

Ideal Finish for Your Oak Knife Handles

The finishing process for an oak knife handle is subjective and based on individual preferences. For a natural, minimalist appearance, I would suggest going for boiled linseed oil combined with a polyurethane wipe. Apply the linseed oil to the oak, allowing absorption before reapplication and drying.

carving oak wood knife handle

This technique involves applying around three coats of the product over a span of 6-7 days to achieve surface hardening. In addition, there are other suitable alternatives available, such as Danish oil, Tru oil, and Tung oil.

Additionally, shellac can be used with an oil stain, followed by the application of grain filler paste and 2-3 coats of polyurethane. In the end, the choice of finish depends on the desired final result.

In summary, consider these oils for finishing oak knife handles:

Best Wood Alternatives for Knife Handles

Should oak wood be inaccessible or unsuitable due to concerns about rust, there are alternative woods worth considering. These options exhibit favorable characteristics that render them appropriate for fabricating knife handles across a range of applications.

Explore these alternatives to find the perfect material for your knife handle that meets your specific needs and preferences.


Types of Wood

Useful qualities in Knife handle making

Olive wood

Featuring a light yellow hue, this wood is moderately durable and reasonably priced.


Sturdy and adaptable to wet and dry environments, this wood comes in various hues, including orange, yellow, red, purple, brown, and black.


Economical as oak, this wood ranges from golden brown to deep purple, lending a lavish appearance. It boasts a robust structure and resists impurities effectively.


Pleasant to grip, this wood features a yellowish-dark brown color, offering durability and an attractive appearance.

Ebony wood

Resilient, long-lasting, and sturdy, this nearly black-colored wood enhances the knife handle’s allure. It also offers resistance to termite infestations.

Despite the commendable performance of the previously mentioned wood types in crafting knife handles, the top suggestion continues to be using exceptional Oakwood for knife handles.

Its numerous advantages make it a standout choice in terms of durability, aesthetics, and overall quality.

Maintain Your Oak Wood Knife Handles: 3 Tips

To guarantee the durability and lasting performance of your oak wood knife handle, let me share with you some maintenance and care practices detailed below.

These measures will help protect your oak handle from damage and wear, ensuring its long-term functionality and preserving its aesthetic appeal.

Put Oil Over the Oakwood Handle

To preserve the finish and protect your oak knife handle against the test of time, it’s crucial to consistently apply a protective coating, such as linseed oil, Tru oil, or Tung oil, to the oak surface on an annual basis.

This routine treatment serves multiple purposes; not only does it cover the wood’s pores, but it also creates a barrier against environmental factors and regular usage that could potentially damage the handle.

putting oil on wooden knife handle

By safeguarding the knife handle’s overall state, you can effectively ensure its longevity, sustained quality, and enduring aesthetic appeal.

Furthermore, this preventative measure helps maintain the integrity of the wood, reducing the likelihood of cracking, warping, or discoloration and ultimately contributes to the ongoing functionality and enjoyment of your oak-handled knife for years to come.

Don’t Use the Dishwasher When Cleaning Your Knife

Listen, I get the appeal of just tossing that knife in the dishwasher and calling it a day. But trust me on this one: your oak knife handle won’t thank you for it.

Even though oak wood boasts remarkable water-resistant properties, subjecting it to the moisture-laden environment of a dishwasher can lead to damaging consequences.

Extended exposure to water and high temperatures within the dishwasher may cause the wood to warp, crack, or discolor, in addition to promoting rust formation and surface degradation.

The combined effects of these factors can severely compromise the handle’s structural integrity, appearance, and overall performance.

To ensure your oak knife handle remains in optimal condition, I highly recommend avoiding the dishwasher, opting instead for gentle hand washing and thorough drying after each use.

By taking these precautions, you can effectively preserve the durability, functionality, and aesthetic appeal of your oak-handled knife, prolonging its lifespan and enhancing your overall satisfaction with the product.

holding a wood knife handle

Ensure to Wash and Dry the Knife After Each Use

In everyday use, knives come into contact with various materials, some containing chemicals that could harm the oak handle. To protect the handle and extend its lifespan, it is essential to thoroughly wash and dry the entire knife with clean water after each use.

This practice will help prevent potential damage and maintain the handle’s appearance and durability.

Is it Advisable to Opt for Wood as Knife Handles?

I’ve worked with all kinds of materials for knife handles over the years, but there’s something special about wood, especially oak. Wooden handles are a popular choice for knife handles due to their many advantages.

They provide durability, strength, and ease of use, while also delivering a visually appealing aesthetic that sets them apart from their metal or aluminum counterparts.

If you’re a knife enthusiast like me, or even a craftsman, you’d probably agree that the charm of a wooden handle is hard to beat. So, is it advisable to go with wood for knife handles? In my book, it’s a definite yes.

Can You Use Oak Wood for Sword Handles?

Indeed, Oak is an appropriate choice for sword handles, thanks to its hardness, durability, stability, and workability. However, it is essential to be mindful of its high tannin content and the possibility of producing acids that can lead to rust on the tang.

So, how do you get around this? Simple, just finish off your handle nicely with a good sanding, and maybe add a protective coat. Doing this will pretty much sidestep any issues with discoloration or rust. 

So yes, you can definitely use oak for sword handles; just be sure to give it the finishing touches it deserves.

wooden sword handle

Will Oak Get Harder As it Ages?

Contrary to common perception, Oak does not grow harder as it ages; in fact, its strength decreases due to the weakening of bonds between wood fibers over time. Nevertheless, oakwood joists can potentially experience increased strength upon aging.

For enhancing oakwood’s hardness, one can consider combining it with a harder wood species when undertaking woodworking projects, thereby creating a more robust and durable finished product.

Also Read: Is Cottonwood Good for Woodworking?


With its stability, durability, and workability, it becomes clear that oak is good for knife handles. It is a reliable and visually appealing material for crafting knife handles.

However, proper maintenance and care are essential to prolonging the life of your oak knife handle. So, if you’re looking to make a striking yet highly functional addition to your knife collection, you can’t go wrong with oak.

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You've probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.
Robert Johnson

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