What Is The Difference Between Micarta And G-10 Handle Scales?

A lot of knife handlers may struggle to identify a knife handle scale made from Micarta or G-10, let alone tell the difference.

There may only be subtle differences between the two types of handle scales yet once you understand how crucial they can be you may want to get one or the other.

What Is The Difference Between Micarta And G-10 Handle Scales?

There are also several similarities between the two types of material which indicates just how subtle the differences can be.

In this guide, we will look at what is considered to be either a Micarta or G-10 handle scale, as well as the similarities and differences between them both.

What Is Considered By A Micarta Handle Scale?

A Micarta handle scale is made from a fiber cloth or linen material which is set in a thermoset resin. Both the linen and fiber cloth can be soaked in a resin and then gradually cooked to hardness.

The term ‘Micarta’ is a direct reference to the company that creates that resin; Norplex Micarta. In the resin materials world, they are quite a big deal and one could even say they dominate that one sector. 

If you do confirm that a knife handle scale is a ‘Micarta’, it tends to mean more than simply the resin composite that has been used.

What is typically interpreted by a Micarta handle scale can be made from several base materials which include canvas, burlap, carbon fiber, linen, or paper, but also wood and denim. 

Such is the list of materials that it is easier to link the handle scales by the resin composite that has been used. 

It is quite easy to find out how a Micarta handle scale is made through a DIY Micarta handle scales video.

You should see the sections of a particular material which are then soaked in the phenolic resin composite before being set in a mold and fused together with clamps until dried as well as being laminated.

Once the phenolic resin has been compressed, set, and dried with a formidable heat and exceptional pressure, the resulting slab is known as Micarta which can then be ground down to create knife handles and knife handle scales. 

Despite the intricate and industrial standard used to create the material known as Micarta, it can still let in water as well as several other liquids.

This is largely due to the range of ingredients that are used in the laminate material that can contain several openings where the phenolic resin has failed to fill up correctly.

This lack of waterproofing can also come from how soft the outer material of Micarta can be which can result in scratches and dents that allow the water to get in.

What Is Considered A G-10 Handle Scale?

A G-10 knife handle scale is lightweight with a low moisture absorption though is not as tough or comfortable when compared to a Micarta handle scale.

This is fiberglass which is in an epoxy resin thermosetting and is also known as grade 10 Garolite. 

The substance is created from several composite materials which are mixed, heated in high heat, fused under extreme pressure, and laminated to create a handle that is smoother and even more tough than standard fiberglass. 

Grade 10 Garolite is considered highly versatile and one of the most durable glass laminate materials around so on a knife handle scale it can be highly sought after.

You can expect your knife handle to be water-resistant but not entirely waterproof. 

Thankfully, water cannot penetrate a knife handle scale easily due to the complex construction process and the materials used.

You can also rely on the G-10 to serve you well as a knife handle scale for both durability and overall strength while on the Rockwell hardness scale the substance has a formidable rating of 110 HRC.

The Similarities Between Micarta And G-10 Handle Scales

Both a Micarta and G-10 handle scale can be referred to as a phenolic laminate which suggests they are part of the same family of materials.

You could also argue that the Garolite that is used in a G-10 handle is also a brand name though any company that creates it is not as widely known as Micarta. 

There is a similar method to creating both Micarta and G-10 which involves resin-soaked cloth that is layered then pressed and heated. However, G-10 uses resin-soaked fiberglass cloth, rather than a fibrous material. 

What Is The Difference Between Micarta And G-10 Handle Scales?

With both Micarta and G-10, you can expect the texture in the final product (in this case a handle scale) to be created after the resin was heated and that can add to the price yet provide more versatility.

This can even be seen between two G-10 handle scales where it is really obvious to note the difference in texture which is also found in the price. 

Further similarities between Micarta and G-10 include how widely versatile the materials can prove in the industrial world due to how tough they are while remaining relatively cost-effective. Both materials can also perform well to insulate electricity and heat resistance. 

In knife handles and handle scales, both materials can be considered tough, durable, and lightweight which may be just what you need. Both substances should also be similar in weight, even though G-10 is only slightly heavier than Micarta.  

The Differences Between Micarta And G-10 Handle Scales

While you can use several materials and colored resin with a specific mold to create your Micarta handle scales via a DIY video, it is far more complex to make a G-10 handle scale at home. 

As G-10 is created from fiberglass and not a naturally fibrous material like linen or canvas it is far more difficult and hazardous to create.

It is also quite difficult to find the raw materials to create fiberglass so you are likely not advised to try it at home

It can be argued that G-10 is easier to customize than Micarta and a company that creates knives with a G-10 handle scale typically has more colors to offer.

You can also expect a lighter color than Micarta though a Micarta handle scale will usually be tougher. 

If you wanted to get into the science then you could suggest that the textures do differ though it can prove difficult to confirm unless you take the time to investigate.

You may also discover that a G-10 knife handle and scales have a better grip in dry conditions, while a Micarta knife handle and scale will perform markedly better in wet conditions. 

If you were to compare the hardness of the two substances then G-10 would edge out Micarta but not by much. On the Rockwell hardness scale, Micarta has an HRC rating of 105 while G-10 is slightly higher at 110.

There are also differences in the ingredients between both substances which can provide subtle differences when formed into knife handles and scales. 

Specifically, the layers in G-10 are bound by epoxy resins though the ones in Micarta are fused with phenolic resins which harden as they dry due to it being a tough plastic. 

There can also be subtle differences between how both substances appear which can deliver cosmetic variation when formed into knife handles and scales.

Both Micarta and G-10 may appear sleek for their finish yet due to the variety of materials that Micarta can be made from it can offer different colors and designs. 

Arguably, Micarta does deliver an increasingly natural look though due to those materials some substances can penetrate it such as oil, grease, and even blood.

In comparison, G-10 would offer a smoother finish with less maintenance to keep it looking that way while Micarta can appear to darken gradually when put in contact with oil. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How Should I Clean My Micarta Handle Scales?

As Micarta handle scales will be made from natural materials such as canvas and linen, they can be prone to staining due to their lack of waterproofing.

Particularly, when canvas comes into contact with blood and starts to build a firm you may want to take drastic action before that turns into a stain. Simply wash it in warm water and soap and the blood should start to clean up.

Can You Oil Up A Micarta Handle Scale?

It is possible to use baby oil, mineral oil, or beard oil to darken up a Micarta handle scale. This can take time and should be considered a gradual process though as it can be a light color at the start you can darken it up considerably. 

Final Thoughts

If you want a stronger, more durable, and water-resistant substance for your knife handle and scales then choose G-10 over Micarta.

However, Micarta does excel in its use of natural ingredients while offering a range of designs and color options.

The overriding factor may be price and Micarta should be more cost-effective though it is less water-resistant. If you wanted to make a significant investment in your handle scales then G-10 is likely the better option.

Tom Bower