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No matter how much you downplay it, your knife handle is just as crucial as your blade style. If the knife handle does not offer you the proper grip, your blade will not be good. That means choosing a quality knife handle is as important as having the right blade style.
As it stands, knife handles come from various materials, each with different properties. For quality knives, in particular, FRN handle material is a common feature and with good reasons, particularly with Spyderco knives. Let’s find out why knife brands and types go for this particular material quality.
What is FRN Handle Material?
If you have handled a lot of pocket knives or fixed blade knives, there is a high chance the blade had FRN handle material. The FRN(Fiber-reinforced nylon) is a high-quality plastic material made especially for handles of most folding, survival or tactical knives.
However, the FRN material is specifically a nylon polymer and glass fiber mixed in context. The combination is then injection-molded into different styles, shapes, and textures.
What is GFN handle material?
When exploring FRN handles, you can also come across the material name sometimes switching to identify as “GFN.” The GFN(glass-filled nylon) is a slight variation of the FRN with more durability, design flexibility, and shatter resistance.
Specifically, the GFN scales comprise short glass fibers in a nylon polymer mix which is then injection molded into the ideal plastic handle.
FRN Handle Properties
Since the FRN material is a classic combination of plastic-like materials, you can be sure the handles offer excellent ergonomics handling. The material make is lightweight and comes with superior handling capability, which allows for a comfortable and easy grip.
An FRN Scale is the perfect choice for your everyday carry knife, thanks to the material holding the edge of being most flexible. In its essence, FRN material can mold into complex designs, shapes, or even textures. Such a property makes it excellent for those who have decorated knife handles with various colors and designs.
Most knife brands are also warming up to FRN material due to their excellent grip from different textures. Remember, with FRN scales, you get plenty of handle textures and designs that offer you the most grip on your blade. So, your blade cuts will be improper or impossible without a proper grip.
Pros and Cons of the FRN Handle
While FRN handle material is a popular feature in modern-day knives, there is a mixed share of merits and demerits from using it. Here are the FRN materials pros and cons
Pros of the FRN handle
- Strong and long-lasting
The reality is that FRN material combines nylon polymer with glass fiber to make each knife handle. A mix of both these elements helps reinforce the material and makes the handle mold extra strong. Therefore, your knife handle can withstand corrosion and resist water, heat, and damage from impact.
- Little to no maintenance
FRN handles also get credit for their excellent durability even without maintenance. Essentially, the FRN scale is water-resistance with a simple wipe down more than enough as a cleanup. That means your knife handle needs little attention even after regular use, either in the kitchen or the outdoors.
- Available for cheap
FRN material is inexpensive since the material is plastic-like and readily available. Besides, you can also count on FRN materials to mold into whatever shape you want beforehand. All this makes FRN handles quite popular with a high volume of blades spotting this particular material make.
- Attractive look
Since the FRN material is nylon and glass fiber, there is a high degree of molding capable of this particular element. Using the injection molding process, this plastic fiber material can turn into every design, shape, or texture you want.
Some brands even offer custom scales designs by making the most of FRN material. You can also get it in many colors depending on your preferences.
Cons of the FRN handle
- Cheap plastic feel
Unfortunately, FRN material is plastic-like, a big letdown for most knife enthusiasts. The material gives off a cheap plastic feel while lightweight and inexpensive.
- Less grip
Compared to other handle materials, the FRN handles fall down the pecking order. As it stands, the plastic-like approach with FRN handles offers less grip in comparison to other materials such as the G-10 or even wood.
FRN vs G10 Handle
G-10 handles are like their FRN counterparts but slightly superior and more expensive. Here is how both these knife handle materials fair against each other
Material Make: Each G-10 handle is produced from a Garolite grade and fiberglass composite through high pressure compressing. On the flipside, FRN handles come from a nylon polymer and glass fiber combo mixed and molded into the desired knife handles.
Durability and Grip: Both FRN and G-10 handle provides you with adequate handling through the different patterns and textures on the handles. However, the G-10 material is more impervious to damage, considering it’s among the most rigid fiberglass resin materials. As a result, a G-10 handle gets you a better and long-lasting grip than an FRN model.
Aesthetics: These handle materials can accommodate a custom production process with different colors, styles, and designs. But count on the FRN material to offer a better custom knife scale job than G-10 scales due to the material’s flexibility and cheap availability.
FRN vs Micarta
If you want to go the extra mile, then Micarta handles may be your go-to option. But, how does it match up against the standard FRN blade handle?
Material: Micarta is a popular phenolic material that combines different substances(thin cloth linen) and soaks them in a phenolic resin. That is much different from FRM material which combines a nylon polymer plus glass fiber into the desired molds.
Durability: While you can expect an FRN handle to wear out or get damaged, the opposite happens to Micarta handles. The Micarta material is stiff enough that you can easily scratch, corrosion, or damage the handle at all.
Handling: Unfortunately, an FRN handle is better at handling when compared to a Micarta blade handle. The Micarta material comes out as a smooth surface with no texture, which makes the handle slippery and stressful to hold.
Grivory vs FRN
Grivory handles are a popular and proprietary material made from thermoplastic polyamide through an injection molded process. The high-quality material is much like the FRN but with a more robust and durable structure.
Material: As aforementioned, Grivory handles come from thermoplastic polyamide fused through an injection molding process to form high-quality knife handles. The FRN handles are similar since they go through the injection molding process but are nylon polymer with glass fibers.
Durability: Polyamide ivory handles offer a more robust and durable structure when compared to standard FRN handles. Keep in mind the semi-crystalline structure in Grivory handles provides you with a high-quality material resistant to heat, corrosion, and even impact.
Handling: A downside with the Grivory is that the thermoplastic handles come out smooth with a cheap-plastic feel when on hand. The result is that Grivory handles have a worse grip than FRN handles which can be the texture for better handling.
From the outlook, the FRN handle material looks like a solid option to pair up with the right blade. But take note that FRN handles vary in style, quality, and type. To that end, be sure you pick what FRN handle best works for you and your blade tasks.
So do not shy off to try out the different FRN handles available with various knives. You can always switch to the premium G10 knife scales if you do not like FRN scales.