If you would like to order a custom handle for one of your knives I will be happy to work with you to design it as close as possible to your dream handle. But please keep in mind that this is not my day job, and it can take weeks or in extremely busy times even months before I can finish custom ordered handles. If you are looking for something fast and I have nothing available, I’ll be happy to direct you to places where you can find generic replacement handles in stock.
The short version
- Check first what handles I have available, you might get lucky
- For custom orders, make sure you get on my order list - you can enter your own data to get in
- You tell me what knife you have and what kind of handle you want
- I make the handle and you wait patiently
- If you like the finished handle, you send payment, then I send the handle to you for inspection
- If you like it, you send the handle + knife to Dave Martell for rehandling (or do it yourself)
- You start thinking about the next handle while I spend your money on wood and tools
- The rest of this page explains this process in more detail
- Any questions, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
The ordering process
Before you consider ordering anything, please read the disclaimer below.
There will be a limited number of custom orders available per year. But I will try making extra handles following my own design ideas, and I will offer whatever I have in the ‘Available Handles’ section. You can subscribe to this blog page, so that you get notified as soon as new handles are available. The reason is simply that it is less pressure for me to make things on my own time than making custom designs for people who are waiting. And I started this to relax, not to add pressure to my life…
If you want to order a custom design, please contact me directly at email@example.com . I will be happy to work something out with you. At the same time, please also sign up in my order sheet . This sheet will roughly determine the sequence in which I work, and since there will be limited numbers of handles that I can make in a given time frame, the earlier you enter your data into the order sheet, the earlier you will get your handle. It will also give you an idea about the expected wait times, because I will regularly update the progress I make on all the handles I am working on at a given time. I left this as open access, so you can enter the necessary information and we can discuss together what is needed for the final design.
The final price will depend on the complexity of the handle and on the materials used, and you will get an estimate before I start working on it. Considering that I cannot make a firm commitment to the time it will take me to make a handle, I do not expect payment up front. An exception may be handles with unusually expensive materials where I reserve the right to ask for a down payment. Here is a very rough guideline that I use to price my handles. In general, the work and price is the same regardless of the handle size or shape (octagonal, D-shaped, oval etc). Please understand that this is not binding because of differences in materials etc which are not reflected in this very generalized summary:
Base handle $130 – this is a select piece of wood and a ferrule from select wood or horn. The following sums will be added to the base price and reflect the cost of material and/or the time it takes to add these pieces.
- rare or unique wood pieces + $10-40
- marbled piece of horn for ferrule + $10-15
- spacers, endcaps (regular materials) + $5-10/piece
- fiber spacers $2.50/piece
- any spacer that includes real metal (nickel silver, copper, brass) + $15 flat rate fee (they take considerably longer to make); spacers between ferrule and handle and between handle and endcap count as 2 spacers.
- mammoth tooth or ivory, fossil coral etc spacers or endcaps + $10-40
- mammoth ivory ferrule + $85 (if available)
- mosaic pin in the handle butt + $10
Here is an extreme example:
This is a handle I made as an exercise for myself. The cost for this handle would be base price ($130) + rare Honduran rosewood burl ($10) + mammoth ivory ferrule ($95 – $85 + $10 for the split design) + two metal pieces (in this case $30 total because it is sterling silver) and $7.50 for fiber spacers + $15 flat rate for metal spacers + mammoth ivory endcap ($40) + mosaic pin ($10) = $337.50 plus $5 S&H.
In contrast, a handle like this one here would be base price ($130) + spectacular piece of spalted black ash burl (+$10) and a beautiful piece of marbled horn (+$15) = $155 + $5 S&H.
And one last example of a ‘basic handle’ for $130, African blackwood with a ferrule of spalted Hawaiian Cooke pine. (BTW, the last two handles were not yet polished in the pictures, I will eventually show some nicer pictures here…).
What information do I need for custom handles?
It will be easier to make a handle if I know what specific knife it will be for, and if you already have the knife I will ask you about several measurements and your preferences in order to make the fit as good as possible to your knife and your hand. Here is a picture that explains the basic anatomy of Japanese kitchen knives (thanks to my friend Gator for allowing me to use his drawing – the colored lines were added by me):
Generally, it is helpful to know
- the length of the handle that is on your knife (blue line)
- how wide the handle is at the tip when you look at the knife from the side (red line)
- how wide the tang is when you look from the side (longer green line)
- if your handle has a machi (see ‘L’ in the picture), how wide is it (short green line)
- if you look at the knife from the spine (top), how wide is the handle at the tip
- looking from the spine side, how wide is the metal tang at the point where it enters the handle (usually 2-10mm).
If you look at the available handles, please also keep these measures in mind. Once the tang gets inserted into the knife handle, there should still be at least 2-3mm of material in each direction to make sure the handle holds up to normal use. If the knife has a machi, the tang should also not be wider than the knife handle (see longer green line in the picture). And finally, the lengths of the handles also differ accordig to personal preferences. As a very rough guideline, I use these measures:
knife up to 120mm – 110-120mm handle
knife 150mm – 120-125mm handle
knife 180mm – 125-135mm handle
knife 210mm – 135-140mm handle
knife 240mm – 140-145mm handle
knife 270mm – 145-150mm handle
knife 300mm – 150-155mm handle
knife 330mm – 155-165mm handle
But depending on the type of knife, the thickness or materials of the handle, and the preferences of the customer, this can be very flexible. I personally prefer longer handles, please keep that in mind when I recommend something. As I mentioned above, it is always a great idea to start with the handle you have on the knife, and then decide in which way you would want it to be different to match your personal preferences.
I will compile a list of available materials right here when time allows. But keep in mind that this is a dynamic list – of some materials I may only have very few or even individual pieces Every piece of wood is unique and I may not have exactly what you saw in a picture somewhere. Just a general comment about the woods I use: I have started this for fun, not for maximum profit. For many pieces I use, I paid on the upper end of the market price because I prefer buying small, select quality pieces rather than whole boards of which I cut the pieces I need and then sit on the rest of it. Almost all my woods are stabilized by one of the leaders in the field of this process. Stabilizing means that the wood is injected with resin under heat and vacuum. This process makes the wood more stable and limits cracking, moving etc. It also makes the wood much more water resistant. The cost is that some of the natural wood feeling gets lost a bit. The only woods I do not have stabilized are: Arizona desert ironwood, African blackwood, and all woods of the dalbergia family (e.g. cocobolo, Honduran rosewood, kingwood etc.). These woods are either too dense or too oily to benefit from stabilizing, but they are naturally stable and perfectly fine to use as they are. There are some very few additional woods that fall into this category, like Australian black mulga, but they are rare and I have very limited supplies.
To find out what some woods look like and to get ideas about potential combinations, you can go to my gallery page at www.skeller.info/handles/gallery/index.php and look around. Showing me what you like by sending me a link to a handle picture makes a great starting point for developing your own design.
I have been working for several years now with Dave Martell who has put most of my custom handles on peoples’ knives. In fact, I send my own knives for rehandling to Dave, because he does such a great job – and putting on a handle can be more tricky tan you might think. Dave also does an incredibe job with sharpening all kinds of knives, up to the highest levels imaginable, and he is a joy to deal with. So, I strongly suggest that you have Dave put on any handle you may order from me. I will send the handle directly to you or Dave when it is done, and you can discuss details with him. Please be aware that you will be charged for this service and that this is not part of the buying price of the handle.
If you have tools available (recommended: vise, hammer, chisel for taking off old handles; vise, needle files/rasps, epoxy for attaching handle to a knife, epoxy syringe, epoxy color; cleaning material) and some experience in woodworking you can put the new handle on your knife yourself. However, I cannot be held responsible for any damage, breakage etc. that happens if you attempt to do this yourself. Should you break a handle in that process, I may be able to repair it but reserve the right to charge a fee for that.
Shipping and payment
The handle will be sent directly to you as soon as possible after receiving payment. This way you can inspect the handle and if you have any concerns or you are not happy, you can return it in its original condition within 7 days after receiving it and I will reimburse the full price to you. In that case, please contact me for details.
I ask for $5 S&H contribution to priority mail shipping to an address in the U.S. – that is usually below the actual cost. For international shipping, please contact me.
My preferred method for payment is Paypal. The email address for paypal payments is firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, I may accept money orders or checks but please contact me directly if you plan to send one.
If, for any reason, you do not like a handle I sent you, you can return it in its original condition within 7 days after receiving it. I will reimburse you the full purchase price. Please contact me as soon as possible to discuss return details, and I would also appreciate any honest and constructive feedback about how I could become better in the future. Please understand that I can not be responsible for any returned handles that are lost in the mail.
I don’t like disclaimers, but I guess it is necessary to point out a few things:
These handles are predominantly handmade. I use a drill press for the tang slots and final buffing and a belt sander for rough shaping but they are all finished by hand. As a consequence, none of them is perfect – there may be minor asymmetries, one edge may be more rounded than another, an inlay or a tang slot may not be 100% centered etc. These ‘flaws’ are gradual; I will not offer anything for a regular price of which I know that it has major issues, and if I have any reason to fear a handle could be affected in its stability and/or longevity I will not sell it. But sometimes I think a handle is o.k. and the buyer may take issue with smaller things. In such a case I offer that any buyer can return any handle in its original condition within 7 days after receiving it if they are not happy with it – and as long as it is not yet put on a knife, obviously…
Wood is a natural product that may have irregularities (small voids, bark inclusions or irregular figuring or coloring). The same is true for materials like mammoth ivory or buffalo horn. These are not considered flaws, they are a normal characteristic of the material. In some woods, like buckeye burl or other burl woods, they define the whole charme of the wood piece. Some woods, especially burl woods and denser woods, sometimes can develop small cracks that can be treated by closing them with epoxy or CA glue. In cases of very minor surface cracks or voids I may choose to do that, just like many other wood workers would, but when in doubt I will not use a piece of wood.
The handles I make usually consist of a combination of different materials. These pieces are carefully cut, prepared and then glued together with different types of 2-component epoxies. After shaping, sanding and finishing the handles, they should hold up well in a kitchen environment under normal use conditions. But like other things, these handles can break when the fall on the floor or get abused, and I cannot be held responsible for such cases. While I try to use only seasoned woods or stabilized material, there is always a chance that wood, as a natural product,may continue to move, especially after strong changes in humidity. In handles with a combination of different materials this may lead to tensions resulting in cracks or you may find the wood receding compared to metal pieces etc. I do what I can to prevent this but this cannot be totally excluded. In the very rare case that a handle should break under normal use I will try to work with you as well as I can to find a solution.