Micarta is a composite material used to make knife handles. It is based on fibers and epoxy resin. Micarta is sturdy and lightweight, which makes it a popular material not just for exclusive knife handles but also for a variety of high-tech applications.
The fiber/plastic composite known today as Micarta was developed in 1910 by the American engineer George Westinghouse. Micarta is the original brand name given to the material by its US producer General Electric. Today, Micarta is a common term for similar fiber/plastic composites made by several manufacturers.
All of these composite materials have in common that they consist of at least two different base materials which are bonded together but retain their own structure. Therefore, composite materials combine the different properties of their base materials. They are usually developed to offer all the advantages of comparable conventional materials at a much lighter weight. That is why they are mainly used in high-tech applications where weight reduction is a priority (e.g. in aircraft or vehicle construction) but also where the use of light materials makes for easy and pleasant handling, e.g. in the production of high-quality knives.
Micarta has all the usual characteristics of composite materials. It is a combination of absorptive fibers (e.g. wood, linen or cellulose) and a synthetic resin (mainly epoxy or phenol resin). To make Micarta, the fibers are saturated with resin. When the resin is cured, the composite material can be processed, usually by grinding or sanding. Micarta is extremely dense and resilient. It also offers a high level of dimensional stability, which means that it retains its measurements even under changing environmental conditions, such as varying temperatures or humidity levels. Micarta is pleasant to the touch and offers a firm, comfortable grip. Like all other composite materials, it is very light compared to metals.