The Reason Some Knives Have Holes in the Handle


A well-designed knife made from high-quality steel is one of the most useful tools that you can own. In the course of owning or handling fixed-blade and folding knives, you may have noticed that some have one or more holes in the handle and thought: “Why?” There are several reasons, ranging from the practical to the aesthetic. In this article, we’ll break these down so you can gain a better understanding of this design choice. 

Why do Some Knives Have Holes in the Handle?

Knifemakers drill holes into the handles of knives for a variety of reasons. These include attaching grip materials using pins and rivets, weight reduction and balance, and for decorative purposes. Holes can also improve your ability to hold the knife securely.

Knife Basics

To properly understand the reasons that some knife handles have holes, it’s worth briefly discussing the basics of knife anatomy. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it covers some of the most common terms and parts of your average knife, and ones that are particularly relevant to a discussion of handle holes and slots.

Knives are available in either fixed or folding configurations for a wide variety of purposes. These are the major components that comprise a knife:


The blade is the part of the knife that has one or more cutting edges. The edge is the sharpened side of the knife, which runs the length of the blade from the point to the heel. In a single-edged blade, the side opposite the edge is called the spine. This is the thickest part of the blade and is often flat or serrated. Serrations can allow you to perform a sawing action, whereas a flat spine is preferable for batoning. Batoning is when you use the knife as a substitute ax, hammering it against an object with a mallet or piece of wood.


The heel is the part of the blade edge that is farthest from the tip. This is the heaviest and thickest part of the blade that you can use for cutting harder objects.


The choil is typically defined as a notch cut between the blade’s cutting edge and the tang or guard of a knife, depending on whether it’s a folding or fixed-blade design. It indicates where the cutting edge ends for sharpening purposes. Some manufacturers shape the choil to accommodate the index finger for a more secure hold. 


Jimping refers to a series of ridges or notches cut into the thumb rise of the knife handle to provide increased traction when holding it in your hand.


The scales are the handle parts that attach to the sides of the tang in a single-piece knife. Scales are made from a variety of materials, from wood and aluminum to carbon fiber and bone.


The tang is that part of the knife, aft of the choil or guard, to which the knifemaker attaches scales. This could also be considered the handle frame and, in single-piece knife designs, is directly attached to the blade. The shape and weight of the tang play an essential role in the balance and durability of the knife. In fixed-blade knives, the blade may be part of the tang or attached to the handle separately. Generally speaking, one-piece fixed-blade knives are stronger and tougher than those made from multiple parts. Folding knives, traditionally called jackknives, are the preferred choice for everyday carry (EDC) as pocket knives since they’re lightweight and compact.


The pommel is the butt of a knife or sword handle. Many fixed-blade and folding knives have glass breakers on the pommel to shatter car windows in an emergency. 

Knife Handle Attachment

One of the most common reasons that knifemakers drill holes in the tang and handle of a knife is to attach scales to the tang using pins or rivets. You’ll typically see two or three evenly spaced through holes. Knifemakers often employ this method in conjunction with adhesives for a more secure fit. Folding pocket knives often have one or two holes to attach the pocket clip in addition to pins or screws for the handle parts and internal liners.

Paracord Wrapping

Paracord, or parachute cord, is a type of kernmantle rope, in which there’s an internal core enclosed in an external sheath. In Type III or 550 paracord — so-called because it has a minimum tensile strength of 550 pounds-force — the sheath comprises 32–36 interwoven nylon strands, resulting in an exceptionally strong and durable product. 

One of its numerous applications is as a substitute handle for knives, machetes, and hand axes. Paracord is an incredibly useful survival accessory, suitable for everything from a tourniquet to replacement shoelaces. By fastening the paracord to your knife handle, you can always unwrap it for these other uses. Some knifemakers ship knives with no handle parts at all to accommodate this approach. The tang is flat with three or more holes and jimping for traction.  

Using a paracord wrap has several advantages when compared with other handle materials. 

  • Affordability

Paracord is an inexpensive alternative to wooden, G10, or leather handle materials. It’s also easily replaceable, and you’re bound to have more of it in your survival kit.

  • Customizability

By wrapping the paracord around the tang, you can determine the handle thickness to find the optimal diameter for the size of your hands. This avoids the problem of ready-made handles that could prove uncomfortable with larger, smaller, or gloved hands. 

  • Simplicity and Affordability

Paracord is simple to use and replace if needed — it’s also cheap. If you need a starter knife as a beginner, this can be an affordably priced alternative to knives with custom-built handles. Keep in mind, however, that as paracord can absorb water, this can promote rust on carbon- or alloy-steel knives that do not have a rust-protective coating. 

Paracord-Wrapped Knives

While there are knives specifically designed to allow you to wrap the tang yourself, several companies also offer paracord-wrapped knives from the factory. 

SOG Tangle Fixed Blade

A good example of a paracord-wrapped fixed blade knife is the SOG Specialty Knives and Tool FX31K-CP Tangle. The Tangle features one-piece 9Cr18MoV stainless-steel construction (heat-treated to 58–60 Rockwell C), a drop-point blade with a hollow grind, and a skeletonized handle. This contributes to the exceptional balance of the knife, allowing you to throw it accurately with practice. The Tangle Knife tang is wrapped in seven feet of paracord for a comfortable, lightweight grip. The Tangle Knife has an overall length of 8.75 inches, which is a good size for daily carry. As the blade is 3.9 inches, it’s compliant with several states’ blade-length restrictions, but you should always check your local laws before carrying a knife concealed. If you do carry the Tangle, one factor you won’t notice is the weight — it’s only 5.60 ounces.

Balance and Weight Reduction

The weight of the knife and its balance directly affects its handling characteristics. Depending on the knife’s intended application, it may be more appropriate for the handle to remain lightweight, shifting the center of gravity toward, or forward of, the choil. 

For example, if you need a blade-heavy knife suitable for a downward chopping motion or for batoning, a comparatively lightweight handle may be to your advantage. This way, you can allow the weight of the blade to do more of the work, which also reduces fatigue. Meat cleavers are a good example of knives that rely on weight to assist the cutting action. Survival knives are another, especially when you intend to use your knife for cutting wood for fuel or shelter.

Knifemakers employ several methods to balance the weight of the knife. One is to cut a “stick tang.” In this method, the knifemaker tapers the tang from the choil or guard toward the pommel, removing material in the process. This method requires more skill to employ effectively, as it can reduce the strength of the knife.

Alternatively, if the knife blade is narrow or short, as some hunting and skinning knives are, it may be necessary to shift the center of gravity to the choil or guard.

In addition to achieving the ideal balance, knifemakers also contour and drill holes in the tang to reduce weight overall. If the purpose of the knife is to be as light as possible, as with a pocket or folding knife, this can be ideal for creating a feather-light product. Another method is to remove material by drilling holes or milling slots in the tang. This manufacturing or skeletonizing process can significantly reduce the weight of the knife.

Improved Grip

Being able to acquire a firm grip on a knife is imperative for both your safety and the ability to perform the task at hand. To provide a proper grip, Knifemakers use a wide variety of handle materials in the production of knives, which offer varying degrees of comfort and control. For smaller knife designs, a ring or hole at the pommel end can allow you to acquire a more secure grip on the knife by placing your little finger through it. This can prevent slipping, especially if your knife becomes wet due to water, sweat, or blood. If you’re using your knife to skin game animals or for self-defense, this is even more valuable.

Fasteners and Lanyard Loops

A lanyard is a cord that attaches a knife, pistol, or another tool to your belt or web gear to prevent loss during outdoor excursions or training exercises. If you carry a knife while hunting, backpacking, or camping, a lanyard can ensure that your knife is always available to you, no matter what trouble you find yourself in. A knife-handle hole can also allow you to attach a carabiner to clip your knife and sheath to the MOLLE webbing of your tactical backpack


Some knifemakers employ elaborate and ornate skeletonization techniques to impart a unique style and feel to suit certain customers. This decorative work can take the form of multiple holes, rectangular slots, or a honeycomb-like structure, depending on the individual knifemaker. 

Utility or Storage

While horizontal holes or slots are the most common type, you’ll also occasionally find knives with hollow handles. In these knife designs, you can unscrew a cap to reveal a hidden storage compartment. This allows you to carry accessories, such as waterproof matches, a fishing line, and a compass. 

However, when using a fixed-blade design, these knives are inherently more fragile than those in which the blade and tang are one continuous piece of steel. In the 1970s and ‘80s, knifemakers began marketing knives with hollow handles to survivalists and readers of Guns & Ammo and Soldier of Fortune, undoubtedly popularized by such films as First Blood (1982). 

Kershaw Funxion EMT

The demands placed on a folding knife are different from those expected of a fixed-blade. As a result, using a folding knife handle for additional tools or accessories shouldn’t adversely affect the overall strength of the design. If you’re interested in purchasing an emergency EDC knife, consider the Kershaw Funxion EMT. The Funxion EMT features an 8Cr13MoV stainless-steel blade, which holds a cutting edge well and demonstrates a high degree of wear resistance. 

But where the Funxion really shines is its accessories: a carabiner clip, cord cutter, hex wrench, and screwdriver tip — all folding conveniently into the handle. The pommel also has a carbide glass breaker for vehicle escape. As the name implies, this knife is suitable for use by paramedics and emergency medical technicians, but it’s also a superb companion for the outdoorsman. 

Folding Knife “Window”

In some folding knives, the handle may have a “window” to provide visual confirmation that the blade is locked in place. In addition, it creates an attractive appearance. An example of this design is the Kershaw Airlock Folding Pocket Knife. The so-called airlock cutout follows the shape of the handle and allows you to see through the stainless-steel liners. The Airlock Folding Pocket Knife has a 4Cr13 steel blade, which has a matte bead-blasted finish. For discreet EDC (everyday carry), the Airlock also has a pen-type pocket clip. While the slot in the handle is functional, it’s also decorative.

What About Knife Blade Holes?

It isn’t only knife handles that have holes. For example, Spyderco has a trademark round hole in the knife blade, close to the spine. This hole allows you to open and close the folding knife using your dominant thumb. In other designs, companies may install a rivet or stud to provide the same contact area. However, this is an extra part that may become damaged or loose over time.

For a good example of a knife with a round hole for this purpose, consider the Spyderco Endura 4. The Endura 4 features a 3.8-inch VG-10 stainless-steel blade with both plain-edge and full-flat grinds. The handle is fiberglass-reinforced nylon for high impact resistance, and the pocket clip is metal. The overall length is 8.78 inches for convenient EDC.

If you’ve ever handled or seen an M9 bayonet, you’ll also notice a hole near the front of the blade. In multi-purpose military knives, this hole can be used in conjunction with the sheath to act as a field-expedient wire cutter. 

How Find the Best Knife for Your Needs

In a properly designed knife, holes, slots, and other cutouts shouldn’t compromise structural integrity or strength. Instead, these machining operations improve the handling characteristics of the knife or increase overall utility. Before you invest in a knife for work, EDC, or survival, it’s critical that you develop a firm understanding of the features that make a knife worth using. The configuration of the tang and handle, including the presence of holes, is one of several factors to consider. Blade material and type, fixed or folding, and intended application all combine to determine the best knife for your individual needs.


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