Why Are Knife Handles Called Scales Sometimes

Trust me when I say there are a lot of little things that confuse me about knives.

From why a tomato knife has two points to reasons for the holes on a cheese knife, I have gone in search of them all.

Of recent, I discovered that I started calling knife handles “scales,” cos I’ve heard others call them the same things too.

So, today, I decided to look into why knife handles are called scales – and if I should too.

Read on to find out all that I dug up.

What are knife handles called?

It might interest you to know, but they are called… handles.


I’m not even kidding.

Knife handles are always going to be called handles.

Looking at it, that’s what they are: since they are the part of the knife that allows you to handle the entire thing and use it well.

So, where did the ‘scales’ come from?

What are knife scales?

Knife handles can also be called knife scales under some conditions.

When the knife handle material can be removed, they are called scales.

You can easily know if your knife handles can be removed when you see the full tang separating either side of the handle. Thus, you can remove and replace those scales with others.

Thus, knife scales are knife handles that can be taken off and replaced with other materials. Knife scales are usually not strongly fastened and are made for easy customization by the user. When making knife handles at home, scales are most likely what you’re creating for your knives.

This makes sense, seeing as some reptiles can shed their scales to take on new ones. With that in mind, I think I can see where this must have come from.

That said, all knife scales are knife handles but not all knife handles are knife scales.

What materials can be used to make knife handles or scales?

I have developed an in-depth guide to knife handles and scales here.

In that guide, I showed why oakwood is the best for making knife handles. I also explored other top options that you should look for on good knives.

There are surely more materials to make a knife handle with than I mentioned in that piece. If you care about getting good knives, though, make sure to stick with those options.

Which is better: scales or handles?

Well, I suppose you mean non-scale handles.

This comes down to personal preferences.

I am not a big DIY person and I don’t think I’ll be making new scales for my knife soon, so I’ll go with handles any day. If you think you might get the urge to customize your knife at some point, though, nothing is stopping you from picking up a knife that comes with scales.

That said, I have used a knife with scales (before I knew the difference) for years and they didn’t come off or anything like that. So, if your preferred knife has the scales design, don’t let that dissuade you from buying.

As long as it’s a good knife overall.

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