Knife Handles and Their Relation to Knife Balance

Handles are a lot more important when it comes to kitchen knives than some people realise, infact we think they're very fascinating! It's the part of the knife you grip directly, so it's just as important as the blade itself when it comes to quality, feel and material. Comfort is also crucial when it comes to the right knife handle.

How do we exactly gauge all of these, though? Let our guide here explain and help you decide on what handle may suit you!

It's important to note that if you are an online customer of course it's a little harder to know because you can't physically hold the knife - so this guide is more centered towards people that can go into a knife store - preferably ours at Sakai Ichimonji Mitsuhide! Of course though, you can still understand some concepts like shape and material online easily.

The Power Brought by the Handle of a Knife

Before anything else, let's quickly review what the components of a good knife are. See the diagram below for those characteristics. We also have a seperate article on just this question here!

All these elements affect a knife, and different production stages in a knife's creative lifecycle impact these elements. We've made a general table below to showcase this.
△ - Slight Impact - Medium Impact - Great Impact

Element Sub Element Material Smithing Edge Creation Handle Used


Edge Retention

Piercing Ability

Cutting Ability


Ease of Grip

Power Transmission


Rust Resist.

Ease of Sharpening

Chip Resist.

Of course, the blade is important as it is what touches the ingredients, but the handle touches you, so it's just as crucial in determining the usability of a knife.

Even amongst professional chefs, some think that the knife's balance (impacted greatly by the handle as seen above) is more important than the steel of a blade or its sharpness.

There is lots of discussion around handles as well, due to each user being a unique individual. Size, strength and dominance of someone's hand differs from person to person.

If someone finds a knife difficult to use, even though it's a knife suited for that kind of work, then the issue might be that the knife is balanced in a way that the user is not accustomed with. It might be too heavy, or the centre of gravity might be different to the user, or it might just not feel right in their hands.

Let's break down further what the "balance" of a good knife can be, and explain the importance of the two main sub elements a handle impacts - ease of grip and power transmission.

Ease of Grip - Does the Handle Support Various Gripping Methods?

Kitchen knife steel technology has already made strong progress despite the limitation of there being only a few steel manufacturers. This means that evolving it further is expensive and somewhat restrictive. Knife handles, on the other hand, are significantly more flexible in this area and are relatively simple to create new, original designs for with a variety of available (and sometimes experimental) materials.

When manufacturers such as tableware makers, scissor makers, or other designers who don't focus on knives as a main part of their business decide to start selling them, they often have original products with incredibly creative handle designs. Infact, there's a very large amount of eye-catching designs and creations out there, but this can make it rare to find handles that have functionality at their core over creative designs. Of course, there's always new handles coming to the market as well, and no doubt endless ones that knife manufacturers haven't even considered or thought of yet.

Functionality wise, there's a large variety of tasks that are performed using a kitchen knife (such as various types of cutting or filleting), and the way your grip your knife will change depending on the task at hand. You might even hold it like a pen for detailing work, for example!

Of course, you can use your knife perpendicular to your cutting board and cut that way - most knife handles will allow for this as that's the most basic style of cut there is. But there's more than just that way to hold a knife! There's the pen style mentioned earlier, or you may grip it more like a horizontal bar to add more power to your cuts, or place your index finger on the spine of the knife to control its direction. A knife handle was originally designed to allow you to perform any cutting task with ease.

Even if the handle has a wonderfully unique and beautiful design, it's very important to consider precisely how you'll hold it - hence why it so strongly impacts balance.

What about if you have larger hands?

What's also important when it comes to ease of grip is not just the shape, but the size of the handle.

Japanese kitchen knives have soared in popularity outside of Japan. In proportion to the attention Japanese cuisine is getting, Japanese kitchen knives are growing in demand too.

This also means a demand for knives for overseas markets needs to be met. To make the most of this opportunity, some companies are making knives with handles suited for an overseas audience - and they generally have larger handles as a result.

Famous brands from major manufacturers are no exception to this. Because of this, if possible try holding the knife handle yourself first to make sure it fits your hand correctly. The handle may be too small, or too big for your needs! If it is a Japanese-style handle and doesn't fit right, you can get it replaced as well which gives added fleixibility over Western-style knives. Or do it yourself via our guide here

Power Transmission - Can You Properly Convey Your Hand Movements?

The transmission of a knife's power is crucial for using it, as it affects how easy foods are to cut and how fatigued you might get after a serious cutting session.

A well-balanced knife has a major impact on how easily this power is transmitted from your hand to the knife and then to the food.

A knife that transmits power easily allows you to much more finely control the angle and strength of the blade using your fingers and thumb, allowing you to fully take advantage of the potential your kitchen knife's blade has.

Sometimes you might see people balancing the center of the knife, right near the base of the blade on one finger to show that the knife is well balanced. Of course, to many people it's important to have the knife's centre of balance be near the base.

However, what's more important is a structure that gradually dispersers the weight from its centre of gravity to both sides.

For example, you could add some weight to the tip and base of the blade. If you do so in equal amounts the centre of gravity will remain the same. However, the knife will become much more difficult to use, and could balance a lot more like a seesaw going up and down. This shows that the knife isn't dispersing that gravity centre well.

High-quality knives have a variety of functional handles, such as a heavier ebony with nickel or silver colored decorations, and on top of traditional Japanese knives you'll find Western-style knives, which have metal rivets and spacers in the handle. Some of these handles may exist for the sake of balance - or they may just be used to look more appealing.

You need to be careful with heavy handles if balance is not taken into account. However, it's also possible to go too light with your knife. If the blade itself is too light, while it will be able to cut, gravity won't do any of that work for you, and you'll need to cut solely with your own strength or power - increasing your fatigue.

In short, when choosing a knife make sure that the weight of the knife is balanced in a way that works for you and the work you need to do with it, and feels like it will disperse the centrepoint's gravity well.

If you have questions about any of our handles, or need to know the weights for them - feel free to contact us! Our products have general weights on each page but you're more than welcome to double check before we send a knife out. Just ask us with your order or contact us with the button below! We also field questions about handle replacement as well if you need to fit a new one onto your knife, plus show you how in our Japanese Handle Replacement article, which you can find here! We also have other articles about knife handles, both Western-style and Japanese-style guides are available.

Check the handle's size, that you can grip it in the ways you need, and that the balance is right both centre of gravity and weight wise.