These specially formulated high impact plastics make excellent knife handles due to their durability and waterproof characteristics. An endless array of colors and patterns are available. It should be noted that, as plastics, this material can melt when exposed to extremely high temperatures. While these man made materials are not very expensive or exotic, they actually make excellent durable knife handles and can be quite beautiful.
Micarta is industrial high pressure laminate and refers to a composite of linen, canvas, paper, fiberglass, carbon fiber or other fabric in a thermosetting plastic, originally used in electrical and decorative applications. Micarta(R) was developed by George Westinghouse at least as early as 1910 using phenolic resins. These resins were used to impregnate paper and cotton fabric which were cured under pressure and high temperature to produce laminates. In later years this manufacturing method included the use of fiberglass fabric, other resin types were also used. Today Micarta high pressure industrial laminates are produced with a wide variety of resins and fibers. The term has been inappropriately used to generically refer to most resin impregnated fiber compounds. Common uses of modern high pressure laminates are as electrical insulators, printed circuit board substrates, and knife handles.
Common types of Micarta found in knife handles include canvas, paper, linen, and denim. Older micarta does tend to yellow over time especially when exposed to sunlight. Many older knives were made with the original Westinghouse micarta which was originally white or cream colored paper or linen micarta but typically has turned yellow from age.
Micarta is an almost unbelievably strong material able to withstand sever impact without damage. It is also waterproof and very stable against shrinkage or cracking. Due to the fibers and chemicals used in manufacture, caution must be used in working the material as you do not want to breath the dust. It can be rather nasty stuff to work with but once finished poses no hazard.
G10 is very similar to micarta in the way it is made but uses fiberglass materials for added strength.