What is a Bird’s-Beak Handle?

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Birds beak bowies
(top) Ismael Biegelmeier chose giraffe bone for the bird’s beak handle of his forged fixed blade. The 8-inch blade is a six-bar Turkish damascus in a Spirograph pattern. (Caleb Royer image) (bottom) ABS master smith James Rodebaugh incorporated a groove toward the rear of the handle to accentuate the bird’s-bear design on his harpoon-pattern fixed blade. (SharpByCoop image)

The short answer: A handle design favored by custom knifemakers that resembles a bird’s head with a short beak at the butt of the handle.

Given the practicality and curves of the bird’s-beak handle, it is small wonder that it is quite the popular grip among today’s knifemakers. In fact, the design resembling a bird’s head with a short beak at the butt of the handle has appeared in many cultures over many centuries.

Birds Beak knifemaking
Tad Lynch indicated that crafting a good bird’s-beak design requires practice and the courage to push things. His Irish Traveler Fighter features a handle of koa, a 9-inch blade of W2 tool steel with hamon and is 14 inches overall. His list price for a similar knife starts at $1,100. (SharpByCoop knife image)

“You see it in different variations on Persian daggers and swords,” said North Carolina knifemaker Ken Hall. “Also, some kukris have the ‘hook’ in the handle. In American knives you see it in some of the Buck knife designs.”

When the ABS journeyman smith with 11 years of experience is not forging in the Smoky Mountains, he raises honeybees, hikes and teaches others the craft. He made a bowie in January in preparation for an ABS master smith test that had to be pushed back because of a bicycle accident.

What is a birds beak handle on a knife
While many makers make a bird’s-beak handle with a dense hardwood, Paul DiStefano took a risk on a material that has a reputation of being temperamental: ancient walrus ivory. Blade length and material: 12 inches and 500 layers of 1095 carbon and 15N20 nickel alloy steels. His list price for a similar knife: $1,800.
(SharpByCoop knife image)

He picked the bird’s-beak handle design because it pairs well with large knives, especially those with recurve or clip-point blades. A big block of wood large enough to develop the butt’s shape is one of the best material sizes for the design, Hall explained.

“The bird’s beak provides a more controlled grip for the hand,” he noted. “The contour snugs around the little finger, keeping the knife from slipping forward while in use.”

The result, combined with a balanced knife, is a tool that feels like an extension of the hand.

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