View Full Version : Western Handle Design Input

Marko Tsourkan
09-26-2013, 04:35 PM
Hello guys,
I have grown accustomed to ask you for an advice, so here I go.

I am thinking of making Western handles with a metal bolster in aged bronze or stainless steel (possibly mokume later on), main wood and a contrasting endcap in wood or metal.

Endcap would be something new and some knives will have metal endcaps (same material as bolster) to bring the balance point forward. Michael Rader's handles are obvious inspiration here.

Shape - coca-cola bottle.

What do ya think?


09-26-2013, 04:56 PM
I would do the bolster in stainless. It sounds cool. Could you draw up a pic of the coke bottle shape that might help get some opinions because coke bottle shape can vary in knives that I have seen, owned and held.

Marko Tsourkan
09-26-2013, 05:02 PM
I think a picture of a finished handle would make a better justice than a drawing. I have heat treated a few blades for a Western style handle, so the prototype is coming very soon.

Aged bronze would look similar to this one (courtesy of Blade Gallery). I will try to pick wood to create a very good (and balanced) contrast.


Coca-Cola shape will be similar to Hattory FH, but a bit thicker in the middle.


09-26-2013, 05:25 PM
Man, I would love to swap my beautiful wa for a beautiful western. Your wa handles are gorgeous, but I'm a Wester handle guy lately.

This should be fun to watch, Marko.

Von blewitt
09-26-2013, 05:35 PM
Sounds good, I prefer stainless bolster for stainless knives and bronze/nickel silver on blades that Patina

I don't think you can go wrong using Michaels handles as an inspiration! They are magic

Marko Tsourkan
09-26-2013, 05:42 PM
Sounds good, I prefer stainless bolster for stainless knives and bronze/nickel silver on blades that Patina

I don't think you can go wrong using Michaels handles as an inspiration! They are magic

Sounds good.
As for Michael's handles inspiration, just the end cap. I like the coca-cola shape from top to bottom of the handle akin to how Bill Burke makes his (or Hattori for that matter, though Hattori is thinner and I also like handles taller in the front).

Don Nguyen
09-26-2013, 11:06 PM
Marko, I'm confused on how a metal endcap would bring the balance forward; I thought it would be the opposite?

09-27-2013, 01:17 AM
Like the uniqueness of bronze bolster! I'm ok with coke bottle. I just had Dave re-profile my Martell suji to coke bottle because it affords a better grip when things get greasy (I do a lot of 180's and 112A's). On a gyuto or petty, I'm more of a palm swell/boat tail, Dan O'Malley style guy.

Michael Rader
09-27-2013, 01:27 AM
I don't think you can go wrong using Michaels handles as an inspiration! They are magic

Yeah, I wish I could "magically" make them faster. Get ready for lots of tedious work, and good luck, Marko. Thanks. -m

Marko Tsourkan
09-27-2013, 08:20 AM
Marko, I'm confused on how a metal endcap would bring the balance forward; I thought it would be the opposite?

A typo. By increasing the weight of the handle, particularly at the butt, you bring the balance toward the handle. How much it will bring, will depend on the weight of the knife before handle. I plan to do this on a pretty heavy knives or upon request


Marko Tsourkan
09-27-2013, 08:23 AM
Yeah, I wish I could "magically" make them faster. Get ready for lots of tedious work, and good luck, Marko. Thanks. -m

Thanks, Michael -

to get to your level of consistency will take a long time, I have done a few prototypes for practice and it is very tedious and time consuming work.

It is however, great to look up to quality makers and strive to get better.


09-27-2013, 08:25 AM
I'm a fan of a big beak at the heel, like western shigs. In a pinch grip it gives the little finger a reference point and it gives great control in a hammer grip.

A coke bottle big beaked handle may look a touch busy, but would feel and perform well.

Also, classy looks. Stay classy kkf.

09-27-2013, 08:59 AM
This is a classy joint.

I'm excited to see what your Westerns will look like, Marko. If they have any inspiration from Rader's work, when combined with your workmanship (it goes without saying Michael's is outstanding) and styling, they should be pretty incredible.

Marko Tsourkan
09-27-2013, 09:30 AM
To be honest, I draw influences for Western handle from all over the place - F.Dick, Devin, Rader, Burke, Ort to name a few. A while back I heard an interview with Jonathan Safran Foer and he said something along the line, when we see a beautiful thing, we want to copy it, kind of involuntary reaction, and I remember totally agreeing with him :D. When there is more than one feature from different sources that I like, then I have to come up with a design that incorporates some, and in process, I come up with my own style.

09-27-2013, 09:42 AM
That bolster and cap combo would be spectacular. Can't wait to see these, let alone holding one.

Marko Tsourkan
12-29-2013, 08:30 PM
I kept putting off this project, but in a sense it has kept me from working on some new types of knives - scimitar, boning, etc, so I spent some time to figure out the process of making a western handle. I have 4 in works and more in prep, so I am pleased to announce that a western handled knives will be produced shortly.

The design is unchanged - brass tip, stock wood for handle body and contrasting angled butt cap.

The first few will go on a gyuto (grinding new types takes a little bit of practice), but I will post pictures as soon as available. I am cautiously optimistic, as the practice handle came out pretty good and at this point what is left is to proceed slowly and to pay attention to details.

I might take a break from making wa handles and concentrate on western for a while.



Marko Tsourkan
12-29-2013, 08:54 PM
Also, looking to give the western handle some texture to aid gripping. Once I narrow down to an acceptable finish, I will post some comments.


Marko Tsourkan
01-02-2014, 05:23 PM
New territory for me, so moving slowly. Handle is roughly shaped, moving to polishing.

Not great pictures, but you can probably see a contrasting end cap.




01-02-2014, 05:29 PM
Looking nice Marko!!

01-02-2014, 05:56 PM
Really cool. Can definitely see the time and thought put into this new handed design pic yours

Pensacola Tiger
01-02-2014, 10:29 PM
Great looking handle, Marko. Can't wait to see the finished knife!

Von blewitt
01-02-2014, 10:32 PM

01-03-2014, 12:51 PM
Looks great!

Wondering how it compares in size to your octagonal handles---the photos make it look like a bigger handle.

Marko Tsourkan
01-03-2014, 08:11 PM
Here are some more pictures (camera pics taken in the shop) of the completed Western handle gyuto.

This one is 235mm, 52100 steel. Handle is cocobolo with blackwood end cap and brass guard.









Von blewitt
01-03-2014, 08:30 PM
For sale? Haha I'll take it :D

01-03-2014, 09:04 PM
That really cleaned up nicely. Beautiful work!

NO ChoP!
01-03-2014, 09:19 PM
Somehow, that is exactly what I was expecting. Beautiful work.

Marko Tsourkan
01-03-2014, 09:24 PM
Thanks guys. It took me a long time to produce it, it is my first Western, and even though I have made many D and octagonal, it took me some time to figure out how to do it.

I incorporated suggestions from many of you into this handle. I will do minute tweaking (if needed) as I get more feedback, I made this handle do my own liking.

Thanks again for suggestions, feedback and guidance. It really makes a big difference.


01-03-2014, 10:43 PM
Sweet, Marko! But I'd like a little more contrast in the endcap. In these pics, it's a little lost.

01-04-2014, 07:10 AM
Looks great Marko. Looking forward to get my hands on one in a near future (so I hope) :)

01-04-2014, 07:28 AM
Looks really clean Marko , I do agree on having bit more contrast . Really liked the brass guard too. I loved the d-handle from you , but this may convert many people to western handles again :plus1:

01-04-2014, 08:14 AM
Looks smart! I can see this working very well

01-04-2014, 09:06 AM
Beautiful knife.

Marko Tsourkan
01-04-2014, 10:37 AM
Thanks folks. There will be more contrast between end cap and the handle wood in the coming handles. I might even insert another contrasting piece in the front, sandwiching the wood handle in between two contrasting pieces.

I will continue making wa handles, but I must admit that a Western handles has grown on me a lot in the past few weeks. I might make lengh modification on the D handle, based on some recent input and my personal observation from making a Western handle. I might also carry over some joinery from the Western handle to wa, making them a bit more unique in appearance.


01-04-2014, 11:01 AM
By adjusting the length on the d-handle, do you mean to shorten it? I ask as the 3 I have are absolutely perfect, for me that is. I understand it's subjective and all, but I'm quite the fan of a bit larger handle. Just my little opinion though.

Marko Tsourkan
01-04-2014, 11:03 AM
The balance point on the S grind Western blade is about 1" forward (will be a little further out on a heavy chef's). The handle is a hidden-tang, and there is a radius on the brass piece, to minimize feel of the natural wood movement. The handle is fully sealed and securely attached to the blade. It should last the life of the knife.

I would call this blade a workhorse, as there is plenty of steel on the spine to give a good rigidity and weight, even though the knife is very thin above the edge. The edge is serviceable along the whole lengh (thickness above the edge at 10mm or so is comparable along the whole lengh from the tip to the heel).


PS: I have been making oversize wa handles for larger knives, these will be ones to modify if necessary. I am going to take another look at those. I might come up with a tweak, or maybe some sort of modification to the handle and offer it as an option. The extra length gets in a way of a tip work on a large knife.

Marko Tsourkan
01-04-2014, 11:53 AM
Sorry for the rambling. Been thinking about this all morning.

The solution to the oversize handle getting in the way of a tip work might be a D-hybrid western. It's shorter, the neck (machi) is comparable to a true Western. In short, it might be more suitable handle for larger knives for folks who want a wa handle.

I am exploring a possibility to move away from a long-neck (machi) knives altogether.

01-05-2014, 07:29 PM
I'd love to see a nice 1/8" domed pin in the center of that western handle to really set it off. Beautiful design Marko!

Marko Tsourkan
01-06-2014, 02:53 PM
There is a brass pin in the back of the handle.