The purpose of this essay is to help you find a knife handle that will fit your hand, by filling in the information often missing on handle dimensions in the specifications on knife maker’s websites.  (See Note 1)

Knife makers will often list several dimensions about a knife, usually including the blade length, width, thickness and steel used; but will often only list the overall length and material used in the handle. There are other dimensions you will need to know if you wish a handle will fit properly in your hand for high stress functions, such as self-defense use.

In addition to the overall length of the handle, you should also know it’s circumference, as well as the length of the grip portion of the handle.

If a knife has a guard, pommel, finger grooves, or other asymmetrical elements on the handle, this will often affect how much usable grip area you will have.

I have listed the specifications of several knives that I own below. In addition to the manufacturer’s specs, I have added the measurements of the grip area of the handle, as well as the circumference at the center of the grip.

Your first step in finding the right size knife handle is knowing the dimensions of your own hand.

We will be taking three measurements for this:

  1. Your hand width at the front of your grip. This measurement will give you the minimum grip width you need on a handle to fit the front of your grip at your fingers. On a knife handle, this is the area between two mechanical stopping points, such as the guard or finger groove and the pommel end.

 2. Your overall hand width. This is the total width of your fist when closed and gripping a handle. It spans the bottom of your fist (including the muscle you would impact a target with when striking with a hammer fist ) up to the top of the knuckle on your thumb.

Remember: Hand Width equals the Handle Length you need: The two measurements of your hand width will give you the length you need for a comfortable and secure grip on a handle.


3. Your hand length. The length of your hand, measured from your wrist to the tip of your middle finger will give you the circumference you need in a handle to get a secure grip on it. My own hand length is 8 inches. I am giving this info so you can make adjustments, up or down, when comparing handle circumferences on knives.

Remember: Hand Length equals the Handle Width you need:

The measurement of the length of your hand will tell you the maximum and minimum thickness the handle of a knife should be for your hand (AKA the circumference ).

This circumference measurement comes from the way we measure a stick for use in Pekiti-Tirsia. Our training sticks are measured for best grip by rolling the stick into our grip and checking that the forefinger and middle finger touches the skin of the palm, but does not bottom out so that the fingertips press the flesh against the bones of the hand.


The maximum stick diameter for my 8 inch long hand is 1-1/8 inches (1.125"). This gives a circumference of 3.5 inches.


The minimum stick diameter for my hand is about 1 inch. A round stick with a diameter of 1 inches gives a circumference of 3.14 inches. (Note: the specs on the Cold Steel website list the diameter of this stick as 1 inch, but I find the “nodes” on the stick to be about 1-1/8 inches and the “valleys” to be closer to 1” when measured on my micrometer. I tend to hold this stick with the nodes centered in my palm, turning them into palm swells, which gives me a good grip.



Here is a Cold Steel Balicki Stick. Notice how my fingers are pressing into my palm in the photo, making the Balicki Stick is too small for my hand. The specs on the Cold Steel website list the diameter on this stick as 9/10ths of an inch, but my micrometer has it as 7/8ths. This is a small difference, but its enough to make this stick too small for me.



Here is my hand gripping an Ontario Blackie Collins D guard model machete handle. Notice how none of my fingertips are touching my palm. This handle is therefore too thick for me. At 4.5" in circumference, this handle is a bit too thick for me to hold securely. 


How did I measure the handle circumference on my knives? Since knife handles are not round, I couldn’t just multiply the diameter by pi to find the circumference. Instead, I took a cloth tape measure and wrapped it around the center of the handle to find its circumference.


In addition to the overall handle length, I also measured the portion of the handle where your fingers would usually grip it.



Here is a list of some of the knives I own and their dimensions; as well as photos showing them in my preferred grip for self-defense with that knife.

I will update this list of specifications as I get new knives, or friends send me photos and measurements (Hint, hint... ;-) .



Overall Length:8.25”/20.6 cm

Blade Length:3.625”/9.1 cm

Blade Thickness: 1/8”/ 3.2 mm

Handle Length overall: 4.625”/ 11.74 cm

Handle Grip length: 4”/ 10.1 cm

Handle circumference: 3-3/8” / 8.5 cm

Weight:  133.4 g / 4.7 oz

GRIP NOTES: Pekiti-Tirsia folks will notice that I am holding this knife with the edge facing out, (instead of inward, our preference in Pakal grip). This is due to the guard and pommel giving me a more secure grip in an edge out grip. At my age I am more concerned with grip security than recounters of disarming attempts. As they say in the car commercials "Your mileage may vary." 



Overall Length: 9-3/8" / 23.8 cm

Blade Length: 4-1/4" / 10.8 cm

Handle Length: 5-1/4" / 13.3 cm

Handle Grip length: 4.5” / 11.43 cm

Handle Circumference: 3-1/4” / 8.25 cm

Weight: 5.4 oz. / 154 g

GRIP NOTES: This is about the smallest handle I can get a true fencer's grip on. It is important to have the middle and ring finger touching the palm so that you have as much contact as possible fully surrounding the handle for a secure grip, as well as having good counter pressure between the thumb and forefinger in a "pinch grip."  



Weight: 4.7 oz / 133.4 g

Blade Thickness: 0.137” / 3.5 mm

Blade Length: 4” / 10.16 cm

Handle Length: 5" / 12.7 cm

Handle Grip length: 4.25” / 10.79 cm

Handle circumference:  3.25” / 8.25 cm

Overall Length: 9” / 22.86 cm

GRIP NOTES: This is the classic Pekiti-Tirsia Pakal grip with the edge on a single edge knife facing inwards. I would only use this on a knife without a large guard if I first tested my grip with it. I did this in the closed position, using this folding knife as a palm stick and striking a tire stack with it. The knife passed the test, without my hand slipping from the handle. This is the only folder that feels secure in my hand for this test in the closed position. ( Remember, this is my test with my hand, with my experience level. Please read note 1 at the end of this essay ). I would like to see Cold Steel come out with a Zytel or rubber trainer for further testing on this design. 




Blade Length: 4”/ 10.16 cm

Blade Thickness: 0.19” / 5 mm

Handle Length: 4.625" / 11.747 cm

Handle Grip length: 4.25” / 10.79 cm

Handle circumference:  3.25” / 8.25 cm

Overall: 8.625” / 21.90 cm

Weight: 7.1 oz / 201 g

GRIP NOTES: Here is another knife that feels better with the edge facing out than in, because of handle design. The handle is a bit thin for my hand, so I will be filling the handle gap with some fire making supplies and wrapping it with more tape. Cold Steel left this handle without any grip scales, since this was designed as a hunting knife to field dress game, but I intend to use it as a small survival knife.  




Overall Length:12.25” / 31.11 cm

Blade Length: 5.5” / 13.97 cm

Blade Thickness: 0.157” / 4 mm

Handle Length: 6.75” / 17.14 cm

Handle Grip length: 5” / 12.7 cm

Handle Circumference: 3.25” / 8.25 cm

Weight:7.85 oz / 222.54 g

GRIP NOTES: I can hold my XL Voyager in hammer grip because the handle fills my hand sufficiently to get a good grip. The tips of my first three fingers are touching my palm, but not pressing the flesh against the bones. In addition, there is enough length on this handle to switch to a true fencer's grip, if needed. 




Blade Length: 6” /  15.24 cm

Handle Length: 7.25” / 18.41 cm

Handle Grip length: 6.25” / 15.87 cm

Handle Circumference: 3” / 7.62 cm

Overall Length: 13” / 33.02 cm

GRIP NOTES: I'm holding this knife in thumb support grip due to its handle being a bit too small for my hand. Thumb support grip keeps the handle secure in my grip during cutting chores.




Blade Thickness: 0.157” / 4 mm

Blade Length: 6” /  15.24 cm

Handle Length: 7-1/8” / 18.09 cm

Handle Grip length: 6.25” / 15.87 cm

Handle Circumference: 3.5” / 8.89 cm

Overall Length: 13-1/8” / 33.33 cm

Weight: 7.9 oz / 223.96 g

GRIP NOTES: This knife feels best in my hand in fencer's grip. Notice how my middle and forefinger are just touching my palm for a good compression grip on the handle.




Weight: 13.4 oz / 379.88 g

Blade Thickness: 0.188” / 4.8 mm

Blade Length: 6” / 15.24 cm

Handle Length: 8” / 20.32 cm

Handle Grip length: 5.5” / 13.97 cm

Handle Circumference: 3.25” /  8.25 cm

Overall Length: 14” / 35.56 cm

 GRIP NOTES: This knife stays in my smaller survival bag and functions as a mini hatchet. That is why I am holding it in hammer grip near the end of the handle. This gives an extra bit of leverage in my swing and increases chopping ability. 




Weight: 5.2oz / 147 g

Blade Thickness: 0.137” / 3.5 mm

Blade Length: 4in / 10.16 cm

Handle Length: 5-3/8” / 13.65 cm

Handle Grip length: 3-7/8” / 9.84 cm

Handle Circumference: 3” /  7.62 cm

Overall Length: 9-3/8in / 23.81 cm

 GRIP NOTES: Because of its size, I feel the Recon 1 is best used in a self-defense situation in icepick grip. Because of the finger grooves in its handle, it feels the most comfortable and secure in my hand with the edge forward.



Weight: 6.9oz / 195.6 g
Blade Thickness: 3/16”/ 4.8mm
Blade Length: 4”/ 10.1cm
Blade Steel: 8Cr13MoV
Handle Length: 5-3/8" / 13.65 cm
Hangle Grip Length: 4.5” / 11.43cm
Handle Circumference: 3.25”/ 8.5 cm
Overall Length: 9-3/8”/ 23.81cm

GRIP NOTES: For self defense use, I prefer icepick grip for knives with a four inch blade.
This is one of the few pocket knives that fits well in my large hand, so I can hold it securely in either edge in or edge out grip. If your hands are not the same size as mine, then edge out is probably a better grip for you. In any event, I would not try edge in use with any other locking mechanism than the Tri-Ad lock on the newer Cold Steel folders.



Handle Length: 4.75” / 12.06 cm

Handle Grip length: 4.25” / 10.79 cm

Handle Circumference: 3-3/8” / 8.57 cm

Handle Grip Length: 4" / 10.1 cm

GRIP NOTES: I have a SRK and Master Hunter in this photo, because they and the Recon Tanto all share the same handle. I've always found this handle design secure in my grip, even though the rubber guards are too small for me to have complete confidence in them. I would like to see Cold Steel adding a larger steel guard option on the SRK and Recon Tanto. (Other than the 1917 Bowie, I find Cold Steel guards in general to be a bit small for their intended purposes.)




Blade Length: 8.25” / 20.95 cm

Blade Thickness: 0.185” / 4.7 cm

Overall Length: 13.375” / 33.97 cm

Handle Length: 5.125" / 512.5 cm

Handle Grip length: 4.25” / 10.79 cm

Handle Circumference: 3.5” / 8.89 cm

Weight: 8.5 oz / 240 g

 GRIP NOTES: The original version of this design had a steel cross guard and sub-hilt. Cold Steel then made a less expensive version with an all rubber handle, keeping the cross guard and sub-hilt in the new rubber version. Since I intended to use this knife for food prep duties, I took off the top cross guard and sub-hilt ( who would rely a small piece of rubber as a guard anyway? ). If I had to use this knife for self defense, I would hold it in thumb support grip, as the handle is a bit small in circumference for my hand for use in hammer grip.




Blade Length: 9.5” / 24.13 cm

Blade Thickness: 5/16”/ 0.795 mm

Overall Length: 14-5/8” / 37.14 cm

Handle Length/ Grip Length: 5-1/8” / 13.01 cm

Handle Circumference: 3.25” / 8.25 cm

 GRIP NOTES: The sharp eyed among you may notice that this is not a real Trailmaster in the photo. I sold mine some time ago, so I'm using this cheap knock off as a photo double. It has the same handle dimensions as the real thing, so it works for the purposes of this essay. As on most knives of this size and weight, my preferred way to hold this is in hammer grip. If you have a cross guard and enough handle length, then it is advisable to give yourself some space between your hand and the guard. This helps protect your hand from an opponent's knife sliding down your blade and cutting you. In the left side of the photo below, my hand is too high on the grip and in danger of getting cut from an opponent's knife, as he slides down my blade. In the right two photos, I am taking better advantage of the length of the handle. Just gripping the handle an inch lower means the opponent's blade must be at a 45 degree angle in order to cut me. Not a bad gain for so small a change in placement.  





Blade Length: 12” / 30.5 cm

Blade Thickness: 0.314” / 8 mm

Overall Length: 17” / 43.2 cm

Handle Length: 5.23” / 13.3 cm

Grip Length: 4.75” / 12 cm

Handle Circumference: 3.75” / 9.52 cm

 GRIP NOTES: As on the bowies, if you have a long enough handle, give yourself some space between your hand and the guard, even if only a single quillion guard, as on this Cold Steel Gurkha Kukri Plus. 



Weight: 16.2oz / 459.2 g

Blade Thickness: 0.11” / 2.8mm

Blade Length: 12” / 30.48 cm

Handle Length: 5-5/8” / 14.28 cm

Handle Grip Length: 4.75” / 12 cm

Handle Circumference: 3-7/8” / 9.84 cm

Overall Length: 17-5/8” / 44.76 cm

 GRIP NOTES: The Cold Steel machetes have some of the most ergonomic handles on any machetes I've used. No modifications needed for my hands ( as is the case with tradition wood handled machetes I've owned )



Overall Length: 17-5/8”/ 44.76 cm
Blade Length: 12-1/4”/ 31.11 cm
Blade Thickness: 1/4”/ 6.35 mm
Overall Handle Length 4.625" / 11.74 cm
Handle Grip Length: 4” / 10.16 cm to beginning of pommel
Handle Circumference: 4”/ 10.16 cm
Weight: 23.8oz / 674.7 gm
Steel: 1085

GRIP NOTES: This grip just barely fits my hand. When working with the knife, I can feel the sharp corners of the grip digging into my palm. I'll post some photos here once I've modified the grip to fit my hand better.



Overall Length: 17.75”/ 45 cm
Blade Length: 12”/ 30 cm
Blade Thickness: 2.8 mm / .11” (just under 1/8th inch)
Overall Handle Length 5.75” /  14.6 cm
Handle Grip Length: 4” / 10.16 cm to beginning of pommel
Handle Circumference: 3.625”/ 10.16 cm
Weight: 18.1 oz /  513 gm
Steel: 1055

GRIP NOTES: This handle fits my hand well and is comfortable to work with.





Weight: 26.6oz / 754 g

Blade Thickness: 0.11” / 2.8 mm

Blade Length: 24” / 60.96 cm

Handle Length: 5-5/8in / 14.28 cm

Handle Grip Length: 4.5” / 11.43 cm

Handle Circumference: 3-7/8” / 9.84 cm

Overall Length: 29-5/8” / 75.24 cm

 GRIP NOTES: The most "sword like" of all the machetes I own, the D guard here is reinforced by steel at its core. 




Overall Length: 15” / 38 cm

Blade Length: 9.75” / 24.76 cm

Blade Thickness: 0.25” / 6.35 mm

Handle Length: 5” / 12.7 cm

Handle Grip Length: 4.5” / 11.43 cm

Handle Circumference: 4-1/8” / 10.47 cm

GRIP NOTES: Jim Bowie is said to have used his famous knife in this grip. I started using this edge up version of hammer grip as an experiment, but found that the large handle on this Ontario bowie actually felt more comfortable in my hand this way. For self-defense purposes, I believe this grip requires long, heavy blades with sharpened clip points to be effective.  This is a "just" a 9-3/4" blade and the 12" version that Bowie is said to have used at the Alamo is probably better suited for this technique.  




Overall Length:11” / 27.94 cm

Blade Length: 6” / 15 cm

Blade Thickness: 0.20” / 5 mm

Handle Length: 5” / 12.7 cm

Handle Grip Length: 4.5” / 11.43 cm

Handle Circumference: 3-7/8” / 9.84 cm

NOTE: The Spec Plus line doesn't seem to get the respect from the knife public that its great steel ( 5160 ) and ergonomic handles deserve. The sheath issues this line had at first have been solved through Ontario now getting the sheaths from holster maker De Santis.  Anything in the Gen II Spec Plus line works well above its price tag and is worth a place in your blade line up.




Overall Length: 17” / 43 cm

Blade Length: 12” / 30.48 cm

Blade Thickness: 0.26” / 6.6 mm

Handle Length: 5” / 12.7 cm

Handle Grip Length: 4.5” / 11.43 cm

Handle Circumference: 4-1/8” / 10.47 cm

GRIP NOTES: The standard Ontario grip for a large blade: which means that it fits my large hands extremely well. This is the blade I chose for my son's Get Home Bag. This Ontario is one third of the price of the more popular Cold Steel kukris, with nearly as much capability (and probably one tenth the price of the new CPM-3V models).  The Cold Steel kuks are heavier, so that means they will chop better and the 5/16" O1 steel is going to be more forgiving if you hit a tough hardwood knot than the 1/4" 1095 in the Ontario, but dollar for dollar, the Ontario kukris are a great value.




Blade Length:  17.75″ / 45 cm

Overall Length: 23.5” /  59.69 cm

Handle Length: 4.75” /  12 cm

Handle Grip length: 4.25” / 10.79 cm

Handle Circumference: 4.25” / 10.79

 GRIP NOTES: The handles on the Ontario Field machete are much more ergonomic than the military version Ontario made for many years. The 1095 blade stock is heavier and stiffer than the 1055 Cold Steel uses on their machetes, so the Ontario blades are better suited for work on hardwood branches for firewood processing, rather than hours of cutting a path through the jungle, as are the Latin machetes that Cold Steel machetes are based on. 

Survival expert Dave McIntyre chooses an Ontario machete when in his home state of Michigan and reserves the lighter Tramontinas machetes for the jungles of Brazil. 




Blade Length:  17.75″ / 45 cm

Overall Length: 23.5” /  59.69 cm

Handle Length: 5” /  12.7 cm

Handle Grip length: 4.5” / 11.43 cm

Handle Circumference: 4-5/8” / 11.74 CM

Note: The Ontario Black Collins machete is the only blade on the list with a handle that is too thick for my large hands. Notice how my fingers cannot get completely around the handle. This design may be based on the machetes manufactured in South America, which have deliberately oversized wooden grip scales that are built that way, intending to be custom fit by the user. This is the older model that has been replaced by the Field machete line.


Note 1: These are the measurements for handles that fit my own hand. The measurements for your hand are likely to be different. Please use this essay as a general guideline, making adjustments necessary for your specific situation. It is your responsibility to use all safety precautions if you decide to implement anything you see here for your own use. 


Train Hard, but Train Smart,

Tuhon Bill McGrath

I will be lecturing on this subject at the 2023 Ashokan Bladesmith's Seminar.

For info on this event, visit:

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