Micarta and G-10, two popular synthetic materials used in knife handles, are industrial laminates. They're produced by applying heat and pressure to layers of fibrous "substrate" materials which are impregnated with epoxy or similar resin.
Both are tough and moisture-resistant. G-10 is a bit lighter and (in the laboratory, anyway) it's slightly stronger.
The physical difference between the two is the material used as the substrate. Micarta employs paper, linen, canvas or burlap. G-10 uses fiberglass.
We're often asked to describe how the various substrates affect the practical qualities of knife handles. Truth is -- and we're talking about the real world here -- most of us don't notice much of a difference.
Well, maybe G-10 is a little smoother. Maybe canvas Micarta is grippier.
To our senses, though, what really separates canvas Micarta from linen Micarta from G-10 is what the size of the substrate's fibers and the tightness of the weave do for the look of a knife handle.
Canvas (below) is a coarse fabric, so it tends to produce a relatively "rugged" appearance.
Linen (below) is finer, so it looks a bit more elegant.
G-10 (below), because it uses fiberglass, achieves a nicely polished-looking result.
When a knifemaker shapes a Micarta or G-10 handle, the substrate's layers also become evident. The coarseness and weave of the fabric again show up, with the "edges" of canvas appearing thicker and somewhat less refined than those produced by linen or fiberglass.
These are subtle differences, of course, and they won't matter to everyone. Either Micarta or G-10 is an outstanding choice, especially for a hard-use knife.
As always, it's up to you.
What about the other Micarta substrates?
Paper Micarta and burlap Micarta are less common in the KnivesShipFree inventory, so we tend to field fewer questions about those materials. Naturally, the same principles apply.
Burlap (below) is even coarser than canvas, and its rough "visual texture" comes through clearly.
At the other end of the substrate spectrum is paper (below), which produces a very classy look that's even finer than linen.
To learn more about how different finishes affect Micarta and G-10, check out our primer on matte vs. standard finishes.