pocket knives: a brief lesson

folding pocket knives plan

Finding the right pocket knife for you is almost impossible to do on your first try. Doing your research for pocket knives will increased your odds but your still pointing in the direction that you’ll be dissatisfied with the pocket knife, you might like it, but you’ll wish the knife maker did certain things differently the good news is that finding the perfect pocket knife isn’t impossible with the knowledge of your preferences it becomes fairly easy. It’s getting to the place where you know your preferences, that takes time and experience with a wide variety of different pocket knives knowing all the different locking mechanisms, blade point styles, sizes and handle materials, how they perform in the field is what you need to learn to truly know your preferences. With all that said here are some general descriptions of blades that you may encounter while looking for a new knife.

Automatic opening knives: these are pretty fun, neat to see in action and have a second to none deployment time but their not legal everywhere and with added on mechanical components it becomes less reliable than manual knives.

Here are some common features and attributes found on Pocket knives

Assisted/manual opening pocket knives: these are reliable and legal in most places. Depending on the type of spring mechanism and blade size making them ideal for everyday carry.

Fixed blade knives: the solid option. These things are gluttons for punishment they’ll take it and come back for more the best option for a survival knife but they perform poorly in everyday carry scenarios due to increased weight and less compact design than their folding counterparts.

Butterfly knives: i’m only mentioning these because i don’t want to just not mention them. With that said they’re a lot of fun to play with despite their dangerous nature they don’t have a practical use other than being fun and they are not legal anywhere.

Blade locks: this feature is critical in how you want your knife to handle when opening and closing if you don’t like the lock on your folding knife it will be a major pain and frustrate you to no end. If the lock isn’t right you could hurt yourself opening or closing your knife so chose wisely and become familiar with your knife’s locking mechanism before you try anything crazy. here are some common locks.

Frame/Liner lock: these locks work by having a small portion of the frame or a liner cut out and pushed in, once the blade is unfolded the spring like cutout snaps behind the blade preventing it from closing again until the cutout is tossed out of the way. Frame/liner locks are some of the most common locks out there along with it’s almost identical twin the liner lock the only difference is that a frame lock uses the actual frame of the knife to lock the blade in place whereas the liner lock uses a thin piece of steel fastened to the inside of the frame.

Lock back: this system is fairly common in older knives but is still prevalent today it uses a rocker arm located on the spine of the knife handle with a leaf spring to hold it under tension when the knife is fully extended the a square shape at the end of the rocker arm fits into a square notch in the tang of the blade the bale will remain fixed in place till the rocker arm is released.

Button lock: its as the name suggest push a spring loaded button to release the blade it will swing freely until it is fully  extended release the pressure off the button to lock it in place push the button to close it this blade lock locks in both the closed and open position making it a popular option for automatic opening knives.

Ball bearing lock: constant pressure from a spring keeps a ball bearing in place preventing the blade from closing, to close the knife pull the ball bearing back to release the blade.

Tri-ad lock: this lock is almost identical to the back lock but rather than using the rocker arm to stop the blade when fully extended it uses a stop pin, it adds structural rigidity to the knife.

Axis lock: this is exclusively on benchmade knives two u shaped springs located inside the handles hold tension on a bar against the tang of the blade to hold it open pull the bar back to release the blade and close it

Compression lock: this is similar to the frame lock the main difference is that the compression lock is located on the back of the knife rather than the front

Arc-actuator: this is found on sog knives it uses a stop pin that slides sideways, back and forth, to lock the blade in place. To free the blade the push the pin protruding from the side of the handle forward.

Slip joint lock: this doesn’t so much lock it just holds the blade with a tension bar to close it push and it’ll give you a bit of resistance but it’ll give and close it’s more common on older model pocket knives.

There are other locks out there but these are some of the more common ones. Now let’s move onto the types of points this is very important factor in choosing a knife, different points have different strengths and weaknesses and some are better for certain applications than others.

Tanto point: two straight edge angles meet at the point at an obtuse angle this point offers a strong tip so it goes without saying that it’s good for piercing, also good for precision work sharpening is a little tricker with 2 edges though.

Clip point: the spine near  tip of the blade angles downward in a way that makes it seem that the sloping portion of the blade was clipped off. The blade edge is curved making it easier to slice with it. This point does not offer the best tip strength.

Sheepsfoot: the spine curves down gradually and the curve becomes more steep the further down the spine making it so there is no point and that means the tip is very strong it also means the cutting edge on this is straight making it super easy to sharpen it also gives you maximum control of the blade.

Leaf-shaped: these are not only found on spyderco pocket knives but they sure do make an effort to put it on as many of their knives as they can, it’s pretty good for edc is probably the reason for that, it’ll serve you well for detail work as well as applications where piercing is involved.

Wharncliffe: this blade is similar to the sheepsfoot in that the cutting edge is straight the difference is the spine has a more subtle slope finishing in a point, same as the sheepsfoot it’s easy to sharpen but the tip is more fragile.

Dagger point: two cutting edges sloping into each other to a point more seen more on fixed blades this is made for piercing so try not to pry with the tip

Drop point: spine slopes down to meet the cutting edge this offers a strong tip it’s good for slicing it’s pretty good for anything really,  good all purpose blade.

Trailing point: the spine curves up with the tip higher than the spine the cutting edge also sweeps up to the point this has a fairly weak point but is excellent for skinning, slicing and slashing.

Spear point: the spine and cutting edge slope symmetrically to a point these typically have false edges as the name implies it’s good for thrusting it has a strong tip but isn’t too great at slicing.

Hawk-bill: the name says it all, this blade resembles a hawk’s bill with a rounded spine that curves downward with a concave cutting edge the tip on these don’t last long without regular maintenance it’s pretty good for self defense and if your going to be mainly cutting netting or rope this is the blade for you.

That’s it really for points on pocket knives find something that looks like it’ll suit your needs and run with it until it’s time for a change. dont be afraid to make an educated guess now let’s move on to different grinds, that is to say the way the knife is first sharpened

convex: this is a specialty grind due to the difficulty of re sharpening despite this they are extremely durable and sharp it’s also sometimes referred to as the axe grind.

Hollow-grind: concave in shape that makes for a sharp edge  but requires regular maintenance and is known to become damaged more easily than other grind styles.

flat/zero/v-edge: this is the simplest edge to make it’s an even edge from spine to cutting edge it’s fairly common general use type grind.

compound bevel: another general use blade grind it’s more for tough work though

Single bevel/chisel grind: easy to maintain, tough, and can be brought to a razors edge fairly easily this style is popular on tactical knives.

There you have it, a short rundown on what you should know in order to make an informed purchase of you’re next few pocket knives. It’s not everything but it’s enough to get you started on your journey to finding the ideal knife for you.If you think i missed something please let me know in the comments.

19 thoughts on “pocket knives: a brief lesson

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