Anatomy of a folding knife

In a folding knife, the blade swings around a pivot at one end of the handle. When open, it is locked in position. When closed, it fits inside the handle scale for safe keeping in a pocket or bag. From there, the design of the folding knife varies greatly. Much of the design of a file is focused on its greatest inherent weakness – the reliability of the closure when open. Other aspects include opening speed, beautiful handles and elegant internals.

Manual files that require the user to open the blade are still the most common type. Assisted opening folders, in which spring mechanisms complete the opening process after the blade is partially opened, have joined the scene in recent years. Automatic files — in which a spring-loaded mechanism applies opening pressure to the blade with the push of a button — are growing in popularity as more states lift knife restrictions.

The advent of the pocket clip ushered in a new way of thinking about carrying knives, complete with its own acronym: EDC, for “everyday carry.” EDC knives are highly functional models designed to fit in a pocket or belt. Fixed blade and folding knives share many points in common, but in many respects they are completely different types. Here’s the engineering behind the move.

Illustration of a folding knife
Courtesy of Weldon Owen
  1. POCKET CLIP A metal clip allows the user to clip the knife into a pocket for comfortable carrying and quick deployment.
  2. SPACER BACK A strip of metal or hard synthetic material, such as G10, that spans the inside of both sides of the knife handle. Metal back spaces are sometimes intricately filled.
  3. OPEN FRAME An open frame file has no trailing separator. It can be cleaned easily, but the edge of the blade is exposed to loose change, keys and other hard objects in a pocket.
  4. ATTITUDES A metal post that provides the proper internal space for the knife to operate.
  5. LINER Thin plates, usually of steel or titanium, on the inner face of the handle plates. Primers reinforce the handle; in liner closure models they serve as a locking mechanism.
  6. FINGER STUD A metal pin or slot near the blade pivot. By pressing or sticking the thumb on the pin or opening, the blade can be rotated open with one hand. Thumb studs are usually found on both sides of the blade to allow for double opening.
  7. PIVOT The link around which the blade swings. In some knives, the shaft can be manipulated to adjust the tension of the action.
  8. EAST HOLE Allows attachment of parachute cord or other cord.
  9. flippers A trigger-like extension on the blade that allows the knife to be opened with a finger. Not found on all knives.

This article is adapted from Field & Stream’s Total Camping Handbook.

Total Camping Manual Book Cover

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