Man has always needed a knife that can be easily and safely transported on one’s person. Rudimentary pocket knives have existed since 600BC, but modern versions of folding knives started somewhere in the late 1600s.
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Technology has changed a lot within the past few hundred years and more options exist than ever before. With so many options it can be difficult to understand proper operation of your equipment. Knowing how to close a pocket knife of one brand doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll know how to for a different model.
We’ve made the information easier to understand by compiling everything you need to know about knife operation into one quick guide. Here you’ll learn about general knife safety, the mechanism that allows you to open and close your knife, and how to handle some common concerns.
General Knife Safety
Knife safety is imperative no matter what kind of knife you own or how you plan to use it. Following these guidelines ensures your safety as well as that of the people around you.
- Always use a sharp knife.
- Use a knife only for cutting purposes, not for prying.
- Store knives in a sheath or block when not in use.
- Use a sharpening stone instead of a power grinder to prevent the edge of the blade from becoming brittle.
- Cut with the sharp edge and point facing away from yourself and other people.
- Don’t attempt to catch a knife that has fallen out of your hand.
- Resist the urge to force your knife open or closed if it fails to do so on its own.
- Review the manufacturer’s material that accompanied your knife purchase or download it from online.
Understanding your knife’s folding joint and locking mechanism are crucial to figuring out how to open and close a pocket knife. Those design features dictate the knife’s operation.
Pocketknives use one of two types of joints to open and close: slip-joint or lock-blade.
Slip-joints are popular for light-duty utility knives such as those made by Dewalt. The blade doesn’t lock into the open position, instead it stays open because of the tension applied to the handle.
These knives tend to be smaller than their lock-blade counterparts, and contain more blades. Opening and closing them consists of grabbing unto the outside dull edge of the blade and applying a swiveling motion for it to open. A small groove has usually been engraved into that part of the blade for easy gripping.
Lock-blade knives use a refined version of the slip-joint; it incorporates a hook or lug on the backspring that snaps into a notch on the heel of the blade so that the blade is locked into the open position. To close a lock-blade pocket knife the user applies pressure to disengage that hook.
Lock-blades improve safety by preventing accidental blade closure while cutting.
Several different kinds of techniques are used to keep knives locked in the open position. Manufacturers such as Gerber, Smith and Wesson, and Tac Force generally produce several models to take advantage of each of these techniques because people tend to have a personal preference about which mechanism they are comfortable using.
We’re going to review the most common mechanisms used to open and close a pocket knife, and provide some specific models that use that system.
- Clasp locks use a small post of strong metal affixed to the top of the handle. That tab plunges into a small divot when the knife is opened. To close the knife you push a clasp until it lifts the post out of its divot.
- Frame locks use the knife’s frame as a locking mechanism by using the frame as a lockbar inside the handle. When open a lockbar fits under the tang so the unit can’t close. To close a frame lock you simply push the frame back to its original position.
- Lever locks use a pin on the handle to prevent the blade from closing. The pin fits into a hole in the tang to keep it open. To open it you push a lever down to engage the pin. To close it you simply push the lever again to lift the pin out of the hole.
- Liner locks are similar to frame locks in that they both consist of an angled vertical lockbar in the interior of the handle. Liner locks differ in that the frame isn’t part of the locking mechanism. Opening and closing a liner lock knife requires that you push the lockbar away from the tang.
One of the most common concerns involves how to fix a pocket knife that won’t close properly; for whatever reason, it gets stuck in the open position or maybe the mechanism is scraping.
If this happens the first thing you want to do is inspect the locking mechanism for debris, wear, damage, or missing parts. Sometimes problems the solution is easy: simply remove sand, lint, and other debris from the joint then apply a small bit of lubricant.
Often though, problems arising from mechanical malfunctions should only be undertaken by a professional knife-smith because they’re equipped to handle the small internal components of your knife joint.