Pocket Knife Locks: All that You Need to Know

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The whole point of having pocket knives is to offer people a portable tool that can be hidden away safely in the pocket without the risk of suffering cuts when you dip your hands in the bag or pockets. However, there’s a cost to making these kinds of knives, and that comes in the form of extra parts to make them function well. One of these parts is the knife lock.

Knife locks are parts of the knives that feature a locking mechanism that holds the blade in place when it is open, stopping it from closing down on the hand when in use. We will explore the types that exist to give you an idea of what to go for if you have been thinking of getting a pocket knife in the near future.

Lockback

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These are locks that are mostly found in slip joint knives and are sometimes called back locks or spine locks. The lock is situated against the scales of the blade, creating a pivoting point in the mile on top of a bent spring at the back to provide the user with the necessary upward pressure to keep the blade firm in place. Every time the blade is opened, the portion at the front of the lock bar is forced to sit down onto a square cutout on the blade tang; this locks the bale into position. This sprint bar keeps that lock closed for as long as you want to use the knife, and once you are done, you simply press the spring bar to release the lock, and the blade can then be folded back into the handle.

Pros

  • Ambidextrous
  • Strong
  • Reliable

Cons

  • Vulnerable to wear and tear
  • Not flickable

Liner Lock

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These are the most common locks in many pocket knives due to their ease of use, assembly, and cost. They also have a creative touch to them, and hunters and campers have been known to prefer knives that spot this mechanism over most of the others on this list. The liner lock follows a very simple working mechanism. It takes advantage of the blade’s liners, and the blade tang to open and close. Some of the best liner locks that are used in most modern pocket knives are credited to one Michael Walker, who invented the use of a stop pin that’s anchored on the scales of the blade on top of adding a detent ball along the liner lock to keep the blade firmly closed. This provides the user with that snappy opening action that people love, and at the same time, it keeps the blade from opening on its own by accident.

Pros

  • Simple to use
  • Cheap to make
  • Snappy and fast opening

Cons

  • The user’s fingers are always in the path of the blade on closing
  • Not ideal for heavy-duty work

Frame Lock

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Frame locks are also another popular type of pocket knife lock that is found in many high-end knives. It was first seen in a pocket knife in 1990 and was invented by Chris Reeve, a pocket knife enthusiast known for many creations in the knife world. The working mechanism in a frame lock is similar to the one seen in a linear lock but is much stronger with a simpler design.

The frame that borders the lock is much thicker and extends all the way into the handle giving the user more leverage once it is in place. There’s a low cutout that runs the entire length of the spine axis, which creates the needed inward pressure that allows the user to use the knife even on heavier tasks without the blade folding. To further enhance performance, the lock comes with a stop pin that’s mounted on the top above the pivot that moves to the blade’s end position on opening, and this reduces the wear and tear that comes with the constant opening and closing.

Pros

  • Extremely strong
  • Simple design
  • Has few parts

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Prone to galling
  • Creates lock stick on flicking
  • Heavy
  • Not ambidextrous

Frame locks are also another popular type of pocket knife lock that is found in many high-end knives. It was first seen in a pocket knife in 1990 and was invented by Chris Reeve, a pocket knife enthusiast known for many creations in the knife world. The working mechanism in a frame lock is similar to the one seen in a linear lock but is much stronger with a simpler design.

The frame that borders the lock is much thicker and extends all the way into the handle giving the user more leverage once it is in place. There’s a low cutout that runs the entire length of the spine axis, which creates the needed inward pressure that allows the user to use the knife even on heavier tasks without the blade folding. To further enhance performance, the lock comes with a stop pin that’s mounted on the top above the pivot that moves to the blade’s end position on opening, and this reduces the wear and tear that comes with the constant opening and closing.

Pros

  • Extremely strong
  • Simple design
  • Has few parts

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Prone to galling
  • Creates lock stick on flicking
  • Heavy
  • Not ambidextrous

Compression Lock

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This is an inverted liner lock that was developed by a knife brand called Spyderco. This lock uses a split liner mechanism that springs into position the moment the blade opens. The lock, however, is located along the spine of the blade and opens up between the tang and the stop pin. This ingenious structure makes the compression lock much stronger than the ordinary liner lock on top of making its operation much easier. The fingers of the user are never in the path of the blade at any point, making this lock mechanism one of the safest in the market.

Another standout feature of this lock is that it has a fidget factor that allows the knife to open quickly with a snap. The design of the lock also gives the pocket knife a very distinct curve, and this is one of the reasons why you will always find it in any knife collector’s bag.

Pros

  • Strong
  • Safer
  • Easy to use
  • High fidget factor

Cons

  • Needs precise machining tolerance
  • Vulnerable to tension

 

Axis Lock

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The axis lock has a steel bar that pushes in slots and cuts into the handles and liner. It has two springs called the omega springs that provide the lock with equal tension on either side of the bar. The tang of the blade has a notch towards the back, every time the knife opens, the spring forces the bar into that notch, and when a stop pin is added into the mix, the blade becomes more reliable and hard to fold even when dealing with high-intensity work. There are a number of variations of this lock system that range from the ball-bearing lock, arc-lock, and a host of many others.

Pros

  • Ambidextrous
  • Easy to close
  • Strong
  • Safety features

Cons

  • The springs are prone to breaking
  • Too many moving parts
  • Need hyper-delicate adjustments
  • Prone to dirt build-up,

Button Locks

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Button locks are one of the oldest locking mechanisms in the pocket knife world, and they work in an automatic fashion. All you have to do is press a button, and the blade springs to life immediately, thanks to a series of coiled springs that provide the necessary recoil to enable this. This ensures that the lock is operational even when the knife is closed. It is the lock that also keeps the blade in place, open or close. More recent developments have seen the button lock being used in manual pocket knives where the mechanism is reversed to provide the blade tang with closed resistance rather than a complete lock. This makes the opening much easier and safer.

Pros

  • Strong
  • The hand is out of the way
  • Fun to play with
  • Safe

Cons

  • Difficult to make
  • Expensive at times
  • Not ambidextrous
  • It is usually assumed to be a weapon of ill intent

Collar Lock

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A collar lock is another recognizable pocket knife lock that was developed by Opinel, a French knife maker. The mechanism behind its operation is simple; you just lock the blade into position by twisting the collar to the point where the blade is unable to move even an inch. To release the blade, you twist the ring back until the slots align with the blade allowing you to push it back into the handle. It may lack the complexity and the flair that most of the other locks have, which is a turn-off for the flashy type of knife enthusiasts, but as far as functionalities go, the Collar Lock is very efficient and does exactly what it is designed for.

Pros

  • Simple design
  • Easy to make
  • Widely available

Cons

  • Stiffens over time
  • Prone to accumulating dirt
  • It can get too tight

Slip Joints

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Slip joints are known to people who are familiar with Swiss Army knives. They are much safer compared to the others as they come with a modicum of safety features. In layman’s terms, the clocking mechanism here holds the blade in position when closed and open. It sits along the spine, pressing against the bottom of the blade tang. Every time you open the blade, the spring flexes upwards and snaps back down on closing. Slip joint knives are usually small in size, and operating time is never that big of an issue. Getting one with a good lock mechanism is just another good selling point.

Pros

  • Simple
  • Reliable
  • Easy to make
  • Snaps back easy

Cons

  • The lock is not that sold
  • You have to use both hands to open it.

Conclusion

Knife locks are the only way the pocket knives are able to operate; otherwise, they are just pieces of metal with a cutting edge. When selecting a pocket knife for your needs, you should pay close attention to the nature of the lock to save yourself the trouble of having to deal with a faulty knife. For more information on pocket knives, visit Shieldon(knife manufacturer) and browse through a long list of options that may fit your needs.

 

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