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Oso Grande's Guide to Knife Locking Mechanisms

Knife Locking Mechanisms

The following list of knife locking mechanisms is given to aid you in your understanding of the various types of blade locks and how they function.

Lock Types

Axis Lock.  Developed by Benchmade Knives.  The features of the AXIS lock are significant and greatly enhance the function of knives. First and foremost is the strength. This lock is definitely more than adequate for the demands of normal knife use. A close second to strength is the inherent AXIS advantage of being totally ambidextrous without user compromise. The blade can be readily actuated open or closed with either hand- without ever having to place flesh in the blade path. Lastly, and certainly not any less impressive, is the indescribable "smoothness" with which the mechanism and blade function. By design there are no traditional "friction" parts to the AXIS mechanism, making the action the much smoother. And it's all reasonably exposed so you can easily clean away any unwarranted debris. Basically, AXIS gets its function from a spring-loaded bar that rides forward and back in a slot machined into both liners. The bar extends to both sides of the knife; spanning the space between the liners and is positioned over the rear of the blade. It engages a ramped notch cut into the tang portion of the knife blade when it is opened. Two omega style springs, one on each liner, give the locking bar its inertia to engage the knife tang, and as a result the tang is wedged solidly between a sizable stop pin and the AXIS bar itself.

ARC Lock.  This lock is only found in SOG Specialty Knives and is remarkably similar to the AXIS lock. However, instead of a bar that moves in a vertical motion, the arc lock has a device that moves in an arc. Overall, the bar and arc device both function identically and block the tang of the blade from closing when engaged.

According to SOG Knives... "The Arc-Lock sets the standard in tactical engineering. It has all of the attributes knife designers relentlessly search for, but rarely find.

  • Strength: Arc-Lock surpassed standard holding capacity in independent lab tests.
  • Speed: Action provides fast and smooth one-handed opening.
  • Safety: Positive closing feature ensures that the blade securely stays within the handle when closed.
  • Ambidexterity: Blade can be comfortably accessed with either hand."

Back Lock.  Locking system positioned on the spine of the handle that uses a rocker arm, which pivots in the center. A notch on one end of the arm connects with a notch on the blades tang, locking the blade open.

illustration of backlock knife lock

Ball Bearing Lock.  A compressive lock wedging a stainless steel ball bearing between a fixed anvil and the blade tang. The ball is also utilized to detent the blade into the closed position.

Illustration of Ball-Bearing Knife Lock

Blade lock. The mechanical part of a knife that  engages or disengages the blade of a folding knife. A back Lock is the most common, others have a liner lock or some other mechanism. 

 

Chris Reeve Style Integral Lock (RIL). See also "Frame Lock".  Developed by custom knifemaker Chris Reeve using the original Walker LinerLock in an integral form. It functions like a traditional LinerLock with the lock's liner comprised from part of the handle scale.

Illustration of Integral-Lock Knife Lock

Clasp Lock. This style folding knife has no lock or backspring. A clasp locking system uses a piece of strong metal at the top rear of the handle. When the knife is opened, a post inserts itself into that piece of metal similar to a plunge lock. To disengaged the knife, you push up on a clasp so it lifts the piece of metal until the post clears its hole. Sometimes the clasp is a simple metal ring that you pull. Also a style of jack knife that curves upward at the end.

Illustration of Clasp-Lock Knife Lock

Compression Lock.  A Compression Lock uses a small piece of metal that is inserted, from the side, in between the blade tang and the stop pin (or anvil pin).

Illustration of Compression-Lock Knife Lock

David Boye Dent.  Custom knifemaker David Boye removed a small arc or dent of metal from the lock bar lever of his knives. This removed piece lessened the possibility of gripping the handle hard enough to depress the lock and accidentally unlock the blade while using the knife.

Illustration of David Boye Dent

Framelock.  The framelock is a variant of the linerlock. Instead of using the liner, though, the frame functions as an actual spring. It is usually much more secure than a liner lock.

Illustration of Frame-Lock Knife Lock

Lever Lock.  A lever lock knife has a pin that prevents the blade from closing. When the blade is opened completely, the pin from the handle fits snugly into a hole in the tang of blade. Once a lever attached to the knife is pushed down, it lifts the pin out of the tang of the blade, so it can close. The pin also holds the blade closed, so you must press the lever in order to open the knife.  This is a common lock on italian style switchblade knives.

Illustration of Lever-Lock Knife Lock

LinerLock (a.k.a. Locking Liner).  Locking system developed by custom knifemaker Michael Walker. The actual locking mechanism is incorporated in the liner of the handle, hence the name. If there is a metal sheet inside the handle material, it is called a liner. With a locking liner, opening the blade will allow this metal to flex over and butt against the base of the blade inside the handle, locking it open. Moving this liner aside will release this lock allowing the blade to close. Disengagement of the lock is performed with the thumb, allowing for one handed, hassle free action. Locking liners are commonly found on tactical folding knives, both production and custom.

Illustration of Liner-Lock Knife Lock

Locking Liner - (a.k.a. linerlocks) This particular locking system was refined by knife maker Michael Walker. The actual locking mechanism is incorporated in the liner of the handle, hence the name. If there is a metal sheet inside the handle material, it is called a liner. With a locking liner, opening the blade will allow this metal to flex over and butt against the base of the blade inside the handle, locking it open. Moving this liner aside will release this lock allowing the blade to close. Disengagement of the lock is performed with the thumb, allowing for one handed, hassle free action. Locking liners are commonly found on tactical folding knives, both production and custom.

Illustration of Locking Liner Knife Lock

Mid Lock.  The mid lock is a lockback knife except the release for the lock is located in the middle of the handle rather than at the rear. The spine doesn't extend all the way to the bottom of the handle. The shorter spine can withstand more pressure and as such the lock is stronger than a back lock.

Illustration of Mid-Lock Knife Lock

Phantom Lock.  The Meerkat is the first and only knife from Spyderco to feature the Phantom Lock, which is a hidden lock that operates by sliding the front scale downwards, allowing the blade to unlock and close. One of the criticisms of this lock is that it is easy to accidently disengage under harder use.

Illustration of Phantom-Lock Knife Lock

Roll Lock (Rolling Lock).  A roll-lock knife is a type of sliding knife in which the blade rides on a track running the length of the scales, tilting into a detent to lock open or closed. Examples would be the Bench Mark Rollox, or its licensed derivative, the CRKT Rollock. Sliding knives like the Rollox are not considered inertia or gravity knife.

Illustration of Roll-Lock Knife Lock

Sebenza Lock (FrameLock). The concept of this lock is comparable to the Liner Lock. A hollowed out section of the scale is fixed into the handle cavity to lock the blade open.

Illustration of Sebenza-Lock Knife Lock

Slip Joint.  Non Locking Blade -- a blade having a spring acting against it, which provides some resistance to it's opening and closing as it pivots within the handle.  The slipjoint is one of the more common designs for folding and pocket knives.

Illustration of Slip Joint Knife Lock

Spring Lock.  A flat piece of steel kept under pressure by the rivet assembly that holds the blade in an open position. They can be one end springs or two end springs.  One end springs hold a single blade open, while two end springs hold two blades open; one on each end.

Illustration of Spring-Lock Knife Lock

Tri-Ad Lock.  The Tri-Ad locking system is exclusively licensed to Cold Steel. It resembles the lockback in that the tang of the blade fits into a notch along the spine, but there is a patented "stop pin" that redistributes the pressure from the lock to the spine for additional strength.

Illustration of Tri-Ad Lock Knife Lock

Twist (Collar) Lock.  Sometimes known as a collar lock, the twist lock requires you to twist a collar ring at the top of the knife's handle to open and close it. This type is found mostly on Opinel knives. You simply twist the ring until the blade aligns with the vertical slot, so it can open it. To lock it in place, you twist the vertical slot away from the blade.

Illustration of Twist (Collar) Knife Lock

Wood Lock. This lock was designed by Barry Wood. The handles and blade are attached to a central pin and pivot independently. A second pin is fixed into the inside of one scale and extends into slot in the tang to lock the blade open.

Illustration of Wood-Lock Knife Lock

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