04 April 2009

EDC Knives: Slipjoints, Folding Hunters, Balisongs

A folding knife is simply any knife whose blade folds or retracts into its handle. They come in a huge variety of styles, especially art knives, but most folding knives are one of four basic types: slipjoint, folding hunter, balisong and tactical.

A slipjoint is the classic pocketknife. These knives rely on the tension of a backspring to hold the blade both open and closed, and do not have a blade lock. They may have just one blade or several of different styles, traditionally for different game dressing or woodworking (whittling) tasks. Perhaps the best-known slipjoint knives are classic Case pocketknives and the ubiquitous Swiss Army knife.

In 1964, Buck Knives introduced the Buck Folding Hunter Model 110 (below), the archetype of the folding (or lock-back) hunter. This type of knife is very similar to the slipjoint in its basic design, but always has just a single blade, usually a clip or drop point, which locks when opened. The blade is unlocked by depressing the hinged backspring at a scallop in the rear bolster. The Buck 110 is five inches long closed and quite heavy (7.2 oz.), and is therefore carried in a belt sheath rather than in a pocket. But many later models, copies and variants are smaller, lighter, and more pocket-portable.

The third type of folder is the balisong, popularly called a butterfly knife. The balisong (describes Wikipedia) is “a Filipino folding pocket knife with two handles counter-rotating around the tang such that, when closed, the blade is concealed within grooves in the handles” (see below). World War II servicemen in the Pacific brought them home, but they really did not become widely popular until their import was banned in the 1980s. Such is the power of notoriety. They are still subject to regulation in some states (mostly because they look scary), but in most places they are perfectly legal. The balisong is in fact more a traditional martial arts weapon than a practical knife.

Next up: Tactical folders.

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