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Common Types of Knives

Knives are like a box of chocolates. You never know which one you're gonna get. That is... until you read this article! There are many different styles of knives, each with their own special purpose and design. Is your spirit knife a rapid-fire automatic or a tranquil manual folder? Buckle up, amigo, because you've got an article to read.

 

OUT THE FRONT (OTF)

out the front pocket knife

Out the front blades “fire” out of the front of the handle via a spring and button, classifying them as a type of automatic knife. Most OTF knives have blade play (slight movement of the blade when locked) and collect grime, but the ease of opening and sweet joy of firing repeatedly make them a crowd favorite.

  • DOUBLE ACTION - Knife opens and closes with the push and pull of a thumb slide connected to opposing springs that expand and contract. 
  • SINGLE ACTION - Knife opens with the push of a thumb slide and retracts via manual action from the user.

 

 

 

 

AUTOMATIC

automatic pocket knife

Often called “switchblades” and “side opening automatics,” these knives open with the push of a button that releases a spring. Closing the knife coils the spring for next use.  (Any knife that opens with the press of a button is legally considered a “switchblade” in the U.S. and is a restricted class of goods under the 1958 Switchblade Act. #DumbLaws)

  • PUSH BUTTON - The most common type of auto uses a button lock mechanism and spring for snappy, speedy opening. Button locks can be found in many different knife styles from the majority of autos today to a super awesome switchblade comb you knew you wanted the second you saw it as a kid.
  • BOLSTER RELEASE - Rather than a button, this auto style uses a sliding bolster on the knife as the firing mechanism. Think super cool Italian-style from those old gangster movies. 

 

FOLDING

folding pocket knife

Folding knives are compact and typically designed for pocket carry, often with a pocket clip. They are the most popular style of modern knives.

  • SPRING ASSISTED - A non-button opening mechanism releases a spring to help the knife open quickly. Quick opening, but remember: Non-button = non-switchblade = legal in more places.
  • MANUAL - The knife opens with force from the user via a thumbstud, nail nick, flipper or other opening mechanism.

 

 

 

 

 

 FIXED

fixed pocket knife

A fixed blade knife is just that: it doesn't move. No pivot, no folding. Fixed blade knives are stronger than folders with fewer moving parts for failure and maintenance. Survival knives and many get ‘er done work knives are fixed blades.

  • FULL TANG - Full tang knives have a single piece of steel from tip to butt. These are generally stronger than partial tang. These knives just want to go to work, if you will.
  • PARTIAL TANG - A partial tang is narrow and inserted into the handle material. This style allows for varied handle materials for greater ease in matching your outfit.

 full tang and partial tang pocket knife

 

 

BALISONG (BUTTERFLY KNIFE)

balisong butterfly pocket knife

Different knife styles have roots in different parts of the world. Balisongs originated in the Philippines in the early 1900s as a utility tool. They’ve since been adopted for manipulation in the sport of flipping. Butterfly knives are illegal in many areas. 

  • CHANNEL CONSTRUCTION - Handles are made from a single piece of material (usually Titanium or Zinc), resulting in less maintenance.
  • SANDWICH CONSTRUCTION - Two pieces of handle material are joined together with spacers and screws or pins. More adjustability.
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