So you're nervous. You're nervous somebody is going to hand you their brand new knife one day with that fancy 21st century opening mechanism that you have no clue how to work. The embarrassment is real. Just imagine fidgeting with some new-fangled pocket knife you've never seen--trying to open the cheddar brats at the barbeque: sweaty palms, the world watching you, the future of everyone's dinner at stake. 

Oh, you hadn't thought about it like that? Well believe it or not, this kind of thing happens and we're here to put a stop to it. Read on to dive into the most common pocket knife opening mechanisms you'll encounter in the world today.

all pocket knife opening mechanisms


pocket knife thumb stud

A type of opening fulcrum attached to the blade. Dual thumb studs on both sides of the blade are “ambidextrous.” Thumb studs typically thread together through a hole in the blade to stay in place. The Banter Knife Series, the Cedar Knife Series, and the Lander 1 Series all use this mechanism, and are even eligible for a "lit" upgrade.




pocket knife thumb disk

The thumb disk is connected to spine of blade and acts as a protrusion for the thumb to catch and open the blade.





pocket knife thumb hole

A hole or other shape cut into the blade. The pad of the thumb presses in the hole to create pressure to open the blade. The "hole" as shown here is a trademarked Spyderco invention, so you'll see many similar work-arounds: ovals, rounded triangles, holes with weird notches as to avoid being round. Necessity is the mother of invention here.



pocket knife flipper

A flipper knife is an extended tang on the blade that sticks out of the handle. Pressure from the forefinger fires the blade. The late great, Harold Kit Carson, is credited with popularizing the flipper on his CRKT M16 line. 




pocket knife nail nick

A nail nick is a small cutout in the blade for the fingernail to catch on, then swing the blade into the open position. These are typically used on traditional knives like slip joints from companies like Case and Swiss Army knives. There's nothing quite like bending a fingernail on a nail nick. 



pocket knife button

A spring-loaded plunge button connects with the tang of the blade to keep the blade open and closed. Button locks (or plunge locks) are often found on "push button automatics" like the Boker Kalashnikov. However, many manufacturers will also use them on manual action flipper folders for easy one-handed closing.



pocket knife wave opening mechanism

Invented by Ernest Emerson, the wave opener catches on the pocket fabric upon exiting the pocket to pull the blade open. You can find the wave on Emerson knives and a few different Kershaws.