The folding blade, or folding knife, is an iconic pocket tool with a myriad of uses, styles, and quality concerns. This iconic blade has been popular in almost every country, but is particularly popular in America and European countries. Although some versions of the folding blade can be used as weapons, the primary purpose of most folding blades is as multi-use utility blades, tools to make many cutting tasks easier. Some of the most famous folding blade brands include Buck, SOG, Cold Steel, Gerber, KA - BAR, and Spyderco. However, because of the incredible popularity of folding blades, a comprehensive list of manufacturers is beyond the scope of this buying guide. Instead, this guide aims to provide the reader with quality information that can can be used to identify the different styles of folding blades, the various lock mechanisms offered, construction and quality information, and potential legal issues with folding blades. Armed with this information, the reader can confidently find the quality and style of folding blade to fit his or her needs.
Getting to Know the Styles of Folding Blades
Folding blades come in a variety of styles, but most folding blades fall under the categories of peasant knives, slip - joint knives, multitools, and lock - blade knives. Each style of folding blade has different use options as tools and often has specific uses. However, none are suitable as a self defense weapon except for lock-blade knives, although this is a hotly debated subject in the self defense world because of possible lock failure. To be safe, it is not recommended to use any type of folding blade, even a lock-blade knife, as a self defense weapon.
Peasant knives are the oldest and perhaps the simplest style of folding blade. Dating back to the early Roman period, these knives have no locking mechanism or backspring tensioning mechanism. Tension is provided by tightening the pivot screw, which tightens the wood handle slabs against the blade and blade tang. Periodic tightening of the pivot screw may be necessary to keep the appropriate tension to prevent the blade from opening or closing inadvertently. When open for use, many styles of peasant knife have an exposed tang on the back of the handle, allowing the user's grip to help keep the knife in the open position during use. Peasant knives, in the form of straight razors, continued to be used by barbers until recently, although some barbers still use them to this day.
Slip-joint knives are folding blades that do not contain a locking mechanism, but are held in place by a spring. These springs are not typically the coiled spring version, but a long metal bar that runs along the back of, and inside of, the handle. When sufficient pressure is applied to the back of the blade, the spring will allow the blade to close. A wide variety of slip-joint knives exist with a number of uses, including barlow knives, congress knives, canoe knives, elephant ' s toenail knives, and stockman knives.
The multitool is another concept that dates back to early Roman times. The concept is simple: incorporate multiple tools and uses into one simple, easy-to-carry device. Early Roman models were often designed around eating and almost always included a blade. The Swiss Army Knife is a type of multitool originally developed for use by the Swiss army and manufactured in Germany. The term Swiss Army Knife was coined by US soldiers after WWII because of their inability to pronounce the German name. Because of the popularity of the Swiss Army Knife and similar tools, a large genre of multitools came into manufacture. Some of the more common manufacturers of multitools are Leatherman, Gerber, Victorinox, and Wenger.
A lock-blade knife, also known as a lockback knife, is a folding blade that contains a rocker arm along the back of the handle that locks the blade into an open position. This gives this blade some of the advantages of a non-folding blade, but with the advantage of being able to fold into the handle for storage and safety. The lock-blade is released by depressing a tab on the back of the knife that lifts the lock mechanism from the back of the blade, thereby allowing it to fold closed.
Modern tactical knives are lock-blade knives with heavy-duty locking mechanisms and often employ a "spring assist" mechanism that allows the blade to be opened quickly with the lightest push of a thumb. Although they are designed to be used in self defense if necessary, lock failure is possible, and thus even tactical knives should not be used as a weapon unless absolutely necessary.
Construction and Quality of Folding Blades
Once a potential purchaser has become familiar with the various styles of folding blades, he or she must next become familiar with the construction and quality options a folding blade can present. First, one must become familiar with the various point styles, although some folding blade styles only have one point style. The second consideration is the metal quality of the blade, and the final consideration is the quality of the handle's materials and construction.
Folding Blade Point Styles
Approximately seven main categories of blade points are on the market today, although there are many variations. The clip point is popular in the Americas and displays a medium to long concave curve on the non-cutting side of the blade, providing excellent penetrating power. A drop point has a convex curve instead, and allows similar penetrating capability but adds some strength to the tip of the blade for other tasks. A sheepsfoot point has a flat cutting edge and a rounded non-cutting edge that resembles a sheep's foot, giving it extreme tip strength, low penetrating power, and excellent flat-surface cutting potential. Spey knives are similar, except that the poking surface is fairly blunt; this blade was used to neuter animals and prevent accidental poking wounds.
Pen and spear points are used to refer to the same shape of knife point. These blades are popular in Europe and have a cutting and non-cutting edge that slope convexly together at approximately the same degree, causing the point to look like a spear or pen tip. Coping tips have very narrow blades overall and have a sharp angular point, like many breakaway razor-knives have. Finally, the tanto point has a long, straight slope on the non-cutting surface and a sharp straight point that angles back to the rest of the blade. This provides the tanto tip with excellent penetrating power and tip strength.
Folding Blade Metal Quality
In today's market, the science of metallurgy has created an amazing array of steel types that all have unique purposes. Some steels are harder and hold a sharper edge longer but are fragile compared to other steels. Some steels are softer and can take a beating without breaking, but sacrifice the ability to hold a sharp edge. Some steels use high amounts of carbon and mix in other alloys to attain some of the benefits of both soft and hard steel.
The question of what kind of steel is better depends on the use of the blade. Stainless steel does not take a highly sharp edge, but it is very corrosion resistant. These blades are excellent for light-duty cutting where sharpness is not as important as corrosion resistance. High carbon steel has a little flex to it, allowing it to bend some without breaking, and it can be used roughly. Additionally, high carbon blades can keep a very sharp edge. Hunting knives and survival knives are excellent examples of blades that benefit from high carbon steel.
Folding Blade Handle Quality
The handles of folding blades are made from numerous materials, including aluminum, steel, wood, and plastic. Often a secondary consideration in blade choice, the handle is an important component of the knife. Some knives attempt to lessen the weight of the overall knife by using thin handle materials and use rivet or screw spacers to allow gaps in the handle. The result is a much lighter handle and often a very interesting-looking design. However, performance is often sacrificed, as the knife can become unbalanced or, worse, the handle can come apart unexpectedly. Typically, the more solid the handle, the higher quality the knife and the more sturdy the design.
Folding Knife Legal Issues
Buyers of folding blades must know the local laws about possession of knives for their area. Most countries state that it is legal to own and carry folding blades, but what kind, what kind of locking mechanism, and how large varies from state to state, county to county, and even city to city. The reader is advised to check with his or her local police department about what kinds of folding blades are legal to own or carry in the local jurisdiction and what restrictions may exist prior to purchasing a folding blade.
Finding Folding Blades on eBay
Once someone has decided to purchase a folding blade, navigating over to eBay can offer a one-stop shopping experience for literally thousands of options. Unlike it has for some other items, eBay does not have a specific category for knives, although most knives are located within the various subsections of the Sporting Goods category. However, doing a simple search for "folding knife" or "folding blade" will produce a dizzying array of choices.
Since the list of choices presented with such a simple search can be paralyzing, it is often best to start with an idea of the type of folding blade one desires. Using the information in this article, determine what style of folding blade is desired and search for that. For example, if one is looking for a folding blade with a tanto-style tip that has a locking blade, one might do a search for locking folding tanto. If the reader desires a more simple, classic canoe blade, try searching for folding canoe blade.
The options available in folding blades are vast, including a wide array of styles, locking mechanisms, and point types. Add in to the mix various types of steel and handle qualities, and purchasing a quality folding blade can become daunting. However, doing some research and determining what kind of folding blade is desired can save the purchaser considerable time and headache. Remember to check the local state, county, and city laws about owning and carrying pocket blades, as some may be illegal to carry in a given area. When the decision to purchase a folding blade has been made, eBay makes an excellent choice; just be sure to use specific searches or the results returned can be quite large.