To lock or not.

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Carl Levitian

Jun 3, 2008
When I was young, about the time the time man was moving from bronze to steel, things were a great deal simpler. Cars had inline engines that were easy to work on, airplanes had these wirley gigs on the front of the engines that made them go, and a new thing was being put in living rooms all over the country; TV sets.

Most men I recall from some of my misspent youth, hanging around with those that the church ladies called reprobates, all carried a knife. If a man had his pants on, he was expected to have a pocket knife on him. Now most of the time the knife in question was a two blade 3 inch to 3 1/2 inch serpintine jack made by an American company like Imperial, Case, Camillus, Colonial, or one of the others. Sure, there was a few barlows or stockman patterns around, but I remember alot of those two blade jackknives. But sometimes a man needed something a little more, like when he went hunting or camping. Then he wore a "huntin" knife. One of the most popular ones I remember seeing was the leather handle ones from Case and Kaybar, and Western. Usually about 3 1/3 inch blades with an aluminum birds head pommel. This knife served for deer, bear, fish, small game, and camp chores.

Even city gentlemen carried a small pen knife. It was there in case a sharp tool was needed.

Life was simple.

Then Buck changed everything in 1963. The year of the folding hunter.

I guess I must be the only guy in America who didn't fall under the spell. I looked at one, but I just couldn't figure out why I would want a knife that weighted about what the anchor did for my rowboat, and only had one single blade. Just seemed like a case of overkill to me. I did end up buying a Buck knife, but it was a stockman with three blades. Then I bought a Buck woodsman sheath knife. I still have them, and I admit Buck makes a very good knife. Never let me down in alot of weird places over a 40 year period.

Fast forward to now, and the trend is still strong. I see most young men carrying a knife now, it almost is a money bet certainty that it will be a black handle one hand opening knife with a fancy locking system. It's either going to be a Benchmade this, or a Spyderco that. I guess its okay, some people like a blade lock, they say its safe.

Is it?

Okay, I admit I'm biased. I'll put that right up front. But I grew up in another age, were things were a great deal more rural, and saw our grandad's and some of our dad's use a knife every day for something. Those old traditional pocket knives came from an age where people used knives much more than today, and yet the lockblade never gained popularity untill fairly recent times. They had them in the old days, but not alot of them. A boy learned common sense when he got his first pocket knife. If a pocket knife was too small/light duty, then you used a sheath knife.

I wonder if a blade lock is a good thing, aside from the fighting aspect. If some people are depending on it as a means to keep from hurting themselves, is that an accident waiting to happen? Learning to depend on a saftey device insead of proper use, seems like a less than good thing. I remember one young man having a terrible accident in the machine shop many years ago. He was using a Buck Folding hunter in a unsafe manner. We warned him if the lock fails he's going to get hurt, but he laughed, and told us that us old guys don't appreatiate the strong lock on a Buck because we were used to those
Old man" knives we carried. Of course an hour later the EMT guys were transporting the young man in a great hurry to the hospital. He pushed too hard and lost his index finger at the first joint, and almost did the middle finger as well. They saved the middle one.

I wonder if the Swedes and Finns don't have the right idea- carry a knife that does not fold up. In another post I made mention of the little Buck Hartsook that was a gift from somebody a year and a half ago. It opened up my eyes as to how handy a knife is that does not to me manipulated before use. Since then I've picked up a very small Puuko from Finland made by somebody named S. Dauvi. a 1 7/8 inch blade with just enough of a small chunky handle of nice wood to hang onto, it's a surprisingly heavy duty little knife. And nothing to open or close, just a solid steel tang all the way through.

I think of tourist's razel, and that seems like a perfect un-folding pocket knife. A solid tool for cutting jobs, and if need be, can do some severe damage in a self defence situation. I think back to when I was a kid, and we used a sheath knife for alot of things. Always kept one around in a pack or someplace. Our pocket knives were okay for cutting a piece of string, or whittling a hot dog stick, but if it was real work, the little Case/Kay-bar/Western leather handle sheath knife was used.

Now I seem to have come the full circle. The only pocket knives I carry are small sak's for the tools, and I carry a small un-folding pocket knife for most all cutting.

Of course, thier're alot easier to clean when I cut that egg salid sandwich in half to share with my better half.
My user knife box holds 34 traditional style knives.

Of these only five lock,three are large Folding Hunters that only see "woods" carry.The other two are a small 3" lockback and a Slimline trapper.And I only own four fixed blades,just one is a sometimes user.

So 95% of the time I have one or two non-locking slipjoints on me.

My 9 year old son owns about a dozen slipjoints and I have not "allowed" him to carry or own a lock blade. He understands that I prefer him to continue to use slipjoints for abit longer,so he will learn safe use and not to count on a lock to make up for poor knife handling.
Well, I'm a big believer in Spydercos, but my first pocket knives had no lock, either.

A lock is no excuse for using a knife in an unsafe manner.

You make a very good point, in the family of "use the right tool for the job". It's not wise to rely on "certain" locking devices. Possible problem with that theory is that it's pretty well-known that those old types of locks can and do fail under hard use, as do most locking liners. That's why the have developed supposedly stronger/more positive locking mechanism, such as CRKT's LAWKS system, which locks the liner lock into place, and the Benchmade Axis system. These are not failproof, but they're far stronger & less likely to fail than the old "bottom lock" on say, a Buck 110 or a standard liner lock. So, a lot has been studied and written about in that very area of "which lock for hard use", and some solutions have been proferred. Having said that, I believe the LAWKS is *much* more positive than the Axis. I personally think the Axis is mostly hype and is actually *severely* vulnerable to accidental engagement, having a weak spring and being right there on the side of the knife where your hand is interacting with the knife handle!

But for hard, HARD use, you're right, a fixed blade is a much more sensical choice than any locking folder.
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Carl-"Cheers" for another great piece...

Thought you might enjoy this...


($5.70 Ebay Estwing. 9 3/8" OAL-4.5" blade...I have no idea how old)
Yes, a lock is a good thing.

No, a lock should not be an excuse for poor knife handling.

If we love our small fixed blades, a lock gets us that much closer to them when we use folders.
I guess the main thing I'm really in love with, is the sheer convienence of reaching in my pocket and grabbing the rear of the knife handle, and pulling out a knife that's ready to use right now. No taking off gloves to find a thumb hole, thumb stud, nail nick, or assist opening mechinism. It's like the ultimate in an instantly ready to use tool with no moving parts. I love it. Like going back to the ultimate in simple.

And if the worst case thing happens, I know that no matter how hard I jam the little puuko into something, theres no lock to fail sudenly.

I guess at this point, I'm wondering why even bother with folding knives.
How about 'nother then?

"Official Boy Scout" model. No Boy Scout emblem just words and no makers mark just "Made in the USA" and "PATENTED". Poor guy lost his sheath though. This was a $1.00 yard sale find...




I'm kind of in that middle ground, growing up in the 70's and having a father and generations prior who always carried a pocket knife and still do to this day.

My first knife at 7 years old is a small 3 blade old timer that I lost many many years ago. My first "big Boy" knife was an Uncle Henry 2blade folder Sheath knife that I still have. I think I may have been about 10-12 when I got that on my birthday. Not one of them had a lock on it other than the spring back that is common with a folder pocket knife.

My first real lock back that I ever owned is my Spyderco that I got on sale at Wal-Mart a year or two ago and I carry it with me pretty much every day, everywhere I go. I also carry a SAK Swiss Champ.

I still have my other 3 blade Old Timer and the comparable Uncle Henry 3 blade sitting there ready to throw in my pocket when the time comes but I seem to carry the prior two more often now. I figure, if I need more than the SAK, I've got the bigger blade and heavier duty, then I have the Spyderco. I use the SAK MUCH MORE often than the Spyderco. About the only time I pull the Spydie is when I just need to do a quick cut job to open a package. It's just a little faster and easier to open and close with a little parctice and I can get it out, do the job and have it back in my pocket before those more delicate souls can see it and yell out "Oh My GO!, You've got a knife!!!"

That's what bothers me more nowadays than the idea of a lock or no lock knife and the fct that so many of the "younger" crowd don't really have the sense and sensibilities to properly use and care for a bladed tool no matter what it is.
I guess at this point, I'm wondering why even bother with folding knives.

Because they're not an option some places. I may be able to carry a small fixed blade, but I'm not permitted to in some places.
I love folders with locks like my Striders, I love folders without locks like my SAK and slipjoints. I love fixed blades too. I just don't feel I need to like one over another - I use whatever I fell like using.

But as hso says some places do not allow much in the way of fixed blades. I carried a 4" Strider clipped to my pocket in many casinos and never had a problem but a fixed blade will not fly on the Strip.

I usually have a SAK, a slippie and a Strider on me, along with a Kimber. I'm covered for everything but a little old lady kicking me in the shins. Not much I could do about that - maybe that should be a S&T senario! :D
"Grown-up" Knives

That little Estwing up there tugs at my heart strings.

Excellent profile, no guard to interfere with close-up work.

In Scandinavia the traditional "youth" knife has a guard, while the "grown-up" version of that same knife does not.

Field knives (mine at least) see kitchen duty as much as anything else. I really appreciate a knife that has nothing to in the way of working right down on the cutting board.

Nice find. I'll have to keep an eye out for one of those.
I love all knives. But the thing I don't like about slip joints, is not the lack of a lock, but the speed of deployment. If I want to cut tape off some boxes, I like the one handed opening of newer folders, or a knife with a pocket catch (catches pocket when you pull knife out)

I grew up with a very old 3 blade case-like knife. Then I bought myself a 2 blade barlow, and had it forever. I switched to linerlocks because I could take them apart with a screwdriver and mess with the internals. And now I kinda took a step back and have fallen in love with lockbacks, mainly the spyderco Byrd line, the price is great for these knives, and if you take a piece of metal from the thumb hole, you have a pocket catch.

But in situations where I feel like I need to do a lot of cutting, I carry my 4" Frosts Mora. Nothing like a Scandinavian grind on a fixed blade. Would trust that knife more than anything else, and it cost me $12.

So my knife preference goes something like. Fixed, lockback, liner, slip joint.
Don't blame Buck. Switchblades locked from before WWII.

And BTW, stilettos are not designed for fighting. A bayonet grind might excel at puncturing, but a flat grind is simply a European 'cheese knife.' It's Americans who corrupt the uses.
I have my beliefs, and these were instilled in me and run deep.

I do not personally own a locking knife, and do not ask me when I last did.
I grew up with safe knife handling - period.
One does not rely on a lock on a knife anymore than they rely on the safety on a firearm.

Safe is Safe and correct basic fundamentals are what one does.

Every person should have a nice pen knife, from 2 3/4" to about 3 1/8", two blades.
Male and Female alike.

This has nothing to do with more current restrictions on knives, it has to do with what is proper.

A gentleman should have an appropriate knife to cut a lime for a ladies drink, or to cut a chocolate so the lady does not mess up her lipstick.
A lady should have an appropriate knife to undo the wrap on fine cognac, and to cut a cigar for a gentleman.

How raised - what you do.

Kids are taught beginning very young about knife safety.
Taking tongue depressor, or paint stick and making them a fixed "kitchen knife" to learn with.
This is not a toy, it is a parenting, mentoring tool.

When hands , fingers and motor skills get developed a bit more, a non-locking pocket knife is fashioned for the kid.
Two tongue depressors for handles, popcicle stick for a blade and using nylon screws and nuts.

If one learns knife safety , and learns to how to properly use a knife, then they will use the tool correctly and safely.

They are parented and mentored such, where if a task is such, choosing the fixed is the better tool over a folding one.
If...if they have to use a pocket knife, then they think ahead, and think through the situation as to how best to use a pocket knife.

I have nothing against locking knives, in general.
I do have some serious concerns about them being safe, and it has nothing to do with the actual cutting with the knife.

By design, they require fingers and other body parts to be in front of an edge.
This goes totally against everything I was ever taught about knife use, and safety.
It goes against what I pass forward too.

Now I tested and reviewed some locking knives here sometime back. I even asked members on THR for what kind of lockback I should get.
I knew ill winds were blowing , as did others, so some testing and review was in order.

I mean no disrespect to anyone, especially any that are health and safety officers or the persons in charge of safety or health insurance.

I can be an argumentative old southern boy when I want to be.
I am a rebel by birth, and by golly I got some great rebel genes!

I do not get along with a lady that is in a Mgmt and Policy making position .
This goes back too many years, and the simple fact, she is manipulative - controlling type, that abuses her authority.
She implemented a policy, that nobody could have a knife over 3" closed, it could not lock, and it could not have one hand assisted opening.

She feels the UK is correct, in how criminals and lessening crime is handled.
She feels the same way about guns as well.

Now, if one had a job description that needed a cutting tool, one had to use issued box, or carton cutter.
Which is fine. Get signed off, and one is given to you use to use. You need replacement blades, fine. Stick some in your desk, or locker.

Now if you have a job description, or other approved reason to use a larger knife, or something other than the box cutter, it has to be one on a list.

She would not allow a Buck 110, similar lock back, smaller.
She fussed and was going to "write up" a lady and gent for having a Buck-Lite and Buck 55.
These two were upper level, and approved for using something other than a box cutter, for job descriptions.

I knew the knives on the list. These will hurt you! I tested these, for one, the liner lock is iffy, and one does have to have fingers where they should not be, to unlock.
I and mine had problems with some of the knives on the list for all sorts of reasons.

So I go in, to have this meeting. This is about employee safety.
I show up prepared, with mesh gloves and various knives. Other decision makers are present.

I am nice, civil, polite, and I do all sorts of tasks one might use a knife for, including getting a package of crackers open , cutting an apple, eating lunch and food preparation as one does for a office party.

I made my case.
The approved knives failed.
I even was able to get the restriction lifted on knives in the workplace. I made it real clear to folks , to not be acting like Bruce Lee on Meth whipping out a knife to cut something, especially when clients were around.

Buck 110 for instance does not put fingers in front of an edge if one uses a knife proper, and the lock is a better one.
Spyderco model I used, proved the same thing.

I used a Sodbuster to show how to properly open and close and in using safe knife practices, it is a safe knife.

Pen knife I used was a good looking, bone handled pen knife, 3 1/8" closed , with a clip main blade, and smaller pen.

I borrowed this good looking knife. The decision makers went nuts over this knife. The more the ladies and gents handled it, and the more I shared safe knife use with it, the more they wanted one.
And the more ticked off a certain lady became.

I rebel real well, and I did, and I will again.

These folks were not raised right. They were not taught knife safety and any thing they knew about knives came from magazines, or Internet.
A lot of the information had to do about crimes, how bad knives were, and the like.
The rest of the information was basically "fan boy" or "mob mentality".
I knew matters were bad, I just was not expecting it to be this bad.

Maintenance fella, picked my brain on those "tongue depressor" knives and made some.
I did not really ask permission, I just started doing things and either folks thought what I was doing was "approved" , or liked my "rebellious ways" or "we want to learn".

Someone on THR sent me a gift cert to SMKW.
So I bought some SAK Pocket Pals, and some small stones.

I rigged the drawing , I sure did. Kids rec'd the "tongue depressor" knives, and those parents rec'd the Pocket Pals.
I told folks up front, kids get first dibbs, parents with kids, and those adults with nieces and nephews.

If one was single, they had to buy their own Pocket Pal, get married, get pregnant or go buy a kid.
The consensus is, buying a Pocket Pal is the least expensive route. *wink*

I mentored kids and Pocket Pal folks. These folks never had this, until I did it.
Oh we even had wittle bottles of "oil" (empty) and wittle sharpening stones (wood) for the kids.
"Do you have your knife, is it sharp, are the pivots oiled?" I would ask a kid
"Yes 'teve". Kids do not have to call me "sir" that is my deal with kids and the responsible adult.

As time goes on, the ones I Mentored to, assist others in that building, and employed by that company.
Pass it forward, is all I asked.

Now some have gotten locking knives since, and they chose certain makes and models because of not only my demonstration, also based on Safe Knife Handling, and investigation and verifying for themselves.

Spyderco .
The one I really like , is the UK Pen Knife. I like the green one now offered.
I would just as soon not have the clip, instead a lanyard hole.
I would also like to see this made in smaller version. Heck they may make one now, I have not looked to see.
UK Pen knife is a non-locking knife. Easy to open one handed,and easy to close safely for me.

No. I never did get the UK Pen Knife I was going to get, with the gift cert from SMKW back then.
I did what I did for that member, because I wanted to. This stuff has never been about me, instead others.
I am nobody.

There was some policy changes, and folks now have been mentored including kids, and they are passing forward.
They are keeping it - by giving it away.
Yes, they are involved in knife rights as well.
Oh the knife stuff led to gun stuff too.

Like I said, I can be a argumentative southern boy when I choose to be.

How raised- what you do.
Did I ever tell this forum the story of how I almost blew my ear off with a 12 gauge? Probably. early on, before I became an expert on everything. ahem.

Having the muzzle pointed in a safe direction saved me, because it was another safety measure - when always assuming the gun is loaded failed.

So it is with knife locks. Let us think neither that locks have no place in the hands of the discerning, nor that having half an inch of cryo-quenched milled titanium is gonna save your french tips (or the fingers they're mounted on!)

Just another safety measure. Don't let it be the only one.

There are people that bust windows, pop airbags, cut straps, in the course of their work. There are others that go head-to-head with the desperate, the stupid, the addicted and crazy and just plain evil for a measly tax-funded paycheck. These people demand a lot out of their knives. The rest of us.. hey, it's a free market, but let's have a little class. :)

"There's a better tool for the job, but if it's miles away at the firehouse, it's not doing you a fat lotta good." -Uncle joe, the oldest EMT instructor in human history.
When one understands the proper use of a knive, and the value of keeping it sharp, locks are not needed. In my younger days I was cut more times with a dull knive than a sharp one! I own plenty that lock and do not lock.
It so happens my EDC locks, but I choose to carry it because of the convenience of one handed opening. I still love my 2-3 blade, bone handled folders. I fondle them quite frequently.:D
I guess at this point, I'm wondering why even bother with folding knives.

Besides what hso pointed out, it's a more convenient carry method to have a folder. Nearly all if not all of my jeans, shorts, and hunting pants have front pockets on them, a convenient place to store the knife. Now arguably a fixed blade is even more convenient being worn on the belt. More convenient in terms of accessibility once donned, yet. More convenient overall, no. It can be a bit cumbersome and dig into the side of your abdomen while you walk. It has to be taken on and off of the belt, which is real pain if you want to wear the knife on your left side for some reason and have to unstring 3/4ths of your belt from the loops to put on or take off. You run into town to the stop & rob for bait/tackle/ammo/big gulp, these days it's not altogether too PC to wear a fixed blade in some places. AND, you ever tried taking a beautiful mid-morning nap on the ground after deer hunting from 5 to 9:30? Laying on that knife ain't too comfy. Minor thing, but still - there's advantages and disadvantages. I do like to wear a fixed blade most of the time while camping however. The main use it gets it dicing vegetables, etc. at mealtime.

Oh, and obviously, for everyday carry back in suburbia, a lock can be useful on a folder for emergency defense use.
Sm--GRRReat story!!

Now THAT, sir, is being an intelligent rebel!! Nice work! Thx for sharing!!

Not all fixed blades have to go on the belt. There are plenty that are designed to drop into the pocket with a bail or lanyard from the sheath to the belt. Small knives, certainly, but that's what we're talking about in this case. Then there's neck knives. At the moment I'm wearing a little Simonich Bitter Root that Ethan Becker gave me for my birthday. He bought a fist full from Rob the year he died. It's small and convenient. If I wanted I'd just loop the chain around my belt and drop it into my pocket like a pocket watch.
Note: hso, JShirley and I have discussed matters in regard to knives, locks, defensive uses ,or not using knives as in "knife fights".

There is a lot in our discussions one is not going to read or know about.
WE are on the same page. We understand and respect each other and we learn from each other.

I do not want anyone to think "whatever they think" and get into a "Us vs Them" or get any other impressions.

Investigate & Verify.
hso, John, myself and others around here, want folks to investigate, verify, get some qualified assistance to fit them, their needs and tasks.


I have alway been a proponent of small fixed blades.

Including a simple, wood handled "whittling" knife, with a blade no more than 1".

I grew up folks that had fought in previous wars, and polio victims.
Veterans, and some were not just USA Military Veterans either.
Vietnam, also had those return home physically limited, some permanent, some temporary .

Safety is Safety , and extends to the person that has amputations, physical limits due to surgery, disease, or accidents.
Folks have a right to feel "whole", "useful" , "independent" and not feel "dependent" , "a bother" or "handicapped" .

Go take a hammer and hit your strong hand , the fingers and thumb, to get an idea how arthritis , hurts, throbs, and interferes with the ability to do simple tasks.

Forget the one hand assist locking knife, trying opening a bottle of Tylenol, getting the toothpaste and toothbrush to work for you, and even that pull top on a can of soup is going to hurt, or be awkward for some to do weak handed.

Now that dumb wood handled knife with a 1" blade that came from a hobby / craft store, with a little sheath, is your bestest friend.
That old guy that gave that to for doing a favor , knew something you did not appreciate at the time.

You thought it was a kind old man being a kind old man paying you for doing something.

He drew your name at the office during the holidays and this was under the $15 budget.

Cheap old fool, had this in his way, and got it out his by giving it to you...

No. He knew something you did not appreciate at the time.
Oh sure, learning to whittle is neat, still that old boy knew something.

All you want to do is get them stupid crackers open!
Hey! You can stick that knife in a shirt pocket, front pants pocket, back pocket, inside jacket, side pocket, purse...
This little fixed blade is sooo handy!

Look at you, you can have a knife, carry it all sorts of ways, and be safe about it.

Once your hand, finger and thumbs get better after taking a hammer to them, you are going to appreciate being whole again.
You are going to understand and listen to those with arthritis, and physical limits.

Oh nooooo! Are folks going to think you turned into a old person if you recommend small fixed to folks!

No. Instead maturity is not age dependent.

Never criticize another until you have walked a mile in their shoes and whacked your good hand, finger and thumb with a hammer.
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