A Guide to Knife Lock Types: Understanding the Differences

An Introduction to knife lock types

Knives have been an essential tool for humans for centuries, serving various purposes from cutting food to survival and tactical use. While the design and purpose of knives have evolved over time, one aspect that remains crucial is the locking mechanism. Understanding knife lock types is essential, whether you’re an EDC enthusiast or simply looking for a reliable everyday tool. In this blog post, we’ll explore different knife lock types, with a particular focus on slip joint knives and friction folders.

Lock Knife Types: An Overview

Lock knives, often known as folding knives with locking mechanisms, are designed to ensure that the blade stays securely in place during use. These locks provide stability, making them popular among EDC enthusiasts, outdoorsmen, and professionals who rely on their knives daily. A court case (Regina vs Desmond Garcia Deegan, 1998) that happened in the UK actually decided that folding knives that lock open are not folding knives as they cannot readily fold at all times. This is basically the basis of the law that prohibits free carry of locking knives. It’s the reason we’re limited to EDC knives with less than three inch, non locking blades!

Types of Lock Knives:

Frame Lock: In a frame lock knife, the frame of the handle doubles as a lock. When the blade is opened, a part of the frame moves behind the tang of the blade, securing it in place.

Liner Lock: Liner lock knives feature a liner inside the handle that moves to the side when the blade is opened, preventing it from folding. Liner locks are sturdy and easy to use.

Lockback: Lockback knives have a notch on the spine of the blade that engages with a spring-loaded latch in the handle. When the blade is open, this latch locks the blade in place.

Axis Lock: Popularized by Benchmade, the axis lock employs a bar that moves along a slot in the handle to lock the blade open. It’s known for its smooth operation and ambidextrous design. While Axis locks only exist on Benchmade and brands authorized by Benchmade to use them, similar locks are found on many brands of knives. They’ll usually have a different name, but the operation is similar. Examples include ‘Bolt Lock’.

Slip Joint Knives

Slip joint knives are a classic and widely used style of pocket knives. Unlike lock knives, slip joint knives don’t have a locking mechanism to keep the blade open. Instead, they rely on tension and pressure to keep the blade in place.

How Slip Joints Work:

Slip joints have a back spring that provides tension to keep the blade open. The tension is created by a notch in the tang of the blade that interacts with the spring. When force is applied to close the blade, the spring flexes, allowing the blade to fold. Slip joint knives are simple and dependable tools. They are known for their traditional design and legal status in many areas where locking knives are prohibited.

Friction Folders
Friction folders are another type of non-locking knife. These knives rely on friction to keep the blade open during use. Unlike slip joints, friction folders often lack a back spring or other mechanical tension solution and instead rely on the user of the knife.

How Friction Folders Work:

The tang of the blade is friction-fitted against the handle when open. The user’s grip and pressure on the handle are what keep the blade in place. Unlike slip joints, there’s no spring mechanism in friction folders.

The Advantages of Slip Joint and Friction Folder Knives

At EDC Warehouse, we specialize in slip joint and friction folder knives, and we firmly believe in their advantages. Let’s delve deeper into the benefits of these non-locking knife types.

Legal Knife Status:

Slip joint and friction folders are often considered legal knives in many regions. Their lack of a locking mechanism sets them apart from lock knives, making them more accessible for everyday carry. These knives are perfect for individuals who want a reliable tool without navigating the complex legalities associated with locking knives. It’s important to note though, that the blade must be less than 3 inches in length for them to be suitable for EDC.

Ease of Use:

Slip joint and friction folder knives are incredibly user-friendly. Their simple design means there are fewer components that can fail. They are easy to open and close, making them suitable for both novice and experienced users.

Traditional Aesthetic:

The traditional design of slip joint and friction folders is aesthetically appealing to many knife enthusiasts. They often come with classic handle materials like bone, wood, or metal, adding a touch of timeless elegance to your everyday carry. That said, modern slip joints can have all the bells and whistles you could ever want. High end premium materials and super steels.


Slip joint and friction folders come in various blade shapes and sizes, offering versatility for different tasks. Whether you need a small blade for precision cutting or a larger one for heavier-duty work, you can find a slip joint or friction folder to suit your needs.

Lightweight and Compact:

These knives are often lightweight and compact, making them ideal for EDC. Their slim profiles and non-locking nature allow for easy pocket or belt carry without adding excessive bulk.

Understanding the Differences between Locking and Non-Locking Knives

Now that we’ve explored the advantages of slip joint and friction folders, let’s examine the key distinctions between locking and non-locking knives:

Locking Mechanism:

  • Lock Knives: As the name suggests, these knives feature a locking mechanism that secures the blade in place when open.
  • Slip Joint Knives: These knives lack a locking mechanism. Instead, they rely on pressure and tension to keep the blade open.
  • Friction Folders: Similarly, friction folders do not have a locking mechanism. The blade is held in place by friction and the user’s grip.

Legal Considerations:

  • Lock Knives: Legal status can vary by region, and carrying locking knives may be subject to restrictions.
  • Slip Joint Knives: Slip joint knives are often considered non-threatening and more widely accepted in terms of legal carry.
  • Friction Folders: These knives are typically regarded as non-locking and therefore more legally compliant in various areas.

Opening and Closing

  • Lock Knives: Lock knives usually have a thumb stud, flipper, or other mechanisms for easy one-handed opening.
  • Slip Joint Knives: Slip joints used to mostly require two hands to open and close, promoting safety and reducing the risk of accidents. Though modern slips can come with blade flippers and studs too.


  • Lock Knives: These knives may have more intricate mechanisms that require occasional maintenance to ensure proper function.
  • Slip Joint Knives: Slip joints are simpler in design and may require less maintenance.
  • Friction Folders: Friction folders are among the simplest knife designs, which can make maintenance straightforward.

Strength and Durability:

  • Lock Knives: Lock knives often offer a higher level of stability and are suitable for heavy-duty tasks.
  • Slip Joint Knives: While they might not be as robust as locking knives, slip joints are reliable for everyday cutting tasks.
  • Friction Folders: Friction folders are best suited for light to moderate cutting needs due to their lack of a locking mechanism.

Choosing The Right Knife for your Needs

When it comes to choosing the right knife for your needs, there are a few factors to consider. Your choice should align with your intended use, local regulations, and personal preferences. Let’s break it down:

Everyday Carry (EDC):

For EDC purposes, slip joint and friction folders are excellent choices. They are lightweight, easy to carry, and legal in many areas. They provide utility for everyday tasks, such as opening packages or cutting twine.

Specialized Tasks:

If you require a knife for specific tasks, like outdoor adventures or heavy-duty cutting, a locking knife may be more suitable due to its added stability and strength.

Local Laws and Regulations:

Always be aware of your local knife laws and regulations. Slip joint and friction folders are often more accessible due to their non-locking nature, making them a safer choice in areas with strict knife laws.

Personal Preference:

Personal taste plays a significant role in choosing the right knife. Some individuals appreciate the classic appeal of slip joint and friction folders, while others prefer the features and convenience of locking knives.


In the world of knives, the choice between lock knives and non-locking knives, such as slip joint and friction folders, can be significant. The decision ultimately depends on your intended use, legal considerations, and personal preferences.

At EDC Warehouse, we specialize in slip joint and friction folder knives. Our commitment to providing quality, legal, and reliable tools for everyday carry is paramount. Whether you’re a knife enthusiast or someone seeking a trustworthy everyday tool, our range of non-locking knives has something for everyone. Choose a knife that suits your needs, adheres to local laws, and reflects your personal style. In the end, a well-chosen knife can be a dependable companion for life’s many cutting tasks.

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