Are the Rolling Lock and the Axis Lock still just lockbacks?


Oct 9, 1998
A friend of mine posed an interesting theory about the new "axial" lock designs (Benchmade Axis and REKAT Rolling Lock): Although they are stronger than most linerlocks and considered better designs overall, they are still essentially lockbacks. The only difference between these new designs and the lockback designs of the past is the placement of the lock itself (closer to the axis for more strength) and the placement of the release mechanism (placed so the lock can't be disengaged or loosened simply by gripping the knife, like some of the old "rocker" style lockbacks).

This means that these designs still have 2 disadvantages inherent in lockbacks:

1.) The blade can and will bounce if fired too forcefully (I've seen this for myself on a REKAT Pocket Hobbit).

2.) Everything is dependent on the operation of a spring under tension-the mechanism is in that way more complicated than a linerlock's. If the spring fails or loosens, then you're history. Granted it's highly unlikely, but as the theory goes, one would feel safer with a linerlock design because it locks the blade when a linear (or leaf) spring UNsprings, exactly the opposite of a lockback.

I sort of agree with this theory. As far as designing the perfect lock for a folding knife goes, we're not out of the woods yet. Anyway, I wanted to know what the rest of you guys think.


Knife lover, Philosopher, Humanitarian, and All-around nice guy
(all right, so I'm just a knife lover)

Would you expand on your hypothesis, I think I know what you are saying, but I am not sure.

Marion David Poff fka Eye, one can msg me at

Patiently waiting for the Spyderco SpydeRench, Lum Chinese Chopper Folder, Rolling Lock, Benchmade M2 Axis, M2 Axis AFCK, M2 Pinnacle and the REKAT Escalator and Pat Crawford Design.

"The victorious Warrior wins first and then goes to war, while the defeated Warrior goes to war and then seeks to win" Sun-Tzu


The Axis and Rolling lock may be "just" lockbacks the same way Godzilla is just a lizard
As they say, a difference in quantity can constitute a difference in kind, and these new locks are way stronger than a lockback, and way smoother. Big differences in quantity.

However, I'd argue strongly that both locking formats are qualitatively different than a lockback as well. It's simple enough to look at the Axis and see for yourself. It's a completely different mechanism, the lock is based on a different principle. We can go through point-by-point, but I'd claim there's no way someone wouldlook at schematics of several different lockbacks plus an Axis and say they're the same kind of lock. Hell, there's not even a backspring on the Axis. I mean, I'm sure you can come up with some absurdly broad definition of "lockback" to somehow make the Axis and rolling lock fit in, but at that point you're just playing word games. These new locks are stronger, smoother, and less prone to auto-unlocking than a lockback.

However, I'm sure you're right in that we don't have the "perfect" lock type yet. I dunno if we ever will, I just want us to get past the lock that is demonstrably a problem, the liner lock.

But as to your points:

1 - We don't know yet whether or not the Axis can "bounce". In any case, I guess that is a reasonable concern for some people. Not for me, I tend not to flick my knives out, and when I do, I don't slam 'em. But still you're right, it's something we should watch. The first time I cut myself because of it, I may feel differently!

2 - Yah, it depends on a spring. You know though, springs are resilient things, and constitute critical parts in all kinds of mechanical doodads. Hell, the trigger on my Glock depends on one, and I'm not sweating that spring. The Axis even has a double spring. Anyway, it's another thing to watch, but in theory this system can be made pretty sturdy. Certainly, it would hard to imagine anything *worse* than a linerlock!

I consider both lock types not totally proven at this point. The rolling lock has been out there longer, but really for less than a year and REKAT isn't exactly a high volume company, so we don't have enough data yet. The Axis, well, I'm sure the custom makers don't have too many out there, and Benchmade has yet to ship in volume. At this point, I'm just hoping these locks fulfill their promise; I'm not sure of anything yet.

The true difference is the distance between the 3-points of contact(or the Triangle).On a lackback the points are the pivot and the two points where the lock bar engage the blade tang (very close together).The newer locks that you mentioned have much larger contact points and are further apart.They are much more stable and strong (bigger triangle).

Rob Criswell

i just purchased an aluminum axis lock at my local retail knife store. it is definitely not a lockback! one thing that is strange feeling to me is that there is no ball detent, so the knife doesn't stop part way before opening fully. i think this adds to the smoothness of the knife. there does seem to be some blade play, vertically, but only if i hold the knife handle and intentionally move the blade back and forth. even then it is barely noticeable. does anyone know if this constitutes blade play or not? anyway, the lock just feels super strong. i also love the tip up carry. i got preproduction #349/500. i believe it will set the standard for production folders. i would love to read a review of this knife. maybe something like thaddeus' torture review of the M2 AFCK, could be done to one of the axis locks. one more thing - this knife is screaming for an M2 blade!

jason - you do not have to unlock the blade to open it. you just open it like any other manual open one-handed folder. i have noticed that when i swing the blade open real hard, and then check for vertical blade play - there is none. i guess this just makes it lock up tighter. the simplicity of this lock design is amazing.
i am in college right now and i have a job working in a warehouse parttime. i am opening boxes and tearing them down all day. the blade on this knife handles it better than any knife so far that i have used. anytime i get a new knife, i take it to work to see how it does, and yesterday, the axis destroyed all previous competitors. i'm hoping joe talmadge gets one of these soon, so we can read his much valued opinions on the edge geometry.

take care, marco
Thanks to all who've responded thus far.
To reassure everyone, I am not at all unfamiliar with the engineering differences of both designs (I own a Pocket Hobbit and the friend I mentioned owns an Axis and just about every REKAT knife ever made). Or to put it bluntly, I'm not talking out of my ass or making an assessment based on simply viewing a schematic.

My friend's hypothesis addresses only the fundamentals of both designs in the functional contexts mentioned (i.e., the two points he raised), and is not an attempt to broadly categorize these locks with other lockbacks. My friend and I are actually accustomed to fixed knives. Of the folder designs we've come across (i.e. actually used), we like the Sebenza and the SOCOM best (I'm starting to like the new CRKT S-2 Frame Lock more and more also). There is some merit to the strength and simplicity of their designs. My friend's point about bounce is an undeniable one, especially for the REKAT Pocket Hobbit, a tactical knife whose intended method of deployment is via release from a breakthru Kydex sheath and a quick flick in reverse grip (I should have mentioned that I haven't yet seen an Axis bounce).

Joe T. raised two good points, one about "playing word games", and the other about dependence on a tensed spring for lock operation. It should have been specified that these new designs are like lockbacks only in terms of how the lock engages (essentially a bolt fitting into a notch in the tang of the blade), instead of leaving everyone to guess at my meaning. Also, the chance of the springs failing (especially for these designs which really don't rely on spring tension to maintain the lock) could more accurately be expressed as statistically equivalent to the average person getting struck by lightning twice in his life-effectively negating any concerns about use in the real world. I'm stating this so nobody gets the wrong idea and because these clarifications should have been made originally.


Knife lover, Philosopher, Humanitarian, and All-around nice guy
(all right, so I'm just a knife lover)
I disagree on at least a few points right off the top of my head.

In all the below, I find the Axis to be far superior to the Rollong lock in every regard except perhaps strength (but just how much do you need!?)

1) The Axis and Rolling lock are not as picky about pocket fuzz and dirt in the mechanism as a lockback (or liner lock for that matter). Fuzz in a lockback's groove can inhibit it from shutting. The Axis and Rolling lock would require an inordinate amount of crud in them to prevent function, and more importantly, the mechanism is wide open and easy to see into, so most crud would easily fall out of the lock or be seen long before it built up to that extreme level.

2) The locks are much stronger than a lockback.

3) The locks are smoother than a lockback, especially the Axis!

4) Both new locks will resist wear more than older designs. And I would not worry about the spring failing, especially on the redunant Axis lock.

5) The Axis is truly ambidextrous, (which is only a bonus over the liner lock, as the lockback is also ambidextrous). The Axis can also be released with either the index finger, the thumb, or both of either hand.

6) Here's the big one: Both new locks, the Axis and Rolling locks, DO NOT REQUIRE YOU TO PUT YOUR FINGERS IN THE PATH OF THE BLADE IN ORDER TO RELEASE THE LOCK!!!

I think the Rolling lock and especially the Axis lock are eons ahead of lockbacks and liner locks, and I believe that once everyone sees the Axis, they will understand what I am so excited about!

Ps- I am working on a review of this knife, as soon as I get a review piece. So far I have been heavily fondling ones nearby, and have grasped a good feeling of what they are about.
The Axis does scream for an M2 blade to live up to the lock strength.

The point of torture testing the M2 blade was to prove the strength of M2. If I torture test the Axis, it would be a lock torture, not a blade torture. What types of lock tortures would you like to see? How about taking my 250 pound frame and doing pullups from it? Any requests?

All this talk about strength or weakness of various lock designs is very interesting and I always read every word that you all contribute. There are some thoughtful essays from a number of you who I find to be thorough and erudite on the subject, BUT;
I never put any force on any of my folders anywhere near where I think the failure level might be, with all due respect, what are you guys DOING with yours ? I'm a warehouse supervisor and have been for about 20 years. In that time I've used my knives for all sorts of jobs, both proper for folders and not so proper and have never felt that I was on the edge of lock failure. I won't bore you with lists of things done, but I think you see where I'm headed. I don't intend to question anyones honor or anything; just trying to figure out what you'd do to make a Buck 110 lockback, Benchmade 800, Spyderco Endura, or any other popular model unlock under actual use; not tests to defeat the lock; actual use. JUST wondering (for months, finally got up the nerve to ask).

[This message has been edited by Brian Lavin (edited 16 December 1998).]
brian - i have had liner locks fail on me on several occasions. never an 800sbt, but i like to use my other liner locks sometimes too. it's more than a little scary to feel the liner moving when you have to really grip the handle hard. i have seen several liner locks that i could close by hand by just putting very slight pressure on the back of the blade. it doesn't take much abuse to get one to fail. also, i sometimes have to carry a folder for self defense - i'm not sure what kind of abuse to the lock that this task would call for, but i would rather it be able to take an inordinate amount of abuse, just to be on the safe side.
as far as lockbacks, i have no real problem, only nitpicks. they do gather too much pocket fuzz. also, i think they wear out to quickly - most of my lockbacks have developed blade play very quickly. however, i can say that i will never buy another liner lock, but i would purchase a lockback of high quality.
as for torture testing the lock, i suppose a lot of it has to do with common curiosity. i want to know what my knife can take if need be. the other important thing torture testing does is hopefully simulate a self defense situation. this is very important, considering the consequences of knife failure during a confrontation.

take care, marco

Brian --

These lock failures more often happen in harder use. However, even for the kind of light use you cite, liner locks can and do fail. One common liner lock failure occurs when you grip the handle a bit too hard -- that partially unlocks the blade, and even light pressure against the spine back can cause the lock to fail. Also, last week I had an email conversation with a guy who got a number of stitches in his hand. He was just cutting some cardboard, the knife got stuck somehow and he torqued it a little bit to get it out. The liner lock unlocked on him. This was a Microtech, one of the best companies out there; if *they* can't build their liner locks reliably, I'm worried.

Anyway, for light use, you will probably never notice any problem with your liner lock... but then again, you might. With heavy use, you probably will.

thad you said...
In all the below, I find the Axis to be far superior to the Rollong lock in every regard except perhaps strength (but just how much do you need!?)

Would you quantify that?

Marion David Poff fka Eye, one can msg me at

Patiently waiting for the Spyderco SpydeRench, Lum Chinese Chopper Folder, Rolling Lock, Benchmade M2 Axis, M2 Axis AFCK, M2 Pinnacle and the REKAT Escalator and Pat Crawford Design.

"The victorious Warrior wins first and then goes to war, while the defeated Warrior goes to war and then seeks to win" Sun-Tzu

I think your confusing poor technique in snapping the knife open in reverse grip and calling it rebounding. If the user doesn’t get the technique right the blade doesn’t open enough to engage the lock, therefore the spring rebounds the blade back. I test every Pocket Hobbit and if I can’t open it with my left hand in reverse grip then I adjust the knife. If the knife is opened correctly and the lock engages it will not rebound. I have opened thousands of Pocket Hobbits and if it rebounds then it’s my fault. I have never had a Rolling Lock rebound.

Bob Taylor

What constitutes proper technique? In my experience, the reason why rebound occurs is not because of the spring, but because when snapped open quickly, the tang of the blade bounces off the lock bolt before it can engage. I can totally eliminate bounce, but only by tightening the blade pivot (thereby slowing down the blade) to such an extent that quick snapping becomes difficult. What am I doing wrong?


Knife lover, Philosopher, Humanitarian, and All-around nice guy
(all right, so I'm just a knife lover)
I am unfamiliar with the knives in question
but I will stick my neck out.....maybe what you are doing wrong is snapping the blade out. Snapping involves greater blade velocity and, consequently, much increased impact on the lock contact points.If all the adjustments are not spot on sometimes it is gonna bounce open again.
I have said it before but I believe snapping is bad for the knife and, more importantly, very unreliable in "real" situations when the adrenalin and perspiration are flowing.
Snapping is it myself...but it is flashy,unreliable, destructive and unnecessary with decent one-handers. That is why they have studs and holes etc.
IMO, of course.

Brian W E
ICQ #21525343


I would be glad to clarify, but I do not understand your vague question. You mean in you would like my statement put into numbers? Quantify as in, put my qualitative opinion into some mathematical equation? As a Bio major, pehaps we have different meaning for the word "quantification". I don't think I undertand what you mean by quantification and how it would apply to the statement unles you want exact numbers on how much weight the locks will hold etc.

Please fill me in on our communication gap and I will be glad to clarify. The statement itelf simply means that in every point listed below it, the Axis, IMO, performs more ergonomically than the Rolling lock...easier to reach, more comfy, easier to open due to a smooth ride, etc.

The Pocket Hobbit I carry is as loose as a Goose, to the point that I would not sell one to the general public because of the liability issue. It has never rebounded period. Once again it is impossible for the blade fo rebound if the blade goes into full battery (for lack of a better term) the reaction time of the spring is such to prevent this. There is a fine line between full battery and almost making it. If you think there is a problem return the knife and I will check it out (no charge) if I can get it to rebound I will replace it with a new slidebar Pocket Hobbit. Yes the slide bar does exist and will be on all the Rolling Lock products in 1999 along with a coil compression spring which allows for a smother action

Bob Taylor
Bob Tayor,

Could you please give us some info on the Spyderco collaboration? Will it use that new slide bar you mentioned? Blade steel, length, style,etc.?

Thank you,