Battle of the Locks

Mar 1, 1999
Ok, which lock do you guys think is the "best" lock? A few of the new locks have been out for a while now and how do they stack up? Is it the Axis lock, Rolling Lock, Integral Lock, or is it the traditional lockback?

I think debating absolute strength in folder and it's lock is kinda funny. A well made knife with any of those locks will work. If absolute strength is important use afixed blade.
Barry Wood's split handle flip-over style seems to me that of various folding locks, it would be the strongest by far. Not most tactical, not easyiest to open, just the least likely to close on your hand - I don't believe it can.
Rolling Lock has to be the STRONGEST, but by far my favorite is the Axis-Lock. I hate how the Rolling Lock feels when working, the Axis-Lock has my vote for the MOST comfortable and functional lock out there. The Sebenza Integrel Lock seems to be just about the most sought after feature on the Sebenza, other then that one feature there isn't much different, as far as knife topography is concerned, on the Sebenza over like the Benchmade the MonoLock or any other folder of this type. If this is a post leading to a knife reccomendation, I would get an Axis-Lock equipped knife, because the Sebenza is mad expensive.

Robert Joseph Ansbro

If it can be written, or thought, it can be filmed. -Stanley Kubrick, 1928-1999

I am the moderator on the forum "The Balcony" located at Cinematopia, please come support this brand new site
I know everyone's heard my opinion on this, but here it is again... I've always felt this focus on strength has always been a red herring. Just about every lock out there is plenty strong. The real thing to be concerned about is reliability. Some locks are easy to build in a way that they're reliable; others are not so easy. Once you start looking in the right direction -- reliability -- you'll start seeing more interesting things.

The integral lock appears to me to be extremely reliable. Ditto the rolling lock and axis lock, though those locks haven't been out as long so I'm still watching carefully -- especially the reliability of the springs and the ease with which one might accidently hit the release button. All 3 locks are as strong as I'd ever need, for a folder.

I guess I wasn't clear in my first post. When I said "best" I meant reliability, blade play of a typical instance of that type of lock, places for gunk to get in and hinder the lock less reliable, things like that.

Lock stregnth would probably be last on the list for me, reliability first. When you're cutting something you are forcing the blade to stay open, not forcing it closed.

For me, I like the integral lock the best. It's plenty reliable, rock solid, and very simple--which correlates to less things that can go wrong. There have been complaints that the integral lock isn't strong enough. I think it failed at the 400-500lb mark. The part where the scallops are cut out to make the bar bend, bulged. Out of all the sebenzas ever made, none has ever been returned to Chris that has failed in this manner. This implys that 400lbs in plenty strong.

Seems I posted at the same time Joe did.

I also prefer the Integral lock for its reliability. I also like a nicely made liner lock with a smooth action, and I like the looks of the Bolster lock as well. I trust not the lock back, and am skeptical of the spring actuated locks. I am giving the REKAT rolling lock a whirl just out of curiosity.

Let us not forget that when the Sebenza's integral lock did fail, it was forced all the way over to the "right", failing with the blade locked open. When any other folders fail, you can kiss your fingers goodbye. Still, as mentioned above, if you really want strength, don't even use a folder unless it's an emergency. I just got a Dozier Reverse Tanto with a 1/4" thick D2 blade that I seriously doubt will fold up even if Fat Man and Little Boy were both dropped on it at the same time.
See ya, Cappy
The more I work with it, the more I like a variation on the clasp lock that I don't know what to call but is commonly found on 19th century navajas.

The spine braces against a bladestop, either a pin or part of the handle. There's a protrusion on the "tang" that sticks up through a hole in the wide leafspring that is mounted on the back.

In order to disengage the lock, you must lift up on a little lever dohickey. No matter how you squeeze, or how the handle twists in your hand, this lock will not disengage. Done right, your blade will fail before the lock does. When it comes to absolute reliability, you can't beat this thing. Which makes sense; it evolved over several centuries in folding knives that were used as weapons of both attack and defense during a period in time when edged weapons saw a lot of action, and amongst the rougher sorts of people that were alive back then.

A little modern metalurgy and a little perfectionist's refinement, and you've got a helluva lock that I truly feel is above and beyond anything currently marketed. Too bad they aren't commonly available, and those that are are of almost uniformly bad quality(maker's fault, anything can be done poorly).

I don't trust integral locks because all you have to do to disengage it is to twist the handle in the right direction. Same thing for linerlocks. I have never had a good lockback turn on me. The Axislock looks promising, if not as nice as the clasp, but there are no knives presently using this lock that I'd buy, for various reasons. I haven't had a chance to check out a rolling lock yet.
Snick --

When you say the integral lock is susceptible to the same torquing failure as is common on liner locks, are you speaking hypothetically or have you actually seen these failures? One big difference between the liner lock and integral lock is, of course, that when you squeeze an integral lock, you are actually forcing the lock farther onto the blade tang, and strengthening the lock-up. Even if integral locks are susceptible to torquing slips, won't your hand keep the lock on the blade?

I'm not saying squeeze, I'm saying twist. If you're holding tight and twist and twist it in your hand in the direction that would open the lock, they can disengage.

Depending on what you do with the knife, this probably won't ever be a problem.

I tried this with a Sebenza at a dealer's table at a gunshow. It wasn't easy, but it was possible.

To my mind, the less posibilities for trouble you have, the better of you are, even if you get to the point of removing troubles that would rarely come up. In a folder that will serve as a weapon, I don't feel there should be anything that I can do to the knife while holding it that can disengage the blade.

This doesn't apply to the Sebenza anyway, as there are other reasons why I would not select it for defensive purposes. The knife's name means "work", I believe that this knife was intentionaly designed to be a utility knife and avoid being a weapon as much as practical.

Yes, we are all aware that any old thing can be a lethal weapon under the right circumstances, but just because you race tractors doesn't mean tractors are race cars.(I usualy use "Yugo", but Yugo's suck at everything. The Sebenza is a good work tool, as is a tractor.)
Don't forget, the failing point on the Axis-Lock saw the blade doing something similar to what the Sebenza did, as to say the blade flew off NOT in the direction of your fingers, but safely away from them. If you look at the Axis-Lock, you will see that the thing is almost assured of NEVER breaking, ever, unless under the most interestingly cruel and unusual usage. With that being said, I must add that I am kind of skeptical of the Intergel system, to be honest it seems to have only minor advancements over the liner lock. When compared to the Axis you can clearly see more points of stress on the parts of the Integrel Lock that will be most important in preventing fall-apart.

The Axis-Lock can be cleaned VERY easily, even though those two Omega springs look like they might cause some major failure, remember...

1. You don't need both of those springs in there, one will suffice, and existance of two only adds more reliability to the entire system, not more to worry about.

2. If you look at the blueprints and pictures on the 710 Axis-Lock, you will see how open up the whole thing is. Dirt can get in easier, but it can get out just as quickly. A common Q-Tip will hook you up and keep any Axis-Lock smooth and reliable.

3. Even f you get some dirt in the spring area, it won't be hard to clean out. It may be to small for a Q-Tip, but it has one thing going for it: It's out in the open. You don't need to worry about going into your knife pivot, taking the thing apart, or fooling around with compressed air because it's all TOO hidden. A toothpick will allow you access to EVERY spring affected area, it's very cool to be able to clean a knife so easily.

Robert Joseph Ansbro

If it can be written, or thought, it can be filmed. -Stanley Kubrick, 1928-1999

I am the moderator on the forum "The Balcony" located at Cinematopia, please come support this brand new site
Since this has turned in the direction of the reliability of the Integral lock and I have already been dealing with that all week, let me point you to a thread pertinent to the discussion

Since the point has been made that you can force an integral knife lock to fail with the right motion and grip, the same can be said for the release lever on the Benchmade Axis and REKAT Rolling lock. The older Pioneers lock release looks just about impossible to release unintentionally, but it was abandoned in favor of a more user “friendly design”. I will reserve comment on the reliability of these locks until sufficient testing and use has been applied, but I am weary of them none the less. And let’s not talk about maintaining and cleaning the lock. The integral lock is simplicity itself, and by far the easiest to clean and maintain. With the Axis you void the Warranty if you even try to open up the mechanism.

I am impressed that Snick could make a Sebenza fail. I could not, but I am just a Stagehand, and would not even consider trying to skin a Gator
I have made my share of hand tools fail in my time with the mere application of strength, and that is one reason that I look for a Made in the USA, Lifetime Guarantee on a label. If you survive, at least you can get a new one
The fact that both of us had to try and make these locks fail in a gripping situation should say a lot about the safety of the device.

The integral lock is the simplest, most reliable lock on the market today.


I've been having a bit of an e-mail dialogue with stjames for the past week. At this point, I'm still trying to puzzle some aspects out, but these are my feelings after popping a non-Sebenza integral lock using the above torque test. Joe, I'd most certainly love further comments from you as I see you as a "lock guru" of sorts.

A common point of liner-lock defeat happens with the "white knuckle" grip. Here, a knife is held in the forward grip, and the index finger contacts the liner-lock bar. If the grip is increased to a "white-knuckle" grip, the pressure of the index finger on the lock may be enough to cause the liner to slip, defeating the lock.

Another point of defeat is with a similar test, one that I call the "foos-ball torque test." Here, the handle is held in the forward grip, with the index finger contacting the liner-lock bar. The blade is immoblized in a rigid material (ie: several layers of cardboard). For a right-handed person using a right-handed knife, the knife handle is then torqued counter-clockwise. Again, pressure on the lock-bar by the index finger causes the liner to slip, defeating the lock.

The important thing to realise is the above two tests are not the same. The non-recessed linerlock is susceptible to defeat in both tests. The integral lock, by it's very design is immune to the "white-knuckle" test. However, since the lock-bar is still exposed to the index finger, there is a possibility of "foos-ball torque" defeat.

Here's how I think it works. Please feel free to poke holes at will.

There are three forces holding a right-handed integral lock closed.

The friction between the integral lock bar and the angled ramp of the blade tang.

The tensioned force of the lock-bar causing it to spring over to the right (and locked) side.

The force of the index finger pushing the lock to the right (and locked) side.

In the white knuckle test, none of these forces are opposed, so there are no forces acting to unlock the knife. You will not see an integral lock fail this test. Ever.

This is not so in the torque test. I've done it before.

In the torque test, as the knife handle is being rotated, there is a second force imparted by the index finger. This force is pressing on the exposed inner surface of the integral lock-bar and is trying to disengage the lock.

Now, it's a competition to see whether the forces trying to keep the lock engaged are stronger than the torquing force trying to release the lock. If it isn't, the lock defeats and the knife closes. If it's close, the lock bar moves slightly but the knife stays locked open.

The torquing force is generated by your arms, while the grip force is generated by the index finger. Since my arm muscles are stronger than my index finger muscles, I do NOT expect a strong grip reinforcing the lock-up to protect against defeat in the torque test.

The above thread listed by stjames was an attempt to solicit tests from Sebenza owners, to see whether the above theory works in practice.

stjames has been testing out the hypothesis that this lock theory goes a whole lot deeper than just whether your arm muscles are stronger than your index finger muscles.

The length of the integral lock bar also seems to play a role in determining the leverage the torquing force can exert in unlocking the knife.

As well, it is important to consider the size, and location of the exposed surface of the lock-bar, and therefore the contact point between the index finger and the lock bar. This contact point, at the time of torquing, will determine the angle and direction of the unlocking force generated by the torque. And that ultimately determines whether the lock holds or releases.

Unfortunately, since each user has different sized hands, it's ultimately possible, if not extremely likely, that some users will pass this test while others will fail. Each person should test their own locks.

What are your thoughts?

I don't care for the complexity of the Axis or Rolling Lock, springs and whatnot.

Complexity often leads to failure.

I have been playing with an Axis daily and I don't like what I see. The locking bar when locked, goes almost all the way forward, leaving no room for wear.

I don't care for the enclosed nature of the the Rolling or Axis locks. They may seem easy to clean, but they are nowhere as easy to clean as the Sebenza and Reeve expects you to maintain your knife.

The strongest and most reliable lock out there is the handles and latch of a butterfly knife. And I am playing with some ideas to bring that into the modern age.

For me, the Integral lock provides the most simplicity and strength, if I need anymore than that I will reach for a fixed blade.

Not to say that I won't buy a Rolling or Axis, but I think the Sebenza is in another class.

Marion David Poff aka Eye, one can msg me at If I fail to check back with this thread and you want some info, email me.

Check out my review of the Kasper AFCK, thougths on the AFCK and interview of Bob Kasper.

I am just happy that the integral lock, Axis and RL are out there as alternatives for knife users. Of the three, I do like the integral lock most for its simplicity and apparent reliability (I have not been able to force a failure yet of my pinnacle).

I would love to see more folder models using the integral. Of course, the folder would probably be heavier because of the metal handle. But weight is less of a bother compared to bulkiness from my perspective. And even the latter is not that much.

The lock system of the Uluchet, though it would not be a typical type knife, has a lock up that requires the blade shank to move material before failure could occur. It has NO springs, NO moving parts, consists of a total of four pieces (blade, pivot pin, two handle slabs) and has withstood over 2000 P.S.I. without any damage. The lock will function when dirty, it can be cleaned with a toothbrush, toothpick, or a pointed twig, it's simple, reliable and tough.

YES,it is sharp, just keep your fingers out of the way!

The balisong has a strong and reliable lock. I trust it more than most, but it's only as strong as it's two pivot pins. Though that's usualy plenty strong.

The advantage a navaja's clasp lock has over the balisong's handle/lock combo is that you can have a bladestop that's integral to the handle, meaning it will take an incredible amount of force to cause it to over-open, instead of just snapping the two pivot pins on a balisong.

The clasp itself can be made with a rim that's thicker than the pivot pins on the balisong, and designed in such a way that any force trying to close the blade makes the spring press down harder. As long as you're holding the knife, it should never accidentaly/inccidentaly open, and it takes truly monsterous amounts of force to cause this lock to fail.

I agree that the balisong is one of the few folders that you TRULY cannot make fail from some contorsion while gripping it. About the most I've been able to do is to cause one handle scale to slide up higher than the other, causing the blade to cant.

Navajas are easily cleaned as well, if not as easily as with a balisong or integral lock. You lift up on the disengaging lever and you can clean out the clasp with running water or a quetip(sp?) or somesuch. It's easy to swab out the channel the blade goes into when closed too, since navajas have real big blades the cavity is about a 1/4 wide and anywhere from 7'' to 2'' long. There's not a lot of contours or internal mechanisms in this type of lock, so not much to go wrong there.

I'm not really all that strong, tougher than hell maybe
, but I'm only 5'7'' and 140lbs. It wasn't my great strength that caused the Sebenza's lock to disengage, it was the above-described "football torque".

Oh yeah, the Axis lock; for the life of me I can't rememer if you push or pull that little button to unlock an Axis lock; but if you push the button twoards the tip of the blade to unlock, you're looking at a lot of potential failures.

If you pull that button backwards towards the end of the handle, it's much less likely that your hand will disengage the lock while holding it. You might rub it the wrong way against something you're sticking the balde into and that could casue it to disengage, in theory anyway.

How do you make a lock with no springs or moving parts? The balde has to pivot, right?

[This message has been edited by Snickersnee (edited 16 August 1999).]
Snick: on the axis, you pull to unlock.

Okay, on the Sebenza failure, I just want to make sure I understand you correctly. When you were doing the torquing test, were you gripping the handle? With an integral lock, if you're doing that, I expect the index finger to keep the lock closed, even under counterclockwise torque *if* you're holding the knife firmly.

I'll go home and try this on my Pinnacle. I won't look specifically for a failure, but I'll try to notice which way my finger engages the monolock under counterclockwise torque.