Liner lock puzzlement

Bob W

Basic Member
Dec 31, 2000
What is the big advantage of liner-lock knives? It seems that nearly every knifemaker is devoting time to their developement and knife catalog are full of them. Additionally, they appear to be very poular among buyers. I have stayed away from them in my collection so far because of what I see as a basic design flaw; the user's finger must cross the path of the blade in order to close the knife. This seems unnecessarily unsafe and I have difficulty in seeing their advantage over, say, a lockback with a thumb stud.

I'd sure like to hear opinions from liner lock users/owners.

-Bob W
Hi Bob & welcome to BFC!!!!

I truly cannot attest to the difference in lock strength between liner locks & lockbacks. This portion of the issue/question would be better addressed by the more qualified amongst us. I'm sure many here have opinions (and maybe even some facts) regarding this. This always seems to be a point of great discussion here. Also, try using the search button, located at the top of every page, to locate more information on this subject.

But to offer my humble opinion, the leading reason for liner lock success, would be for the purpose of one handed closing.
This can be of great assistance in many situations.

But on the other hand, the issue of safety, can be significant on some folders when one handed closing. There are many knives that I have handled that I find very dangerous to close with one hand and others that are relatively safe.
For example, the CRKT Urban Shark does not start it's cantle edge grind until beyond the point (where if when one hand closing) the blade were to contact your finger and pinch it between it and the handle you would not get bit. Unless of coarse you are the proud owner of a set of sausage fingers.

Another example, the CS Scimitar (again IMHO) has a drawback in this department. Even though equipped with a detent to prevent blade travel and potential finger damage when one hand closing, I would not dream of one hand closing this puppy. You would have to force the blade past the detent & that applied force combined with one of the sharpest & wickedly curved blades out there would spell for disaster for the thumb digit. Ouch!!!!!

So, overall, my opinion would be that liner locks are a good thing if they are designed & built correctly. Just be careful when deciding to one hand close. That's all.

--The Raptor--
A liner lock just seems better. It has less friction, and it can be closed with one hand. And I haven't really had much of a problem with cuts that way.

Just my $2,000,000,000,000.
I must have said that wrong. I meant my $0.02.



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Bob your question is a real good one, and brings up many issues. I'm going to respond to one of them; the issue of the user's finger being in the blade path. I've opened and closed liner locks so many times I've forgotten my initial hesitation in working the lock but it was there. I see the same thing when I show one of my folders to someone unfamiliar with liner locks. I find myself saying things like: "Don't worry it won't get you." In using liner locks the past 12 or so years I have grown so accustomed to opening and closing them I don't give it much thought. Its like zipping up, I don't fret much day to day.
From a knifemaker's point of view....and I am just starting to learn how to build liner locks.
What I see is an overall better design than say a lockback type knife. The reason being is that a lockback type knife is always under tension, which means that if a lock fails, it is sudden, complete, and often catostophic! Whereas a liner lock is under compression, and by virtue of the design, should the lock fail, it will do so gradually, by the lock bar being forced to bend, and will not create an instant, total failure, that would likely result in a very nasty wound to the user. I looked hard at both varieties before deciding which I would like to produce, and because of the above reasons, I'm going to work on the liner locks.

Ed Caffrey "The Montana Bladesmith"
ABS Mastersmith
1. Easier to open. There is no backspring acting to keep the blade close like there is on lockbacks and slipjoints.
2. Proponants argued that the liner provided a stronger lock since the locking bar needs to fail before the blade can move.
3. It was originally considered easier to make. There were fewer moving pieces to make and assemble.

1) Some knives are so easy to open that they have opened on their own within the unsuspecting victim's pocket.
2) While it may be harder to get the locking bar to fail, it is relatively easy to get the locking bar to disengage. Examples include poor lockup, excessive frame flex, and accidental disengagement by the user when gripping the knife.
3) The design tolerance needed to keep the lock from disengaging is very tight. It is easy to design and build a liner lock; but it is much harder to design and build a reliable linerlock.

Botton Line:
Proceed with caution and avoid where possible. There are many liner locks out now, and most work well, but there are also many unsafe knives on the market.
Thanks for the opinions and information. I hadn't realized that there were real advantages and thought it was perhaps a fad created simply because it was a different type of locking mechanism. And I could understand that since I LOVE to see new knife technology. But there were so many copies of the same design that I knew there had to be more to it than that.

As far as the safety, I'm still not sure that it's a good idea for the fingers to cross the path of the closing blade, whether using one hand or two. For instance, AG Russell (various One Hand Knife models) and Timberline Knives (Timberlite) have made innovative locking designs that I consider to be very safe when openned and closed with only one hand. And the Paul Knife by Gerber is another example, although I don't think it can easily be closed one-handed. On none of these knfe designs does the operators fingers cross the pivoting blade path.

I'd definitely be interested in hearing more opinions, though.

Happy New Year
-Bob W
Good analyses above! The liner lock advantages (e.g., smoothness, one-hand-operating, ease-of-manufacture) don't outweight their disadvantages (e.g., difficult to keep from opening in pocket, difficult to keep from accidently disengaging), in my opinion, and I do not buy liner locks. However, there definitely are advantages to 'em.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Bob W:
As far as the safety, I'm still not sure that it's a good idea for the fingers to cross the path of the closing blade, whether using one hand or two. For instance, AG Russell (various One Hand Knife models) and Timberline Knives (Timberlite) have made innovative locking designs that I consider to be very safe when openned and closed with only one hand. And the Paul Knife by Gerber is another example, although I don't think it can easily be closed one-handed. On none of these knfe designs does the operators fingers cross the pivoting blade path.

Bob, like everyone else, I don't think the "finger in the blade path" issue is really an issue, because I've opened and closed more liner locks than I can count, and never had a problem with it.

Regarding the Neely lock you cite above (Timberlite), that's one lock I definitely feel is unsafe for hard use, or even medium use, or probably anything but the very lightest use. It disengages when the blade is pulled forward, so if you get your knife stuck and pull backwards a little (for example, cutting thick cardboard), it disengages, sometimes with disastrous results. I've heard several stories of people doing this.

Right now, I'm a huge axis lock fan, and somewhat of a rolling lock fan. I'm looking forward to spyderco's compression lock.


Just say no to liner locks for all the reasons mentioned above. Bad Mojo!

We gave you a chance to water the plants, we didn't mean that way, now zip up your pants! -Shel Silverstein
With liner locks, I'd just be really careful with the knife until you're used to it. But they have the less-friction advantage.

What's all this about lock backs and one handed opening? I have been closing Buck 110's for years with only one hand. You simple hold the knife in one hand, pinch the lock back release while gently touching the spine of the blade against something - anything. The knife closes. Am I missing something or am I some sort of knife genius who just re-invented the wheel? (I think not.)

I have a couple of liner locks but only because I likes the surrounding knife so much that I was willing to tolerate what I believe to be an inferior (but no doubt cheaper to manufacture) design.

The best lock, IMHO, is the one piece, ala Chris Reeve One Piece Range or a quality full tang fixed blade as they usually stay good and locked even under adverse conditions.
i agree opening and closing a lockback with one hand is easy.if you cant do it works,sometimes its not as fast as the linerlock,but it still works.

[This message has been edited by MAURICE (edited 01-02-2001).]
My Vaquero Grande was so stiff when I got it that I could barely close that lockback with two hands squeezing the release. After a lot of hard use and serious lubrication, I can now squeeze the lock release with one hand, and the heavy blade will swing free, stop at the detent. If I don't pay attention, it will swing free and stop at my fingers.

But if that monster can be closed as easily as it can be now, any lockback can be a one-hander, and ambidextrous, too, which a liner lock is not.

I have no problems with my liner locks, but I don't look at them as a totally secure lockup. It always pays to know where the sharp edge is, anyway.

Illegitimis non carborundum.
Regarding the safety of closing liner locks vs. closing lockbacks, I think you have to be extremely careful either way regardless of how much practice you have. Like Esav, I have a Vaquero Grande. Mine was smooth opening/closing right out of the box. Despite using both hands to close the thing, it still accidentally bit both my and my wife's fingers within the first 12 hours of being unwrapped. Neither of us required stitches, but we've still nicknamed it the "finger lopper". I'm much more careful with ANY folding knife I am closing, regardless of the type of lock.

aka "kuma575"
Early in my career, my job placed me in several extremely high stress positions where my knife has made the difference between life and death. The ability to manipulate the blade into the open and closed positions with one hand can be critical. The liner lock design, with minimal practice, seemed to be the safest and most efficient way to do so. I have been carrying liner locks on and off now for years, and haven't found anything that better suits my needs short of a fixed blade (which is currently verbotten.)
I have handled some lockbacks by Cold Steel and Spyderco that close very easily, just by releasing the lock they will swing closed by gravity. A couple medium Voyagers were so smooth I almost cut my finger because when I pressed the lock release the blade dropped so quickly. Yet others of the same model are sometimes very stiff and won't even pull the blade closed the last 1/2 inch.

I've never had a problem yet of closing a liner lock on my fingers. I will say that a liner lock MUST seat properly in the blade tang. There are liner locks that will slip off the tang with minimal pressure to the back of the blade, perhaps not enough friction between the two mating parts. Fortunately, none of my liner locks have had this problem.

Myself, I like lockbacks, liner locks, and Axis locks...even slipjoint pocketknives. Of the lot, I've accidentally cut myself most often with slipjoints (not because they closed on me, but cutting accidents), and lockbacks (during closing or regular cutting accidents).
I'm still trying to figure out how Bob can close a lockback without putting fingers in the blade path.

I close my Spyderco lockbacks by either:
- depressing the lock bar with thumb and applying gentle pressure on the spine with my leg
- using my extended index finger in the Spyderhole to guide the blade while I depress the lock with thumb

Either way, I'm putting presure opposite the lock bar by holding the handle in the blade path. Am I missing something ?

The only lock styles I have used that do not leave you somewhat vulnerable in this way are the BM Axis and the Bolt-Action, designed by Blackie Collins and marketed by Meyerco & Gerber (the Gerber Chameleon is an example).
I prefer the action of a lockback knife also. I find them more convenient to close ( when they're designed right) And you don't have to worry as much about them. Their quality is more consistent.( in good knives, you never know with cheapos) where as a liner lock has to be set just right and everything. It can be a very well made knife but still fail if just one thing is out of adjustment.
Overal, a liner lock has the potential to be stronger than a lockback. And with the trend going towards them they usually are now because more time and energy is put into developing them than lockbacks. There are very strong lockbacks though. Check out the spyderco Chinook ( is that the right one guys? ) Its the strongest lockback ever made if I'm not getting things confused.
I never liked the idea of having to put your fingers in the path of the blade either and didn't think I would ever buy a liner or frame lock. But anymore its hard to find a really solid lock back thats not built like a brick. (Buck 110's are great but they're not for pocket carry
) So when I needed a new knife I ended up buying a benchmade pinnacle. It took a while to get used to but I like it alot and after a little practice I can open and close it about as easily as a lock back. And I haven't got cut doing it.

I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer... but I've got the sharpest knife in the room.
Um, in my experience (and I am a lefty) the liner-lock is indeed ambidexterous. In fact all my liner locking knives are "right-handed" and I have no problems closing any of them. (I have more trouble with lock-backs, of course I also have much less experience with them too.) What makes a knife bad for left-handed use isn't the liner lock, it's the clip on the wrong side, only having the thumb stud on one side of the knife etc.

Tony S.

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