Locking Technology 101 — Inside Kershaw’s Blade Locking Systems

See the technology that keeps your Kershaw blade secure during use.

The last thing you want is for your blade to close accidentally while you have it open. This could potentially cause disaster and lead to injury.  Thankfully, Kershaw features several locking systems for our folders to ensure this doesn’t happen.

Types of Locking Mechanisms

Chances are, your Kershaw knife is going to sport a liner lock — the most common blade-locking mechanism. Here’s how it works. Two steel or titanium plates rest on either side of the blade. The knives’ handle scales cover the plates in order to provide a solid grip and look. When you do open the knife, the blade locks into place. One side of the liner blocks the backend of the blade and keeps it from closing. That side of the liner is often called the lockbar. For further security, the lockbar is angled to the interior of the knife, allowing it to sit in more of a locked position.

But of course, you probably don’t want your knife to stay open forever. Eventually you’ll have to close it! Simple enough. Just apply force to move the lockbar to the side, allowing a space for the blade to fold back into the closed position. That’s it! This system helps you handle your Kershaw in a safe manner.

More liner locks? You bet. Only this time, the inset liner lock is meant for slimmer and lighter Kershaw Knives such as the Fraxion. The mechanism is similar to before. A steel plate is included inside the handle scales, which are usually made of G-10 or glass-filled nylon. But this liner is different than a traditional liner lock. The inset liner lock is a modified, partial liner, allowing the knife to be thinner and lighter than a fully lined knife. This creates a balance between blade security and light carry.

Knives with frame locks operate similarly to liner locks, but the mechanism is built into the handle. In other words, the knife handle itself is the “frame,” and it locks the blade into place during use. The metal side of the frame, the lockbar, prevents the knife from closing by resting behind the backend of blade — similar to a liner lock. In order to close the knife, you simply have to move the frame lock to the side, creating an entry for the blade to close. You can see how both the liner lock and the frame lock mirror each other. But the additional thickness of the frame material allows for an extremely sturdy lockup.

The sub frame lock serves as a lightweight variant of the frame lock. This lock is used with lighter framed handles, usually G-10, glass-filled nylon, or aluminum. A piece of the frame is machined out and a piece of steel is put in its place. Beyond this, the sub frame lock is just like a regular frame lock. Only it acts as a light option for a slim knife, while also providing secure use.

The mid lock is an older method of locking the blade into place, but it still operates in the same vein as the liner and frame locks. That is, a steel bar rests behind the blade, locking it in place until the user releases the lock. However, the mid lock deviates from its counterparts when it comes to the lock’s position. The steel bar is placed along the back of the knife, and you can see the mechanism on the handle spine. When you open the knife, the lock snaps into place in a notch cut into the back of the blade, behind the pivot. That locks the blade. Closing it is quite simple. All you have to do is press the release button on the back of the handle. This releases the lock and lets the blade close. 

You’re probably beginning to see a pattern with these locks. A lot of them operate on the same set of principles. The push button lock is no exception. A mechanism blocks the back of the blade, preventing it from accidentally closing. When you do close the knife, you just have to hold the button down and fold the blade back into its closed position. You can see this lock on our automatic-opening Launch series.

The hawk lock differs slightly in the way that it keeps the blade in place. When you open the knife, a spring-loaded latch plate in the knife handle moves to contact a steel pin on the blade, locking the blade open. Closing the knife deviates from other locking mechanisms as well. You just have to move the lock slider back toward the back of the knife. Then, you fold the knife into the closed position.

The friction lock is a locking mechanism seen on the new Kershaw Pub. A strong detent keeps the blade secure during use. Closing the knife involves pushing the blade until you overcome the detent and fold it closed. You’ll want to make sure to keep your fingers clear while you grip the handle with your other hand.

Every lock we’ve talked about so far has locked the blade during use. The Tip Lock is the exception to that function, and it can be found on all of our Leek and Scallion SpeedSafe® models. The Tip Lock prevents the blade from opening when you don’t want it to. It’s a good idea to lock the blade closed when carrying your knife in your briefcase, for example. You probably wouldn’t want the knife to accidentally open when it’s being juggled around. To lock your blade closed, all you do is move the slider to the closed position. You can find the Tip Lock near the bottom of the handle.

And that’s it. What’s your favorite lock? Let us know in the comments and feel free to ask questions about any Kershaw lock.

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