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When it comes to folding knives or folders, it is crucial to have a locking system for safety. It is truly stress-free to have this security once the blade opens up quickly. However, it is a fact that such a knife is not suitable for all occasions or regions. For example, many countries like the UK prohibit carrying a lock-based folding knife.
In such areas, you can still own and carry an EDC pocket knife. No! It is not a lock-based or friction folder. Rather, it is a slip joint knife that is a reliable lock-free alternative to a liner or frame lock. It is also called no-lock knives in many parts of the world.
Sounds useful, right? So, in this post, let’s explore the 5 best slip joint knives you can buy and why we think these knives are great.
What is a Slip Joint Knife?
While there is no lock system, a slip joint knife comes with a robust back spring that maintains the blade in an open or closed position without compelling it to be in either position. This mechanism is similar to what you get in a Swiss Army model.
This kind of knife usually has a handle with a single folding blade or multiple folding blades. The spring holds the closed blade until a 90-degree arc formation from the handle pushes it out. A few models come with a neutral position in which the blade reaches the third detent when opened to 90 degrees where it does not open or close but remains firm.
Due to no locking mechanism, you use both hands for opening the blade. This is also the reason why slip joint knives are legitimate to carry almost anywhere (UK Legal), provided the blade length is within the legally permissible range.
Slip joint knives seem to be safe despite having no locking mechanism. However, as it demands the use of both hands, it is essential to give more attention while opening the blade.
These knives are unbelievably prized for their on-the-move utility applications. Reliably, they can do a big gamut of basic utility tasks, right from cutting a shirt to slicing an apple.
From these knives, you can not expect a cutting power similar to that of a bigger and costlier fixed knife.
Types of Slip Joint Knives
While there are many American variants, slip joint knives are basically of two types depending on the number of blades they have. They are as follows:
- Single-blade: These knives, as the name indicates, have a single folding blade. They are small due to which they are also called pen knives. A few of these models implement blade shapes like the straight back and versatile clip point, ideal for a variety of outdoor tasks.
- Multi-blade: These slip joint knives have two or more blades to act as a versatile tool. They were originally used as early EDCs. Each blade in a knife is distinct in terms of shape and size. A classic example is the stockman knife with a big clip point blade, sheepsfoot blade, and shorter spey blade.
5 Best Slip joint Knives in 2023
Spyderco UK Penknife
Designed after the U.K.’s prohibition of carrying locking blade knives, the Penknife is a classic slip joint tool with a notched joint and extra two proprietary features giving it a modern touch.
First is the reliable pocket clip for easy carry, while the second is the always-present Round Hole for ambidextrous one-hand deployment. Made in the U.S.A., this knife features a drop-point blade having a plain but sharp edge. Such an edge is considered smooth to use.
The 3-inch blade is ground with flat bevels reaching the cutting edge from the spine. Due to this grind, the drag over the blade decreases while cutting. It also reduces the overall weight.
The blade is made using CTS BD1N stainless steel, a material used commonly for making knives. It is known for high resistance to wear and better edge retention. The blade also has contrasting jimping on the thumb ridge and a coil for the index finger to ensure good control.
Coming to the handle, it is made using Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon (FRN) having glass fiber. It makes the handle quite light and strong.
CASE XX WR Amber Jigged Bone Canoe
This is a multi-blade slip joint knife whose handle is in the shape of a canoe. It is a bigger version of the brand’s Baby Butterbean knife. Designed for versatile use outdoors, this knife comes with pen and spear blades affixed to the opposite ends on the amber bone handle.
The spear blade features a symmetrical shape and features a sharp point in alignment with its center. This point facilitates effortless stabbing and piercing, smooth slicing due to its small cutting edge, and ensures longevity and strength.
On the other hand, the pen blade works much like a drop or spear point. However, due to its smaller size, it is ideal for small detailed tasks such as opening boxes.
Both the blades are made using Chrome Vanadium (CV), a material known for its ease of sharpening and great edge-holding ability. On the flip side, it makes both blades less resistant to discoloration, pitting, and corrosion than stainless steel. It is essential to lubricate the blade to retain its finish.
Benchmade – Proper 319-2 Knife
319 is Benchmade’s first slip joint folder, which is sleek and modern. It is considerably less aggressive than the brand’s typical knives. This credit goes to the blade size, handle materials, and shape, which makes it an ideal EDC.
Rather than some cheap carbon steel sadly but widely used in making the blades of slip joints, the 2.86-inch blade of Proper is made using the American CPM S30V steel. This stainless steel is known for its corrosion resistance and superb edge retention properties.
The blade’s sheepsfoot shape is admired for its ability to handle a myriad of slicing and cutting jobs due to its unique point and big belly. Retaining the traditional design, this slip joint knife comes with scales designed using carbon fiber known to render a safe grip and a distinct tactile feel.
The deployment happens through a nail nick, while the mechanism of the slip joint retains it firmly in place. While the pocket clip is not there, a lanyard hole exists for you to take it out easily from your pocket.
Consider this compact knife if you want Benchmade’s expertise with less tactical functionality.
Kizer Slip Joint Knife
This one is a precision-designed knife from a brand known for its premium materials. It features a 2.84-inch non-locking blade that folds swiftly as well as effortlessly into a thin, compact tool.
A detent joint adds to the blade’s security by ensuring that it does not slide accidentally to open when closed and vice-versa. Apart from the thumb hole opener, the novel Everflush back bar facilitates one-handed deployment.
The drop-point blade is made using the Bohler N690 steel that is known for corrosion resistance, superb edge retention, and great strength. It cuts effortlessly without any additional force. Thus, you can use this slip joint knife for cutting zip ties, opening boxes, removing splinters, and stripping wires.
The G10 handle is also commendable. It is ambidextrous and delivers remarkable grip at the time of use. It fits well into your palm, although it may seem a bit thin in its middle area. This knife comes with a convenient pocket clip for easy concealment and carry.
Overall, the ergonomic design gives you one of the most intuitive tools available in the market.
Gerber Gear 31-003717 Wingtip
Consider the Wingtip if you need a classic, easy-to-operate slip joint knife for EDC. Grey handle, clear lines, and mirror-polished blade make this knife set apart from the modern collection.
The Wingtip comes with a 2.5-inch blade made using 7Cr17MoV stainless steel, an economical option high in toughness, wear resistance ability, and corrosion resistance power and widely used in making budget, survival, and chef’s knives.
The drop-point style needs no introduction, but a nail nick does! The fine edge features a nail nick that contributes to effortless deployment.
You can carry this compact knife in your pocket without any hassle or distraction while ensuring optimal usability. Replacing the lock mechanism, the slip joint makes the opening and closing of the knife foolproof. A lanyard hole is a useful addition for tethering or securing your knife.
Why Do We Think Slip-Joint Folders are Great?
- Ideal EDC Size: Not all EDCs have a size that is both comfortable and safe in your hand. Similarly, not all EDC folders are legally permissible. On the other hand, slip joint knives are designed in rational sizes. It is a fact that many lock blades are designed in ridiculous sizes and with styles more apt for unarmed combat instead of cutting a variety of things for which folders are typically used. A folder bigger than 4 inches is just not ideal to fit in a pocket and needs a pocket clip so that the tool does not slide deep inside your pocket. On the contrary, slip joint knives fit well inside a pocket. The simple, lock-less style makes them ideal EDCs. Whether single- or multi-blade model, you enjoy quick and easy deployment.
- Reliable Security: Lock designs have improved over a few years, due to which they now seem to be safe at first glance. However, slip joints are safer. Lock blades tend to give a fake sense of security but are truly not that secure. They rely on a lock to keep the blade open. Nevertheless, if the lock fails, it can cause injuries if you use the knife incorrectly or abuse it. Most harms are caused by holding less comfortably or cutting in the wrong direction. However, in the case of a slip joint folder, you know that the tool can fold back, due to which you give special attention at the time of use, ensuring better handling. The lock-less design enforces wise thinking as to how to apply pressure, discarding the lock blade’s false sense of security.
- Non-Intimidating Look: If you have worn a locking blade around your neck or have ever opened it with one hand in a shopping mall or a restaurant, perhaps to trim a loose apparel thread, people must have given a shocking or startled look. You may even have seen a security guard reaching you the moment people make such a reaction to give a threat signal. However, this is not the case with slip-joint knives. They are ideal to use or carry where you simply do not want to attract the unwanted attention of people around you. They will not complain or stare at your knife with fear whether you are in a restaurant, office, or just about anywhere. The only exceptions here are government edifices and airports. Rather, they will see your knife from a better perspective; they consider slip joint knives cute. So, you can do a task of a locking blade but without actually using it or creating an unnecessary scene.
- Multi-purpose Knife: If you want this knife but without any legal consequences, slip joints are ideal. Lock folders will have only one blade. So, if you want more blade sizes and styles for performing different tasks, you need to carry different knives. To overcome this issue, a few makers have come up with multi-edged blades with partial serrations, but they are difficult to sharpen. However, a slip joint knife with an array of blades fits comfortably in your pocket. Further, each blade is distinctively functional, like a chisel point style for whittling and a clip point style for slicing.
- Legal Knife: Apart from the government edifices and airports, slip joints are legal to be carried almost anywhere. There may be length restrictions, though.
A slip joint folder, instead of a lock, has back-springs to pressurize the blade momentarily so that it remains open. A slight push or pull is enough to close or open the blade. Different split joint varieties are available, but you should choose the one that best fits your budget and meets your requirements.
Hi, I am Jay. I am the creator of Knife Guides, your one-stop site for everything related to knives. I am a computer engineer by profession, knife aficionado by passion. Here I work with a group of people who’ve always had a passion for knives and blades. Over the years we’ve kind of become experts and decided to share our knowledge and ideas. I am also an avid hiker and enjoy offshore gamefishing.