Knife blades can be manufactured from a variety of materials, each of which has advantages and disadvantages.
, an alloy of iron and carbon, can be very sharp, hold its edge well, and remain easy to sharpen, but is vulnerable to rust and stains.
is an alloy of iron, chromium, possibly nickel, and molybdenum, with only a small amount of carbon. It is not able to take quite as sharp an edge as carbon steel, but is highly resistant to corrosion.
High carbon stainless steel
is stainless steel with a higher amount of carbon, intended to combine the best attributes of carbon steel and stainless steel. High carbon stainless steel blades do not discolor or stain, and maintain a sharp edge.
use multiple metals to create a layered sandwich, combining the attributes of both. For example, a harder, more brittle steel may be sandwiched between an outer layer of softer, tougher, stainless steel to reduce vulnerability to corrosion. In this case, however, the part most affected by corrosion, the edge, is still vulnerable.
is similar to laminate construction. Layers of different steel types are welded together, but then the stock is manipulated to create patterns in the steel.
is metal that is lighter, more wear resistant, and more flexible than steel. Although less hard and unable to take as sharp an edge, carbides in the titanium alloy allow them to be heat-treated to a sufficient hardness.
are incredibly hard, lightweight blades; so hard that they will maintain a sharp edge for months or years with no maintenance at all. They are immune to corrosion, but can only be sharpened on silicon carbide sandpaper and some grinding wheels.
Folding blade features
A folding knife connects the blade to the handle through a pivot, allowing the blade to fold into the handle. To prevent injury to the user through the blade accidentally closing on the user's hand, folding knives typically have a locking mechanism. Different locking mechanisms are favored by various individuals for reasons such as perceived strength (lock safety), legality, and ease of use. Popular locking mechanisms include:
- Slip joint - Found most commonly on traditional pocket knives, the opened blade does not lock, but is held in place by a spring device that allows the blade to fold if a certain amount of pressure is applied.
- Lockback - Also known as the spine lock, the lockback includes a pivoted latch connected to a spring, and can be disengaged only by pressing the latch down to release the blade.
- Liner Lock - Uses a leaf spring-type liner within the groove of the handle that snaps into position under the blade when it is deployed. The lock is released by pushing the liner to the side, to allow the blade to return to its groove set into the handle.
- Frame Lock - Also known as the integral lock or monolock, this locking mechanism was designed by custom knifemaker Chris Reeve as an update to the liner lock. The frame lock works in a manner similar to the liner lock but uses a partial cutout of the actual knife handle, rather than a separate liner inside the handle to hold the blade in place.
- Axis Lock - A locking mechanism exclusively licensed to the Benchmade Knife Company.
Another prominent feature on many folding knives is the opening mechanism. Traditional pocket knives and Swiss Army Knives commonly employ the nail nick, while modern folding knives more often use a stud, hole, disk, or flipper located on the blade, all which have the benefit of allowing the user to open the knife with one hand.
Increasingly common are assisted opening knives which use springs to propel the blade once the user has moved it past a certain angle. These differ from automatic or switchblade knives in that the blade is not released by means of a button or catch on the handle; rather, the blade itself is the actuator. Most assisted openers use flippers as their opening mechanism. Assisted opening knives can be as fast or faster than automatic knives to deploy.
The handles of knives can be made from a number of different materials, each of which has advantages and disadvantages. Handles are produced in a wide variety of shapes and styles. Handles are often textured to enhance grip.
- Wood handles provide good grip and are warm in the hand, but are more difficult to care for. They do not resist water well, and will crack or warp with prolonged exposure to water. Modern stabilized and laminated woods have largely overcome these problems. Many beautiful and exotic hardwoods are employed in the manufacture of custom and some production knives.
- Plastic handles are more easily cared for than wooden handles, but can be slippery and become brittle over time.
- Rubber handles such as Kraton or Respirine-C are generally preferred over plastic due to their durable and cushioning nature.
- Micarta is a very popular handle material on user knives due to its extreme toughness and stability. Micarta is impervious to water, is grippy when wet, and is an excellent insulator. Micarta has come to refer to almost any fibrous material cast in resin. There are many varieties of micarta available. One very popular version is a fibreglass impregnated resin called G-10.
- Leather handles are seen on some hunting and military knives, notably the KA-BAR. Leather handles are typically produced by stacking leather washers, or less commonly, as a sleeve surrounding another handle material.
- Skeleton handles refers to the practice of using the tang itself as the handle, usually with sections of material removed to reduce weight. Skeleton handled knives are often wrapped with parachute cord or other wrapping materials to enhance grip.
- Stainless steel handles are durable and sanitary, but can be slippery. To counter this, many premium knife makers make handles with ridges, bumps, or indentations to provide extra grip. Steel handles are typically only seen on consumer kitchen knives, or as a bare tang.
A multi-tool is a portable, versatile hand tool that combines several individual tool functions in a single grip or in the shape of a credit card. Good backpacker features include knife, pliers, saw, screw driver, scissors and can openers.