I’ve been wondering – for those of you that carry EDC pocket knives, what opening mechanisms do you prefer?
If you’re not quite sure, here’s a quick roundup.
I tend to like thumb holes, which be round or stylized. They give me a little positional flexibility, compared to thumb studs, and often allow for quick one-handed opening.
Both of my Benchmade mini Griptilians have thumb holes – the newest version reviewed here, and the earlier model that I also reviewed here.
Spyderco knives also have large thumb holes, such as the Spyderco Techno I reviewed here.
You’ll find thumb holes on many multi-tools, too.
In these cases, they seem like deepened nail nicks, but it does make the knives much easier to open one-handed.
The ESEE-designed Zancudo, reviewed here has a thumb stud. Thumb studs are more traditional (I guess?), and are simple, but effective.
I tend to avoid thumb studs if or when other options are available. Some knives’ thumb studs are offensively difficult to reach and use, others are more comfortable. Buying a knife with a thumb stud sight unseen can be a little risky.
Some brands have adjustable thumb studs, which slide along the edge of a knife, but most don’t.
Flipper knives have a little tab that you press down to swing the blade open.
There are different variations of flippers, but the operation is more or less the same.
I really like flipper knives, if you couldn’t tell by the selection of Knife Reviews I have up so far.
There are other functional consequences of a flipper tabs – they often create small barriers between your hand and the blade.
Flipper knives benefit greatly from better construction, and on inexpensive knives they’ll often be coupled with an assisted opening spring.
I don’t like nail nicks, but I’ll tolerate them.
Shown here is on my Moki Red Fox knife, which I reviewed a couple of years ago.
The Case Back Pocket knife also has a nail nick.
You’ll find deep and extended nail nicks on many multi-tools, such as the Rebar I reviewed.
Nail nicks often require two hands to open.
Here’s the Kershaw Leek, my gateway pocket knife and the first one I reviewed here on ToolGuyd. It has an assisted opening spring, and two ways of pushing the blade open – a thumb stud and a flipper tab.
Some knives will give you options like this, but most don’t. Sometimes you can choose, as with Benchmade’s mini Griptilian, but most of the time a knife is designed the way it is, and you either take it or leave it.
Fixed Blade Knives
Sometimes no opening mechanism at all can be a good choice too. The Bradford Guardian 3 fixed blade knife is a fantastic USA-made EDC knife.
I love my Guardian 3, and will be trying out their newer knife styles later this year.
What’s your knife-opening preferences or experiences like?
Either a combo flipper tab and thumb stud as in my CRKT or nothing and I open it manually using my fingers.
I suppose that’s still an opening method, where you pinch the spine and manually swing a knife blade open. I have done that before, but it usually doesn’t work very well for me.
When you live in a locale where assisted opening knives are illegal – it limits some of your options. When I go on Amazon and it says they can’t ship a knife to my primary residence – I need to decide if I want to use it in Florida or Maryland and ship it accordingly. The knife I carried the most when camping – had a nail nick (OK I guess) – and now when I’m fishing – most of the knives I use (Bait knives, scaler, fileting) are fixed blade.
Benchmade – The AXIS locking system does not require a finger on the blade – simply pull the sliding pin and flip the blade open.
Emersone – The Wave feature is similar to a flipper tab, but is reversed to catch the edge of your pocket when drawing. Never open a knife manually again!
Along with this conversation is the topic of closing a knife. The AXIS locking system keeps your finger out of the path of the blade, while a typical locking liner has your finger in the path of travel.
That’s one of the things I love about my mini Grips – you can close them one-handed, and safely too.
I made this video way back in 2010:
Another lock option that keeps your fingers out of the cutting path is Spyderco’s compression lock. Think liner lock but on the back of the knife.
The ball bearing lock by spyderco also functions this way.
I can’t use a thumb hole or nail flick, fingers are too big or is not easy/quick enough. My EDC knives always have a thumb stud, i use it 99% of time. My current is a combo that has a flipper as well, I find it useful if I have thick gloves on.
I have an ability to lose my knife about once a year so tend not to spend more than $20.00 on it.
Love the knife, plus the window/seat belt options if ever needed.
I have always preferred the so-called automatics or one-handed openers. My favorite EDC for years has been a Kershaw, however, I have been carrying a CRKT Fire Spark because of the blade size. It has an assisted opening and thumb stud. It serves me well and I use it multiple times a day both at work and at home. I also have a Kershaw ET 1900 only because it has a unique opening mechanism. The ET stands for “external toggle”. It can be opened multiple ways as seen in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8RtcKPDCh8s
The Kershaw ET was on my wishlist, but it was discontinued well before I could afford it.
I looked at the G&G Hawk Mudd, but $575?! I’ll keep waiting for G&G Hawk to collaborate with another affordable knife maker.
Automatic OTF blades on a limited EDC because they spend and lost to many knives to bent weak pocket clips.
A lesser known opening option:
Might be a good legal option for locales that limit other options: the Emerson (Kershaw) Wave designed for SEAL teams opens upon withdrawal from pocket.
I picked up one when I had a bunch of SYWR for Sears and it was use or lose, the one I ordered was too small for my hands and it now my daughter’s EDC she’s 18.
But for true EDC on job sites etc, I carry an inexpensive AO Kershaw (RoC).
Thumb stud is my preferred for EDC, combined with spring assist. Kershaw’s Blur has the finest I’ve found – scalloped so it doesn’t dig into one’s thumb.
I use a crkt m21, the blade is huge and good for getting to the back of electrical boxes to skin wires when needed. The flipper open and two stage safety closure are rock solid and at its current price I don’t feel too bad when I am mean to it. I use and abuse the hell out of this knife.
Can’t beat the speed of an Emerson wave pocket catch. As you pull the knife out of your pocket, the blade is brought out. You can get them on Spyderco knives, too.
I have a Kershaw sample or two with the Emerson Wave, but couldn’t quickly get used to it. Then again, I also don’t have consistent carrying placement or behavior.
Yea, it takes a little getting used to. You kind of have to flick your wrist as you take it out. But once you get the hang of it, it works really well. Only problem is its not good on some dress pants – you’ll tear the pockets if they aren’t built really well.
I also like the Kershaw flipper. I’m carrying a Snap-on Kershaw flipper (the one with the ratchet clip) and its a great knife. Extremely sharp, but also not the kind of knife you could pry something with.
Wow, didn’t know that Spyderco offered it, I just checked thier 2018 catalog, I guess they call it the Emerson opener.
It does look kinda funky with the Spyderco thumbhole and its also kinda redundant – would look better if they used a smaller pinkyhole like on some if their fixed blades for signature looks.
I find I can use the hole version one handed. so not an issue.
Of the sets I prefer thumb hole or stud. but only if the stud is on both sides as I am ambidextrous and like to be able to use either hand.
I don’t however like the flipper but maybe I’ve not gotten the right one.
Flipper mechanisms vary widely depending on knife design and quality. Which have you tried?
I don’t find one particular type more useful than the others. I don’t use knives often enough on a regular basis to have an opinion. I have at least one of each type.
These days I love the flipper tab (without thumb stud – in my house all Kershaws) on assisted opening knives. Close second (and first for small knives) is the thumb hole (at least for me, all Spydercos).
If it will fit in the fifth pocket of my jeans, my go to is the Kershaw Camber. If not, I will use a smaller Spyderco.
I vote for the spydie hole or a flipper tab. I personally dislike flipper knives that also have thumb studs. In my experience the thumb studs potentially get in the way when cutting through things.
Well, I don’t know if I like a nail nick but I always carry a Buck 305 (aka 375).
It’s not as cool as a flipper tab on another of my knives but the Buck’s small size allows it to always be in my pocket.
Have a Kershaw in my pocket right now, with a stud and flipper, I like it, always easy to open no matter how I grab it.
I really like the quick and smooth opening of my Kershaw Compound which has a flipper tab/assisted opening. However, I’m definitely a little self-conscious when I open it in public because it tends to come off a bit aggressive. For that reason I like the larger thumb hole on my Spyderco. I haven’t tried the wave-type openings of the KershawXEmerson knives, but it looks really nice.
I have a few Victorinox pocket knives. The Pioneer is one of my favorite EDCs but I never liked the fingernail groove openings
Not mentioned here is Gerber’s Paul knife. Its lock button is on the pivot and is fixed to the blade rather than the handle.
Hold the closed knife blade-tip-up, pivot-down, press the button and drop the handle down. Release the button and it’s locked. Similarly easy to close, too. Always one handed. A little sensitivity to pocket lint is my only complaint.
It’s my favorite knife, but since I have to go through TSA so much I don’t risk it these days.
My EDC knives are all Beachmade Automatics. Once used it, it’s the only way to go. Between the other options, I feel the operation of the knife makes more of a difference. Besides nail nick I can adjust to any knife as long as it operates smooth enough to truly only one handed.
Thumb hole forever. Studs can be tricky when wearing gloves.
What I hate the most is thumb disks, what a bizzare invention, snagging on the thing that ia being cut and takes away so much of the blade length. My primary work blade is an ancient Griptilian sheepfoot with the old oval hole and it is damn perfect, the knife endured 11 years of daily heavy use so far and I love the axis lock, never had to replace any omega springs either.
I know they are expensive, but I love the mechanism on my Chris Reeve Inkosi.
The thumb stud is smooth, but in reality I use the jimping on the top of the blade to open it most of the time. Works great.
Spyderco Endura with wave…. you can find knockoffs for about $20 if you poke around enough and the quality is more than adequate… and if you lose one or 3 it’s not that big of a deal…
Poor man’s Emerson
Thumb holes, ok with others that don’t stick out of the blade. The studs just catch on things.
My favourite folders are my Camillus Lev-R-Lok (the old one before their bankruptcy), and the regular Milwaukee Fastback Smooth blade you can get at home depot. The Milwaukee has been my EDC knife for 2 years, and the blade is still remarkably sharp. I’ve ran it across a ceramic mug to hone it maybe 3 times in that period. I’m very impressed with it, especially for the price.
Flopper for me, the easiest one hand opening. Thumb stud #2. I haven’t found a thumb hole that felt natural or easy.
Thumbstud #1, Flipper tab #2, either must have spring assist. Far too often I have something in the other hand, so for me fast one-handed opening is mandatory.
Currently Kershaw Blur is carried most often. Love this knife. Although cheap, I’ve had no issues with Gerber Fast-Draw knives either, and can find at WallyWorld.
I own a SpiderCo with the Thumb-hole, but no assisted opening. Quality and finish better than Kershaw, but too hard to open in a pinch.
while not a deal braker, I prefer flippers. they have the added benefit of extra finger protection
I’ve been carrying benchmade mini-griptilian for several years with the axis lock and love it. Pull the lock buttons and flick your wrist. Opening or closing. always one handed and your fingers are never in front of the blade.