Choosing a Knife: Folder or Fixed Blade

PC: Gideon HadenThere are a lot of things to consider when choosing a knife. Should you go with a clip point or tanto? Micarta or glass-filled nylon, D2 or 1095? U.S. made or made in China? With so many decisions to make, choosing a knife can be overwhelming at times.

But starting with the big decisions and working your way down to the specifics can help make choosing a knife easy. The very first thing that you will have to decide when buying a knife is whether you want a fixed blade knife or a folding knife. Here’s some basic information on folders and fixed blades that can help you make that decision.

Design

Folding knives are designed to do just that, fold. The blade and the handle are connected by a joint. A lot of old school pocket knives use a slip joint rather than a lock, meaning there’s no safety mechanism to prevent the knife from closing. Modern folders will have some type of lock whether it’s a frame lock, liner, lock, back lock, or some other type of locking mechanism.

However, a fixed blade knife doesn’t fold. The handle and blade remain fixed at all times. The tang of a fixed blade knife refers to how far the blade extends into the handle. If the blade stops within the handle, it’s a half tang. If the blade extends through the entirety of the handle, meaning your knife is essentially one solid piece of metal, that is called a full tang.

Size

Most folding knives will be relatively small, with a blade length around 3.5 inches or less. While they do make larger folding knives (there are folders with 8″ blades!), they aren’t as practical as the smaller versions in most situations.

Fixed blade knives vary widely in size. From minimalist knives with 2″ blades to survival style workhorses with 10″ blades, fixed knives don’t have a uniform size. However if you’re looking for a big knife, you’re better off choosing a fixed blade over a folding blade.

Portability

Folding knives, or pocket knives, are designed to more portable than the fixed blade alternative. Not only are folders smaller, they don’t require sheaths. The blade is protected in the handle, and you can simply throw it in a pack pocket or the pocket of your blue jeans.

Fixed blades on the other hand require a sheath. Since the blade isn’t protected by the handle, you must have a covering to keep yourself and your gear protected. It’s not a good idea to carry a fixed blade in your pocket.

Use

Folders are the standard for everyday, multi-use knives. Since they are easy to carry, and the perfect size for most common tasks. If you need a knife for opening boxes, slicing cord, or cutting fruit, a pocket knife is the way to go.

Pocket knives aren’t quite as useful for more the substantial tasks you might encounter while camping. Fixed blades are typically larger and better suited for things you might be doing around the campfire such as batoning or building shelters. Since fixed blades don’t fold down the middle, you’re less likely to injury yourself using a fixed blade than a folder for burly work.

What it boils down to…

If you want a lightweight and portable knife that you can carry with you for day-today tasks go with a folder.

If you are looking for a camp knife or a survival knife that can be put to heavy use, go with a fixed blade.

Once you’ve made the decision between fixed and folder you can start thinking about the other aspects of a knife. Size, blade shape, blade material, and handle material are all things you will want to consider before buying a knife. We carry a great selection of knives. Stop by the store to see what we’ve got!

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