|Switch Your Blade...to a Fast Opener|
|As close as you can get to a legal switchblade.|
|Switchblades have always been the bete noire of folding knives--marked as the weapon of the common thug, instead of a simple tool made more efficient. Because of their sinister image, switchblades are illegal to carry in most U.S. states. However, a new category of knife, the fast opener, is legal to carry in most locales, and is rapidly gaining popularity.||
Click for knife descriptions
Fast openers are a relatively new category of folding knives--almost switchblades, but not quite. Fast openers require the user to start opening by nudging the blade open with the thumb. After the blade is opened a few degrees--about 20% of the opening arc, a spring takes over and accelerates the blade the rest of the way.
Contrast this opening method to a switchblade, where you just press a button and the blade is moved entirely by the spring. Fast openers are thus legal in most states because of this not-quite-switchblades status.
Spring-assisted openers got popular with the designs of Ken Onion, a well-regarded custom knifemaker. Designer of Blade Magazine's 1998 American-Made Knife of the Year, Ken began his metalworking career as a Navy machinist. When his friend asked him to work on his Harley's cam, Onion devised the mechanism that would become one of the first spring-assisted openers. Kershaw Knives then took Ken's torsion bar technology into production as their "Speed Safe" series.
Onion's designs have been so well-received that Steven Seagal sported an Onion folder in the movie "Exit Wounds", and is collaborating with Onion on a Seagal/Onion design.
The category has grown fast, with numerous manufacturers offering their own take on spring-assisted opening. The following is a partial list of production fast opener knives:
Avalanche, Blackout, Whirlwind, Boa, Chive [compare
a look at several popular fast openers in the next few weeks. Are any
good enough to make me give up my beloved Spyderco
Delica? Check back often to find out.
All content copyright © 1999-2010 James Hom