How Does a Butterfly Knife Work?

Written by alden witt
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How Does a Butterfly Knife Work?
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What is a Butterfly Knife?

A butterfly knife is a folding knife with two handles that swing freely from the base of the blade. It is constructed of three main pieces: the two handles and the blade. When closed, the blade is covered completely. When opened, the two handles swing down to form a single handle to the knife.

How Does it Work?

Unlike most knives, the butterfly knife does not have a large metal piece (tang) that extends into the handle. Instead, the base of the knife has a small plate of steel. The two handles are attached here side by side. A small pin, one per handle, is used to attach them. These handles rotate around this point on the same plane as the blade. The handle facing the blade edge is referred to as the "bite handle," and the one facing the back of the blade is referred to as the "safe handle." When closed, they enclose the blade. When open, a small bump of metal between the handles known as the "tang pin" prevents the handles from swinging past 90 degrees. The handles can be made through either a sandwich-style construction or a channel-style construction. Though the sandwich-style, which involves layers of metal and wood, allows for a greater level of adjustment to the tightness of the pins, the channel-style is somewhat stronger. A latch of some sort normally prevents the blade from swinging open. These can be spring-loaded. Occasionally, magnets are used instead. The blade is one-sided, tapers to a tip and often features a "swedge" or a "false edge" on the back.

How Does a Butterfly Knife Work?
Parts of the butterfly knife.

Uses and History

The butterfly knife is known more traditionally as the balisong. In one version of events, it originated as a Filipino weapon/tool dating as far back as 800 A.D. and is thought to have been commonly used. The balisong was first documented in the French book "Le Perret" in 1710. It likely became popular in Western culture through Spain. In World War II, U.S. troops collected a number of these knives as they passed through the islands. This history is somewhat debated. Though the balisong was first used as a tool, it was also used for duels and is a weapon in Filipino martial arts such as Eskrima. Now, these knives are illegal in many Western countries and are categorised as "gravity knives" or "switchblades." Aside from their use as weapons, some users practice flipping the knives (also known as "manipulations") as an art form.

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