Pocket knives offer function, convenience, and beauty in a compact package. Your pocket knives can reflect your personality and elevate your lifestyle. 

When shopping for the perfect pocket knife for your needs, there are a few factors you should consider before purchasing your next pocket knife.

Our pocket knife buyer’s guide helps you understand how pocket knives work and what you need to look for when shopping around for the best pocket knife.

Anatomy of a Pocket Knife

Before we dive into the top factors you should consider while shopping for pocket knives, let us take a look at the typical features of most pocket knives:

  • Point: The point refers to the sharpened tip of the blade which can be used for piercing.
  • Blade: The blade of a knife features the sharp edge that can be used to slice or cut.
  • Belly: The belly of the blade is the curved part that includes the blade edge.
  • Spine: The spine of the blade is the unsharpened and dull back of the blade opposite the knife edge.
  • Ricasso: The ricasso is the small unsharpened part of the blade near the handle.
  • Pivot: The pivot is the area where the knife and handle meet and includes a mechanism that allows it to fold open and closed.
  • Thumb stud: A thumb stud can be used to quickly open the blade from the folding position with your thumb.
  • Lock bar: A lock bar is a common locking mechanism bar that keeps the blade in place in an open and closed position. To use it, the bar requires manual pressure for it to release the blade. 
  • Handle: The handle is the part of the knife that can be held. It can have a smooth or textured surface.

Modern pocket knives may also feature a pocket clip and lanyard hole for easy and convenient everyday carry.

Benefits of Pocket Knives

Carrying a pocket knife around everyday offers numerous advantages, especially when you own a pocket knife designed with quality materials and innovative engineering.

The benefits of carrying a pocket knife include:

  • Opening mail and packages: A pocket knife makes the rote activity of getting mail a classy and cool affair.
  • Camping: Pocket knives are great for everyday carry but excel as survival tools in the form of tactical knives. From preparing food to setting a tent, pocket knives are versatile in the great outdoors.
  • Self-defense: Beyond everyday activities, pocket knives can be used as a weapon in self defense. Whether in the wild or on the concrete jungle, carrying a pocket knife can give you piece of mind. We also recommend self-defense training.
  • First aid: In dire situations, pocket knives can be used to rip clothing, remove splinters, or make bandages from gauze.  
  • Food preparation: Pocket knives can be a quick and fun way to peel fruit from trees, cut cheese at a picnic, open cans of food and bottles of beer, and more!
  • Cutting: Cut a wide range of materials including wires, wood, paper, cardboard, and textiles. A pocket knife’s cutting capabilities come in handy when you least expect it. 

Pocket knives are portable, versatile, durable, resistant, and convenient tools to have for any occasion. Knowing how to choose the right one is important to enjoying its advantages.

Number of Blades

When you think of pocket knives, you are probably imagining a single-blade knife, but knives can contain multitudes. Explore knives with multiple blades or the multi-tool models that feature several knife types and additional tools.

Single Blade

Single blade pocket knives are one of the most common types and come in a variety of styles, colors, and sizes. Due to their straightforward design, they are very easy to use. One advantage of single blade knives is that the blade is usually larger than in multi-blade designs.

Single blade models can fold and have an opening and locking mechanism for easy use and storage. The locking mechanism keeps the blade in place when in the open or closed position.

Depending on your task at hand, you will need a specific type of single-blade knife. If you have a wide range of needs, you will most likely need to buy multiple models with different blade lengths and styles to fit each task.

Multi-Blade

One obvious benefit of the multi-blade pocket knife is the ability to handle multiple jobs. Generally, multi-blade knives can include between 2 to 4 blades. 

Two-blade models can feature a combination of different blade types including drop point, spey, sheepsfoot, and pen varieties. 

In three- and four-blade models, you will find a combination of any of these blade types at your disposal. For owners who require a variety of precision tools for every type of job, a multi-blade pocket knife can be an indispensable tool. 

However, you may be sacrificing strength and longevity for versatility and utility. Multi-blade options are not as robust as single-blade models.  

Multi-Tool

Swiss Army Knife

For wilderness buffs who require a medley of functions, a Swiss Army knife or multi-tool can provide several blades and additional tools for all-purpose function.

Common tools include:

  • Saws
  • Toothpick
  • Tweezer
  • Can opener
  • Nail file
  • Scissors
  • Corkscrew
  • Magnifying glass

Originally designed to handle a military environment, the Swiss Army knife is beloved by civilians alike. Modern-day multi-tools come in small and large sizes and can include a few attachments or up to dozens all at once.

Blade Edge Styles

Serrated, plain, or a mix of both? 

Plain Edge

Plain edge blades are preferable for push cuts, which help cut through an object by pressing onto the spine of the blade. A plain edge knife offers precision, better control, and clean cuts. In addition, plain edge pocket knife blades are easy to use to cut wood, rope, etc.

Plain edges are not ideal for pull cuts. Consider the type of knife used for cutting bread. A push cut knife would smash the loaf, while a push cut blade with serrations would keep the bread from breaking.

Serrated Edge

A serrated edge is perfect for pull cuts. The serrations along the edge of the blade improve the blade’s strength due to the higher pressure per area. Serrations usually have a sharper and thinner edge allowing them to cut through stronger materials than a plain edge blade.

As you can imagine, serrated blades cannot perform a push cut the same way a plain edge blade can. Instead of delivering clean cuts, serrated edges produce jagged cuts, not ideal for precise cutting.

In addition, serrations on the blade make it trickier to sharpen. Each serration must be sharpened individually increasing the time and labor as well risk for error if you are doing it yourself. You may need to send it back to the manufacturer for maintenance.

Combination Edge

If you need a tool that can handle both a push and pull cut, a combination edge may be right for you. On a combination edge blade, one part is plain and the other has serrations. 

While this may be versatile for some small tasks, a combination blade will not usually be the best compared to completely plain or serrated edge blades. It will have additional challenges when sharpening. Its plain and serrated parts may not be big enough to handle sawing through every object.

Blade Length

Knife on Chopping Block

During your search for the perfect pocket knife, you will run across a wide range of blade sizes from the ultra compact and sleek to the huge and unwieldy blades that cannot fit comfortably inside a regular pocket.

Small Blades

Smaller blades under 2.75 inches provide enough cutting action and sharpness in a sleek and compact package. One of the most important benefits is that they are legal almost everywhere.  Many jurisdictions will have restrictions on blade length that can start at 2.75 inches. 

In addition, smaller blades are more lightweight and easier to conceal carry than larger ones.

Smaller pocket knives will not be as powerful as knives with larger blades and can even increase the risk of injury when used for bigger jobs.

These compact knives are best reserved for home use and daily activities such as opening packages. They can be great supplemental knives to your larger camping knives.

Medium Blades

If you need a little more power but do not want to lug around a heavy knife, a medium blade can be right for you. Medium blades range between 2.75 inches and 4 inches. They are still easy enough to conceal carry but have a little bit more strength for use with stronger materials.

One of the only downsides of owning a medium sized blade is that some jurisdictions prohibit carrying beyond a certain size. As long as you research your laws and it is allowed in your state and city, you are good to go.

A medium sized blade is a versatile tool for almost any type of everyday task and more professional duties.

Large Blades

Large blade pocket knives are anything that is 4 inches or higher. These knives are not as easy to hide but are still able to be concealed compared to fixed blade knives. Usually, these are designed for self-defense.

Due to their larger blade, you will have to carry a larger knife that weighs more compared to a small and compact blade. In some jurisdictions, your blade may not be legal. Always check your local knife laws to make sure you are following the rules.

Large blades are not the most common type since they offer much more strength than necessary for everyday tasks. Large blades can be used for self-defense or feature decorative and artistic designs.

Price

When it comes to buying folding knives, price can be a big determining factor in their quality and function. Buying a cheap pocket knife is good for everyday tasks that do not require a lot of strength and durability, but in the long run they will not serve for much more and may need frequent replacement.

Investing in a higher-priced blade is a smart choice for the long run. A high quality knife can last for decades with the right care and maintenance. In fact, pocket knives can be passed down for generations as a family heirloom.

Blade Types

Wooden Brown Folding Knife

When shopping for folding knives, you will run into a variety of blade shapes and styles. Each is crafted for a specific purpose. Here are some of the most commonly found blade types.

Clip Point

A clip point is one of the most popular blade type options. Clip point blades have a straight spine with the top portion clipped off in a straight or curved line. Its design allows you to make a straight or curved cut. It is great for everyday use, but excels in a hunting environment.  Clip points’ design makes it ideal for piercing while its wider body makes it easy to slice.

Tanto Point

A tanto point blade, also known as a chisel point, is one of the strongest blade options. Its unique shape gives it a stronger tip than a drop point or spear point blade. While it may not be the best EDC knife, its design makes it good for cuts and piercing through strong materials.

Drop Point

Drop point models are some of the most popular EDC knives. A drop point blade style has a variety of uses. The unsharpened part of the drop point blade runs from the handle all the way to the tip where it slopes a bit to create a sharp edge and point.

Drop point blades are popular for hunting activities such as skinning and piercing. The wider belly of the blade and sharp point makes it easy to make quick and precise cuts. It is a great all-purpose folding knife.

Spear Point

Spear point blades may have one or two sharpened edges. Both edges on a spear point slope down and create a symmetrical blade shape. The extremely sharp point is helpful for piercing, but since they do not have a wide belly, they are not the best at slicing compared to clip point or drop point blades. This style is commonly used in daggers and throwing knives.

Trailing Point

A trailing point blade has a curved back that slopes upward creating a deep belly that can be used for slicing, filleting, and skinning. Its lightweight design has some downsides. It can have a weak point that can break under extreme pressure.

Sheepsfoot

A sheepsfoot blade is a popular and safe choice for cutting and slicing. It has a flat cutting edge and a spine that curves down to meet the point. This design makes it harder to injure yourself. 

It is a popular choice for emergency responders since it can make quick cuts through seat belts and other objects without hurting the victim. The original design was intended to trim a sheepsfoot. They are also great for whittling.

Hawkbill

A hawkbill blade has a very unique and distinctive shape that looks like the shape of a hawk’s bill. Its concave cutting edge has a claw-like shape. This is not common for everyday tasks but can help in certain ones such as cutting string and carpet or pruning foliage.

Straight Back

Straight back blades look just like they sound. It is considered a standard and classic blade type. The spine is straight while the sharpened part curves up to meet the spine at the point. This style of blade enables you to apply extra pressure when pushing down on its back. If you are a cook, this is perfect for chopping and slicing.

Needle Point

Needle point blades, also known as daggers, have two sharp edges designed for stabbing and piercing. These blades are easy to conceal and are generally used for self defense. The sharp and thin point is perfect for piercing. Since it does not have a belly, however, it is not very good for slicing. Needle points are not very common in folding pocket knives.

Spey Blade

A spey point blade was originally designed to spey livestock. It has a straight back that has a short flat edge running towards the tip. Its sharpened side curves upward toward the tip. Spey blades are mainly found in multi-blade knives and can be helpful when hunting.

Pen Blade

A pen blade is commonly found in multi-tools and Swiss Army knives. It has a similar look to a spear point. Originally, the pen blade was designed for sharpening a quill for writing but has come to be a great everyday carry knife.

Wharncliffe 

A wharncliffe blade looks just like a sheepsfoot but has some subtle differences. For instance, its back begins to curve closer to the handle creating a gradual curve compared to the sheepsfoot blade. These blades are also thicker than other similarly sized blades. They make great tools for wood carving and other cutting tasks.

Blade Steel

Sharp Knife

Among the wide range of folding pocket knife options out there, you will generally choose between stainless steel and carbon steel blades.

The type of blade material used on the blade determines its strength and durability. Choosing the blade steel can be one of the most challenging parts of the shopping journey.

Consider the following factors when choosing blade steels:

Man Holding Whittling Knife

How do you plan to use your pocket knife? Depending on the material you are cutting you will need to get the appropriate alloy that can withstand the daily wear and tear.

How thick do you want the blade? While thin blades may not be as strong as thicker ones they offer unique advantages and can be stronger depending on the type of steel they are made of.

What type of edge angle do you want? Choose from different types of edges such as the V-grind or chisel grind. The alloy may determine the angle cut.

Where do you intend to use your blade? Most stainless steel options are vulnerable to rust but some stain resistant steels can withstand excessively humid environments.

Pocket Knife in Stump

What type of alloy are you looking for?

Steel is an alloy made of mostly iron and very small amounts of carbon. High-carbon steel, also known as carbon steel, is an alloy with a higher percentage of carbon. It is commonly used in luxury pocket knives and increases the steel’s strength and hardness.

While carbon steel may be resistant to rust, it is a brittle alloy that may need more frequent sharpening. 

Stainless steel, unlike regular or carbon steel, contains chromium. Chromium is a corrosion resistant material that gives folding knife blades a bright, radiant, and silver finish. While they may have a higher chromium content, they still need proper care to prevent rust.

Stainless steel is more malleable and less brittle than carbon steel. On the downside, it is easier to bend and can be harder to sharpen. Fortunately, stainless steel blades can retain their sharp edge for longer than other steel types.

Handle Material

Sharp Black Folding Knife

In terms of knife handle materials, you have plenty of choices to choose from. Handle materials can determine the comfort, feel, and function of your tool.

A pocket knife handle that is too smooth or uncomfortable when gripped can increase the risk of injury. Every handle material has its advantages and disadvantages. Consider these high quality blade handle options.

Aluminum

Aluminum is a lightweight and durable option that can come in a variety of colors. It can feature a textured grip, great in wet or humid environments.

Wood

Wood handles are long-lasting and durable. Choose from softwood such as burl and buckeye. Other wood types include elder, blackwood, bubinga, snakewood, box, curly maple, koa, thuyas, rosewood, and more. Wood is not water-resistant and can deforme with regular water exposure.

G-10

Made out of fiberglass, G10 is a very strong and corrosion-resistant material that is submerged in resin, compressed, and then baked into its shape. It is very lightweight and is resistant to water. G10 is common in tactical and survival knives and usually comes in black or other dark shades. 

Bone

Bone is another popular handle material mainly found in fixed blade knives. It can be made out of different types of bone, but just like wood, it can crack and break over time.

Micarta

Micarta is beloved for its extreme durability but can be relatively expensive. It is a composite made from cloth or paper and phenolic resin. Micarta usually has a yellow or tan color that can redden or brownish with time. It is usually found on fixed blade knives.

Stainless Steel

If you want to go for a completely monochromatic look, the stainless steel handle can give you a durable, affordable, and corrosion-resistant handle. While it may be a bit heavier than other materials, it is very durable and resistant to scratches and dents. 

Rubber

Rubber handles can have a completely rubber design or rubber inlays strategically placed for better grip. Rubber has excellent grip but may not be as strong or long-lasting as other man-made materials.

Titanium

Modern pocket knives often feature titanium handles which are lightweight, corrosion resistant, and generally resistant to wear and tear. Titanium is one of the more expensive handle types, especially for higher-end titanium alloys.

Zytel

Zytel is a super durable thermoplastic material popularized by the Dupont chemical brand. It is extremely resistant to abrasion and impact. It is also an affordable and long lasting choice. Knife enthusiasts may be put off by its cheap look and feel but it is one of the strongest materials around.

Carbon Fiber

Carbon fiber is made out of carbon strands set into a resin. Carbon fiber is very lightweight and resistant to rust and corrosion. However, carbon fiber can be relatively pricey and is not very resistant to impact.

Mother of Pearl

Mother of pearl, made of mollusks, can provide a beautiful look for your luxury pocket knives. However, it is not meant for tough jobs since it can be easily scratched.

Other Exotic Materials

On the high-end side of folding knives, exotic knife handle materials such as mammoth bone or tooth, gemstones, and other unique materials can elevate your knife to a work of art, although, these materials may be more vulnerable to wear and tear.

Handle Design

A handle design is an important aspect that determines how your knife functions in your environment. Consider the following features when choosing a handle type.

  • Thickness: Do you prefer slim and comfortable or robust and durable frames? Slender handles can be better for concealed carry or small tasks. Handles with a thicker frame and blade are more cumbersome but can handle cutting thicker material. 
  • Textures: Where do you plan on using your tool? If you will be using your folding knife in a wet environment, a textured grip is a must. It helps you keep a firm grip of the handle without slipping.
  • Attachment System: Do you need a folding knife with lanyard holes? Do you prefer pocket clips that can easily attach to your pants? Consider models with reversible pocket clips or clips with a 3-way or 4-way design.

Opening Mechanisms

Black Folding Knife

Opening mechanisms refer to the way your knife opens from its close position. How fast and comfortable is the method? If used for self-defense, the pocket knife opening mechanism is one of the most important factors to consider.

Manual Opening Mechanism

Traditionally, pocket knives have had a manual opening mechanism that can only open with your hands. 

Some traditional pocket knives or Swiss Army knives open via a nail nick, or a groove in the blade that allows you to pinch the blade and pull it open.

Another type of opening mechanism is the thumb stud. Instead of a groove, this is a protrusion that allows you to open it with the flick of your thumb.

Automatic Opening Mechanism

An automatic opening mechanism can open with the blade with the push of a switch or button. However, this mechanism is not completely legal in every state. If you are going with this type of knife, check your state and local laws to ensure they are legal.

Assisted Opening Mechanism

Originally developed in 1995 by Blackie Collins, the assisted opening mechanism is one of the latest innovations in pocket knives. This type of knife has an internal device that opens the blade when a certain amount of pressure is applied to the knife.

Locking Mechanisms 

Black and Brown Folding Knife

Locking mechanisms in pocket knives refer to the way in which the blade remains closed. A variety of locking mechanisms can be found among everyday carry knives.

Liner Lock

A liner lock is a common locking mechanism for everyday carry that can be open and closed with a single hand. The blade lock is a tensioned metal spring bar inside of the handle. In the closed position, the bar is held under tension. 

When opened, the tension moves the bar inward butting up against the tang of the blade and keeping it in place. When you want to close it, you must manually force the liner to the side and  flip the blade back down.

Slipjoint

A slipjoint is a common type of mechanism found in classic pocket knives such as Swiss Army knives. They do not technically lock the place in place but use a tensioned back bar to keep the place open or closed. 

It is best reserved for everyday home tasks. They are not good to use for big cutting jobs since excessive tension to the spine can cause it to come down on your fingers. 

Back Lock

The back lock is a common and traditional pocket knife blade lock. Also known as a lockback, the mechanism is on the end of the handle to keep the blade open. The locking arm is molded with a hook that can fit into a notch on the blade behind the pivot. A mid-lock is similar but has a mechanism in the middle not the bottom of the spine

Ring Lock

Ring lock mechanisms work by twisting a ring collar along the pivot of the knife to an open and closed position. The ring collar has a break where the knife can easily go through when opening or closing it. After opening the knife, the ring must be twisted back again to lock it in place.

Frame Lock

A frame lock knife works just like a liner lock but instead of a liner, uses the frame of the handle to lock the blade in place.  In the frame lock, the frame is bent inward with the tip securing the bottom of the blade. Like a liner lock, when the frame is pushed to the side, the blade can be opened.

Lever Lock

A lever lock uses a tensioned pin attached directly to the tang of the blade through a drilled hole. The lever mechanism allows you to press the lever to open the blade. Lever locks are more commonly found in automatic opening mechanisms.

Button Lock

A button lock, also known as a plunge lock, is mainly found in automatic knives but manual models are available, too. Just press the button to release the blade. The internal plunger system keeps the blade open and closed. 

On manual button lock knives, a thumb stud is used to open the blade. Manual button locks are very safe and strong, since the hand is always out of the way of the blade when opening or closing. 

Pocket Knife Laws

If you are planning on investing in a pocket knife, make sure you check your state and local knife laws. Some states have restrictions on blade length and locking knives. When traveling abroad, the rules can be different, too. Choose a knife that is legal and can be by your side wherever you go.

Pocket Knife Sharpening and Maintenance

Knife enthusiasts know all too well the importance of sharpening and maintenance involved with owning a luxury pocket knife. Not only does regular care and maintenance keep your blade looking new and beautiful, but it also helps retain the knife’s sharp edge and overall function for the long haul.

Cleaning a pocket knife can include rust removal and proper lubrication for a functional and lustrous knife. Check out our pocket knife cleaning guide for expert maintenance tips.

For most sharpening jobs, we recommend getting a professional sharpening service for your pocket knives. For everyday sharpening, the right tools and sharpener can keep your blade sharp and ready for use.

If you are outdoors and do not have professional services at your disposal, a sharpening stone and some lubricant can be used to give your blade a clean and sharp edge. Check out our pocket knife sharpening guide for tips and tricks. 

Shop Luxury Pocket Knives From William Henry

Explore William Henry’s luxury pocket knife designs made from sustainably sourced and exotic materials such as hand-forged damascus, fossil mammoth tooth, woolly mammoth bone, ‘Zinc Matrix’ turquoise, cocobolo wood, carbon fiber, and so much more.

Beautiful, functional, and versatile, William Henry pocket knives are a welcome addition to your repertoire of tools. Whether you are ready to tackle the wilderness or need a folding knife for home use, William Henry has the best pocket knife for you.