Why Toolless Disassembly Should Be The Future of Knife Design

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Apr 8, 2012
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Modern EDC knife designs, which (generally) aim to be as easy as possible to carry and use, still require a decent bit of equipment to properly maintain. In order to keep a folding knife in top shape, its owner is required to buy and keep a torx bit set, loctite, pivot lube, and sharpening system.

This isn’t a problem for the hobbyists/collectors on this forum, since having knives and knife accessories and knife maintenance take up more time and money and space than necessary is basically the whole point of collecting, anyway. But for most non-hobbyist folding knife owners, the hassle inherent in maintaining their knife leads to them not maintaining their knife at all. Regardless of price point, the knives of non-knife people tend to have dull blades and gritty pivots and loose lockups. And we like to rag on them for that, and I’m not saying they don’t deserve it... but the thing is, when the vast majority of a product’s users are doing a bad job of maintaining their purchases, some of that blame has to lie with the product’s design.

Modern folding knife design is imbalanced in the sense that the burden of carrying and using them is very low, (since companies have been competing for decades to minimize it,) while the burden of maintenance is still relatively high. A Spyderco Chaparral, for example, is unnoticeable in the pocket and beautifully efficient to use, but it’s no less of a pain to take apart and reassemble than an MTech. Most people do not want to buy or learn how to use a torx bit set and loctite on a small, simple tool that they bought to make their lives easier- and, honestly, I don’t blame them. Most people don’t buy or carry folding knives because they *need* them, they carry them because it’s convenient; and it’s just plain bad design, that a product whose main selling point is convenience, is so inconvenient to maintain. Knife designs that enable toolless disassembly drastically reduce this problem.

Thoughts?
 
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Sep 24, 2002
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My thoughts (and 25 cents will buy you a cup of coffee :D)-

I've got a Buck 110 that's about 37 years old, it's seen a LOT of use, been covered in dirt and sand, been drenched in water, cleaned fish and small game, and it still functions perfectly, with a smooth as silk operation, and I've never once taken it apart.

In all honesty, I think if a "modern" folder is assembled properly in the first place, and the screws are locktited in place, then it's probably not actually necessary to ever take it apart, except for repair (which should probably be done by the manufacturer).

That being said, I take my modern folders apart, and I don't find it to be any hassle. It just requires 1 or 2 screw drivers, usually torx, and those are both inexpensive and widely available. It's not like any expensive equipment is required.

I'm not sure how manufacturers could produce a knife that could be easily disassembled without screws. I would think doing so would either involve expensive/complicated engineering, or result in an unsafe knife that might come apart unexpectedly. But hey, I'm no engineer ;).
 
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Jan 14, 2006
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I take issue with your assertion that knives need to be disassembled as part of routine maintenance. Many knives are pinned construction and not even made to be taken apart. I occasionally use one of my grandfather's slip joint knives, now over 50 or 60 years old and it hasn't ever been disassembled. Even many that are screw construction such as the one that you mentioned, the Spyderco Chaparral full disassembly isn't really necessary. Does owning a car require complete disassembly for routine maintenance?

Regular cleaning and lube for maintenance can be applied without taking a knife apart.

We are akin to the car show people v/s regular vehicle owners. Most automobile owners don't detail the engine compartment, and that isn't necessary to keep a car running.

Grizz
 

T.L.E. Sharp

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Modern EDC knife designs, which (generally) aim to be as easy as possible to carry and use, still require a decent bit of equipment to properly maintain. In order to keep a folding knife in top shape, its owner is required to buy and keep a torx bit set, loctite, pivot lube, and sharpening system.

This isn’t a problem for the hobbyists/collectors on this forum, since having knives and knife accessories and knife maintenance take up more time and money and space than necessary is basically the whole point of collecting, anyway. But for most non-hobbyist folding knife owners, the hassle inherent in maintaining their knife leads to them not maintaining their knife at all. Regardless of price point, the knives of non-knife people tend to have dull blades and gritty pivots and loose lockups. And we like to rag on them for that, and I’m not saying they don’t deserve it... but the thing is, when the vast majority of a product’s users are doing a bad job of maintaining their purchases, some of that blame has to lie with the product’s design.

Modern folding knife design is imbalanced in the sense that the burden of carrying and using them is very low, (since companies have been competing for decades to minimize it,) while the burden of maintenance is still relatively high. A Spyderco Chaparral, for example, is unnoticeable in the pocket and beautifully efficient to use, but it’s no less of a pain to take apart and reassemble than an MTech. Most people do not want to buy or learn how to use a torx bit set and loctite on a small, simple tool that they bought to make their lives easier- and, honestly, I don’t blame them. Most people don’t buy or carry folding knives because they *need* them, they carry them because it’s convenient; and it’s just plain bad design, that a product whose main selling point is convenience, is so inconvenient to maintain. Knife designs that enable toolless disassembly drastically reduce this problem.

Thoughts?

I think the sort of person who balks at removing a few torx screws to perform maintenance on their knife is also the sort of person who doesn't care about doing maintenance on their knife.

I'm all for innovation, but I don't think ease of tear down and reassembly is a big hurdle. I'd rather they just start using blade stock of a reasonable thickness... or rather thinness.
 

brownshoe

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I have never taken apart a knife for maintenance other than a sebenza which is designed that way. I use soap, water, Flitz, Rennwax, canned air, WD40 & lube. Takes care of all maintenance, other than maybe tightening a screw.

Spydercos are not meant to be routinely taken apart per company staff.

Ken Onion designed a CRKT knife that can be unlocked w/o tools for cleaning, the Field Strip. https://www.crkt.com/slacker.html
 
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I think knife companies will be getting a lot of boxes of parts in their warranty departments if they go this route. There's a reason most folding knife warranties expressly forbid disassembly. The end user is more likely to mess things up.

Some companies have made folders that can be easily disassembled, CRKT comes to mind, they seem interesting, but gimmicky. Like the others, I don't see the need for every day knife owners to constantly disassemble their knives for maintenance. That being said, I do enjoy taking apart and reassembling some of my knives, and others I won't open. If they don't go back together the right way, that's a risk I'm willing to take.
 

Peter Hartwig

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Feb 29, 2008
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Don't see a great need for disassembly and if I do a torx bit set to do so doesn't seem too high tech. I do take some issue with those knives that need specialty tools not normally available to the common man. Most maintenance can be done without taking apart the knife. As for dull knives, I don't see any way around that one, other than sharpening.
 

Random Dan

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I almost never take apart my folding knives. Just rinse them out under the sink, let them air dry, and drop some mineral oil in the pivot. Not saying I'm opposed to toolless disassembly, but it's not something that would particularly interest me.
 

MolokaiRider

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I think that might be partly why makers use Torx rather than more commonly available fasteners; to discourage people who are not tool savvy from disassembling their knives.

I can only imagine how many customer service requests makers get with a box of parts and a note asking them to put it back together.

However, some designs do sorta need to be pulled apart every now and then for a good cleaning and service.
 
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I've never taken a knife apart except for a Ken Onion speedsafe style I replaced a torsion bar in. Everything else always gets washed in the sink with soap, dried and oiled if a hunting knife or just cleaned with a rag and oiled if a folder. For some knives- especially traditionals, I may use a q-tip to get any gunk from the inside but that's about it.

I'd shudder if I had to take apart one of my few autos, I've rebuilt carburators and I know small springs love to spring away never to be found again. Small part plus my workbench seem to equal "not good".

I've taken my carbon steel katana apart once but that was just to change the tsuba to one I liked better. Actually that was kind of a pain in the rear and I don't see myself doing it again.

I've replaced a scale or two on beater knives that were already missing them from the big auction site but those were old fixed blades (think Old Hickory). I can't say I much see the need unless you're an operator-type guy around a lot of mud, silt, sand, etc on a daily basis.
 

ferider

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I have a CRKT Homefront and a Hinderer Fulltrack, that can be completely field disassembled, the homefront without tool the Hinderer with a built-in tool and pockets for spare washers.

Really neat.

Then again, when I'm rational, I know pocket knives don't really need to be disassembled. Many users have been doing fine with using a single Buck 110, or 12cm Laguiole for a lifetime. Also, if I'll ever need to dis- and re-assemble a knife in the field, I'm sure my OCD won't be happy about the centering and action in the end. It has to be perfect, doesn't it ? LOL

An interesting conundrum.
 

Smaug

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We don't NEED to take apart our knives, but if we do, we can get a lot more dirt and steel dust out of the action.

Without taking it apart, were can lubricate, but not really CLEAN the action.
 
Joined
May 20, 2008
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Most people don't take their knives apart for cleaning. It's very rarely needed. Even for knives exposed to fine sand, mud, snow, and dirt.
Most people who aren't willing to get the tools to take apart a knife now won't bother doing it even if it's simple, or will not bother to learn how and manufacturers will end up getting a LOT of parts in Ziplock bags, and angry customers who don't want to pay to have them reassembled (and the lost parts replaced).
 

eisman

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Actually, it's incredibly easy to clean a pocketknife without taking it apart. People have been doing that for over 3,000 years. Modern technology makes this even easier. I use an ultrasonic washer now, but after over 50 years of using folding knives for everything from building and striking fires, cleaning fish, small game, and the occasional dressing of big game, opening packages, digging out splinters, carving, making toys, traps, and various other uses, I have never felt the need to take one apart. And amazingly I've never got food poisoning, sepsis, or any other type of harm from failing to keep one of my primary tools maintained in the proper manner.
 

jbmonkey

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screws started being used for ease of assembly in production. not for tinkering and taking apart. knives really don't need take apart maintenance. they arent like firearms that need field stripping and cleaning.
 
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