With a simple finger flick or even in promo art, today’s flipper knives fly.
Early flipper folders were used in conjunction with assisted-opening mechanisms as a means for initiating movement, allowing the spring or torsion assists to open the blades the rest of the way. A few years later, folder pivots incorporated ball bearings, nearly negating the need for assisted-opening mechanisms on flippers.
This reduced friction simplified folder construction and provided glassy smooth blade rotation. Although a few companies still offer assisted-opening flipper folders, most production versions rely on ball bearings.
Flipper Folders: Function Flows From Form
A flipper tab and ball bearings don’t necessarily equate a folder with quick action and secure deployment. A flipper mechanism will not work properly without a well-designed detent.
Imperative is the detent’s power to secure and hold the blade shut. When placing pressure on the flipper tab with an index finger, the user should be able to feel the grab of the detent. With more pressure on the flipper, the inertia of the blade overrides the pressure of the detent, and kinetic energy swings the blade into the fully open and locked position.
An imprecise detent results in either sloppy action or a flipper mechanism that requires too much pressure against the narrow tab. Optimally, with pressure on the flipper tab, the detent holds its load for a second before letting the blade go with enough energy to snap it open.
Finding Fun In The Fidget Factor
It’s the flipper action that is so satisfying. It imbues a “fidget factor” that causes knife users to snap open their folders while watching TV, talking on the phone, lying in bed or practicing any number of mundane daily routines.
The latest flipper folders not only offer pleasing aesthetics but stay true to the ideals of their predecessors. With premium materials, designs that make use a pleasure and looks that astound, they epitomize some of the coolest knives around.
Best Flipper Knives
At Kershaw, the Inception is looking good with performance to match. “I love the clean, stylish look,” related Kershaw Marketing Manager Dominic Aiello, “but the satisfyingly smooth action is what really makes the Inception a top-notch manual everyday carry.”
The flipper tab was not designed with the intention of acting as a single guard, Aiello says, but rather in combination with the textured handle overlays to help prevent the user’s hand from slipping. Along with that, the D2 tool steel blade .11-inch at the thickest provides enough heft to balance durability and ease of slicing. The clip is reversible and deep carry with flush screws that won’t snag in the pocket or impede quick deployment.
Kershaw Inception Specs
Blade Length: 3.25 inches
Blade Material: D2 tool steel
Handle Material: G-10
Weight: 3.1 ounces
Pocket Clip: Ambidextrous/reversible, deep carry, tip up
Closed Length: 4 inches
Country Of Origin: China
Medford Knife & Tool USMC Fighter Flipper
The USMC Fighter Flipper from Medford Knife & Tool boasts an iconic name and incorporates titanium along with other highly durable components.
“Where to start?” commented Medford representative Geoff Oprandy. “First, the USMC Fighter Flipper has superior design, engineering and aesthetics. When Greg Medford was inspired to make this knife, it didn’t take long for initial sketches to appear. He wanted a worthy companion piece for our top-selling Fixed Fighter, which has been a category king for quite some time.”
Oprandy describes the USMC Fighter Flipper as “a unique mixture of titanium components with the best CPM S35VN blade steel. This is a big, manly knife that’s as comfortable working as it is cruising around in your pocket. There is so much going on with it that it’s hard to take in, from the retro milling on the handles, drop-point blade, and integral Ti pommel to the bearing pressed into the one-of-a-kind pocket clip. The tab is designed to be a tad longer and has a unique radius with a knurled feature. For being a large knife [it provides] great purchase, and the flipper tab combined with the finger-indexing groove enable a great grip. The knife runs on phosphor-bronze washers custom made to meet our specs.”
According to Geoff, the knife has a special connection with the United States Marines Corps. As designer Greg Medford related, “When you hold it in your hand, almost 250 years of Marines speak to your soul.”
The design is intended to feel at home with users who prefer the “connection” made with a large folder, Oprandy says. “When people position the knife correctly and begin to use it,” he stated, “the energy transfer seems balanced, natural and confidence inspiring.”
USMC Fighter Flipper Specs
Company: Medford Knife & Tool
Designer: Greg Medford
Blade Length: 4.25 inches
Blade Steel: CPM S35VN stainless
Handle Material: Titanium
Pivot Action: Phosphor-bronze washers
Weight: 9.8 ounces
Pocket Clip: Titanium; standard carry
Closed Length: 5.25 inches
Country Of Origin: U.S.A.
MSRP: $840 and up
Rick Hinderer Knives Full Track Spearpoint “Nuked”
Sam Santa Rita, general manager of Rick Hinderer Knives, says the Full Track Spearpoint “Nuked” is a bigger version of the company’s “very popular Half Track model. It is one of our larger folders at 3.75 inches and has titanium handles with G-10 inserts. The Full Track features a removable tool seated in the spine of the folder that is capable of complete disassembly of the knife.” The folder also utilizes a G-10 insert cover on its show side that hides a pocket for the storage of steel inserts and washers for the Rick Hinderer Knives Tri-Way Pivot System. This allows the user to easily swap from bearings to washers or vice versa depending on the situation.
“Its size and durability coupled with the ease of maintenance and ‘customizability’ makes the knife a perfect hard-use folder capable in any environment,” Sam added. The Full Track is available in stainless blade steel options of CPM S35VN, CPM 20CV and M390. Another blade steel option will be released later this year.
The Full Track flipper tab doubles as a single guard, while the blade pivots on caged thrust bearings. Meanwhile, the Tri-Way Pivot System allows for the aforementioned use of Teflon™ and phosphor-bronze washers as well, which come standard with the knife.
Full Track Spearpoint “Nuked” Specs
Company: Rick Hinderer Knives
Designer: Rick Hinderer
Blade Length: 3.75 inches
Blade Steel: CPM 20CV stainless
Handle Material: G-10
Pocket Clip: Yes
Weight: 6.9 ounces
Closed Length: 5.125 inches
Country Of Origin: U.S.A.
The Sliverax is a bit of a departure for Spyderco. “It’s a flipper design, which is not common among Spydercos,” explained Joyce Laituri, company marketing manager. “The designer, Paul Alexander, is a different type of cutlery designer we have worked with in the past. He holds a doctorate in industrial design and mechanical engineering, and is a leading researcher for a company in the automotive industry.”
The Sliverax brings a shape with seamless flow and a slightly negative blade angle to enhance leverage, placing the point on the knife’s centerline for utility and control. “The negative angle also shortens the opening arc combined with the round hole and flipper mechanism for a full spectrum of positive, high-speed one-hand-opening options,” Joyce commented.
“The flipper tab doubles as a guard,” she continued, “and it’s easy to see and feel when the knife is held. There is a large, deep finger choil already, and the flipper mechanism in the open position extends the choil, creating a comfortable and deep guard for the index finger, or pinky if held in a reverse grip.”
Laituri describes the opening experience with the Sliverax as “slick as a Slip & Slide.” The mechanism features a phosphor-bronze bushing with ball bearings and a nested liner for structural strength. The CPM S30V stainless blade is exceptional in its combination of toughness, wear resistance and corrosion resistance as well, while the ergonomics of the handle are derived directly from its innovative shape, super-thin choil and expansion at the butt to fill the hand.
Spyderco Sliverax Specs
Designer: Paul Alexander
Blade Length: 3.48 inches
Blade Steel: CPM S30V stainless
Handle Material: Carbon fiber/G-10 laminate
Lock: Compression Lock®
Weight: 3.3 ounces
Pocket Clip: Deep pocket, wire, ambidextrous, tip up
Closed Length: 4.52 inches
Country Of Origin: Taiwan
Editor’s Note: Mike Haskew and Dexter Ewing contributed to this post.
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