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JohnCenter

(Folders) Wood Handles and Liners

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I was curious- When building a  simple folder with a wood handle/slabs- when are liners necessary? Always?

The only folders I can think of that do not have liners are the Opinels. But they do have a metal ring around the pivot area that on some models provides a lock, but otherwise strengthens the key area.

Can a folder be safely made with only wood? Are there any important design considerations to be made when choosing not to use liners? Pivot pin selections, washers, etc? A metal ring?

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I’d be curious to see if there is a reason someone knows of, but I don’t see any obvious ones. From what I understand, there’s no reason a folder shouldn’t be able to work with only a pair of wooden scales and some pins. 

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Friction folders almost never have liners because they don't need them.  Liners are good for slipjoints (aka "normal, non locking folders) because they distribute the force of the backspring over the whole liner, not just at the center pin.  This in turn allows thinner scales, because the scales are not structural elements anymore.  If you do a slipjoint or spring-backed lockblade using only scales, no liners, you will need to use a very strong wood. Sugar maple and lignum vitae might work, and I'm sure some of the tropical hardwoods like cocobolo and African Blackwood could as well.  Hard but chippy woods like oak, wenge, and ebony are probably not great for this.  Leave the scales thicker than you'd think, they are now structural elements.

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Thank you for the response. If I understand correctly only friction folders don't need liners. Anything with a  lock benefits from the liners because of the force of the lock... not so much forces being put on the blade. Am I understanding this right?

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1 hour ago, JohnCenter said:

Thank you for the response. If I understand correctly only friction folders don't need liners. Anything with a  lock benefits from the liners because of the force of the lock... not so much forces being put on the blade. Am I understanding this right?

That's it for the most part. Slip joints are the knives that benefit the most from liners resisting forces applied to pins, with lock-backs having similar forces, but to a lesser degree (much lighter springs, you could probably get away with out liners depending on the scale material). Liners also act as a durable bearing surface for smoother action (though washers are often used for this instead).In addition to forces from the mechanism, there are additional forces from use. With friction folders, the tang pushes the pin into the thicker part of the handle perpendicular to it, whereas forces from cutting with slip-joints and lock-backs will be along the long axis of the handle.

With a friction folder, you may actually be better off without liners if they have less friction than your grip material would. Interestingly, liner locks are a type of locking knife where the load applied by the mechanism is relatively low. I've seen examples with only one liner (the locking one), and just a washer on the other side. One thing to note is that over time wood will compress, change volume with humidity, and wear in, all of which can change the characteristics of a friction folder, so an adjustable pivot might be nice.

Hope this isn't too much!

Edited by Aiden CC
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