<< Back to Shop Learn Knives

Knife Opening Mechanisms

Knife Opening Mechanisms

Some knives are simple to open, some require a bit of skill. Read on to learn about different knife opening mechanisms, their differences and why each one is great in its own special way.

This article will break down the eight most popular knife opening mechanisms with the benefits of each one.

Knife thumb stud

1. Thumb Stud

Thumb studs are simple to use and reliable.

There’s a good chance the knife in your pocket right now has a thumb stud. They are a proven, time tested and simple way to open a knife. Thumb studs work by creating leverage on the blade, allowing for easy one-handed opening. Some knives feature a dual thumb stud designed for anyone left or right-handed.

Shop thumb stud knives

Knife flipper opening mechanism

2. Flipper

Flippers are fun, but need a smooth knife pivot to work best.

If you’ve ever handled a knife with a flipper, you know how easy they are to open. As opposed to a hole or an attached stud, flippers are usually found on the opposite side of the knife (front flippers exist but aren’t as common). They work by creating leverage closer to the pivot of the knife which helps the knife open smoother and faster.

Shop flipper knives

Knife nail nick

3. Nail Nick

Nail nicks are traditional and unassuming.

You’re probably most familiar with nail nicks if you’ve ever handled a traditional folder or Swiss Army Knife. A nail nick is a small groove in the blade of a knife that allows the user to open it. Though not the easiest opening mechanism to use, a nail nick ensures that the knife is opened carefully as it requires the user to open the knife with both hands.

Shop nail nick knives

Knife thumb hole

4. Thumb Hole

Thumb holes are unique and easy to use.

“What’s the difference between a thumb stud and a thumb hole?” you might ask. Not much, really. A thumb hole allows one to open the knife with either the thumb or another finger (think ‘Spidey Flick’). Knives with thumb holes are great for people who carry multiple things in their pockets because the knife is less likely to get hung up on things when pulled out. They are easy to open and look great! Check out some knives with thumb holes by clicking below.

Shop thumb hole knives

Orange Benchmade butterfly knife

5. Butterfly

Butterfly knives are fun to open, but check local laws first.

Butterfly knives, or balisongs as they are commonly called, have two pivot points allowing the user to flip the knife open. By far, a butterfly knife takes the most skill to open as it requires the user to know which handle to hold before opening it, how to twist the knife as it’s opened and when to catch the other handle to finish. There are many tricks and stylized ways to open butterfly knife, and once you figure it out, your friends and family might just be amazed. Always use caution when learning and check out our Bali Competition video to see where you can end up with some practice.

Shop butterfly knives

Knife automatic firing button

6. Automatic Button

Button-lock knives open quickly and are a joy to use.

Whether you carry a high-end stiletto or a Kalashnikov, the automatic button is essentially the same. Simply push the button to fire the blade. For some automatic knives, a safety or lock prevents the button from being activated and the blade from being deployed. Automatic knives are great for opening your knife quickly with one hand, but often require the use of two hands to close them. They make great duty/emergency response knives because of their quick actions and ease of use with gloved hands.

Shop button knives

Knife thumb slide

7. Thumb Slide

Thumb slides are often found on automatic OTF knives.

There are few things more satisfying than using the thumb slide on an OTF knife. Thumb slides are one of the easiest and fastest opening mechanisms to operate one handed. They work by sliding them up or down in the direction you want the blade to go. Simply slide it forward to open the knife and slide it backward to close the knife. OTF knives are configured with the slide on either the spine or the side of the knife handle.

Shop thumb slide knives

Knife hidden release

8. Hidden Release

Hidden releases are unique and make for great party tricks.

Warning: Opening a knife with a hidden release may make you feel like a secret agent. All jokes aside, the hidden release is a unique opening mechanism that you don’t see very often. This one works by sliding the bolster to the side, which in turn releases the automatic blade. To close the knife, simply slide the switch and push the blade closed. This opening mechanism is sure to generate conversation when people see you use it.

Shop hidden release knives


Whether you prefer a thumb stud or a flipper tab, knife opening mechanisms are designed to help you use your knife more effectively and efficiently. Check out our site for more great knives and visit our Learn Knives page for more guides like this one!

Shop all knives


Still in that information gathering phase? We’ve got a bunch more guides on many different topics! Happy hunting and may you find that one special knife of your dreams.