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Similar to Serrated vs flat-edge knives, I'm wondering what the strengths and weaknesses are of folding knives versus fixed blade knives?

What are fixed blades good for? What are folding knives not so good for?

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If you get a folding blade - get one with a lock. I was using an unlocked blade once, and it folded into my thumb - split my thumb and thumbnail about 1cm from the tip. – HorusKol Jan 25 '12 at 22:10
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Well, as always: for which purpose? The advantages a fixed blade has for one application may be its disadvantages for the next. Same goes for folders. So please tell us what the knife is intended for. – Markus W Mahlberg Apr 19 '15 at 21:04
    
one major weakness of a folding blade is not being able to adequately clean the mechanism – tomfumb Apr 19 at 0:06
up vote 11 down vote accepted

The only advantage I see to a folding knife is its size when collapsed. I always carry a folding knife in my pocket, but when hiking I have a fixed blade strapped to my pack. I prefer to use my fixed blade for batoning, both for safety reasons, and the fact that it has a wider blade which can give you more penetration.

Here is my EDC folder:

enter image description here

And my fixed blade which has a paracord wrap and is strapped to my pack.

enter image description here

Here is an example of the paracord wrap I have on my fixed blade. this will give you a feel for the type of grip you have.

enter image description here

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What fixed blade is that? can you link to it? (and +1 in several hours, I'm out of votes :)) – studiohack Jan 25 '12 at 19:40
    
I know the feeling. I've hit the rep cap anyway! – Timothy Strimple Jan 25 '12 at 19:43
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The fixed blade is the Becker Eskabar. It's a hybrid of the Becker BK11 and the Esee Izula. eseeknives.com/eskabar.htm If I was buying again, I think I would just go for the Izula though as I prefer the blade on the Izula slightly. Not enough to justify another purchase however. – Timothy Strimple Jan 25 '12 at 19:48
    
thanks, I appreciate the link, I'm always on the lookout for a good knife :) and yes, I've hit the rep cap myself :) – studiohack Jan 25 '12 at 19:49
    
Out of interest, is that eskabar flat ground? Does it have a bevel on the final edge? Cool knife. – Peter DeWeese Jan 25 '12 at 20:02

I entirely agree with Timothy Strimple. Here are the pro-s and con's that I have noticed.

Fixed blade:

  • sturdy - good for batoning, chopping, hammering with the handle

  • reliable - there is no mechanism to get jammed, screws to fall out

  • can be very cheap - a cheap folder falls to peices in one month (in my experience). The only drawback of a cheap fixed blade (five bucks for example) is the lower quality steel (just sharpen it more often)

Folding blade:

  • discrete - much easier to carry around in the city
  • compact - fixed blade on the hip could hinder movement, a folder in the pocket doesn't

As a conclusion I can say what I have chosen for myself. I carry a folder in the city and take an extra fixed blade when in the woods. Both are easy to arm swiftly with one hand and the folder is concealed (caring knives where I live, Bulgaria, is legal, but still it's better not to freak people out).

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One point missing from the current answers:

Fixed blade is absolutely essential in any situation where seconds count in emergency life-or-death situations. For example, anything taking place in or under water where you might need to free yourself (or another) from an entrapment.

In these situations, you also want one with a secure but quick-release sheath.

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This is a pretty important point, thanks for bringing it up. – Russell Steen Jun 1 '12 at 3:53
    
Are you talking about speed of arming or about ease of doing so e.g. in a confined/underwater/chaotic situation? I'm pretty sure a folding blade can be opened quite as fast as a fixed blade. On the other hand I agree that in taking out a fixed blade knife there are less things that can go wrong. – Vorac Jun 1 '12 at 8:56
    
@vorac Both. Especially in the example I give. Try this: jump upside down into a washing machine full of webbing, steel boxes and water. Have your friend turn on the agitator. Try opening a folding knife one-handed and cutting some rope. ;) – Lost Jun 2 '12 at 0:08

The big difference is that you will be able to get a good quality fixed blade knife for much less money than a folding equivalent.

Once you are in the mid-market the practical differences are really more about personal preference.

Ease of access is a bit of a moot point, a fixed blade knife doesn't need to be opened they take up more space when sheathed so you need to find a convenient place to carry them and unless you are going for an out and out emergency rescue knife with a dedicated quick release sheath this is a debatable advantage. There is also the converse argument that if you are upside down underwater a folding knife is less likely to accidentally stab you.

In terms of durability and reliability there is less to go wrong with a decent fixed blade knife as it has no moving parts. There is also the consideration that virtually all folding knife locks can potentially fail if they get excessively dirty which is potentially dangerous.

In terms of utility folding knives are a bit compromised by the need to fold which places limits on handle and blade shape.

Another consideration is that most folding knives are made from stainless steel as he folding mechanism is inherently more vulnerable to corrosion. The choice between stainless and plain carbon steels is largely one of personal preference but in general stainless blades are harder to sharpen and so carbon steel is often preferred by people who use their knives often, although stainless has obvious advantages if you are operating around water, especially salt water.

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