The Best Slip Joint Knives For Nostalgic EDC

From Old School Nail Nicks to Modern Flippers, Here’s what We’d Carry if We Still Carried a Slip Joint Pocket Knife

Slip joints fell out of style a while ago when we all admitted how much we disliked the blades of our folding knives coming down on our fingers. They never disappeared entirely, though, because they fit a convenient legal definition for some people, and provide the empty taste of nostalgia for others.

Lately both of those reasons seem to be picking up steam, because a lot of designers are playing with new slip joint designs. I won’t claim to know exactly where the newfound interest is coming from, but it has made us want to jump on the bandwagon and come up with a list of slip joints, both old and new, that we think are good.

Three American made slip joints with their blades have open sitting on a tree stump.
Three of our favorite slip joints from left to right: the Kershaw Federalist, the Old Timer Generational Middleman and the Case Sod Buster.

I should probably clarify that by “slip joint” we mean any non locking knife with a mechanism in the handle that holds the blade in place, but allows it to be pushed closed. There seems to be a wide misconception that multiple blades are required for a knife to fit the category, or that the only slip joint mechanism is a back spring. Both of those assumptions are very much wrong, so we’ve put a slightly more detailed explanation of how slip joints work at the bottom of this article.

Here our a few of our favorite slip joint knives in descending order by price

Grainger McKoy Hand Cut
Benchmade Weekender
Buck Saunter
Fox Knives Libar
Lionsteel Gitano
Kershaw Federalist
Old Timer Generational 340TG Middleman
Case Sod Buster
Civivi KI-V
Kershaw Pub
Victorinox Secretary

Grainger McKoy Hand Cut Slip Joint Folder

The Grainger McKoy slip joint knife on a ranch fence in Northern California.
Overall Length:6.0”
Blade Length:2.5”
Steel:CPM-S35VN
Blade Shape:Drop point
Handle Length:3.5”
Handle Material:Bead blasted titanium
Open System:Finger hole
Half Stop:No
Grind:Flat
Carry System:None
Made in:USA

This is more art than knife, but still a formidable design in its own right if you ever find it in yourself to actually carry it around.

A close-up of a person's hand opening the Grainger McKoy slip joint knife to show how easy it is.
The Grainger McKoy Slip Joint doesn’t have a conventional nail nick to aid in opening, but the leaf shaped blade cut-outs make it easy to open and close the blade.

The blade on this is definitely sharp, and the leaf-based design does actually lend itself to a comfortable handle and a nice, long curve that gives you a ton of cutting edge on an otherwise pint-sized knife.

The slip joint from Grainger McKoy ships in a wood box that is much a piece of art in its own right as the knife itself.

But in the sense that a lot of slip joints are as much about the look and feel as they are about actually carrying and using them, the Granger presents a different (and maybe more honest) option. Not only does it look nice and different, it comes in a matching wood case that makes a pretty picture on the shelf or desk. And since I’m more likely to end up using a slip joint at home anyway, having this thing on display actually turns out to be a good system.

Grainger also makes this knife in an automatic if that seems more appealing.

Buck Saunter

The Buck Saunter slip joint is a practical knife with great lines and a comfortable handle. It is shown here with the box it ships in.
Overall Length:5.5”
Blade Length:2.5”
Steel:S35VN
Blade Shape:Drop point
Handle Length:3.0”
Handle Material:Carbon fiber
Open System:Blade indent
Half Stop:No
Grind:Flat
Carry System:NA
Made in:USA
The Buck Saunter is a model style slip joint knife. It is shown here outdoors on a pinecone.
The marbled carbon fiber handle of the Buck Saunter appears to change color under different types of light.

When Buck announced the Saunter it felt like a splash of cold water in the desert. This is the kind of thing I’d been waiting to see from them for a long time: a classic design with a few materials and design lines that prove anyone in that company has looked at a new knife within the last ten years. This is doubly satisfying because the Saunter not only has a cool looking handle, it’s actually comfortable, and the S35VN blade has a screaming edge on it

The Buck Saunter Slip Joint EDC is shown here in a person's hand to give an idea of size.

One mild downside is this knife comes with a little leather pouch that I have deemed effectively useless in my life, but it looks nice. It just doesn’t make the knife any easier to carry because there’s no belt loop or hanging attachment. Also the leather needs to be worked a lot before it’s loose enough to let the knife go easily. But overall this design is better than I ever expected it to be. Buck’s still got it; now I’m just hoping the Saunter sells well enough for them to put it into regular production.

Check out our Buck Saunter Photo Tour & Review to learn more about this knife.

Benchmade Weekender

The Weekender is a well designed American made slip joint that has the build quality to justify its price.
Overall Length:7.0” / 6.0”
Blade Length:3.0” / 2.0”
Steel:S30N
Blade Shape:Clip point / drop point
Handle Length:4.0”
Handle Material:Micarta
Open System:Nail nick
Half Stop:Yes
Grind:Flat
Carry System:NA
Made in:USA

A multi-bladed slip joint feels like a step off the beaten path for Benchmade. That might be the reason this is the first Benchmade I’ve ever properly owned. This is a similar run to the Buck Saunter, though. It’s a new knife with some fairly new materials, but the design feels immediately classic. And considering the heft and seamless fit and finish of the thing, I expect it to last long enough to become a dynasty knife (assuming I don’t lose it).

The blades of the Weekender have biting edges that are great for carving.

As far as function, the blades on the Weekender are sharp and aggressive. They’re just about perfect for chipping away at wood, whether that’s sharpening a stick or carving a spatula. The handle has a lot of grip, and a good three to four finger grip (depending on the size of your hand). The only problems I ran into are that the blades are a little difficult to pull out if they’re both closed, and the Micarta is really dry so it picks up stains and moisture fast.

It also doesn’t come with any kind of carry option. Not even a leather pouch, so this is a full on pocket floater, glove box gremlin, and tacklebox hermit.

Check out our full review of the Weekender for a bit more info.

Fox Knives Libar

The Fox Knive Libar, shown here in the half open position, is an excellent slip joint from Italy.
Overall Length:6.125”
Blade Length:2.75”
Steel:Bohler M390
Blade Shape:Clip point
Handle Length:3.44”
Handle Material:Micarta (Other options available)
Open System:NA (just the power of your own thumb)
Half Stop:Yes
Grind:Flat
Carry System:Leather pouch
Made in:Italy
Opening the Fox Knives Libar is pretty easy even though it does not have a nail nick on the blade.

This is really everything I want a slip joint to be. It has a rustic looking Micarta handle with a long curve that feels pretty comfortable in the hand, a crazy sharp edge on a respectable Bohler steel blade, and a firm half stop. The look and fit and finish are done so well that the knife as a whole is just satisfying to open and use. Carrying this knife almost makes me wish I had a suit-and-tie event to take it to. Almost.

The Fox Knives Libar slip joint with fishing rod and tackle. The Libar is a pretty good pocket knife for fishing in small creeks and rivers.

The biggest problem I have with this knife is that it doesn’t have a nail nick, and the steel is easily smudged, so it ends up with a big, fat thumb print every time I take it out. This isn’t a practical problem for most people, but it was incredibly annoying for me when we were taking pictures and I had to keep wiping the blade off every time I looked at it wrong.

I was also a little disappointed to feel how much resin there is on the Micarta handle. From the look of it, I thought it would feel more like the Kershaw Federalist, but there’s more plastic than fabric to the handle. Still, it’s comfortable, and it will keep its color and shine a lot longer than the Federalist.

If you want to see some more photos of this knife, check out our Fox Libar Photo Tour and Review.

LionSteel Gitano

The LionSteel Gitano is a large slip joint with a pocket clip. It is shown here with a rope.
Overall Length:7.5”
Blade Length:3.5”
Steel:Niolox
Blade Shape:Clip point
Handle Length:4.0”
Handle Material:Micarta w/ steel bolsters
Open System:NA
Half Stop:Yes
Grind:Flat
Carry System:Tip-up clip
Made in:Italy
The LionSteel Gitano is a large slip joint which can be seen in this image of it in a person's hand.
The LionSteel Gitano is the biggest slip joint we tested.

LionSteel was actually a little ahead of the trend with this. The Gitano came out a couple years ago with a respectable array of different handle options. As far as looks go, I think it’s hard to get nicer than a wood scaled Gitano. The Micarta scales I tested look pretty cool too, although they could be a little grippier, and you can see the evidence of use showing up in the pictures.

The Gitano has a great pocket clip. It is shown here being removed from a person's pocket.
The LioSteel Gitano is one of the few slip joints with a pocket clip.

This is a great folder with a big slicey shape, but the Gitano is a hard lesson in learning to deal with a fairly large issue because you love the design so much. Everything about the Gitano from the blade shape to the handle comfort clicks with me. It even carries well for a folder this size, and the tip is severe enough to puncture into a lot of different materials without much pressure.

But the back spring takes a ton of pressure to close up. Enough that, before I wore it down from use, I started closing it with a full grip on the handle and just trusted that the half stop would be enough to keep me from making some new wrinkles on my hands. It’s gotten easier over time, and I can close it normally, but it’s still not something I’d recommend for the weak of heart or hand.

If you’d like to read a longer nuanced opinion, check out our full Gitano review.

Kershaw Federalist

The Kershaw Federalist slip joint has a classic look and a practical blade design.
Overall Length:7.5”
Blade Length:3.25”
Steel:CPM-154
Blade Shape:Clip point
Handle Length:4.25”
Handle Material:Canvas Micarta
Open System:Nail nick
Half Stop:Yes
Grind:Flat
Carry System:NA
Made in:USA
This Kershaw slip joint is a good option for anyone who likes larger slip joints.
The Kershaw Federalist is a recent release, but it has a classic look that works well for a slip joint.

Kershaw really pushed at the traditional styling with the Federalist. I actually appreciate it most for that. This design isn’t about fitting legal carry categories or copying an old knife. It’s a modern homage to old school knives, but it still very much looks and performs like its own style of modern knife.

The Kershaw Federalist in the open palm of a person's hand to show scale and the darkening micarta handle.
The linen Micarta handle of the Federalist gradually darkens as it soaks up dirt and sweat over time.

The main issue with it is the light lock up. The Federalist is using a double detent system rather than a spring, so it doesn’t take a lot of pressure to disengage the blade. It’s strong enough to poke through paper without breaking, but I started pinching up on the base of the blade anytime I wanted to puncture something tougher. Thankfully there’s plenty of room on this knife to make a lot of different grips like that comfortable, and the overall look and weight kind of precludes it to light use in polite company.

The Federalist doesn't have a pocket clip, but it is thin enough to ride comfortably in the pocket. It is also easy to remove quickly.
The Federalist doesn’t have a pocket clip. We hope there will be an updated version in the future that ships with a pocket clip.

Read our review of the Federalist for more polite and light-use critiquing and pictures. If you are looking for a similar knife with more blades and a bigger price tag check out the Benchmade Weekender.

Old Timer Generational 340TG Middleman

The Old Timer 340T Middleman is a classic three blade slip joint that has been popular for a few decades.
Overall Length:7.1”
Blade Length:2.4” clip point, 2” sheepsfoot, 1.7” pen blade
Steel:1095 HC
Handle Length:3.1″
Handle Material:Chestnut
Open System:Nail nick
Grind:Flat
Carry System:None
Half Stop:Only on the clip point blade
Made in:USA
The Generational version of the Old Timer Middleman pictured here is made in America with 1095 Steel.
The Generational version of the Middleman pictured here is part of Old Timer’s new American made line up with better steel and a higher quality fit and finish.

I think this is the kind of knife most of us think of first when we hear the term “slip joint”. A little multi-bladed thing with a jigged handle was the first knife for so many people that this is also probably the reason slip joints are making a comeback now.

The Middleman Generational 340T in the closed position in the palm of a person's hand to show how small it is.

There’s a reason our grandfathers carried things like this, though. Having three blade shapes ends up coming in really handy anytime you find yourself in a situation where you’re fiddling with something. Whether that thing is whittling a block of wood or trying to unstick the zipper of your tent from your sleeve, something about having options in your pocket makes the prospect of failure a lot more appealing, because there’s always the possibility that you can fix a problem if you push a different shape at it.

The relatively small size of the Middleman makes it a great option for watch pocket carry. It can be easily removed with two fingers.
The Old Timer Middleman is a great size for watch pocket carry.

In terms of construction, Old Timer is making an impressive return to American manufacturing with this. The back springs are solid and it carries easily in the third pocket. My only issue is that the only blade with an edge to speak of is the clip point.

Case Sod Buster

The Case Sod Buster slip joint has a great design that has made it extremely popular.
Overall Length:6.95”
Blade Length:3.7”
Steel:Tru-Sharp Stainless
Blade Shape:Drop point
Handle Length:3.725”
Handle Material:Polymer or bone
Open System:Nail nick
Half Stop:No
Grind:Flat
Carry System:None
Made in:USA
The Case Sod Buster is a classic American slip joint. Shown here on the keys of an old piano.
The Case Sod Buster is a practical slip joint with a classic look. It is a good choice for a tackle box or glove knife.

Some mysterious, historical force makes the Sod Buster feel oddly wholesome to use. Some of that mysterious force is in the lines of the handle, to be fair. This is comfortable for a little knife. But it’s also very simple, with solid coloring and a smooth blade shape. It’s one of the only knives I’ve ever seen and used that made me want to describe it as “agreeable”.

The Case Sod Buster in an open hand to show it's size.

Getting past the cuddly emotional response a Sod Buster invokes, though, it really is a great knife to throw into your tackle box or glove compartment. Those broad, gentle lines of the blade also make it pretty tough along with the Tru-Sharp steel (which is Case’s proprietary version of 420HC). It doesn’t come razor sharp, but it doesn’t take much effort to touch the edge up. It’s a solid piece that you could put to work just about anywhere.

Civivi Ki-V

The modern look of the Civivi Ki-V sets it apart from most slip joints, but it is still practical knife that is legal to carry almost anywhere.
Overall Length:4.0”
Blade Length:1.5”
Steel:9Cr18MoV
Blade Shape:Modified everything
Handle Length:2.5”
Handle Material:G-10
Open System:Flipper
Half Stop:No
Grind:Flat
Carry System:Tip-up clip, reversible
Made in:China
The Ki-V is small but practical for most tasks a knife is actually used for.
The Civivi Ki-V is small but practical.

This is one of those frustrating knives that you get as a novelty interest but end up using for 60% of your daily house tasks. Soon that sensible shadow creeps up the back of your head and whispers “this is all the knife you really need”, so in that sense I wouldn’t recommend the Ki-V. It reveals too much.

We like the fact that the Ki-V ships with a pocket clip, because it is so small that it has a tendency to get lost in a pocket full of stuff.
The Ki-V has a pocket clip which is nice, because it is small enough to get lost in a pocket full of other stuff.

But putting personal feelings aside, this is a pretty sweet little innovation from designer Ostap Hel. The blade grind and shape makes it great for flat surface cutting, and being a slip joint with a blade under two inches makes it about as legally pliant as it’s possible for a sharp object to get. I have to give props to Civivi for getting in on the slip joint crowd with something I can honestly say I’ve never seen before.

Kershaw Pub

The modern looking Kershaw pub is affordable, practical and kinda fun.
Overall Length:4.5”
Blade Length:1.6”
Steel:8Cr13MoV
Blade Shape:Sheepsfoot
Handle Length:3.6”
Handle Material:Aluminum
Open System:Extended tang
Half Stop:No
Grind:Hollow
Carry System:Keychain
Made in:China
The Kershaw Pub has a bottle opener on the back of the tang. It is shown here hanging from a barbed wire fence.
We are big fans of any knife with a bottle opener.

Continuing in the vein of things I’ve never seen before, the Pub has a lot of cool, original things going on with it. It’s technically a slip joint because of the double detents in the handle liners, but it kind of doubles as a friction folder because of the extended tang which acts as a double security measure keeping the blade from closing on your fingers. I like it a lot in that sense. Between the bottle opener and the tang, the Pub has so much going on in a small space.

The Kershaw Pub shown in the open position in a person's hand to show scale.

But good God, it takes me a solid minute to work out which direction the blade opens every single time I take it out. It’s at a point now that when someone asks me for a knife, I just hand this to them and walk away before they can ask me questions, because the spectacle of watching someone else stare dumbly at this funky rectangle before pushing on it three different ways before getting the blade to come out is usually more efficient than saying something incomprehensible like “it opens opposite of the thumb indent”.

On a more knife-nerd minutia kind of point, this is not only the only knife on here with a hollow grind (for now), but it has an impressively tall grind for such a small knife, which gives it a reasonably smooth cutting action.

Victorinox Secretary

The Victorinox Secretary slip joint pocket knife makes nice addition to a fishing kit. It is shown here with fishing gear on a burlap background.
Overall Length:5.625”
Blade Length:2.25” and 1.25”
Steel:Stainless
Blade Shape:Spear point
Handle Length:3.25”
Handle Material:Aluminum
Open System:Nail nick
Half Stop:No
Grind:Flat
Carry System:Keychain
Made in:Switzerland

It’s a given that Victorinox would show up on this list. The issue for us was which Victorinox to include here. The answer turned out to be whichever one was closest at hand when I started writing this article.

The Victorinox Secretary is pretty simple for a Swiss Army Knife. It’s a traditional pen knife in the Alox collection, which mostly means the aluminum scales on this handle are nice, shiny, and tough. Probably the big upside of this knife is how slim and lightweight it is. It rides like nothing in the pocket, and even though it doesn’t have the sharpest blades they somehow tend to be the blades that are the most likely to be around once you get in the habit of carrying this knife.

What is a Slip Joint

Header image for our slip joint definition.

Any folding knife that is kept open by some kind of joint contact between the tang and the handle, and can be disengaged by just pushing on the blade is a slip joint. It doesn’t have to have multiple blades, and it has nothing to do with the blade or handle shape.

It basically just has to be able to stay closed and open through the power of some kind of added mechanism (so something more than friction) and still be closed without having to disengage whatever that mechanism is. There was a time this definition might have been simpler, but lately the designers have been experimenting.

What about the Spring Mechanism

A slip joint knife dismantled to show it's components separately.

The slip joints most people probably grew up with use a back spring that runs the whole length of the handle. This is a fairly simple piece of metal that’s generally milled out to have a wide base and a thin, straight top section that interacts with the tang and maintains constant pressure. On these you can see that spring piece bending out the back of the handle at the top because it’s running along the lines of the tang as the blade opens and closes.

So What Are the Alternative Mechanisms

The Kershaw Federalist taken apart to show  the double detent system.

Companies like Kershaw and Civivi like to use a double detent system. That’s just a couple ball shaped things at the end of tension bars milled into liners of the handle. These fall into matching indentations in the tang, usually placed for the open and closed positions, although it’s simple enough for them to create a half-stop indentation. Knives like this tend to have a weaker lock up but are a lot easier to disassemble and maintain.

Close-up macro photo of Kershaw's slip joint double detent system.

I haven’t personally seen any other mechanisms beyond the back spring and the double detent, but knife designers always seem to be playing around with new lock ups, so I’m trying to keep this section as open to updates as possible.


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Andrew has been a commercial writer for about a decade. He escaped from a life of writing mundane product descriptions by running away to the woods and teaching himself how to bake and chop stuff up in the kitchen. He has a background in landscaping, Filipino martial arts, and drinking whiskey.

4 thoughts on “The Best Slip Joint Knives For Nostalgic EDC”

  1. Andrew,
    Good morning from down here on the space coast in Brevard County Florida. My name is Jack. I have 14 acres of oranges and mango and avocado trees and I collect nerves.
    Due to the fact that I’m 75 years old I have a lot of case sambar stag folders.
    Let me get to the point. Being a slip joint traditionalist I wish your current selection included handle materials they were not synthetic. Haven’t worked in the space program for 30 years I realize the value and wearability of synthetics. Maybe I’ve outlived that mindset. So be it. At any rate may I suggest you include in your line slip joints with natural product handles. Walnut Cocobolo
    Any durable hardwood.
    I buy blades and attach wormy chestnut handles and give them away to a Coot’s around here for birthday and Christmas presents.

    Reply
    • Hi Jack, thanks for reading.
      First of all, I’m jealous. Except for the mangos and being in Florida, your property sounds a bit like the orchards I grew up in.
      You’re right about natural materials being underrepresented in this list. Synthetic materials have become the norm even for old school companies like Case, although you can still get the Case Sod Buster with a bone handle, and the Generational Old Timer Middleman pictured here does have wood scales. I’d also argue that Micarta handles like on the Federalist and Gitano are semi-natural. The core material is fabric, even if you can’t always feel it through the resin.
      We’ll be expanding and changing this list over time as new things come out and we grow our collection, though. So there will very likely be more natural materials like bone and stabilized hardwood showing up here eventually.

      Reply
      • “Synthetic materials have become the norm even for old school companies like Case”

        That statement didn’t sound right to me so I just checked Case’s online catalog, organized folding knives by handle type and counted, bone handles still seem to be the norm at Case.

        To be honest you don’t seem like much of a fan of traditional slip joints to begin with, you sort of poison the well right off that bat with:

        “we all admitted how much we disliked the blades of our folding knives coming down on our fingers. […] and provide the empty taste of nostalgia for others.”

        That would be kind of like starting an article on the best Whiskey with “I know we all admitted that we dislike the way whiskey makes us gag, but some people like to drink it out of an empty taste of nostalgia.” Maybe I am just misreading you.

        Reply
        • I don’t think the issue is that you misread me so much as that you read too much into the intro of a listicle, but I’m glad this has arrested your attention so thoroughly.

          Reply

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