Before there were slide locks, liner locks and frame locks, there were friction folders. A friction folder is a type of knife with no lock at all; instead, it has an extended tang that protrudes from the handle when closed. Open, this section of metal sinks between the handles to hold the knife in its open position using, fittingly, friction. (Lay a thumb on top of the blade tang during use for even more non-locking leverage.)
Thanks to such a low-tech design, friction folders were among the first folding pocket knives known to man. Advancements in knife design have largely replaced them — even slip-joint knives, which are also non-locking but significantly sleeker, are more popular — but the EDC-focused brand WESN just revealed its contemporary take on the classic pattern, and it's well worth checking out.
WESN imagined its friction folder, called the Samla, for hiking and general wilderness use. The company aimed to create a durable tool that can handle typical campsite chores along with meal prep. Other than the friction folding construction, the pocket knife features a 2.45-inch sheepsfoot blade made of Sandvik 14c28n steel and a choice between titanium or rosewood handles. (WESN describes it as lightweight, but doesn't mention an exact ounce count.)
A hallmark of friction folders is that they aren't inherently sleek. The extended tang that characterizes the design will always jut out from the handle when the blade is closed. Nevertheless, WESN's Samla proves that friction folders can attain a clean form factor that aligns with today's minimal, everyday carry-focused pocket knife trend through its uncluttered design. The old-timey appeal is a bonus, but it also means this knife is legal anywhere that locking blades aren't (like the United Kingdom).
WESN achieved its $25,000 goal in a matter of hours and celebrated by teaming up with the Japanese denim brand Momotaro to create a limited-edition version of the Samla for the Kickstarter campaign's remaining days. The collab version is the same friction folder pocket knife described above, but it features a handle scale made of 12-ounce Momotaro denim, complete with the brand's signature white stripes and a pink G10 liner for extra durability.
The new handle brings flair to an otherwise understated pocket knife. If you've already made a pledge for the titanium or rosewood Samla, you can still change your pledge and get the denim version before they're all gone. Expected shipping for all versions of the Samla is set for late fall 2021.