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Curious About Friction Folding Pocket Knives? This Is the One to Get

A new knife brings back an old-school design.

two closed pocket knives next to each other

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.)

Open, the extended tang on WESN’s Samla is completely concealed.

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 is currently funding the Samla on Kickstarter and has already reached its financing goal. Expected shipping is set for October 2021.

Price: $59+


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