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Frame Lock Knives – What are they, how do they work?

Frame Lock Knives – What are they, how do they work?

Posted by HH on 12th May 2015

What’s a frame lock?

A frame lock isn’t a million miles away from a liner lock mechanism. The general open and close methods don’t vary much; the only real difference between the two variations is that with a liner lock as the blade opens a separate liner engages to lock the blade, however in a frame lock a whole portion of the frame engages to lock the blade.

This is a common locking mechanism, used by many companies around the world. For the purposes of this blog we will look at 4 knives, which each feature frame locks: Zero Tolerance Emerson G10, Maxpedition Excelse, Schrade Heavy Duty Groove and the Lion Steel SR1

How does the frame lock work?

The first major feature with a frame lock is that a portion of the handle moves to lock the blade tang. As you open the blade away from you, you will see the left section of the handle move inwards as the blade fully opens. That section of the frame is cut to engage the bottom of the blade under the pivot preventing closure. Because of the thickness of the locking portion of the frame, the blade is locked securely. In order to release the lock you simply push the locking element back to the side out of the way, and the blade tang is released to allow for folding.


– When using the blade with right hand you naturally squeeze the locking bar against the blade which gives added security.

– One hand open and close, with either left or right hand.

– Safe from accidental closures, especially the stiffer joints.

– Thickness of locking bar gives good strength and security against failure

– Smooth opening and closing as no spring action on the blade.

– Easier to keep clean than other locking mechanisms, such as lock back knives.


– On occasion you can find the knife doesn’t lock properly (this is a potential problem with any locking joint). As long as you check the knife before hand and regularly, you should be fine.

– Regular and prolonged use has the potential to wear down the liner lock quickly.

– It relies on friction between the lock bar end and the blade tang to keep it in place.

– Wear, dirt, over lubrication, under lubrication, handle torqueing, and a lot of other variables can reduce that friction to the point where a sharp impact to the blade spine, or even hand closing pressure, will cause the lock to release.

– Left hand users may find that because of hand position, you may be actually pushing the locking frame back to the side, therefore potentially releasing the blade tang. 

The Knives

Lion Steel SR1 Aluminium Green

This is a great knife! Feels very strong under hand. The knife has a RotoBlock safety system patented by LionSteel. With a simple rotation of the RotoBlock you will fix the blade in open position. The bar lock is also reinforced with hardened stainless steel, this gives strength and added smoothness to lock bar movement.

In terms of aesthetics, again lovely looking ,comes in a range of awesome colours, and the rigged effect on the handle, adds a good texture, while still feeling great in hand. Dual thumb studs for ambidextrous opening and low carry pocket clip for secure and discreet carrying, plus lanyard hole.

Schrade Heavy Duty Groove

Heavy duty is the name, and it sums up this knife. It’s bulky, it’s strong, it’s slick and it’s a good looking beast. Dual thumb studs for ambidextrous opening, low carry pocket clip and lanyard hole. The titanium coated stainless steel handle looks the part, and feels good under hand. It’s especially nice with the grooved side, which also increases grip.

Good size to the locking bar, gives added security and strength. This is a great quality knife for the price.

Zero Tolerance Emerson G10

Emerson Wave opening feature, gives it a really distinctive feel over the others knives we’ve seen here. Very nice looking knife and great shape. Not too big, but big enough to be robust and used for tough tasks. Strong locking bar and functionality, which is really smooth to operate. Mid carry clip, but lacks a lanyard hole unlike the other knives we’ve seen.

Maxpedition Excelsa

This was a real surprise package from a company not known for knives. It’s a very aesthetically pleasing knife, with great shape and size. The build quality feels good and weight is nicely distributed. The handle is shaped for a really nice grip with added thumb ramp, which gives good grip as well as keeping the thumb in a good position.