If you’re a Boomer or Gen-Xer, you may have a fond memory of your father or other relative giving you a pocket knife at a young age. It may have been a lock-back or a fixed blade, but for most of us it was a simple slip-joint folding pocket knife with no locking mechanism. The blade was held open under simple spring pressure. Sometimes it was a single blade Barlow style or Jack knife. In other cases, it may have been a Trapper with a drop-point knife blade and a Spey blade. If you were really lucky, it could’ve been a multi-blade Congress knife or a Swiss Army Knife.

Many of us who were more serious about knives may have graduated on to something with a Walker liner lock, frame lock, or Axis lock-type mechanism. That was the goal from the 1980s onward, to have a folding knife that locked up like a fixed blade. Still, many of us look back on fond memories of that first knife type. Custom knife makers often offer a few slip joints in this category as a testament to modern craftsmanship and materials or for customers with a bit of nostalgia.

These knives are still very capable in our modern age and will still perform over 90 percent of common daily tasks. They tend to be on the smaller side and are easily stowed in a pocket, so you always have a knife. Additionally, if you travel outside of the U.S., you’ll find that they’re usually the only knife that won’t land you in prison in most of Europe.

Because slip-joint knives are typically carried loose in a pocket, a lanyard of some type makes more sense as a means of being able to locate and retrieve the knife. Unfortunately, this is a small detail that is often overlooked to keep with tradition. In the past, slip joints were cheaper knives sold in hardware stores, gun shops and department stores. Modern slip joints are a little bit more expensive in many cases, but still more affordable on average than typical tactical folding knives.


Studio photo of a spyderco knife.


After 9/11, carrying any type of knife aboard an airplane was prohibited. In early 2013, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced a plan to allow certain knives on airplanes again. Although the plan was later withdrawn, Spyderco had already designed a non-locking pocketknife that would conform with proposed guidelines. The Roadie is an evolved penknife that is more practical than typical slip joints. It relies on a pair of symmetrical dimples in the blade that allow a fingernail-free two-handed opening. Far superior to a traditional nail nick, they also don’t collect dirt or debris. The Roadie also features a subtle index-finger choil that acts as a safeguard against unintentional closure.

  • Overall length: 5.1 inches
  • Blade Length: 2.1 inches
  • Weight: 1 ounce
  • Blade Material: N690Co

Studio photo of a spyderco knife folded closed.


  • The blade slices like a surgical scalpel.
  • Its handle scales are extremely comfortable.
  • Lanyard hole makes it easily accessible


  • This knife would be better with a pocket clip.
  • The sheepsfoot blade worked well for its original design, but a clip-point or drop-point variant would be welcome.

Price: $84

URL: spyderco.com


Studio photo of a mikov slip joint knife.


Mikov is a classic European knife manufacturer that has been making knives in the Czech Republic since 1794. The Rybicka or “Little Fish Knife” has been in their catalog for over 100 years and is a traditional slip joint design that is often passed down from father to son. Original knives of this type sported carbon steel blades and often had carved wooden handles. Mikov began offering these knives with a 420 steel blade and Zinc alloy handles a few decades ago. This makes them more durable and actually quite a bit cheaper.

  • Overall length: 5.5 inches
  • Blade Length: 2.2 inches
  • Weight: 1.5 ounces
  • Blade Material: 420

Studio photo of a mikov slip joint knife folded closed.


  • This is a small and unobtrusive knife that can attach to a key ring or be worn around the neck for ease of access.
  • This is a classic Czech design of a very distinct model.
  • Properly sharpened, it’s a very capable little slicer.


  • The handles are a cast zinc alloy, which means it’ll corrode and degrade over time.
  • The knife was very dull out of the box.

Price: $14

URL: mikov.cz

Heretic Knives

Studio photo of a Heretic knife.


Heretic Knives has a long and consistent history in the realm of tactical automatic knives. So, to see a slippie in their lineup made us sit up and take notice. As can be expected, Heretic doesn’t screw around when it comes to materials. The CPM Magnacut for the blade is the star in this show, along with titanium handles and a pocket clip. This is definitely not grandpa’s Barlow knife. The blade is a sheepsfoot design and if you’re in a locale that restricts you based on the locking mechanism of your knife, this is the one you want. This is a slip-joint knife for a new generation.

  • Overall length: 6.8 inches
  • Blade Length: 3.1 inches
  • Weight: 2.4 ounces
  • Blade Material: CPM Magnacut

Studio photo of a heretic knife folded.


  • It’s made from CPM Magnacut, which may be the future super steel for the next decade or two.
  • Razor sharp out of the box, the way all knives should ship
  • Titanium handles with amazing texture really blows the doors off everything else in this category


  • These knives are handmade one at a time to order or in small batches, so availability may be an issue.
  • Like most slip joints, there’s no lanyard hole.

Price: $800+

URL: hereticknives.com


Studio photo of a benchmade knife.


The Weekender is a multi-bladed pocketknife equipped with tools to improve your weekend — or any day. It features a 3-inch clip-point blade for your EDC cutting needs, and a 2-inch drop-point blade for smaller cutting jobs; the bottle opener ensures all your favorite beverages can be opened with ease. The Weekender is a USA-made folder to enhance your life. The blades are made of CPM-S30V steel, ensuring that they stay sharp when you need them. The Micarta handle offers a great gripping surface and will last virtually forever. There are other versions of this model in the works with different blade options and colors of Micarta.

  • Overall length: 7.1 inches
  • Blade Lengths: 3 inches, 2 inches
  • Weight: 3.5 ounces
  • Blade Material: CPM-S30V

Studio photo of a benchmade knife folded closed.


  • Very sharp out of the box with nice thin edges for slicing
  • CPM-S30V is a premium knife steel with superb edge retention.
  • The bottle opener comes in handy when you need it.


  • As good a steel as S30V is, it can be difficult to sharpen.
  • There’s no lanyard hole on this to help you secure the knife.

Price: $250

URL: benchmade.com


Studio photo of a crkt knife.


The name Venandi comes from a Latin word meaning “hunter,” and this design is a collaboration between custom knife maker Richard Rogers and Columbia River Knife and Tool. Rugged G10 handle scales mean that the handles will probably outlast the rest of the knife. Its 3.1-inch clip-point blade is made from 8Cr13MoV stainless steel. The steel is good, but it’s not exactly Magnacut. This is a great first knife for someone who is just getting into knives. It’s an ultra-modern take on a classic and timeless design.

  • Overall length: 7.2 inches
  • Blade Length: 3.1 inches
  • Weight: 1.8 ounces
  • Blade Material: 8Cr13MoV

Studio photo of a crkt slip joint knife.


  • The blade is sharp out of the box and ready to tackle virtually any cutting chore.
  • The knife excels at cutting and slicing with its clip-point blade.
  • You almost never think of G10 handles with a slip joint, but it works well on this model.


  • Like most slip joints, there’s no lanyard hole.
  • A pocket clip could have worked well on this model, even though that’s not a common slip-joint feature.

Price: $40

URL: crkt.com

Cold Steel

Studio photo of a cold steel slip joint knife.


This is Cold Steel’s take on the classic slip-joint Trapper knife. It features handles with authentic jigged bone, highlighted with polished metal bolsters. The rugged handles are substantially sized for hard work, even with gloved hands. It’s constructed in a traditional Jack Knife pattern, with two polished blades: a clip-point for piercing and cutting, and a Spey for skinning and gutting, both folding out of the same end. Popular folklore has placed the Trapper as the preferred choice of rugged outdoorsmen and frontier hunters, but its practicality makes it useful for all sorts of chores.

  • Overall length: 7.4 inches
  • Blade Length: 3.3 inches
  • Weight: 4 ounces
  • Blade Material: 8Cr13MoV

Studio photo of a cold steel slip joint knife in the folded position.


  • This knife reminds me of one of the Trappers I used from the age of 7 until my early 20s as a hiker, hunter, Marine, and ranch hand.
  • The blades slice like razors and open easier than a traditional nail nick due to scalloping.
  • Compact, many options for daily carry.


  • Like most slip joints, there’s no lanyard hole.
  • The handle material may degrade over time with a lot of use. Bone isn’t Micarta.

Price: $40

URL: coldsteel.com


Studio photo of a kershaw slip joint knife.


Kershaw’s Federalist is a U.S.-made non-locking slip joint. It relies on a double-detent system to hold the blade in place while closed, and the half-stop offers controlled opening and closing action. The green canvas Micarta handle feels good in the hand, and it’ll prove to be extremely durable. The blade is made from CPM 154 steel and has an impressive edge when first taken out of the box. The custom pivot forms a shield detail to complete the distinct look of a slip joint knife. In spite of that, the Federalist moves the design several steps forward by blending characteristics of a tactical folder with that of the old-school Jack knife.

  • Overall length: 7. 5 inches
  • Blade Length: 3.3 inches
  • Weight: 2.1 ounces
  • Blade Material: CPM 154

Studio photo of a kershaw slip joint knife in the folded position.


  • This slip joint has lanyard hole, which makes it easily accessible or locatable in the pocket with a lanyard.
  • The handle is extremely comfortable and ergonomic.
  • The blade is made from 154 CM; it’s tough, razor sharp, rust resistant, and sports an easily maintainable edge.


  • The blade could have been a hair sharper out of the box.

Price: $155

URL: kershaw.kaiusa.com

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