HOW TO MAINTAIN YOUR BUTTERFLY KNIFE
You just dropped some cash on a sparkly new balisong knife. You’re so stoked that you spend that first day flipping like a fiend. You put that bad boy through the wringer practicing your mad skills.
You give your new friend a name: Rush.
A few weeks later, you and your knife feel like you’ve known each other forever. You can’t remember a time when you didn’t have Rush in your pocket. He feels as familiar in your hand as your grandpappy’s traditional folder. But you also start to notice that he’s a little under the weather. Some of his tricks aren’t as effortless as in his straight-out-of-the-box days. Some of his joints are rattling. Some of his sparkle has faded.
It’s time to admit that you may have neglected your knife. Has it really been this long? Time flies when you’re having so much flippin’ fun. Let Rush know how much he means to you and give him some well-deserved TLC.
Butterfly Knife Anatomy
First of all, the care that you give your balisong depends, to a certain extent, on its type. Butterfly knives can use a variety of styles, blades, looks, and materials—but the two main categories of balisongs include “sandwich” and “channel” construction. Take a look at the Andux CS Butterfly Trainer on the left, a channeled bali, alongside the Bear & Son Black G-10 Butterfly on the right, which is sandwiched.
A channeled balisong has handles forged from a single piece of metal, with a narrow channel in each handle to house the blade. Many consider this to be a mark of strength, and it is a common feature in your higher-end balis. Fewer parts means fewer nooks and crannies for pocket lint to collect in, and fewer screws to maintain—but that doesn’t mean you can forget about knife care for a channeled butterfly. There are still the pivots and the blade to consider.
A sandwich construction balisong has handles which comprise multiple parts or layers, all screwed together. This is where snazzy upgrades like G-10 scales and anodized liners come into play. While these knives are usually less expensive to produce and, therefore, easier on your wallet, you’ll want to disassemble and clean your sandwich bali regularly to prevent dirt and grime from collecting between all the various parts, as well as tighten up the screws periodically.
*Note: some balisongs use pins to join the pieces together rather than screws. This is nice if you don’t want to worry about screws loosening over time—but if a pin does happen to come loose at some point, you might need to send your butterfly in for servicing to get it ship shape again.
In order to keep your flipper in prime condition, you need to get familiar with all of its components. Here’s a very basic, CliffsNotes version of Balisong Anatomy 101.
- Edge: that's the sharp part you want to keep your fingers away from. Many balis also have a "swedge" on the spine of the blade, which is ground to give the appearance of a sharpened edge. Don't worry, it's purely decorative. Another feature on some balis (not this one) is a "kicker," or small protrusion, at the base of the blade, which prevents the bite handle from clashing with the blade and damaging it while you're showing off your skills.
- Pivots: there are many different types of pivoting mechanisms, but they all are the basic connection point between the tang of the blade and the handles. Like hinges between your door and its frame. Maintaining your pivots ensures that your bali's action is silky smooth.
- Tang pin: many knives feature a pin on the tang of the blade, between the handles. Remember when your mom would come sit between you and your highschool flame to ensure you two lovebirds didn't have too much...contact? That's what a tang pin does for the handles. In the image above, the knife instead has zen pins integrated into the handles, which serve the same purpose but don't visually clutter up the blade.
- Bite handle: if you get your fingers between this handle and the blade, you will bleed.
- Safe handle: exactly what it sounds like.
- Latch: this is what keeps your knife closed when you don't want it open. Particularly well-constructed knives have a pin or spring to prevent the latch from getting in the way while you're flipping.
Next, you need the proper tools to disassemble your knife. Since most butterflies use Torx screws, you will need a toolkit with a set of Torx bits and a driver. Some of the most common Torx screw sizes are T6, T8, or T10. Some butterfly knives use a combination of sizes, so do your research before you buy.
Still with us?
Great. You are now ready to be initiated in the four steps of butterfly maintenance.
Butterfly Knife Maintenance
1. Give it some attention
Every so often, give your butterfly a blush-inducing stare down. Get a close look at the blade. Feel for play in the pivots or looseness in other screws. Tighten those babies up when they start to wiggle. In fact, it’s a good idea to sit down with some threadlocker and get those screws rock solid—although, if you want the ability to disassemble your knife for cleaning or continue to get that action super dialed in, maybe go for something less permanent, like Threadmate or plumber’s tape. Be careful not to tighten the screws so much that the blade no longer pivots freely.
2. Give it a bath
Love the feeling of a shower after a good mud wrestle? So does your knife. Give him a once-over with some rubbing alcohol or a knife cleanser —or plain old soap and water if his skin’s sensitive. Q-tips and toothbrushes help to get grit out of tight spaces. Make sure to towel him off really well to avoid any issues with rust, and consider adding some knife oil for a truly spa-like experience.
3. Give it some lube
Your bali was designed to spin and flip at lightning speed, but can only do so with the help of some grease. Lubricate the pivots regularly to keep those joints supple and friction-free. There are a lot of knife lubricants out there, but Benchmade Blue Lube, Remington Rem Oil or DriLube, and Militec-1 are some of our favorites. The way that blade moves after you’ve oiled it up will make you weep manly tears of joy.
4. Give it an edge
It may have been designed for rollovers, aerials, and twirls, but your butterfly is still a knife. Keep that blade sharp and ready for service at all times. Besides, a dull balisong might as well be a trainer, amiright? The sharpener you use will depend on your knife’s blade steel type. As a general rule, lower quality steels will dull more quickly but sharpen fairly easily, while more premium steels will keep their edge but may require specialized tools—or even a professional touch. Check out our collection of sharpening stones, files, rods, and other knife sharpening tools. We’ve got lots.
And there you have it. Four simple steps for maintaining a good relationship with your balisong. A good rule of thumb to remember with all knives is this:
If you love your knife, your knife will love you back.
So, give your bali some love. It will repay you with butter-smooth action and minimal bites...(no guarantees on that last part).
Also, consider getting your butterfly a friend. Like killer whales, knives are social animals and shouldn’t be isolated in glass boxes. In the interest of knife welfare, take a long, indulgent look at our selection of adoptable butterfly knives. One of them was meant to have a forever home with you.