Butterfly knife

For the Chinese weapon, see Butterfly sword.
A butterfly knife in open and closed position.

A butterfly knife, also known as a fan knife and in the Philippines as the balisong, is a folding pocket knife. Its distinction is two handles counter-rotating around the tang such that, when closed, the blade is concealed within grooves in the handles. It is sometimes called a Batangas knife, after the Tagalog province of Batangas in the Philippines, where it is traditionally made.

The balisong was commonly used by Filipino people, especially those in the Tagalog region, as a self-defense and pocket utility knife. A common stereotype is that a Batangueño carries one everywhere he or she goes.[1] Hollow-ground balisongs were also used as straight razors before conventional razors were available in the Philippines. In the hands of a trained user, the knife blade can be brought to bear quickly using one hand. Manipulations, called "flipping" or "fanning", are performed for art or amusement. Blunt versions of these knives, called "trainers", are for sale to practice tricks without the risk of injury.

The knife is now illegal or restricted in many countries, often under the same laws and for the same reasons that switchblades are restricted, and in their country of origin they are no longer as common in urban areas as they were.


While the meaning of the term balisong is not entirely clear, a popular belief is that it is derived from the Tagalog words baling sungay (literally, "broken/folding horn") as they were originally made from carved carabao and stag horn.[2] Balisong is also the name of a barangay in the town of Taal, Batangas province, which became famous for crafting these knives. The traditional balisong is said to be called the veinte y nueve because they are 29 centimeters long when opened, while another story goes that it is named after a lone Batangueño who fought off 29 assailants using one.

These knives are also referred to as "fan knives" and "butterfly knives" from the motion and "click clacks" from the sound they make when they are opened and closed.


There are two main types of balisong construction: "sandwich construction" and "channel construction".

Sandwich constructed balisong knives are assembled in layers that are generally pinned or screwed together though may sometimes use a ball-bearing system. They allow the pivot pins to be adjusted tighter without binding. When the knife is closed, the blade rests between the layers.

For a channel constructed balisong, the main part of each handle is formed from one piece of material. In this handle, a groove is created (either by folding, milling, or being integrally cast) in which the blade rests when the knife is closed. This style is regarded as being stronger than sandwich construction.

Some of the blades of traditional butterfly knives in the Philippines were made from steel taken from railroad tracks thus giving them a decent amount of durability and hardness, while others are made from the recycled leaf springs of vehicles.


A diagram of common butterfly knife parts.
Bite handle
The handle that closes on the sharp edge of the blade, and will cut the user if they are holding the handle when they go to close it.
The unsharpened portion of the blade just above the kicker, that makes it easier to sharpen the blade.
Kicker (or Kick)
Area on the blade that prevents the sharp edge from touching the inside of the handle and suffering damage. This is sometimes supplanted by an additional tang pin above the pivots.
The standard locking system, which holds the knife closed. Magnets are occasionally used instead. Also keeps it from opening up when the user doesn't want it to.
Latch, Batangas
A latch that is attached to the bite handle.
Latch, Manila
A latch that is attached to the safe handle.
Latch, Spring
A latch that utilizes a spring to propel the latch open when the handles are squeezed.
Latch gate 
A block inside the channel of the handles stopping the latch from impacting the blade.
Pivot joint
A pin about which the Tang/Blade/Handle assemblies pivot.
Safe handle
The handle (generally the handle without the latch) that closes on the non-sharpened edge of the blade.
Unsharpened spine of the blade. Some balisongs are also sharpened here or on both sides with either a more traditional look or wavy edges similar to a Kris sword.
The base of the blade where the handles are attached with pivot pins.
Tang Pin(s)
Pin meant to hold the blade away from the handle when closed to prevent dulling; and, in some cases, a second pin to keep the handles from excessively banging together while the butterfly knife is being manipulated.
Zen Pins
Screws mounted inside the handles that collide with the kicker mounted on the tang to prevent the blade from moving around whilst in the open or closed position.
The blade is the piece of steel that runs down the center of the knife that is secured by both handles when closed, one of the sides of the knife is sharp and has a high chance of cutting the user, the other side has no potential chance of cutting the user, but it is still important for the user to be careful.

Manufacturing history

A variety of butterfly knives from Pacific Cutlery, later known as Benchmade.

Balisong USA started manufacturing balisongs in the late 1970s, then change its name to Pacific Cutlery in the early 1980s, before finally becoming Benchmade. The earlier knives featured a wide variety of custom blade designs (many of which were hand ground by master knifemaker Jody Samson, well known for making the swords in the movie Conan the Barbarian), as well as a number of exotic inlays for the handles (ivory, prehistoric ivory, scrimshawed ivory, mother-of-pearl, ebony, tropical woods, etc.).[3]

From 1981 to 1984, hundreds of thousands of balisongs were imported into the United States from a variety of countries, primarily: the Philippines, Japan, China, and Korea - although a few were also imported from France, Germany, and Spain. The best were primarily from the metalsmiths of Seki City, Japan, who manufactured balisongs for Taylor (Manila Folder), Parker (Gypsy), Valor (Golden Dragon), and Frost (a variety of very inexpensive balisongs). Guttmann Cutlery in the Philippines exported a high-quality sandwich-style balisongs marketed as the "Original Balisong", which featured a variety of scale materials and high carbon steel blades.

Legal status

Further information: Switchblade § Legality

Because of its potential use as a weapon, and mostly because of its intimidating nature and rapid deployment compared to other 50+ year old folding knife designs, the balisong has been outlawed in several countries. Though switchblades are faster to deploy, butterfly knives are oddly under more scrutiny. Another common reason for explaining the outlaw of balisongs in many locations is the crowding of emergency rooms when the early versions of the knife were first released and people cut themselves. The low price of training butterfly knives and easy availability of internet videos on how to learn tricks for "folding" or "fanning" is the most likely explanation to some American states repealing their restrictions on butterfly knives as of late.

Balisong trainers feature a special blunt and unsharpened "blade" and are legal in some areas where balisongs are not.

See also


Wikimedia Commons has media related to Pocket knives.
  1. Jaser A. Marasigan (August 3, 2006). "Sublian Festival Batagueño pride". www.mb.com.ph. Archived from the original on 2012-11-28. Retrieved 2007-05-14.
  2. Imada, Jeff (1984), The Balisong Manual, California: Unique Publications, p. 130, ISBN 0-86568-102-3
  3. Burch, Michael (2007). "Butterfly Knives Take Wing". In Kertzman, Joe. Knives 2008. F&W Media. pp. 26–30. ISBN 978-0-89689-542-3.
  4. "UK Offensive Weapons Act 1988". Retrieved 2006-11-05.
  5. "PeiliĹł civilinÄ—s apyvartos teisinis reglamentavimas". knives.lt. Retrieved 2013-12-21.
  6. "Apie asociacijÄ…, peilius ir viskÄ…, kas su tuo susijÄ™...". knives.lt. Retrieved 2013-12-21.
  7. Bessette, Maureen (2007-04-12). "Spyderco". American Law Newswire. Retrieved 2008-08-01.
  8. "California Knife and Balisong Law". knifeup.com. 2013-01-07. Retrieved 8 July 2016.
  9. "Deadly weapons and knives". Honolulu Police Department. Archived from the original on 2012-03-17.
  10. "Kansas Knife Laws". knifeup.com. 2013-02-19. Retrieved 2013-02-12.
  11. "Kansas Comprehensive Knife Rights Act" (PDF). 2013-06-05. Retrieved 2013-06-26.
  12. "Massachusetts Knife Law | KnifeUp". www.knifeup.com. Retrieved 2016-11-07.
  13. State of New Mexico v. Riddall, 112 N.M. 78, 811 P.2d 576 (N.M. App. 1991).
  14. NMSA 1978, Section 30-7-8.
  15. https://casetext.com/case/people-v-zuniga-4
  16. "ORS 166.240 - Carrying of concealed weapons - 2011 Oregon Revised Statutes". Oregonlaws.org. 2012-03-25. Retrieved 2013-12-21.
  17. "Texas Legislature Online".
  18. "RCW 9.41.250 Dangerous weapons—Penalty.".
  19. Thompson v. Commonwealth, 277 Va. 280, 673 S.E.2d 473 (2009)
  20. http://www.knifeup.com/illinois-knife-law/
  21. http://www.knifeup.com/indiana-knife-laws/
  22. "Forskrift om skytevåpen, våpendeler og am § 9.Forbud mot våpen eller lignende som ikke faller innenfor våpenloven § 1".
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/22/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.