Balisongs, often referred to as butterfly knives, are typically recognized by their two-handle design. A balisong is defined as a knife with two folding handles that rotate on pivots to become a sheath. Despite its simple definition, there are many unique features that differ from one balisong to another. Balisongs are typically separated into two categories—live blades and trainers. The live blades are sharpened knives, and the trainers are unsharpened plates of steel that are designed to mimic the weight and feel of a live blade. The following guide will describe the basic anatomy of most balisongs. In general, all balisongs operate the same way—two handles that swing on pivots but are limited by a feature that prevents the handles from traveling past a certain point.
Defining the Handle
Sandwich - A handle that is made by connecting two slabs of material with a spacer in between them.
Channel - A handle that is machined from a single piece of material.
Spacer - A small block of material that separates two sandwich slabs at the bottom of the handles.
Pictured: Inked Silver Nautilus
Scales – The surface material of the handle that typically sits on top of the liners.
Liners – Metal plates that serve as the backbone of the handle, residing beneath the scales.
Handle Tolerance – The amount of movement or wiggling the handles have outside of their normal swing; generally referred to as “handle play” .
Latch - A bar located at the bottom of the handles, used to lock the balisong in a fixed position while either open or closed.
Defining the Blade
Tang - The back portion of the blade where the handles are attached .
Edge - The outer contour of the blade that is sharpened and used for cutting.
Spine - The dull side of the blade that is opposite of the edge and used for ricochets during manipulation.
Pictured: Inked Silver Squidtrainer V3. 5
Tooth - A small protrusion on the lower portion of the trainer blade used to simulate an edge. The tooth is meant to provide tactile feedback to signify when the user has contacted the wrong side of the blade.
Defining the Hardware
Pictured: Squid Industries Hardware Kit + bushings
Torx Screw - A star pattern screw that holds the entire balisong together (this is the most commonly found screw type amongst balisongs). You can buy T10 torx driver with everything else you need to maintain your balisong here.
Pivots - A cylindrical shaft that connects the blade and handles together allowing rotational movement.
Washers - A thin ring that separates the handles from the blade.
Bushings – A ring that sits inside the blade and around the pivot; used to improve handle tolerances.
Ball Bearings – Small spherical balls that sit on the surface of the blade or in the underside of the handles and are used to drastically improve both the smoothness of handle swing.
Pictured: Inked Gold Nautilus
Zen Pins - Metal dowel pins that are located inside the handles which contact the blade to prevent the handles from touching.
Tang Pins - Metal dowel pins that are pressed into the blade which contacts the handles to prevent the handles from touching.
Now that you understand the basic anatomy of a balisong, don't forget to maintain it! A common beginner mistake is buying a balisong without acquiring the necessary tools to maintenance your balisong. Treating your balisong with love and care is essential to its health and performance. We have everything you need to maintain your balisong in our Balisong Maintenance Kit! And don't forget to check out our Balisong Maintenance series for tips and tricks on how to keep your balisong at its best.