Introduced in 1988, the Benchmade Axis Lock has been inspiring knife enthusiasts since its inception. Originally made and patented by the knifemakers Bill McHenry and Jason Williams, the rights of the mechanism were bought by Benchmade and renamed as Axis Lock. The Axis US patent number is 5,737,841. The first Benchmade knife to feature the lock was the 710. Today, Benchmade offers 38 knife models that utilize this special mechanism.
The Axis system works using a small, hardened spring loaded bar that moves back and forth in a slot made into both steel liners. Positioned at the rear of the blade, it extends on both sides of the knife, spanning the liners. The Axis lock then engages a ramped tang portion of the blade when it is opened. The two omega-style custom made springs are placed on each liner gives the locking bar the inertia needed for full tang engagement, which places the tang between the stop pin and AXIS bar for complete lock up.
Besides its original manual system, the Axis lock is also integrated in three different mechanisms developed by Benchmade: Axis Assist, Axis Automatic, and Axis Dual-Action Automatic. The Assist features a spring that springs the blade into position once the user begins to open it manually. The Axis Automatic opens the blade mechanically when the Axis bar is pushed downwards, and like the Axis Assist, features a "suck back" trait for safety. The Dual-Action Automatic blends both abilities of the original Axis and Automatic open, giving the user both options.
Due to its integrated build, the Axis allows for ambidextrous operation easily and quickly. In addition, its overall construction allows for even greater engagement with the tang as the knife is in use. And because the pivot pin can withstand 200 pounds of force without damage, there's no worry that the locking mechanism will lead to less security. Until you move the pin down to close the blade, the blade won't move. The Axis is also built to last because any wear that occurs through time only makes the tang engaged more fully.
To clean the Axis lock, you can simply take a Q-tip with a little gun oil and wipe it through the frame, and lubricate the lock by adding a drop of tuf-glide to the end of the omega spring, where it will spread along the spring's length. You will want to open the knife by using two torx screwdrivers to deconstruct the knife and clean the interior frame thoroughly.
Overall, the Axis mechanism allows for quick and secure deployment of the blade, improving the strength of a typical folding knife with this construction. By strengthening a common weak link found in folders, the Axis system has transformed the safety and integrity of folding lock up mechanisms.