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What is a lockbar insert? Knife Technology Explained

By | 11/2015

by Larry Connelley

The lock bar interface is an important advancement in advanced modern knifemaking. The lock bar interface increases the life of a frame lock because it decreases wear on the lock face.

Lockbar insert defined -

A lock bar insert is generally a hardened insert (typically hardened steel) that meets the back end of the blade (also known as the blade tang). This lock bar is mounted in the locking bar in frame lock systems.

The frame lock was developed by Chris Reeve as a stronger, longer-life locking mechanism. It is one of the most used locks in high-end modern folding knives. Within the frame lock, the lock bar and tang of the blade are angled in a way so that they fit together for secure lock up. To close the knife, the user has to push the frame back into position to unblock the blade and fold it back into the handle.

Benefits of a lockbar insert -

The benefits of a lock bar insert are many, mostly making it suitable for heavy use, longevity, and performance.

Longevity - The lock bar insert prevents metal-to-metal friction also called galling. Reduced Sticking - Galling is a metal-on-metal friction that occurs at the atomic level (aka "this lock is sticky" or "this lock is stuck").
Resists Wear - Lock bar insert can handle the centrifugal forces and friction wear from the centrifugal force exerted on the knife by flipping.
Reduced Service - the lock bar insert is easily replaceable without needing to replace an entire handle. This cuts the costs knife replacement or handle replacement. This kind of service, can be done DIY without sending the knife in.

While talking with Chris Reeve at the 2015 Blade Show he felt like the ceramic ball lock interface found on the Sebenza 25 would provide a lifetime of service with very little or no lock movement or wear. We also talked with Gianni Pauletta of LionSteel about the improved lock life of an integral lock that uses a lockbar insert, he felt strongly the lock life was improved at least 4-5 times that of a normal integral bar lock. Both of these men have won Blade's manufacturing award so they know what they are talking about.

A need -

A need for a lockbar insert developed in response to the use of flippers and the opening style of flipping a manually open with great force. This opening technique is extremely hard on a lock of any kind - particularity liner locks and integral bar locks. There is no doubt that some knives have been opened tens of thousands of times, purely for the enjoyment. Another factor that increased the centrifugal force on a lock face is the use of bearing systems in the pivot of a folding knife. A lock bar insert can reduce wear, maintain lock position and reduce the need for service in the lifetime of a knife.

Lockbar insert builds -

Most of the lockbar inserts on the market are a hardened steel variety. They are specially machined to fit into the end of the bar lock right were the lock meets with the blade. These steel interfaces are hardened steel, right up to the Rockwell hardness of the blade itself. Steel-on-steel reduces the potential for galling and because both materials are extremely hard are much less likely to wear.

You can normally identify if the knife has a lockbar insert because of the presence of a screw or bolt that holds the lockbar in place. The reduction of wear also keeps the tolerances of the build high and keeps the lock in it's original position.

Another material that we have seen in lock interfaces is ceramic, specially the on the Chris Reeve Sebenza 25. The knife has a ceramic ball that functions as a interface. The ceramic ball of the Sebenza 25 is harder to spot than the larger steel interfaces but functions is the same way. Ceramic is an extremely hard material that reduces wear and takes the abuse that the titanium on a Sebenza 21 normally would. Some people mistakenly think that the Sebenza 25 has center-to-right lock position. That is a visual miscue that has carried over from standard titanium lock bars. The ceramic insert is making contact in exactly the proper position on the blade tang.

Some Examples of knives with a lockbar insert -

Some great knives that come with lock bar inserts include Zero Tolerance 0450 models, LionSteel SR1 Tactical knife and LionSteel TRE, and the Chris Reeve Sebenza 25.

Conclusion -

We love lock interfaces. The lock bar insert provides extended lock life, provide a better quality lockup and can endure the rigors hard-use ownership. Simply, more happy customers, makes us happy.