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UK Friendly "Legal" Knives - Buying Guide

UK Friendly EDC Knives. What should you look for?

Here at Heinnie Haynes we like to be helpful so here is a guide to what you can buy and what to have a think about when buying a UK friendly carry knife. As you probably are aware the UK has some of the strictest knife laws in the world, but that doesn’t mean you haven’t got choices!

Current UK law states:

  • You can carry a knife with a folding blade with a cutting edge that is 3 inches long (7.62 cm) or less that doesn’t lock, eg a Swiss Army knife.
  • Lock knives (knives with blades that can be locked when unfolded) are not folding knives, and are illegal to carry in public without good reason.

(https://www.gov.uk/buying-carrying-knives, 22nd January 2015)

We’ve also written a myth busting guide to UK Friendly Carry Knives here.

Now you ask two key questions: What can I carry? What is different about each of the UK friendly carry knives?

For us at Heinnie Haynes, this isn’t about how we define an EDC (Every Day Carry) pocket knife, or what you can or can’t carry. We want to equip you with the knowledge so that you can buy the right knife for you, as well as answering the questions you want answered.

Before you read below we’ve also recorded a podcast episode looking at exactly this topic. Available to listen on the blog here, or on iTunes here.

An in-depth look at UK Friendly Carry Knives and Everyday Carry (EDC) with Ben Roberts

Let’s begin . . .

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Blade length

For an EDC pocket knife, the max length blade (more specifically the cutting edge, but we always advise to remain on the side of caution) by law you can have is 7.62 cm (3″-ish). Any longer and you’re in a different category of knife, which you won’t be able to use everyday. EDC knives are not there to cut down trees, they are there for everyday use like opening letters, boxes and cutting tasks. A number of UK friendly carry knives have multiple blades, making them even more useful whilst still retaining their friendly carry status.

Rough Rider Peanut Spyderco PITS

Size

The exterior dimensions of the knife when it is in the closed position.  What size you go for 100% depends on you and your intended use for the knife. If you want a bigger, heavier knife or a small lightweight blade you can. In one of our recent blog posts http://www.heinnie.com/blog/edc-on-a-budget/ you can see a comparison between a bigger and smaller EDC knife. The goal is to find a balance that fits your pockets and your hand. Having a knife that’s too big or small may mean you aren’t getting the right knife for your needs.

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Weight

Ideally an everyday carry pocket knife should be lightweight. The difference between a few grams doesn’t seem like much on paper, but just wait until you’re carrying it in your pocket for 12+ hours daily. It adds up.

Keep in mind, lighter doesn’t always mean better. Aluminium saves weight, but steel is stronger. Titanium is very strong and lightweight, but costs a bit extra. Compare weights of different models and then research the construction or reviews to make sure it can stand up to some daily abuse.

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Carry method

The vast majority of UK friendly EDC knives come with carry clips, but they actually range as the type and style quite a bit. The idea of a carry clip is so that it sits high in your pocket, allowing for ease of access, but not drawing huge attention to the fact that you are carrying a knife. Depending on the size/colour/finish of the pocket clip, your knife carry still may be pretty visible, but not necessarily sticking out like a sore thumb. Some are more discreet than others, while others leave a considerable amount of the knife visible. With a pocket clip, you can quickly and easily access the knife to perform a small task. Some knife brands prefer the more discreet low carrying option, whereas others prefer the high carry, and easy access option. Decide what’s best for you. . . are you going to be using it on and off all day, constantly pulling it in and out of your pocket? Or are you just using it occasionally?

Magnum Damascus Slim Victorinox Spartan Damascus 2014

Blade material

For a UK legal EDC, you are looking 99% of the time at a steel blade, occasionally a ceramic blade may take your fancy, but steel is by far the king. There is a wide array of steels to choose from out there, all slightly varying from one another depending on the element content. Each type of steel has its own benefits and downfalls including corrosion resistance, strength, edge retention, cost, and more. It more often than not comes down to cost; the best quality and most durable steels are usually the most expensive. There is no right or wrong steel, but there are some which are certainly better than others. Have a look at our in depth blog post on knife and tool steels.

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Handle material

Strength, durability, grip and aesthetics are all part of the decision process for this one.  Handles range from G10 synthetic grips, rare and exotic rainforest hardwoods, brass, general metals, even animal bone, among countless others.  Shown above; wood/brass, G10, animal bone, metal, respectively. The choice is up to you. We’ve found the knives with organic materials have much more aesthetic appeal to the general population, however, other grips may feel more comfortable for you when performing certain tasks. for an in-depth guide to knife handles click here!

Victorinox Evogrip 18 CRKT Journeyer

Edge type

The majority of the knife world is pretty much in general consensus that a non-serrated blade is best for everyday carry.  Some may disagree, as their everyday tasks may include cutting rope and such. There is a solution; some EDC knives have different blades with different functions, such as our Victorinox knives. Some have part serrated blades, others have separate serrated blades. Some even include a bottle opener (genius). When choosing a knife, have a think of what you need your knife for, then you can decide which is right for you.

 

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Joint options

Although UK law doesn’t allow a whole host of different folding knife types there are still a number of options to consider:

The most common UK friendly joint you’ll find is the slipjoint. This joint features on products by the vast majority of major brands and knives including: The Spyderco UKPK , The Boker Plus XS and the new CRKT Journeyer. The blades are held in position by a strong “backspring” which biases them towards the open or closed position.

Spyderco also feature on their products a ‘notch joint’ this isn’t a million miles from a slipjoint. The only difference between the two is that the blade is held open by spring pressure against a notch in the tang, rather than on a flat section at the back of the blades tang (we did say they were pretty similar).

Some of you may be familiar with another one of our UK friendly carry knives the Svord Peasant Mini or the Mantis Friction Folder. These knives have a different type of joint again, known as a ‘friction folder’. With these knives when the blade is closed the tail sticks out, allowing for the knife to be opened single handed. The blade is kept in the open position by keeping your thumb or finger on the tail of the knife.

Detent joint, although this isn’t a particularly common joint, they are around and do have some perks. The idea behind a these knives are that they include ball-bearing detents which control the blade position. Some examples of UK legal knives that have this joint are the Boker Plus Nano 42 , and the Boker Plus Subcom 42.

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Opening method

To comply with UK law the knife must be manual opening. There are number of ways in which knives are designed to assist with manual opening. Some of the most common blade opening systems are: the thumb stud, Spyderco round hole, Nail Nick and the flipper. Again this comes down to personal preference. The Nail Nick for example require usually two hands to open, but are small and don’t add bulk to the knife. On the other hand the Spyderco round hole, adds weight and increased size to the knife, but it does allow for single hand opening.

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The Brand

People love brands, people feel attached to brands. If you find yourself owning more than one of a certain brand, it’s pretty safe to say you are definitely a brand advocate. If you are new to the EDC knife market, this isn’t essential but you’ll find some brands design their blades with a certain person in mind, or for certain uses. Look around, some brands may be almost making knifes with you in mind. Some companies are also renowned for their quality or durability. It’s important for you as a customer you know exactly what you are getting.

Benchmark Ceramic Folder Three Rivers Slip Joint Carbon Fibre

Price

You guessed it, from loose pocket change into the hundreds of £s. As a general rule of thumb the more you pay the better quality knife you get, it’s as simple as that. Of course there is the odd exception, but that’s why it’s always worth browsing. On average for a UK friendly carry EDC knife you will be looking at the £40 to £60 bracket. That will not only buy you quality, but will also buy you peace of mind. That’s not to say you can’t get a quality knife on a budget. Have a look at our budget EDC guide for some ideas.

Victorinox Spartan VX Colours Fantoni Dweller Spyderco Urban Lightweight Spyderco PITS

Aesthetics

Function over aesthetics as always, however EDC pocket knives can be like pocket jewellery, whilst still being entirely functional, let your taste and preference guide you.  Some are designed to be carried around literally anywhere, others have a much more tactical look about them. The tactical looking knifes, while looking incredible can be seen as more threatening (which isn’t really true), but you may have to be careful where you carry it around to.

It all boils down to what knife is right for you, all we can do is point you in the right direction. Have a look at our EDC buying guide for some of our most popular UK friendly knives http://www.heinnie.com/blog/edc-guide/

We hope that this blog post was useful (even if it was longer than we anticipated). If you have any other questions or comments please leave them below! We write this blog for you, so anything you want to hear about, we’ll try and write about.

Comments

24 thoughts on “UK Friendly EDC Knives. What should you look for?

  1. William Billings - 7:52 pm 09/04/15

    The handiest knife I bought so far is the British Army Knife.
    If it had the side covers from the British Navy Knife and an additional blade of the type Opinel use on their no 6 (carbon steel for ease of sharpening) possibly instead of the spike if it wouldnt fit, it would be perfect for me
    .

  2. raf coetzee - 4:16 pm 17/04/15

    i bought a crkt edgie at a bargain price of just less than £13. its a self sharpening lambs foot blade and an EXCELLENT choice for EDC .
    my constant companion!!

  3. […] a host of lovely new knives, some limited edition, but most, sadly, not suitable for the UK market (see our post on UK legal carry). Lion Steel again were showing off their TRE (with removable flipper and thumb stud) – […]

  4. […] Slip Joints are the staple joint in the UK Firendly ( often known as UK Legal) EDC carry world. They are not the only UK friendly knife joint, but they are by far the most popular. The reason for the use of these non-locking joints in countries such as the UK is due to current legislation which means that you cannot carry a locking blade in public (for full details of UK legal carry knifes please see our UK carry EDC blog post). […]

  5. Michael - 12:27 am 24/07/15

    comment I have a small edc knife it’s smaller than the palm of my hand it’s a fix blade I don’t carry it but u would like to know more about the knife laws in Britain was woundering If I could get more detail some help with picking a knife

  6. Heinnie Haynes Team - 11:27 am 24/07/15

    Hi Michael, thanks for that. Fixed blades, however small are not permitted as an EDC. this link is useful background:

    https://www.gov.uk/buying-carrying-knives

    …or here’s our UK Friendly knife page:

    http://www.heinnie.com/knives-and-tools/folding-blade-knives/f/uk_friendly_carry/yes

  7. Darren - 3:53 pm 06/08/15

    Nice article but what I feel is missing is showing the knives held in someone hand, this really helps me pick which one to purchase next. Often I will find a knife and hop on over to youtube to see a review and what it looks like held.

  8. Heinnie Haynes Team - 8:19 am 07/08/15

    Thanks for the feedback Dan, will defintiely look into doing this!

  9. gg - 7:37 am 08/08/15

    Pretty useless article – you could at least clarify how you measure blade length, from the tip to where? end of the cutting edge? to the handle? to the pivot? or the total length of the blade?

  10. sam skittle - 3:12 pm 10/08/15

    Regarding:
    “William Billings – 7:52 pm 09/04/15
    The handiest knife I bought so far is the British Army Knife.
    If it had the side covers from the British Navy Knife and an additional blade of the type Opinel use on their no 6 (carbon steel for ease of sharpening) possibly instead of the spike if it wouldnt fit, it would be perfect for me.”…

    I could not agree more with Mr. Billings regarding the BAK. After all the hype regarding the latest advanced hi-tech US, German, or Swiss offering has died down the choice of which is the best EDC to have in one’s pocket still pretty much boils down to a moderate-specification Swiss Army Knife (SAK) i.e. one not boasting a vast number of blades (which might well, however, be useful for expedition or extended outdoor use) or surprisingly, to many perhaps, the seemingly crude British Army Knife (BAK).

    On balance, if one happened to be stranded somewhere with only one choice available I would say that the “humble” BAK still remains by far the best small ‘penknife’ (which is all the UK authorities will allow one to be stranded with these days, although these same authorities say nothing about a 12” screwdriver or a claw hammer, which were the favoured quite legal EDC implements of Peter Sutcliffe!) to have in one’s pocket, since, for one crucial thing, it is far stronger than any SAK, which in extremis (although perhaps not on a typical suburban day) can be the tipping factor for choice of tool.

    What I find most odd however, is that Mr. Billings would only class the BAK as approaching ‘his ideal EDC’ if the ubiquitous marlin spike of the BAK were to be deleted in favour of something else. To my mind this is quite a bizarre desire since this practical BAK maritime implement – the marlin spike – is fantastically useful in the field far beyond its original origins, which was to facilitate the untying of knots on ships! I have lost count of the number of times the BAK spike has unexpectedly come to one’s aid when one is miles – or even continents – away from one’s toolbox, or equally, of the number of times one has placed a SAK in ones’ pocket only to find a pressing need later on for a strong spike which, of course, even the Swiss Champ SAK cannot boast of offering any of its users!

    To delete the marlin spike from the BAK (weirdly, such a “BAK” look-alike spike-less version is now available, I think, which does not however offer any alternative blade in place of its deleted marlin spike) would, therefore, instantaneously rob the classic BAK of its main reason for existence and use over any other type of EDC “penknife”!

    As far as the ‘the Navy Knife’ being provided with chequered scales, whilst the BAK has none, is concerned, I do not think this differentiation existed in the past. Unless corrected by a knowledgeable expert in this particular subject (which I am quite willing to be) it to my mind appears, from looking at the remaining kit of now dead family members who served in WWI, WWII, and in the immediate post-war era, that all UK servicemen were in those days issued with the black chequered-handled BAK (because there was no other version of this useful tool) and that “The Genuine BAK” which is marketed these days as ‘the real McCoy’ is merely ‘the not yet finished stage of the original BAK before its scales were fitted’ from the past masquerading as ‘the finished item “as issued” to British servicemen in the past’. Merely looking at the plain metal BAKs (both the genuine ‘Sheffield offerings’ and the foreign copies) which are marketed today one can clearly see that they all look like unfinished production stage items, and also, the original black chequered-handled MOD BAK issue from my late uncle’s immediately post WWII kitbag features a slightly fatter and rounder version of the black chequered-handle (which were made from hard vulcanised rubber originally, I think) scales than the current black shiny plastic-handled Sheffield “Navy Knife” features, which original handle clearly demonstrates how very much easier the original BAK was (and still is) to use than is the ‘unfinished’, all plain metal, flat-sided BAK reproduction item of today.

    So in the final analysis give me a traditional original-handled BAK (ideally, teemed with, if at all possible, a ‘Swiss Card’, which would supply some useful parts of what one finds on many versions of the SAK) any day of the week!

    Sam Skittle

  11. […] far in our EDC series we’ve looked at ‘How to build and EDC list’. We’ve also looked at ‘how to choose the right UK Friendly EDC knife’ along with buying guides for EDC items like pens and watches. However, what we haven’t looked […]

  12. Sherry - 3:06 pm 03/09/15

    I think this is one of the most vital info for me. And i’m glad reading your article.
    But wanna remark on few general things, The site style is perfect, the articles is really great
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  13. Kevin - 9:12 pm 14/11/15

    I have the Enzo Pk70 as my EDC, with scales made from padauk. She’s pretty too!

  14. jay - 5:13 pm 12/01/16

    Heinnie says in the write up the max blade length for a UK legal every day carry knife is 3 inch (7.62mm) this is not correct, section 139 of the 1988 criminal justice act says 3 inch is the cutting edge and does not state blade length.

    Heinnie then give the boker plus xs as an example of a UK legal edc as it is, but this knife as a blade length longer than 3 inch but the cutting edge is less than 3 inch so it’s legal to carry in the UK.

    Heinnie should correct the mis information in the article above, UK law relates to cutting edge not blade length, so for a pocket knife to be UK legal every day carry the cutting edge as to be 3 inch or less and the blade does not lock.

  15. jay - 5:29 pm 12/01/16

    The is the UK gov site that states cutting edge should not exceed 3 inch.

    http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1988/33/section/139

  16. jay - 5:31 pm 12/01/16

    This is the link to the UK gov site that states the cutting edge should not exceed 3 inch.

    http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1988/33/section/139

  17. Heinnie Haynes Team - 5:39 pm 16/01/16

    Thanks Jay. You are correct, but we always want to air on the side of caution. If you have a knife with a blade length that is noticeably longer than the cutting edge you are running risk of getting tangled with the law. The information has been updated in the article, but airing on the side of caution isn’t a bad thing. Thanks.

  18. […] the course of researching this post, I found another post from Heinnie’s blog, “The complete UK Friendly EDC buying guide“. Check it out. I am going to do a post in the near future highlighting this excellent piece […]

  19. MGW - 3:24 pm 02/08/17

    “erring” on the side of caution, not “airing”!

  20. Dave - 9:37 pm 20/11/17

    Does anybody know whether or not the small scissors found on multi-tools, that can often lock into position, are treated the same as a locking blade? Common sense would say no, but the law can be pedantic at times.
    Thanks All.
    Dave B

  21. Nick - 6:41 pm 20/02/18

    Prompted by a recommendation on another forum last year, I bought the Spyderco ‘Clippitool’ with bottle-opener as an EDC. It’s the best small knife I’ve ever owned, by a big margin. The 2″ blade is excellent and keeps it’s edge for ages, while the other tool is perfect for all the poking, prodding, levering things that people usually use a screwdriver tip for (it will open a can of gloss paint effortlessly, for instance) . It’s also small enough to fit in the ticket pocket in any pair of jeans. I’ve just mislaid mine but I’ll be buying another straight away.
    I did buy the version with scissors initially – I’d avoid this option, the scissors are not great!

  22. Eric - 6:14 pm 29/03/18

    Apologies for perhaps asking the same questions answered within article but…Visiting UK in 2018 from US.
    What pocket carry knife would be legal that I would be familiar with?
    And, ANY knife that has a liner lock or similar to prevent accidental folding while use and BADLY injuring user is illegal?
    Thanks for any insight or information provided.

  23. RIchard - 6:59 am 20/04/18

    I personally carry and use a Leatherman Crater C33.

    They can easily be made UK legal by switching the 2 blade washers so that the liner lock is held open by the larger washer thus disabling all locking capabilities.

  24. Marc Devanny - 4:03 pm 28/10/18

    The British Army knife. Think they call it a jack knife. Its possible to get It without the merlin spike. Which makes it much lighter and more pocket friendly. Or even fits in more generic leather pouches too (if that’s your thing)
    Its got a lambs foot blade (so looks less threatening than a point to jo public) and a tin/bottle opener. Its non locking. What more do you need 99.9% of the time?

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