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Practical Applications for Butterfly

Practical Applications for Butterfly Knives

OTFs are amazing knives in pretty much every way. Intricately engineered, impressively styled, and incredibly useful, they excel as examples of easily deployable knives that you can bring to bear in almost any situation. Still, it’s worth remembering that OTFs are far from the first folding knives (if we can use that term loosely) that you can ready with a single hand. That distinction goes to the balisong or butterfly knife, a blade that some believe originated in Southeast Asia all the way back in 800 A.D. and that still has plenty of practical applications today.

In this article, we’ll talk about how butterfly knives work and some practical applications for them.

The Basic Principles of Butterfly Knives

It’s a given that any sort of folding knife will slot its blade into its handle for safe storage, and in the vast majority of cases, that involves having the blade rotate around a pivot point into a slot in the handle. OTFs differ because they use springs to directly extrude and withdraw the blade from and into handle. But butterfly knives function on an entirely different principle.

Butterfly-knife handles are bifurcated lengthwise, and one end features a pair of pins in each handle half that secure them to the blade. The other end of the handle is notched and features a latch that holds the two parts of the handle together. This latch can hold the butterfly knife closed, but it also can hold the knife open once you’ve unfurled them, rotated them in a 180-degree arc, and thrown the latch again.

Butterfly knives truly have been the original one-handed, fast-deploy knife for over a millennium. The reason why they remained relatively niche for over a thousand years is that they require a significant degree of skill to deploy. It’s not uncommon for butterfly-knife owners to end up with knicks, slices, and (in some unfortunate cases) stitches. Once mastered, though, the skill of opening a balisong makes it easy to ready the knife in an instant, and an entire subculture of flashy butterfly knife flippers has arisen both in person and online. No wonder Hollywood action films have memorialized butterfly knives, making them appear as injurious and intimidating as possible.

But combat is far from the only use for a butterfly knife. In the next section, we’ll detail the many varied roles that balisongs can play.

Uses for Butterfly Knives

Like OTFs, butterfly knives are immensely useful knives, even if they may not seem so at first glance. Both types of blades are so strikingly stylish that they seem anything but practical. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Examples of common uses for balisongs include the following …

Everyday Carry

Much like its Indonesian cousin the karambit, butterfly knives originally existed for entirely pragmatic reasons, and they still fill that role today. Virtually any type of ordinary task that requires a small knife can be tackled with a balisong. Working on a farm and needing to cut open a feed bag. Opening a package that came in the mail. Slicing a length of twine so that you can tie a large item you got at the hardware store to the roof of your car. Stripping the insulating material off of a length of wire. These are the sorts of jobs that a butterfly knife can easily handle.

Wilderness and Survival

A knife needs to do double (or triple!) duty in wilderness or survival contexts, and it’s worth noting upfront that a butterfly knife faces some not insignificant drawbacks if you try to use one while roughing it. For example, you can’t effectively chop with one, and its moving parts and lack of a full tang make it more limited that blades strictly designed for braving the wilds. Still, a balisong works quite well when you’re attempting the following:

  • Cutting tent pegs
  • Filleting a fish
  • Carving an improvised spit
  • Dressing small game
  • Trying your hand at a little whittling

Believe it or not, you can also use a butterfly knife like a straight razor if it’s sharp enough. That was one of their original purposed when introduced in the Philippines.


Most knives can only provide entertainment through whittling, but the acrobatic flipping of balisongs has become the main reason for their popularity in recent years. Not only is this a great way to open your knife, it’s also a kind of performance art all its own. From fast snaps and thumb spins to backhanded balances and airborne tosses, you’ll find all sorts of tricks that you can chain together into dizzying displays of skill. Well, eventually. The truth of the matter is that learning butterfly-knife tricks will necessarily involve getting cut. One alternative to accidentally slicing yourself while you learn is to buy a practice balisong. These are blunt lookalikes that allow you to work out various movies without pain


Because butterfly knives are unique tools, they’re also quite collectable. Vintage offerings exist, as do those with engraved handles and blades of specialized steel. You’ll even find balisongs made of materials such as rare wood, coral, abalone, ebony, and more. Some also come with karambit-style blades or branded with images from various kinds of media. The proverbial rabbit hole goes very deep when it comes to collecting butterfly knives!


Our final use for butterfly knives is the one for which they’re most commonly known: self-defense. The ability to quickly get a blade out of one’s pocket and ready for combat without the risk of a mechanical failure or the need to fumble with a cumbersome catch is valuable. So is the inherent drama in watching a blade seemingly materialize in a flash. Balisongs have plenty of applications apart from fighting, but it would be foolish to deny their effectiveness.

Browse our wide selection of butterfly knives!

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