When a new knife comes out, one of the first things people want to know is: does it have washers or bearings? Both have their advantages (and disadvantages), but there’s no doubt that ball bearings are the de-facto favorite these days. But do they really make a difference?
Many gravitate toward ball bearings thinking they’ll get crisp, clean deployment action every time. And as long as the detent is properly set, they’re usually right. Bearings offer a frictionless feel like nothing else. Plus, you’ll find them on high-end custom knives more often than not.
However, that doesn’t mean they are the end all be all. Washers—phosphor bronze, Teflon, or otherwise—have been used in knives for decades for good reason. They do better than bearings when used in wet, sandy, or dusty environments. Washers are tried and tested and their simple, somewhat self-sealing construction naturally keeps debris from seizing them up. Pair them with a solid detent and the benefits far outweigh their only drawback: speed.
Allen Elishewitz once told me, “You don’t need bearings if you machine it right” and to a large extent that is true. But a knife with bearings definitely feels different.
View Linked Article