Tips From The Balisong Collector

Preventing Latch Damage


Latches... Can't live with 'em. Can't live without 'em.

Most of the Balisongs on the market today have a "Batangas-style" latch. This means the latch is attached to the "opposite" (a.k.a "free") handle, the handle that the blade's sharp edge closes into.

As you manipulate such a knife, two problems are likely to come up: First, during openings, especially reverse-grip openings, the latch may fall between the handles:

The problem here is that the latch will scratch up the outside of the other handle.

The other possible problem is that the latch may fall between the handles during a closing, especially in reverse grip.

The problem here is that when the blade and the latch hit each other, one or both may be damaged. I see a lot of balisongs with little chips on the blade right where the latch has hit. This dramatically reduces the value of a knife.

A balisong with a Manila-style latch, where the latch is on the "safe" handle, the handle that the unsharpened back of the blade closes into, does not suffer these problems as much, but they can still happen. You can occasionally find latchless balisongs, but there's a lot of good reasons to have a latch, so latchless knives are uncommon.

There's a huge argument that rages about the merits of covering the edge of the blade with tape while learning and/or practicing. I don't even want to go into that here. I don't usually cover the edge on my blade, but I usually do have some tape on my balisong to protect it from the damage that the two cases shown above can cause.

I use ordinary black electrical tape. Here's how I do it.

To protect the non-latch handle from scratches and damage caused by the latch when it falls between the handles during an opening, I apply a single-layer patch of black tape to the outside of the handle (outside when the knife is closed), just below the slot that the latch closes into.

Now, if the latch falls between the handles during an opening, that patch of tape protects the handle.

Problem #1 fixed.

Next, I cut three little strips of tape about 2/10 to 1/4 inch wide. I apply these around the outside of the latch in three layers. I've found that since there's often considerable energy as the handles come together for a closing and since the blade is a sharp cutting tool, you really need three layers of tape here.

The three layers of tape wrap around the outside of the latch and protect the latch and the blade from damaging each other.

Problem #2 fixed.

Notice, that neither of these two bits of tape have anything to do with protecting the artist from the edge. As a result, this bit of taping will not become a mental crutch as the artist manipulates the knife. This bit of taping will not keep you from getting cut, so it won't encourage you to develop bad habits and poor technique. This tape only protects the knife from damage.

Some may argue that if you manipulate your balisong correctly, neither of these two cases will occur. That's true, but even the best of us occasionally have one of these. A good balisong costs about $150 these days. The damage caused by these two cases dramatically reduce the value of a balisong. So, I like to protect mine.

Two last notes:

1) When you remove the tape, it'll leave a sticky black residue. A little bit of WD40 on a paper towel will remove that residue with no effort.

2) Brass handles will develop a patina with age and handling. If it's nice and even, this enhances the appearance and value of such a knife. This is why it's very important to thoroughly wipe off a brass-handled balisong after you've handled it so that the oils from your hand don't damage and discolor the brass. Fingerprints left on a brass handle quickly become permanent. And, tape covering part of the brass will keep that part from aging to match the rest. So, I don't recommend leaving tape on brass handles or latches very long.