Maufacturers & Buying Info

Articles in this section:

1. Name Brand Butterfly Maufacturers & Where to Buy
2. Buyers Guide to Budget Butterflies
3. The Best Bali-song for the Price

1. Name Brand Butterfly Maufacturers & Where to Buy

Okay, you know that a butterfly knife is also called a Balisong, you know their history, you can name every part of the knife and you can even flip them open and closed. Your next step? Really fleshing out your collection. Who makes the best butterfly knives and where can you get them?  This particular article won’t cover anything custom- this is production stuff only (another article will focus on some of the beautiful custom butterfly knives that are floating around).

Who makes butterfly / balisong knives?

Benchmade. If you’re into butterfly knives then you’re familiar with Benchmade Knives. Started in the 1980’s Benchmade has been consistently producing quality balisongs for decades. Most famous for their 40 series butterfly knives (the Benchmade 42 in particular),  their current production models as of 2011 are the 51, 32 and the 53. Know for quality and commitment to innovation Benchmade consistently raises the bar when it comes to balisong knives.

Bradley. While Bradley doesn’t actually manufacture anything in house, their commitment to quality and value is immediately apparent. Bradley is best well know for their Mayhem & Kimura series. The Mayhem is made by Benchmade, so you know that the quality is going to be second to none. Bradley’s Kimura series is manufactured by Kershaw Knives and may have the most variety. Now in the 7th run, there are dozens of available Kimura styles. These models are well built and economical with many priced below $100.

BearEasily the least expensive option with many knives available for less than $50,  Bear provides large variety of good quality knives.  Bear offers numerous sizes of knives, some excellent training options (dull blades) and even offers some custom butterfly knife varieties. Later this year Bear is poised to offer some new butterfly knife options under their Bear Ops brand.

Spyderco. In the past Spyderco was more active in the manufacturing of butterfly knives with the SpyderFly, Szabofly and Smallfly series readily available.  There are still numerous Smallfly runs available (which include an excellent butterfly trainer). Spyderco has scheduled their last run of Smallfly butterfly knives to be produced later in 2011 and has announced it will no longer make butterfly knives. Spyderco also operated a company called Baliyo. The Baliyo product is a pen that functions similarly to a balisong knife.

Companies that had a good things going:

Cold Steel. While no longer available, the Arc Angel from Cold Steel was a very popular butterfly knife. Once available in three varieties (one included a double edges dagger model!) for around $150 these knives are now available on secondary markets for as much as $400 each. Cold Steel has shown no interest in reviving this particular model.

Microtech.  During their heyday, Microtech produced both the Dragonfly & Tachyon. The titanium Tachyon is considered by many butterfly knife enthusiasts to be the zenith of butterfly knife production. The Dragon fly was less expensive aluminum version of the Tachyon, featuring the same design. It is our sincerest wish that one day Microtech revives some of these exceptional butterfly knives.

All the rest…

There are endless other options if you’re looking for cheaper butterfly knives. These knives typically have cast handles, low grade steel and questionable construction. If properly maintained, however, these knives can be an excellent introductions to the world of butterfly knives. They can be ideal for practicing complicated tricks (if you drop them, no big deal!).

Where do you buy butterfly knives?

There are hundreds of places to buy butterfly knives. Your local Army surplus store, your local knife shop and anywhere online. All of the mentioned butterfly knife companies in this article have corresponding links to online stores where they can be purchased.

2. Buyers Guide to Budget Butterflies

Not too long ago if you were in the market for a new butterfly knife you had two options: the first was taking out a second mortgage on your house in order to purchase one that was so expensive that you were scared to touch it and the second option was to buy one that is was so poorly made that it doubled as a fixed blade if it left its pool of WD-40.

The conundrum of butterfly knives is that their sole purpose of being thrown, flipped, spun and inherently dropped lends little comfort to those purchasing them at high dollar. Those who choose the second option are confronted with an even steeper learning curve than already exists with just flipping knives. This is of course due to the poor
construction of economical knives. No washers, loose stop-pins, cracked handles and
poorly balance will not help the novice flipper.

What should one look for when buying a cheap butterfly to ensure the best quality and performance for the price? Follow these 5 steps and you will be well on your way to budget butterfly bliss:

1. Is there a designer associated with the knife? Even though many butterfly knives are made in China they still have designers. This ensures that someone took care in creating a knife. In turn that means a more balanced and functional blade.

2. Does the butterfly have washers? In high-end butterfly knives the makers put ball bearings in the handles to help them rotate smoothly and have customized tension. The cheap way of creating that type of feel is to use Teflon and metal washers in between the handle and the blade. This will dramatically help the way the knife moves.

3. Does the knife have “pin construction” or “screw construction?” Some knives are simply attached using pins to connect the handles to the blade. This creates a limitation. Because the pins are permanent you cannot loosen or tighten the handles like you can with a screw construction. That being said screws are not foolproof. If they are loose they can come out while flipping the knife. You’ll just have to figure out what you prefer.

4. Are the handles milled/machined or cast? This is more subjective but is still something to consider. Casted handles are typically lighter and have a rough feel to them. Milled and cut handles feel smooth and art heavy. Cast means that the metal is poured into a mould to achieve the shape. Milled or cutting of the handles means the handles are usually cut out of plate steel using machines. That being said, knives that are milled are typically more expensive than those that are cut or cast. Judging whether one knife is cast vs. milled can be difficult but usually price gives away the answer away.

5. You get what you pay for. While there is some truth to this statement it doesn’t mean that you can’t get a good knife for a good price. Some of it takes trial and error and a little bit of an adventurous heart. Persevere and you will find a knife that performs well and is still within your budget. Check out knife blogs, read reviews and do your research. There is a plethora of information out there to help take the edge off…

There is hope.

The best knife for under $10.00 is the “Flick.” This knife does have pin-construction but they are well placed and allow for a pretty good action. This is certainly a budget knife at its best. It has a good weight to it and a good action. The cast handles are smooth and the skeletonized design possesses that classic flipper look. A great little knife for pennies on the dollar!

This knife is a saving grace and great knife for the beginner and advanced flipper. Anything made by M-Tech but specifically the M-Tech Twist designed by Darrel Ralph. It has great balance with a heavier weight. It utilizes metal washers for a smooth rotation. It is made in China but on the upper echelon so expect 20-40 dollars to pick one up. This really is the perfect example of a butterfly knife for the masses.

Another great knife- from a historical brand- is the 113 or 114 series by Bear and Sons Cutlery. A USA made butterfly that has a lot of reputation to back it up. These knives are made in Alabama from scratch. The majority of their knives are a combination of machined and pinned construction that employs washers for a great action. They also use an epoxy powder coating on the blade for a textured grip. These knives are a great value for an American made blade. Cost for these knives ranges from 40.00-100.00.

Levi Jackson
Chief of Conversions and Knife Repair

3. The Best Bali-song for the Price

 A Bali-song knife, also known as a butterfly knife or fan knife, is a folding knife with two counter-rotating handles and when closed, the blade is hidden by grooves in the handles. The knife can be opened with one hand by flipping or fanning manipulations which makes it a useful utility knife in situations where only one hand is available. Because of this, you want your butterfly knife to flip with a solid and smooth action and finding a Bali-song of quality construction is essential. I have chosen my favorite of these knives from 4 different price categories in an effort to help you find perfect flipper for you.

 Under $25: The Regal

The Regal Flipper butterfly knife sets the bar high for low-cost Bali-song knives. It has a smooth, solid action thanks to quality construction and the Teflon washers at the pivot points. It features a 4” clip point blade with two tang pins. This allows for a tighter lock-up and less blade wear. There is little to no blade play; but just in case the blade ever starts to feel loose, the Regal had been constructed with Torx screws for easy adjustment. This knife is an excellent choice for someone on a budget or someone who is just starting to get into flipping.

 $25-50: Silver Vein Butterfly 114

Another great choice for beginner flippers is the Silver Vein Butterfly by Bear & Son Cutlery. This  butterfly knife has a stainless steel blade, aluminum handles, and a single tang pin. The skeletonized handles have a textured epoxy coating that gives it a tough silver vein look. Another plus I found I liked in this knife was that the latch on the kicker handle is tight when open so it doesn’t get in the way of the blade while flipping. This knife is, overall, a nice mid-range butterfly.

 $50-150: Bradley Kimura II-VII

While Benchmade makes a great Bali-song, the Kimura by Bradley Cutlery (manufactured by Kershaw) would have to be my favorite. These knives are USA made and come in versions II, III, IV, V, VI, and VII. Each version has slight variations on the blade shape and the skeletonized handles. (All have two tang pins). For a limited time it is also being produced with a polished black finish and a spectrum finish. The Kimura is under 6oz. It feels solid when open and closed and flips with super smooth action. This is a great value butterfly and I would sincerely recommend the Kimura to anyone who enjoys flipping.

 Over $150: Les Voorhies Model 1

A while back I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a Les Voorhies Custom Model 1 Balisong.  The Model 1 features the use of the IKBS bearing system which gives it action superior to any other butterfly knife I have ever used. It flips quickly and smoothly. The Model 1 is also very durable and easy to maintain. If blade play ever does occur, it can be tightened by just a quick adjustment to the pivot screws. If you want a custom Bali-song, the Les Voorhies is the way to go.

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