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Unlike fixed blades, folders, swiss army knives, and the most obscure variations of each, a particular type of knife can present a challenge when doing routine cleaning; the automatic knife.
Most often referred to as an automatic, auto, switchblade, or "out the front" (OTF), this type of knife isn't exactly welcome in some parts of the world - they're widely illegal.
But, they are legal in many cases, and folks do own them. That said, the people who do own them have them for the specific purpose that they serve; being an ultra fast deploying blade, perfect for self defense, or very convenient quick use.
Given that these blades are using an automatic, mechanical mechanism for deployment, there is a degree of sophistication with how they work, and should be maintained. What's important to remember is that unless something is seriously wrong with the knife, it's not all that necessary to dismantle. Using a few simple steps, you can always clean an auto knife without even removing a fastener.
In most cases, a slow or sticky mechanism, over intrusion of dust/debris, or water intrusion are a good indicator of simple maintenance. If for example the mechanism fails altogether, or parts begin to bind and not function, these warrant a disassembly. Doing fairly light maintenance can extend the working life for these tools by a long while.
Open the knife and use a small piece of wire to slide into the handle where the mechanism lives. The goal here isn't necessarily to remove dirt or debris, but rather to loosen up anything that could be sticking to the parts inside.
Whether it's compressed air for keyboards, or an air compressor with a blower attachment, use high pressure air to spray debris out of the mechanism. Some folks may loosen the handle screws in order to allow a gap so air can flow through, without disassembly; this is an easy method to get rid of lint, particles, and other debris.
Once you believe some of the debris are blown out, cycle the action of the knife a few times to further break up anything else that might be hanging around. Then continue with another round or two of air pressure, making sure to also focus on the slider.
Our favorite part! We suggest our Original lube, as heavy lubricants can often make it harder for small parts to operate. Use a liberal amount soaking into the mechanism, cycle the action a few times, then add a few more drops.
Be sure to get the slider/switch itself, as all action from this part of the mechanism is what ends up deploying the blade. This is also an area for major dirt ingress, and build-up.
Treat the blade right! Not that it's already obvious, keeping moisture and corrosives away from the knife will lessen the probability of a mechanism rusting/sticking, or even worse, parts failing due to corrosion.
Knives are definitely tools made to be used, but always remember that use still has limitations!
In conclusion, it's definitely a pleasure to own an automatic knife. Routine cleaning is necessary twice a year with regular use, and anything more might need to happen 4 times a year.
In terms of checking the internal mechanism and/or getting hard debris from the mechanicals, you should only have to open up the knife every 18 months or so, in order to make sure everything is A.O.K.