Have you been hearing all about bushings, bearings or washer run balisongs but don’t know what they are? Don’t worry, as this article will shed some light on these pivot systems and tell you all you need to know to get more familiar with them.
Balisong knives and trainers primarily use three types of pivot systems, which you’ve likely heard said all around the community. The three pivot systems are washers, bushings and bearings. They all flip differently and have different maintenance tips so let’s get right into them!
Balisongs that run on washers usually have washers made of either steel or phosphorus-bronze, and there are four washers on each side (two for each side of the pivot). These washers are there to reduce the friction between the handle and the blade, and also reduces the chance of wear to either of those parts.
Washers are the most prominent on budget balisongs, as they are a relatively cheap pivot system to implement. Here are the pros and cons of a washer-run Balisong:
- Cheap to produce, allowing for a lower consumer price
- Low friction, allows for better tolerances when flipping
- Easy to replace them if they wear down
- High quality washers come precisely measured so no extra tuning is required
- They cannot be cranked all the way down without binding, as they press against the blade and handles
- They tend to lose tolerances over time as they get worn down
- The tolerances are generally a lot worse than bushings or bearings
When it comes to maintaining washer-run balis there are two main tips:
The first is to use a proper lubricant, which will reduces the friction and wear on the knife's parts. Knife Pivot Lube will take care of this with no problems and will even clean the gunk off your washers as you use it.
The second main tip is to regularly clean the pivots and wipe off the washers to avoid corrosion and gunk buildup. This will ensure the smoothest flipping experience possible.
Washers can be an amazing choice for a budget balisong, as they make a huge difference in smoothness over cheaper pinned models. Washers are an important part of balisong knives and trainers, as they give a base for bushing-run knives too.
Bushings are essentially an upgrade to washer-run balisongs, where the tolerances are made to be perfect and the pivots can be tightened fully with no binding when tuned correctly.
Bushings are hardened steel tubes that are fitted to the exact diameter of the pivot hole of the blade. They are then tuned and fitted so that the height of the bushings are micrometers above the height of the blade.
The washers then rest on top of the bushings instead of directly rubbing on the blade, which allows for the pivots to be fully tightened without binding. The main downside is that bushings cost a lot more, as they need to be carefully fit for each individual blade.
The pros and cons of a bushing-run knife are as follows:
- Can have perfect tolerances, creating an amazing sound and flipping experience
- Extremely low friction, allows for tuning to the flipper’s preference
- Creates less wear on the washers, which means less replacement
- High quality bushings also mean more durability, as the tolerances won’t change with drops as often
- Costs a lot more to install and fit into a balisong
- Tuning bushings can take a lot of time and patience to get perfect
- Bushings that are undersized are essentially useless, which could mean replacing the bushings and tuning all over again
- Not beginner friendly, as it requires more knowledge to put the balisong back together
The main tip for maintaining bushing-run balisongs is the same for washer balis - make sure to lubricate the pivots so that everything runs as smoothly and reduces wear. Just make sure not to use too much lubricant, as this could cause some gunk or slowdown.
The best approach is to apply a small drop or two on the pivot hole and wipe it around to coat the inside area of the pivot. This will provide enough lubricant for the bushing but it won’t cause any gunk to build up.
When it comes to flippers and premium knives, bushings are the premier option for pivot systems. When done right, they create the perfect sounding balisong with amazing tolerances and flipping feel. They may be finicky with tuning and getting them perfect, but once they’re fitted right they are considered by many to be the best feeling out of all the pivot systems.
Bearing-run knives are knives that run on ball bearings that are usually caged in a washer made of either steel, brass or Teflon, and the bearings themselves are made of either steel or ceramic.
Bearing knives are a unique pivot system as they flip very differently and feel very different to washers or bushing knives. They usually flip a lot faster, as the low friction with bearings create a different flipping experience that can take a lot of getting used to.
Bearing-run knives have pockets milled into the blade to fit the bearings into it with perfect tolerances, as shown in the picture below. The knife pictured below is a Ryworx Omeme, which uses Teflon caged bearings.
Bearings are cheap to make and are relatively easy to manufacture, however they flip very differently than washers and bushings, and a lot of flippers don’t really enjoy flipping bearing balisongs. Bearings are a great way to achieve perfect tolerances with a lower cost than bushings, though. Here are the pros and cons of bearings:
- Easy to get amazing tolerances with little to no tuning
- Relatively cheap to manufacture
- Easy to replace and beginner friendly, as it just one part and does not require tuning
- Can be difficult to adjust to the way they flip
- Feels extremely different to washers and bushings, which can be uncomfortable
- Very easy to gunk up, so may require a lot of cleaning
- Steel bearings can rust, which may leave marks on the handles or blade
Maintaining a bearing balisong is simple, but there is a debate surrounding lubricating bearings.
Some say that you should not lubricate bearings at all, since the potential to gunk up the bearings can ruin the flipping experience. Others say that running without lubricant can wear down the bearings and decrease the life span of the knife.
Personally, I recommend lubricating your bearings but with a very small amount: just a single drop per pivot. A lighter lubricant, such as KPL Ultra Light, is perfect for applications such as these. This will allow for a smooth experience without any problems of gunk buildup or wear.
Bearings have a split opinion throughout the community, with some flippers not liking the extra speed they give whereas others love them. Either way, bearings are a cheap and easy to use alternative to washers and can create great tolerances. They can also make a very unique flipper when combined with different type of construction designs.
Thank you for reading, this article was written by Jess Goh. You can find me on Instagram @blade.wielding.queen and on reddit at u/Princess-Olympia. Feel free to ask any questions or inquiries there! My email is firstname.lastname@example.org for any business inquiries.
You can buy Knife Pivot Lube in both normal, heavy, and ultra light varieties on our store page here, and don't forget to use code BLADEQUEEN at checkout!
Pictures taken by me, with credit to ameblo.jp for the pictures of the Ryworx Omeme. The source can be found here: https://ameblo.jp/basilisk-r/entry-12481819226.html