Milwaukee Hardline 3" knife

I just bought a Milwaukee Hardline 3" knife, and I thought I would post a few thoughts, partly out of frustration.

The knife typically goes for $70, but there was a special deal at HD for $25, so I picked one up.

Out of the box, it was sharp but not quite the way I like it. A few licks on a stone made it shaving-sharp, as expected.

I say “as expected” because the big attraction is the blade, which is made of D2 tool steel. It is supposed to be hard-wearing but relatively easy to sharpen. The downside is that it is less rust-resistant than the “stainless” steels.

The action was a little stiff, but that’s typical with folding knives. I lubed it with some Triflow, working it into the bearings and wiping off the excess. After working it for a while, the action became smoother. But even so, flipping the blade out isn’t a sure thing. Even a firm flip with the index finger doesn’t always make the blade swing out far enough to lock.

In the hand, the handle is relatively broad and flat. That is good for taking up less room in a pocket, and less good for ergonomics. But the kicker is that the handle is about 1/2" shorter than ideal. I don’t have huge hands, and I am only 5’10", but still the handle feels short.

Otherwise the construction feels solid. Lockup is tight, and there is no blade rattle when either locked or folded.

So to summarize, the knife is sturdy and promises to hold up well. It is easy to sharpen. But ergonomically, it isn’t perfect. The handle is a skosh too short, and the flip-out action isn’t reliable, even when lubed and broken in.

If I needed a knife at a jobsite, I would probably buy a few Morakniv Companions (4" fixed rustproof blade.) MUCH better ergonomics and only $12 each. The downside is that in most cities, they aren’t legal to carry in public, so they would have to stay on the jobsite, in a belt or in a toolbox.

Milwaukee gave us engraved versions of the 48-22-1994 after NPS16. I’ve been carrying mine since then and have been pretty satisfied,

Are you flicking your wrist too, when you flip the lever on the blade? If I just use my index finger, yeah it won’t lock every time. I guess I never really though about it as a problem, I start the blade opening with the finger lever and the wrist flick opens it fully and lock it. It doesn’t have to be a hard flick, either. I thought that’s how this type of knife was supposed to work.

Otherwise I agree with your assessment.

The Bahco 2444 (made by Mora) carpenter’s knife - about $7 if you shop around or buy in bulk - is another good choice in 4 inch fixed blade utility knives

:slight_smile: I am not flicking my wrist. I could try that. I am a little leery of that kind of motion, because once I managed to fling my half-open knife away from me. Maybe my hands were wet or something. This Hardline doesn’t have the grippiest handles either.

Cool. Cheaper, and it looks identical. The sheath is a little different.

My 3" sample actually opens really smoothly, with a quick and satisfying snap.

Maybe there’s too much variation in the detent. You could try sending it back for a replacement.

Some flippers can be temperamental with hand positioning. Because of this, I tend to habitually find the pocket clip with my middle finger.

My 3" Tanto sample opens slower than the drop point blade. There’s not a big difference in blade shape or mass, and so it could be a QC or consistency consideration. I believe this is why many flippers are $100+ unless they have assisted opening mechanisms.

As a test, I closed my eyes and shuffled both knives. I can absolutely tell which one is which based on the feel of how they open, despite having identical handles and very similar blade sizes.

In my opinion, a wrist flick should never be needed with a flipper knife. One of my knives is poorly designed and needs a big flick motion.

You mentioned the knife being a little too small for your liking. I’d offer to send you my larger Milwaukee sample (and you can have it if you want), but its opening mechanism is unsatisfying, and might be worse than the one on your 3".

It didn’t occur to me to send it back, but I suppose I could. I hate doing that, though. I have other Milwaukee tools and they are great.

What you say about manufacturing tolerances makes a lot of sense. The lockup is also a pretty precise mechanism. With liner locks, you can just trim that little strip of metal that locks the blade, but with frame locks, that is a more difficult proposition.

And yeah, the wrist flick does help, but I still don’t like doing it. One day I won’t be paying attention and I’ll fling the knife into the bushes, or into a buddy.

I wish somebody made a heavier-duty version of the ring lock used by Opinel. Slow to use, but it locks both open and closed, and it is super-simple. No need for tight tolerances, so it would be cheap.

The way I understand it, there’s a little ball detent holding the blade in place. Place enough pressure on the flipper tab, and it overcomes the spring tension, and the built-up energy goes into swinging the knife blade open.

If something isn’t just right, there’s too little or too much resistance. Too little, and you get a weak opening. Too much, and you get a sore finger.

One of my new flippers has a special blade retention mechanism that requires a lot of force. There’s gimping on the handle, and it chews my hand up. Don’t press hard enough, and the flipper tab will ding into the finger pad.

I think that’s right. If I hold the knife just so, I can see a tiny bump in the piece of the scale that acts as the lock. I suppose it is a ball bearing press-fitted into the scale. It presses against the blade, and apparently there is a detent or indentation in the blade that helps hold the blade closed. Your finger pressure pushes the ball bearing out of the detent, and then (ideally) pushes the ball bearing along the blade piece until the blade is open.

But there isn’t exactly “pent-up” force. It is just force from your finger following through, as it were, completing its tiny arc against the flipper. And it doesn’t just have to force the ball out of the detent, it has to push the blade through its arc with the ball pressing against it.

So I think that over time, the ball bearing will wear a shallow groove in the blade piece. The groove and ball bearing might polish themselves against each other. The process might be hastened by a good lubricant. I have noticed that happening especially with blades that were given a bead-blast or matte finish. The action was slow and stiff until the pieces managed to smooth out the rough surfaces.

So that is why a good lubricant and opening and closing the knife repeatedly might improve the action, gradually. (And this doesn’t include the resistance in the pivot itself, which also needs lubrication. It might surprise some people to realize that the pivot is not the only bit that needs lubrication.)

I have heard of people packing their knives full of honing compound so that the various pieces would wear against each other, smooth themselves out, and develop a nice polish. Then the compound is removed and replaced with lubricant. I would be scared to do that, but they are machinists, so I suppose they know what they are doing.

Hi Koko. Interesting to read this.

It is at the end of the day a knife by Milwaukee with a pretty nondescript handle design, a blade in D2 which is a good robust steel, possibly a bargain at $25 and no way on earth would I give them $75 for it !

I have a soft spot for Milwaukee’s original fastback utility knife which has a surprisingly comfortable handle but for me Milwaukee, Dewalt and the like make the disposable knives that we all need to open the lids of paint cans when we don’t have a screwdriver handy or to cut through drywall when there’s a good chance of trashing the edge on a nail.

I strongly caution you away from knives like the Benchmade griptilian which I’d describe as an entry level “real” folding knife and a popular recommendation, or my own favorites from Spyderco with thumb hole opening. They have a much higher price point but are a far better product.

As an aside, single handed opening is a bit of a knack. You get better at it with practice but some knives are much easier to open than others. Hole, thumb stud, flipper, tip up tip down,wave, you just need some practice with each individual knife. Some are so stiff they take an almighty flick from the wrist, there are other designs that are so fast they seem to leap open when you breath on them :slight_smile:

Thanks for the review :slight_smile:

You are welcome. Just curious: why do you caution me away from Benchmade and Spyderco? I have knives from both, and have been pretty happy.

Sorry :slight_smile:
It’s that back handed way of speaking that us Brits are fond of using - it meant the opposite.

When I first came across Spyderco and Benchmade back in the 80’s , they were so much better in ergonomics, design and materials than any pocket knives I’d ever seen that it sparked an interest that lasted many years. It was the same the first time I saw a Surefire flashlight, they were such a leap forward from the maglite that they simply changed the game.
Owning my first good knife proved a little expensive because it lead me to try a few more (hence the warning) until I settled on what I like best. It also cured me of any interest in the likes of Milwaukee except as a “disposable” “beater” which of course do have a place in the toolbox…

Please don’t take this as price related thing - there are truly excellent value knives out there from such as Mora and Hultafors with great ergonomics, decent steel and cost of a few bucks. I’m a sucker for good ergonomics and quality engineering. It doesn’t have to be expensive.


I don’t think of Spydercos and Benchmades as worksite knives. They are too expensive, often too pretty, and sometimes too fragile. I thought this Milwaukee Hardline was supposed to be a worksite knife, and it is certainly burly, but I can’t use it for more than a few minutes without becoming sore. It actually is a beefy everyday carry knife (for people with small hands.)