Gerber Paul Model 2P Knife
By Chuck Hawks
Paul W. Poehlmann, holder of some 20 patents for locking folding knives, patented his "Axial Locking Mechanism" in 1976. This is the mechanism that made him famous among knife makers/designers. This one hand opening mechanism is often considered the smoothest and most precise ever designed.
An Axial Locking Mechanism Paul knife locks in both the open and closed positions, yet is so smooth it will open and close simply by the pull of gravity. There is no need to flick a Paul knife open with a snap of the wrist; it literally falls open, at least when perfectly adjusted. It is a very elegant, durable and safe design, but must be built to exceptionally tight tolerances.
The Axial Locking Mechanism is adjustable for both vertical and horizontal blade play when the blade is locked open. Vertical play is adjusted by turning a tiny Allen head pin, which is, internally, a little cam. This pin (not shown in the patent diagram below) is located closest to the Axis Lock and the hex head is on the same side of the knife handle as the push button. Nothing but friction retains this pin, so be careful not to push it out when adjusting. Total movement range is through an arc of less than 270-degrees with the blade locked open. I set the pin in about the middle of its adjustment range, which leaves a little vertical play in the blade (this does no harm), but makes the engagement of the lock less critical--a reasonable trade-off in my opinion.
Horizontal blade play and the ease with which the knife opens is adjusted by tightening or loosening the threaded ring around the push button side of the Axial Lock Mechanism. There is a tiny pin hole in the ring to facilitate turning. The threads are fine and 2-3 turns will disassemble the lock mechanism, which you don't want to do. Make all tension adjustments on a Paul 2P knife carefully and in small increments.
Functionally, the large button at the blade's pivot point is connected to the blade when depressed. When pushed in, it allows the handle to rotate around the pivot point. Unlike other folding knife designs, when a Paul knife is opened or closed, it is the handle, not the blade, which moves.
Paul Poehlmann hand made something like 150 large folders of this design before striking a deal with Pete Gerber to produce Paul (a Poehlmann registered trademark) knives in Portland, Oregon. This was the famous Gerber Paul Model 2P, a smaller Axial Locking Mechanism Paul knife Poehlmann designed for Gerber Legendary Blades. Gerber Paul 2P knives were available in plain stainless steel (the version reviewed here), with micarta scales (2PM) and with wood scales (2PW).
The exceptionally tight tolerances required made mass production difficult. Paul Poehlmann collaborated with Pete Gerber and his team to the extent that he personally supervised the production of Gerber Paul 2P knives. Gerber introduced the Paul knife in 1977 and sold about 77,000 before they were discontinued in 1986, the year before the Company was acquired by Fiskars.
Prices for used Paul knives soared and Gerber decided to capitalize on this by reintroducing the Paul knife in 1996. These Series II, Model 2 Paul knives were marketed and distributed by Gerber, but the production was outsourced to a California manufacturer. I have read that these blades were fabricated from 425 stainless steel. Only a year later, the Series II knives were discontinued due to escalating production costs. About 23,000 Series II Paul knives had been built.
Gerber was founded by Joseph R. Gerber in 1939 in Portland, Oregon USA, where all Gerber products are still designed and engineered. Gerber Legendary Blades started as two dozen handmade cutlery sets given as holiday gifts to friends and associates. Over the last 75 years, Gerber has grown into a large and world famous company.
Gerber is no longer the family owned cutlery company that built the Paul Model 2P knives. Gerber was acquired by the international Fiskars Corporation based in Helsinki, Finland in 1987 and now markets high quality flashlights, headlamps, digging implements, survival tools, hand saws, multi-tools, axes, machetes and, of course, many kinds of folding and fixed blade knives. Some Gerber knives are still made in Oregon (about 60 models), while others are sourced overseas.
Gerber Paul Model 2P Measured Specifications
Like other Gerber knives I have owned, the Paul knife holds an edge well and its straight taper (not hollow ground) blade is relatively easy to touch-up on a hard Arkansas stone, providing you don't let it get really dull. Always use a little honing oil on the stone when sharpening any knife. Never use an electric knife sharpener on a good knife.
If you haven't yet learned to sharpen your own knives by hand, Gerber provides a sharpening service and if you return your Gerber knife they will restore the factory edge. The charge is $3 for sharpening and $3 for return shipping ($6 total). Gerber/Fiskers will also adjust your Paul knife's mechanism, if desired.
The blade shape is very good for an all purpose pocket knife or a small folding hunting knife. It has a medium edge curve to a drop point, a useful shape for general pocket knife cutting chores. The actual sharpened cutting edge is about 2-1/8". The knife's all stainless steel construction resists corrosion and provides enough heft that this very thin knife doesn't feel like a toy in the hand.
Because the Axis Lock Mechanism is built to unusually close tolerances, it is easily fouled by pocket lint, which may prevent the blade from locking open. (This is true, to an extent, with any lock blade folder, but particularly with a Paul knife.) Keep the mechanism clean by blowing out lint or foreign particles. Lubricate with a little very light oil; I use RemOil.
The smooth, thin handle is only about 5.5mm (less than ¼") thick and doesn't provide the most secure grip in inclement conditions, although the handle's slight curve helps. Since there is no hilt, you must take reasonable care to keep fingers from sliding forward onto the cutting edge when forceful cutting is necessary.
The Gerber Paul 2P knife is very similar in overall length, folded length, blade shape, blade length and application to the later Gerber Magnum LST Jr., a small folding hunting knife I have carried in my pocket for years and found extremely useful. These knives are about the largest I like to carry in my pocket on a daily basis.
The Magnum LST Jr. was discontinued around 2012/2013, last selling for under $25. It was made in Oregon. Its synthetic handle makes it somewhat thicker and lighter than the Paul 2P. Of course, the Magnum LST Jr. uses a normal back lock mechanism, not the Paul Axial Locking Mechanism. (See the Outdoor Accessories page for a review of the Gerber Magnum LST Jr.)
Knife collector demand has driven the price of Gerber Paul 2P knives beyond what most users are willing to spend for a pocket knife. This is unfortunate, as it is a good daily carry knife.
While discussing the Paul knife at one of our weekly "Shooters' Coffee" meetings, I asked Guns and Shooting Online Gunsmithing Editor (and custom gun maker) Rocky Hays if he would engine-turn (jewel) the stainless steel handle, which I thought would look neat. He readily agreed.
It took longer than I expected to get the knife back, a couple of months, but one day at another Shooters' Coffee, Rocky pulled the Paul knife from his pocket and passed it around. I was astounded, because instead of engine-turning it, he had engraved both sides of the handle in an American scroll pattern reminiscent of the style on my Winchester Model 21 shotgun (21-4). Needless to say, I was floored.
Rocky also pointed out that, if the knife were his, he would round the angles off the handle where it meets the back of the blade and at the bottom tip. This would make the folded knife smoother for pocket carry. I readily agreed and returned the Gerber to Rocky to be so modified.
Two days later, Rocky returned my knife. If you compare the photo of the knife in original condition at the top of this article with the photo of the engraved knife in this addendum, you will see the subtle difference in the handle shape and its new, more rounded configuration in these two areas.
The result is an engraved, customized Gerber Paul knife anyone would be proud to carry and display. Due to its slightly more rounded handle profile, it is easier than ever to carry in my pocket.
Copyright 2014 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.