Vintage Folding Knives and Pocket Knives

We all remember our first folding knife or pocket knife, whether it was a Swiss Army multi-purpose monster, complete with toothpick and tweezers, or a slender single-blade antler-handled Case. But folding knives predate the blades made by either of these venerable companies. The jack knife, a derivation of a knife invented by a Frenchman named Jacques de Liege, dates to the 16th century, while the Barlow, named for English cutler Obadiah Barlow, is from the late 17th. As for the peanut, this two-bladed knife, usually less than three inches long when closed, takes its name from its diminutive size.

Just about all folding knives are constructed from the same basic parts. There is the blade, of course, which is referred to as the master blade if the folding knife has more than one. And the knife’s decorative handle, or scale, is often bookended by bolsters made of a material strong enough to help support the pin that acts as a pivot point for the blade.

Strictly speaking, jack knives are knives whose blades open from the same end. A Barlow is a type of jack knife whose handle widens at one end to give it a kind of teardrop shape, which makes it easy to grip. Scout knives, sometimes called sportsman’s knives, have blades that pivot open at either end. Indeed, these knives, exemplified by the red-handled contraptions made by Victorinox, are probably best known for blades that aren’t blades at all—screw drivers, bottle openers, fish scalers, nail files, punches, and saws are just a few examples of the tools found on these knives.

Other common knife patterns include the straight-sided physician’s knife, the whittler (which has a hump in its back to give the user something to grip), the thin pen or office knife, and the hunter (traditional versions of this design swell at the center while modern versions have a carved-out top and a mechanism on the knife’s back that locks the blade into position).

Giving the user a safe way to unfold a blade is usually accomplished by creating a notch, or pull, close the blade’s spine. Sometimes these pulls will be long, running from the blade’s tang halfway to its point. Others are the size and shape of the end of a fingernail—depending on the design of the knife, some blades have pulls on both sides. Then there are knives whose blades can be opened with one hand, such as those with a hole or thumb screw near the spine instead of a pull. In fact, variations of these so-called one-arm knives have been around since the Civil War, when folding knives that could be opened with only one hand were a sad necessity of that conflict.

For knife collectors, some of the most sought-after brands include Buck, Camillus, Case, Queen, Remington, and Schrade. Although not the oldest knife manufacturer in the United States, Case is perhaps the most widely collected. Founded in 1889 by four brothers, the New York company stamped the words “Case XX” or “Case XX Tested” on the tangs of its master blades prior to moving to Bradford, Pennsylvania, in 1905, when, until about 1920, Case knives were identified by their new location.

Over the years, the handles of Case knives have been made of everything from abalone to walnut, but the material Case is best known for is stag horn, otherwise known as deer antl...

The roots of Schrade date to 1904, when the Schrade brothers set up shop in Walden, New York. Walden was already home to two other knife companies, including New York Knife, which manufactured the first official Boy Scout knife in 1911. Schrade blades ranged from those designed for pruning to others made to cut rope (the Navy knife). In recent years, since the 1960s, one of Schrade’s most popular models has been the Old Timer, which was made in Barlow, Woodsman, and Hunter, and other patterns.

Though perhaps best known for its firearms, Remington was an important manufacturer of folding knives between the two World Wars. The product line was simple (just about all Remington pocket knives had between one and three blades), but there were hundreds of patterns. In particular, Remington knives can be differentiated by their handles, many of which were made out of a proprietary plastic called Pyremite, which could be dyed in a rainbow of colors. Some of the most collected Remington’s are its Bullet knives, which featured bullet-shaped shields on their antler or jigged-bone handles.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

The Wheelmen

The Wheelmen

This elegant tribute to turn-of-the-century bicycling includes memorabilia, photographs, and an index of 3140 bicyc… [read review or visit site]

Alloy Artifacts

Alloy Artifacts

A tool collectors’ dream, this site is a deep repository of photos and info on 20th century hand tools and the co… [read review or visit site]

Vintage Machinery

Vintage Machinery

This collective website, which started as an online discussion forum, also includes a large database of manufacture… [read review or visit site]

Drainspotting

Drainspotting

Josh and Cam Larios have created this site enabling people to upload and 'tag' photos of historic or artistic manho… [read review or visit site]

A Millers Falls Home Page

A Millers Falls Home Page

Randy Roeder has carved out a niche for himself with his fine website devoted to the history of the Millers Falls C… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Most watched eBay auctions    

Very Rare Civil War Sheffield " Liberty & Union " 9 1/2" Folding Locking Knife Vintage Lot 32 Case,some Xx,pocket Knife Knives,for Parts Or RepairVintage Remington R3145 Green Pyremite Handles 5 Blades Pocket Knife Rare *Kinfolks Case Tested Xx 6465 PatternAntique Vintage Puma Springer Pocket Knife Very Rare! Fighting German DaggerCase Tested Xx,1920-40, 62035-1/2 Hump Back Jack Knife,green Bone,nice & Nr MintCase Xx Fantastic Red Bone 6249 Copperhead 1940-64 Near Mint 4" KnifeCase Tested Xx,1920-40, 6207 Long Pull Trapper Knife, Green Bone, Nice & Nr MintVintage Remington Umc R1123 Bullet Knife Case Tested Xx,1920-40, 62039 Sowbelly Knife, Green Bone,scarce & Nice & Nr MintVintage Pocket Knives Case Winchester Boker 3 PiecesMiller Bros Sailors Rope KnifeDesirable Civil War Era Soldier's " Warren - Sheffield " Folding Knife ToolVintage Wilbert Cutlery Co. Saddle Horn Lock Blade Pocket Knife W/bone HandleVintage Remington Umc 2 Blade Trapper Bullet Knife Old Vintage Antique C.1900 Anheuser Busch Corkscrew Bartender Beer Pocket KnifeAntique '19-40 Winchester Usa3006dogleg Whittler Knife Knives Old Pocket VintageVintage Cattaraugus Two Blade Folding Pocket KnifeVintage Ka Bar Union Cut Co. Rare Stag Dog Head Shield Two Blade Folding Knife Case Xx Usa,1965-69, 6375 Big Stockman Knife With Super Pretty Bone, Nice & MintCase Xx 6347d Stockman Knife Rain Drop Damascus Burnt Amber Bone 2007Old Vintage 8dot 1972 Case Xx Bone 1/2 Whittler Pocket Knife 6208Old Elsener Schwyz Swiss Army Knife UnusedRare ! Case Tested Xx 1920-40 Candy Stripe Barlow Knife 62009 Nice Listing MoreOld Antique Folding Bowie Pocket, Knife. Lock Back Blade. Fancy File Work. Vintage 1965-69  case Xx Usa  pocket Knife  5488   Large 4 Blade Congress  stagOld Vintage Browning Arms Co German Stag Big Lock Blade Back Pocket Knife Antique Vintage Russell Cow Bone Large Barlow Pocket Knife Farm Mechanic Tool Old Vintage 7dot 1973 Case Xx Bone Stockman Pocket Knife 6347peAntique '19-39 Remington Umc R6755 Whittler Pen Knife Knives Vintage Pocket OldVintage 1956-1958 Puma 6377 White Hunter Knife Rare !!!!!!!!Vintage Case Tested Xx 1920-40 Stag 5344 Stockman KnifeWestern Boulder Co. Usa 691 Pocket Knife 2 Blade VintageCase Xx Usa Rare 1965-69 6111-1/2 Red Bone Swing Guard Lockback Mint 4.5" KnifeCase Xx- 1940/ 64- 6231 Big Jack Knife Green Bone MintyVintage C+x Lockwood Sheffield England Stag Cold Finger Easy Open Jack Knife OldVintage Cattaraugus Cutlery Jumbo Cigar 2-blade Folding Jack Knife Rare!!Vintage Art Nouveau Nude Girl Ladies Pin Up Pocket Knife Colonial Prov.r.i.Rare Case Tested Circle C 516-5 Mint India Stag 9" Fixed Blade Knife & SheathCase Xx 6249 Copperhead Red Bone Knife 2 Blade Folding Pocket Knife Vintage Case Xx Knife 1940-1950 Stag Bowie Knife W/sheath KnifeCase Xx Usa,1965-69, 6254 Ssp Trapper Knife With Super Pretty Bone, Nice & MintVintage Antique Art Nouveau Swimsuit Girl Lady Pin Up Pocket Knife G.r.c. 1920'sVintage Lot Of 15 Folding Knives Case,shrade,camillus,!!!!!!!!!!!!Antique Olcut Union Cutlery Olean Coke Bottle Folding Hunter Bowie Knife KnivesVintage Queen Serpentine Jack Pocket Knife Jigged Amber Bone Handles C1930's1965 - 1969 Case Xx Usa Era 5299 1/2 Torpedo Jack Beautiful Thick Stag Cond 1Vintage Case Tested Xx Scout Jr Pocket Knife 1920s To 1940sVintage Pocket Knives Case Hsb Craftsman 3 PiecesAntique 18th Or 19th Century Folding Horn Handle Knife W/ Star Makers Mark Neat1965 - 1965 Case Xx Usa Era 5220 Beautiful Stag Peanut Condition 1 Coa New York Knife Co. Walden, Ny 3 5/8" JackCase Xx Usa,1965-69, 6347 Hp Ssp Stockman Knife Super Pretty Bone, Nice & MintVintage 1965-69  case Xx Usa  pocket Knife   6216 1/2   2 Blade Jack  boneAntique Vinatage Walden Knife Co Ny Tickler Pocket Knife BlackCase Xx Usa Red Bone 1974 Mint 6445r Scout Camp 3.75" KnifeOld Vintage (xx's) 1940-65 Case Xx Big Jack "long Pull" Pocket Knife 31sabOld Vintage 8dot 1972 Case Xx Bone Stockman Pocket Knife 6332Case Classic Xxx Saddlehorn Knife Rogers Green Bone Rare Xxx Tang Stamp Case Xx Usa,1965-69, Muskrat Knife With Super Pretty Bone, Nice & Mint