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”)

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]

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]

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

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Rare Antique Civil War Period Davy Folding Pocket Stiletto Knife American EagleEarly Vintage Antique Dagger Folding Pocket Knife British ? Or European Made ?"our Very Best" Vintage Pocket Knife W/ Bone Handles & Etched BladeCase Bradford Pa 6229 1/2 Tested Xx Tadpole Knife Rogers Bone 1905-14 Old KnivesSchrade Cut Co. Bone Lock Blade Jack Knife Etched Un-used 1904-1946 Old KnivesVintage 1940-65 Case Xx 6265sab Large Red Bone HunterVintage Marbles Gladstone Usa Rugged Stag 5" Closed Safety Knife Vintage Robeson Shuredge Rochester Wharncliffe 626 65 Stag Bone Pocket Knife "Vintage Case Folding Knife 6265sab Two Blades Hunting Jack KnifeVintage W. Bingham Co. Cleveland Jigged Bone Handle Pocket Knife "Vintage Cattaraugus Cutlery Co Little Valley Ny Ebony Wood Handle Pocket Knife "Early Large Jumbo Jack KnifeCase Xx 5254 Stag Trapper C.1940-1965 Rare Old Knife Vintage KnivesOld Robeson Swell Center Balloon Jack KnifeAntique 19th Century Rigging Knife ~ Hunter Sheffield ~ Stag ~ Folding Antique John Primble Pocket Knife W/ Bone HandlesLot Of Vintage Folding Blade Pocket Knife Schrade I-xl Boker Honest Abe German Antique Swing Guard Lock Back Knife ~ Stag ~ German? ~ FoldingVintage Wr Case And Sons Pocket Knife1960's~western~boulder, Colo.~062~rare Blonde Jigged Bone 2 Blade Pocket Knife~Rare Vintage Remington Umc # R55 Surveyor / Swell Center Canoe Jack Pocket KnifeVintage A.w. Wadsworth & Son Austria 3 Blade Stag Bone Pocket Knife "Rare Antique One Arm Man Press Button Company Civil War Amputee KnifeVintage 1940 -1964 Case Xx #6111 1/2 L - 1 Blade Folding Knife - Vg+++. - NrVintage Case KnivesVintage New York Knife Co Walden 2 Blade Folding Pocket Jack Knife Wood Handle1940s Vintage Wwii Army Pocket Knife With Bone Handles - Scout PatternVintage Antique Turner Suffolk Works Stag Pruning Folding Pocket Knife 1840-50s!Vintage Schrade Cutlery Co Pocket Knife Bone Handles Walden N.y.1870 Era~sheffield Stag Handle Fruit Knife~antique Pocket Knife~very Sharp~Robeson Coke Bottle Vintage Folding KnifeOld Ulster Swell Center Jack KnifeVintage Challenge Cut Co. Bridgeport Conn. Ebony Handle Pocket Knife "Old Antique Barnett Tool Company Folding Tool Plier Pocket Knife BaPresto Pocket Knife, Geo. Schrade, Bridgeport, Conn. .Case Xx 62055 Red Bone Equal End Jack Knife C.1972 Rare Old Vintage KnivesVintage Schrade Walden Orange Paratrooper Knife Works GreatCase Xx 5220 Stag Peanut Jack Knife C.1940-1965 Rare Old Vintage Knives Vintage J.a. Henckels Germany Whittler Stag Bone Pocket Knife "Vintage John Primble Belknap Hdw & Mfg Co. 4954 Jigged Bone Pocket Knife "Vintage Antique Folding Pocket Knife Ulster Ebony Balloon Pen 3.5” Early Rare!!!1860's~george Butler & Co.~art~sheffield England~stag Horn Pocket Knife~key LogoVintage Schrade Cut Co Camp KnifeVintage Case Bros. Little Valley Ny Stag Folding Knife 1900-12 Snap 3 3/4"l No R Vintage J.a. Henckels 190 Germany Zwilling Stag Bone Premium Stock Knife "Vintage Gilbert Moose Pattern KnifeCase Xx U.s.a 5347hp Stockman 1965-1969 Super Pretty Fat Stag Handles !!Maher & Grosh (1800's Era) ~ Jumbo Stabber Jack Knife ~ Propeller Sheild & WoodCase Xx Usa 1965-1969 Model 5383 Stag Whittler 3 Blade Pocket KnifeAntique Remington Pocket Knife W/ Colorful Candy Stripe Celluloid HandlesVintage Empire Folding Knife 1855-1930 Two Blade Folding Nice Rogers Bone No ResVintage Schrade Walden N.y. #895 Peachseed Bone 3-bl. Slim Stockman Stock Knife Vintage (1965-69) Case Xx Usa 5172 Clasp / Bulldog Knife N/m In Original BoxCase 6265 Sab Folding Hunter Knife Red Bone Xx 1940-1964 Near MintVintage Antique Mop Lot 7 Folding Pocket Knife Knives Cutino Western Germany!!!!Case Vintage 61011 Hawksbill Knife 1920's -1940's Nice No Reserve High Bid Wins!Huge Sheffield (pre-1891) ~ Heavy Navy Sailors Rope Knife ~ Bone, Nice Rare!!!Old Empire Knife Co Boy Scout KnifeVintage Wards Usa 411 Master Quality Etched Jigged Bone Pocket Knife "Vintage Winchester Bone Barlow Knife Knives