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]

Old Woodworking Machines

Old Woodworking Machines

This collective website, which started as an online discussion forum, now also includes a large database of manufac… [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    

Antique Press Button Knife Co. Vintage Pocket Folding Bowie Push Old Bone HandleVintage Schrade Springer Button Assist Single Blade Folding Knife. Walden, N.y.Presto Brown Handle Geo Schrade Single Blade Knife Made In Usa - Free ShippingVintage Winchester "large Hunter" Bone Pocket Knife No.1920 All Original+rare!Vintage 1960s Bonsa Leverlock Folding Knife (similar To Hubertus)Wr Case & Sons Pre 1920 Great Old Bone Sunfish Elephant Toe 4.25" KnifeEarly Ulster Knife Co. Swing Guard Pocket Knife Wood Handle 9 1/2"Vintage Old 1dot 1979 Case Xx Stag Big Copperhead Pocket Knife 5249 MintVintage Jaeger Bros. Marinette Wi Stag Knife Pocketknife 1916 Patent Date ModelVtg Pocket Blade Rare Usa Old R4283 Case Remington Sowbelly Knife Rare Bowi BoneVintage 1972 Case Xx "congress" No.6488 Red Bone Pocket Knife Unused And Nrmt!Antique Vintage Western States Boulder,colo.folding Hunter Knife C1911-1951Vintage Origional Dog Head Ka Bar Folding Hunter Stag Union Olean 5 1/4" Vintage Lot Of 21 Knives: Lockback, Hunting, Pocket, Survival, Camping, HoboFine Antique Columbia Large Jack Pocket Knife! Steel Bolsters & Liners! Ebony!!Vintage Old Schrade Walden Cut Co Big Jack Pocket Knife 1964 Victorinox 1961 Model Soldier Red Alox Swiss Army KnifeVintage Jet Pilots Folding Bolo Machete Jungle Survival Bowie Knife Knives OldSaynor Sheffield Antique / Vintage Pocket Knife From EnglandHuge Vintage Ww2 Navy Usaf Jet Pilots Folding Jungle Survival Bowie Knife KnivesVintage Large Overall 13" J Inox Stiletto Style Lock-blade Folding Knife 5"bladeAntique Union Knife Co Naugatuck 1851-1885 Wharncliffe Whittler Vtg Usa PocketIxl George Wostenholm Sheffield England Stag Lock Back Knife (lot Y 47)Antique Vintage Old Carl Schmidt Sohn Jack German & Other Pocket Knife Lot 2Case Xx 6380 Whittler Early Rogers Bone Excellent! 1940-1964Vintage Robeson Knife Rochester Bone Snappy Big 3 3/4 " JackVintage Case Xx 5375 Stag Large Stockman Knife 1965 - 1969Rare Terrier Cut / Cutlery Co Easy Open 2 Blade Jack Knife Robeson Shuredge MadeVintage Camillus Usa Stainless Pocket Knife   Marlin Spike / Rigging / SailingVtg 1940-1964 ~ Case Xx 6225 1/2 ~ Coke Bottle Knife ~ Mint. FlawlessVintage Rare Robeson Big Jack Knife Antique Robeson Pocket Knife 62654 Early OneOld Vintage 1960s Case Xx Usa Stag Hunting Knife 516-5 W/ Sheath Mint!Vintage  1940-64  case Xx  pocket Knife   2229 1/2   2 Blade Tadpole Jack  blackCase Tested Xx Knife Usa Made Knives Swell End Jack Knife 1920 To 1940 Long PullRare Robeson Shuredge "campers" Knife W/ 1922-1939 Tang Stamps (lot R 61)Vintage Fixed Blade Knife Lot Of 6, Vtg, Camillus, Marble, Jean Case Cutco, EtcVintage Jaeger Bros/aerial Cutlery Co Knife---pat 1916-for RepairCase Xx 1960's. 1970's 1980's Pocket Knife Lot Vintage Pocket Knives, Sterling Silver, Flylock, NurnbergAntique Vintage Venture H.m.slater Sheffield Old Style Lockback Knife Nm Vintage Ww2 Kingston Craftsman Etch Marine Corps Usmc Army Navy Usaf Knife NrVintage Rostfrei Springer Single Blade Folding Knife Vintage Case Xx Usa Knife Stockman 6392 1965-69 EraVintage Winchester Usa Wharrncliffe 3" Excellent Whittler KnifeVintage Sta-sharp Sportsman Trapper Pocket Knife.Vintage Kabar Hobo Knife Take Apart 5 1/4"l Dog Heat Nice Snap Rogers Bone Vintage Hubertus Solingen Pocket Jack Knife Old 4"stag Bone Serpentine SportsmanVintage Old 9dot 1971 Case Xx Eisenhower Bone Pocket Knife 06263 MintVintage Sears Sta-sharp Standard Scouts Knife #9548Antique '20-40 Case Tested Xx Uscg Coast Guard Tl29 Radio Signal Corps Knife OldAwesome! 3" A.g. Russell Folding Locking Pocket Knife Ats-34 Japan No ReserveVintage Schrade Cutlery Co.walden Ny Locking Knife UsaAntique Vintage Hart Cutlery Company Ny Whittler Knife Gen. Pearl C1900-19202 Vintage Rostfrei 44c Springer Single Blade Folding KnivesOld Vintage Western Boulder Colorado Usa Punch Stockman Pocket KnifeVintage Solingen Germany Springer Single Blade Folding KnifeVintage Unused Schrade Old Timer 3 Blade Model 8ot Pocket KnifeNapanoch 1900-1919 Tool Kit Knife 9 Pc Pat 1907 Bone Stag Cock Spur Saw Case Rare Case Xx Bone Handled 1940-65 Tadpole 6229 1/2 Knife 2 Blade Old Camillus Cutlery Whittler Knife