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]



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    

Cattaraugus Co. Little Valley, N.y. Wrench Knife (3-w Model) C. 1920-30's W.r. Case & Sons Cutlery Co, Bradford, Pa. Swell Center Elephant ToenailVenture, Slater Bros. Sheffield Pearl Snuff Box & Pocket Knife, C. 1870-80's Rare Puma Springbock Folding Knife Year 2008 German Knives Collector SolingenCase Xx Knife 1940-64 2nd Cut Red Bone High-pull 6265 Sab Hunter + Box Near MintEarly Ka-bar Union Cutlery Dogs Head 2 Blade Folding Knife Stag HandlesNapanoch Knife Co., New York Large Coke Bottle Folding Knife, C. 1900-1919Nice Old 1917-1946 Schrade Cut. Co. 2 Blade Bone Handle Pocket KnifeVintage Case Xx 5488 1965-69 Fat Stag Congress KnifeWiebusch & Hilger Bartender Knife For Anheuser-busch Brewing W/stanhope ViewerCase Xx 1940-64 Mint India Stag Congress 5488 (knife Collectors Want) KnifeVintage " Remington " U. M. C. Folding Pocket KnifeSuperb 1971 Vintage Puma 970 Game Warden Folding Lock Knife + Box Papers - 81173Case Xx 1998 5197l Shark Tooth Lock Back Knife Stag Mint In Box No ReserveRare - Ca 1850 Folding Knife & Saw / Violin & Gr Maker Mark / Ebony Wood HandleOld Lot Of 2 Vintage Knives For Parts & RepairAntique Ed Wusthof Solingen Germany Stag Lockback Folding Knife Knives VintageVintage Cattaraugus Little Valley New York Pocket Knife Swayback Jack StagCase Tested Xx 6253 Slick Black Mint 1920-64 3.25" Sleeveboard KnifeRobeson Pocketeze Small Cattle Knife With PunchVintage Electric Cutley Company Walden New York 2 Blade Easy Open Pocket KnifePre Cripple Creek Bob Cargill Stag Slide Bolster Lock Knife & Case New Old Stock3" Vintage Northwoods Folding Knife ~ Estate Find ~ 5 1/8 Total LengthCamillus 4-line (1940s Era) ~ Ww2 Usn Navy Utility Doctor Knife Bone & Nice!!!Vintage Antique 1915 Us Navy ? Fighting Knife Camillus Brand Large Nasty 1975 Case Xx 5-dot P197 Lssp Shark Tooth Knife, Mint, W/box, Sheath & PapersWr Case Sons Hand Crafted Medium Stockman Pocket Knife Prime Stag W Box V53087ssOriginal 1930's Remington Or Pal ~ Boy Scout ~ Genuine Bone Handle Pocket Knife1981 Case Xx 9 Dot Smooth White Texas Lockhorn Knife W/box & Sheath, Ships FreeWr Case Sons Hand Crafted Medium Texas Toothpick Pocket Knife W Can 610094 SsWr Case Sons Hand Crafted Large Hammerhead Hunter Lockback Pocket Knife 2159l SsCustom Made Vanad-stin 5.5 Inch Fixed Blade Knife! Wwii Ww2 Era! Lee A. Hoppe!Case Dagger Vietnambeautiful Vintage Knife1989 Case Xx 1-dot 51059l Ssp India Stag Lockback Knife, Free ShippingAntique Thumb Lancets In Original Case1982 Case Xx 8-dot Sfo 5288 Stag 2-bladed Big Congress Knife Mint, Free Shipping1985 Case Xx 5-dot R6254 Moskal Red Bone Big Trapper Knife Nm, Free ShippingParker Edwards #m12d Usa Damascus Steel Pocket Knife And BoxAntique Large Pocket Knife W. Antler Scales, C. 18801988 Case Xx 2-dot 6207 Unused Bone Mini-trapper Knife, Free ShippingWr Case Sons Hand Crafted Us Navy Natural Bone Trapper Pocket Knife Set 6254 SsRare Early Moore Usa Custom Folder By Ted Moore Mammoth Scrimshaw Ruby TantoMid 1700's Folding Pocket Knife With 4 Prong Fork18th Century Primitive Nice! #4Mid 1700's Folding Pocket Knife 18th Century Primitive Nice! #1Case Xx Usa Mint India Stag Congress 5488 (the Knife All Collectors Want) Knife1900 Knife..western States Cutlery Boulder..push Thumb Lever Close Blade Case 5299 1/2 Large Jack Knife Genuine Stag Handles 10 Dot 1970 MintCase Xx 5172 Bulldog 1965 Stag Folding Knife With Original Box & PaperworkVintage Case Knives Puma 'plainsman' 2-blade Lockback Folding Knife In Box W/sheath, 1968 Germany.Old Antique Cattaraugus 5 1/2 Inch Coke Bottle Pocket Knife 12189 King Of The WVintage Case Xx 62031 1/2 Red Bone 1940-1964 Pocket Knife Mint (nice)! Vintage Antique Flylock Pocket Knife B Port Conn. Pat Mar. 5 1918N/mint Vtg. Case Xx Usa, 1965-69 Stag Trapper # 5254- Nice! N/r!New 1940-64 Case Xx Red Grooved Stag Folding Hunter Knife 6265 Sab Puma Solingen Germany Fishing Folding Knife UnusedBeautiful Case Xx 5172 Ssp Razor Edge Fat Stag Handle Folding Knife-near MintKa-bar Knives - Lot Of 4 Authentic Vintage Kabar Folding And Fixed Blade KnivesCase Bradford Classic 5223 Large Trapper Knife Beautiful India Sambar StagUnusual Early Stanhope Lens French Pocket Knife Eiffel Tower Shaped Horn Handles