A knife with promotional material (company name, slogan, product illustration, etc.) printed or stamped on the handles (more rarely, etched on the blade). Usually intended as a premium or give-away item.
A knife with promotional material (company name, slogan, product illustration, etc.) printed or stamped on the handles (more rarely, etched on the blade). Usually intended as a premium or give-away item.
A knife in which the blade is held closed by spring pressure (i.e. it has a “bias toward closing”) but which requires only a few degrees of opening to move the blade past the pressure point so that it opens the remainder of the way by spring pressure alone. Offers the quick opening of a […]
aka. Switchblade. A knife with a button, lever, slide, or other mechanism which, when operated, causes the blade to open by spring pressure without being touched by the operator. See; Assisted Opening.
A Serpentine Pen Knife that narrows towards one end, then swells wider at the very tip. (The ‘Copperhead” characteristic is that widening, see also: Copperhead Pattern)
Portion of a pocketknife blade’s tang that determines the ‘stop’ position of the blade when fully open. See the illustration of the parts of a blade.
A metal loop on one end of a knife’s handle, used to secure the knife to a lanyard, chain or other means of retention. (Illustration from the Winchester Model Drawings notebook, available in our Digital Library)
aka Berge Knife. A folding knife with two blades pivoted together but opening from opposite sides of the handle such that when one blade is opened its run-up strikes the run-up of the opposite blade. Therefore, only one blade at a time can be opened fully. Antique balance knives are often premium knives having mother-of-pearl […]
A jack knife in the figural shape of a leg (‘leg knife’), incorporating a bottle cap lifter in the heel of the shoe-shaped bolster at its head end. Originated by Utica Cutlery Co.
The swell-center version of an equal-end Jack knife; always has rounded bolsters.
1) A barehead regular jack with an extra-long bolster. It is usually a less expensive knife, with plain handles but can occasionally be found with premium handles such as stag or pearl. The common barlow knife is about 3 3/8″ long but “daddy” barlows and “grandaddy” barlows can be five inches long. 2) The name […]
1) A barehead regular jack with an extra-long bolster. It is usually a less expensive knife, with plain handles but can occasionally be found with premium handles such as stag or pearl. The common barlow knife is about 3 3/8″ long but “daddy” barlows and “grandaddy” barlows can be five inches long; and “baby” barlows […]
1) A knife which is individually assembled, fitted, and finished from a set of parts which were made in bulk, by machine. Quality mass-produced knives often have some hand work in them so it’s a matter of degree. 2) The trade name of a modern cutlery manufacturer. See: Hand Made.
Pieces of common cattle horn, shaved at an acute angle to display layers of shading and patterning within; used to make handles. (Illustration from Smith’s Key, 1816)
A type of surgical blade most often found on folding medical instruments. It is long, narrow, and curved, with a rounded or pointed end.
In this context, a cutting tool attached to a handle. In specifying the number of blades in a knife, each tool and attachment counts as a “blade.”
Small extensions out of, or tiny knobs attached to, the spine of a pen knife’s blade to facilitate grasping and opening the blade.
The medical tool known as a bleeder, which was used on humans, has a spring-powered fleam blade about 1/4″ wide mounted in a small case with a trigger which releases the blade with force. Multiple spring-powered blades (eight to twelve) set in a metal box with a trigger which releases them all at once are […]
Blister steel is a very old process of hardening iron by forming the iron into thin plates, layering them with charcoal, and re-forging them into a solid mass. Since the charcoal is poorly distributed through the mass it tends to make “blisters” which can leave characteristic voids in the finished product.
A heavy brush-chopping knife with a curved blade swelled slightly through the front half. Also, similar military knives with extra-wide blades.
The metal tips at the end(s) of a knife’s handles. There are dozens of specialized names for the different styles of bolsters. On a jack knife the bolster opposite the blade-pivot end is called the “top”, or “head”, or “cap” bolster. The bolster at the blade-pivot end is the “bottom” bolster. A jack knife with no cap […]
Usually the shin-bone from cattle. It is very hard and durable. It can be dyed almost any color, scored mechanically (jigged), or polished smooth. One of the earliest handle materials for knives and still a collector’s favorite today.
A bottle opener knife is any pen or small jack knife which carries a cork screw or has a cap lifter built into the handle or in one of the knife’s blades. See: Champagne Pattern.
The bolster at the bottom end of a jack knife, i.e. where the blade is pivoted. The other end has the “cap,” or “head,” or “top,” bolster.
In modern terms, any large hunting or fighting knife supposed to resemble the knife James Bowie used at the Vidalia Sandbar Fight in 1827. Despite myriad claims, nobody really knows what that knife looked like.
An integral bolster & cross-guard with short quillons, vaguely resembling a bowtie. Usually found on long thin jack knives, stilettos, etc.
A small (3 1/2″ or less) usually single-bladed regular or curved regular jack knife intended for youngsters who weren’t ready for a “serious” knife. They can be well- or cheaply-made but tended to be inexpensive. Often originally accompanied by an attached chain to delay the knife’s inevitable loss.
Blade with a dull, beveled “horn” near its tip, to serve as a spud in a budding knife.
A springless folding knife with two hollow handles which pivot on opposite sides of the blade’s tang. When closing, each hollow handle rotates 180 degrees completely enclosing the blade. There is a small latch which holds the handles together when open or closed. Butterfly knives are illegal in many jurisdictions. (Pictured: classic Balisong knife by […]
When one or both ends of a handle (with or without bolsters) is slightly pointed it is called a “candle-end.” This feature is most often found on lobster patterns. (above, featured image) Candle End Lobster Candle End Jack
An equal-end handle die with the side opposite the backspring relieved toward its center-line, leaving the bolsters nearly full, thus giving the impression of a canoe with its turned-up ends. Traditionally, canoes are usually made as two-blade jacks (single or double ended) or as three blade cattle knives. After the collecting era began some were […]
On a jack knife, the bolster at the head end, opposite the blade-pivot end. If a jack knife does not have a cap bolster, it is called a “barehead jack.” Without a cap bolster, this is a Barehead Jack.
An early method of turning iron into steel, invented in 1742 and last made in the 1960s, it involves melting iron in a sealed crucible with charcoal. Also called crucible steel.
A small piece of metal placed between a liner and a blade, (or between the springs in a whittler pattern) to make extra room for another working part. (Illustration from the Winchester Model Drawings notebook, available in our Digital Library)
A heavy, knife with rounded ends, two springs, and three, or rarely four, blades. A few have three springs and are called “three-spring” cattle knives. One of the blades will be a spey or sheepfoot, and punch blades are common but not required. Most often made on an equal end frame (above), they can also […]
A type of fixed-blade rase knife used to mark wine and spirits barrels. See Rase Knife.
Invented ca. 1870, a tough man-made thermoplastic material, composed of cellulose nitrate and camphor. It can be made transparent and in endless varieties of colors and patterns and has been used to imitate genuine ivory, tortoise shell, and mother of pearl. However, it is highly flammable and poor quality-control in its manufacture can cause it […]
A beveled area on the edges of the spine of a blade. It makes the forward part of the blade more narrow to aid in penetration and on folders allows access to the nail nicks of blades lying beside it. Also called a swedge. Chamfer is not the same as a “clip” point. See the […]
A champagne knife is a fixed-blade knife with a curved wire breaker blade to aid in opening a bottle of champagne. See: Champagne Pattern.
The champagne pattern is a multi-blade knife which carries a blade(s), a corkscrew and a short, claw-like “blade” with file teeth on its inner surface, called a “wire breaker.” Before the modern twist-off wire basket used today to retain the cork in a bottle of champagne, it was necessary to break the wire. Later champagne […]
A decorative technique in which a metal piece is cast with a pattern of small depressions in it. The depressions are filled with colored glass and the entire piece is heated until the glass fuses. See; Cloisonne.
A knife with a picture of a famous person or cartoon character stamped or printed onto a regularly shaped handle. See: Figural Knife
A blade made with all the beveling toward its edge done on one side. The opposite side is completely flat.
The choil is a small notch cut into a folding blade just ahead of the kick, where the shoulder meets the cutting edge. See the illustration of the parts of a blade.
A distinctly English pattern which is similar to the American Trapper, the Church Window is a 3-1/2″ t0 4″ Reverse Dogleg Jack or Curved Jack with an extra long bolster that is usually decorated with threading, a step down, etc. See also: Trapper, Standard.
A folding- or fixed-blade knife which incorporates a tiny hammer, pry bar, and tack puller. Used to open and re-seal cigar boxes.
Cigars often come with one end completely sealed by the outer tobacco leaf “wrapper” (not the plastic wrapper), which must be cut open or pierced before lighting them. Simply chopping the end off with a blade can crush and split the wrapper and filler making smoking unpleasant due to innumerable bits of loose tobacco getting […]
A handle pattern, usually found in large folding hunter sizes, which curves up at the head; the shape may be mostly straight or may swell in its center. The head is sometimes pointed and sometimes bulbous. This is an early pattern derived from the shape of cattle horn and antler used for knife handles. The […]
A machinist’s term that refers to grinding down the surface of a piece of metal to remove rust and other imperfections. In knife terminology cleaning or “cleaned” refers to re-grinding the surfaces of a blade to remove traces of corrosion and/or improper sharpening. Cleaning removes all the original factory surface, any etching, and sometimes even […]
A blade with a straight or concave slice cut out of the spine at its tip. The cut can be fairly short or extend much of the length of the blade.
A decorative technique in which small wires are bent into a pattern, e.g.flowers, animals, geometrics, etc., and soldered onto an underlying material. The areas between the wires are filled with powdered glass of different colors and the piece is heated until the powder fuses into solid glass. See: Champleve
A small saw which looks like a miniature hacksaw; used for cutting the spurs off fighting cocks so as to replace them with long sharpened blades or spikes called “gaffs.”
Said of metal handles, typically aluminum, nickel-silver, or brass, struck with a tool (a “die,” hence the term “die-struck”) which imparts a pattern, picture, and/or text (as with a coin). Usually used on souvenir, commemorative, or advertising knives. See: Engraving, Etch, and Stamp.
A balance knife of South East Asia used by rug weavers. It consists of a leaf-shaped blade and a spike, on opposirte sides, in a bulbous handle.
A Swell Center Jack that is wider on the cap end than the bottom end; the term is typically associated with folding hunters (0ver 5″ closed). Derived, obviously, from its similarity to an old fashioned bottle of Coca-Cola. See: Swell-Center Jack
A wide, circular joint on a pocket knife which looks like the joint on a draftsman’s compass.
An equal-end jack knife with its handle curved down in a slight arc. The blades are on the convex side.
A jack knife with bolsters that widen significantly at the pivot end, typified by Case’s 6249 pattern (pictured). The Case C61050 is a Copperhead version of a Coke Bottle Folding Hunter (61050). Case C61050 folding hunter
A corn knife is a small jack knife with a hollow-ground blade, used to trim “corns” off one’s feet. Not to be confused with a “maize knife.”
An agricultural-related knife built on a curved jack frame, the cotton knife was used by cotton buyers to cut a sample from a bail of cotton. The blade is distinctive, having a short section near the tang which is unsharpened and a swelled forward part the size of a teaspoon. Alternately, some cotton knives have […]
A jack knife with the ends more-or-less squared off, wider at the cap end and having a slight swell in the middle. The Gunstock Jack is similar, but more exaggerated. A Gunstock Jack has a similar but more exaggerated shape than a Crown Jack.
Modern crown pens are nearly rectangular and may have octagonal ends (with or without bolsters). This pattern is frequently found with a Closed Back feature.
The crown handle die has squared ends and usually looks somewhat like a slender barrel, although it can taper somewhat. It can also be swell-centered.
If a regular jack is curved up – with the blade(s) on the concave side – it is a Curved Jack. If the handle curves down – with the blades on the convex side – it becomes a Congress Jack (if symmetrical), or a Swayback Jack (if tapered).
A specialized manicure knife with a tiny blade, intended for maintenance of the cuticle and the proximal nail fold.
Commonly, laminated steel using layers of different metals fused together so that when polished and etched the layers form visible patterns on the surface. Typically this is Pattern Welded Steel in which the layers are manipulated to achieve different visual patterns. Other varieties include Mosaic Damascus Steel, Powder Damascus Steel, and Crucible Damascus Steel (Wootz) […]
A modern moldable opaque plastic manufactured by DuPont and often used to simulate jigged bone or stag. It was invented in 1952 and first used on factory knives ca. 1960.
A knife with a blade or blades which have a very fine, short-toothed comb for the grooming of wiry-coated dogs.
A serpentine pen knife that is wider and turns down at the cap end. Not to be confused with jacks that turn up at the cap end, referred to as Reverse Dogleg Jacks. Turning up at the cap end, this is a Reverse Dogleg Jack.
An un-equal ended candle-end lobster that looks like it has been pinched close to one end. See: Sunfish Lobster.
Some knives with blades at both ends are too large and robust to be called “pen” knives. These are referred to a “Double-End Jacks.” Many knives that are technically double end jacks are referred to by specific names: e.g. Sunfish, Muskrat, Moose, Jumbo Sleeveboard, etc.
A modern blade shape popularized by R.W. “Bob” Loveless, in which the spine slopes slightly as it approaches the tip and the cutting edge curves upward a greater distance than it does with a Spear Point blade. See: Spear Point Blade.
A knife with tools specifically for attaching the fuse or blasting cap to a stick of dynamite, including a spike, a cap crimper, and a wire cutter.
A pair of large cut-outs in a knife’s handles that allow a blade to be pinched between the thumb and fore-finger for opening. A knife with such cut-outs is called an “easy opener.” A small groove cut into the inner edge of a liner/handle for access to the pull is called a “nail relief.”
Any pattern of knife with a half-round notch cut into the handle top allow grasping the blade with a thumb and finger. Easy openers are often built on Swell End Jack frames but can be built as other patterns, such as Regular Jacks. Not to be confused with “Nail Reliefs.”
A Jack Knife with a spear-point main blade and an equally long screwdriver / wire-stripper as the second blade. The screwdriver usually has a locking mechanism for safety.
See: Sunfish. Often erroneously called “Elephant’s Toe” which is rather unappealing.
Enamel, in this context, means fused glass, although it is often applied to hard, glossy paint. Glass powder, sometimes in colors, is poured onto a metal handle which is then heated until the powder melts and fuses into a solid coating. Beautiful patterns can be achieved using additional techniques such as cloissone and guilloche.
A style of decoration on steel created by using a rotating rod and fine grit to grind shallow, overlapping circles on its surface. It is often done to give a pleasing visual effect to an otherwise unfinished surface. It can also be done with an extremely complicated lathe call a “rose engine.” The Warthers of […]
Premium quality slim, regular, and sleeveboard jacks over 4″ long are often called “English” jacks. They may or may not have a blade lock.
Marks made on a surface by cutting into it with a tool, traditionally by hand. Also, the act of making such marks. Markings on knife blades are rarely engraved; they are usually stamped or etched. See: Etch and Stamp.
A handle die in which both ends are mirror images of one another. An Equal End Pen is called a “Senator Pen”.
An equal-end jack has equally-rounded bolsters at both ends and straight, or nearly straight sides. There are wide and very narrow Equal-End Jacks, whearas equal-end pen knives are usually narrow.
An equal-end jack has equally-rounded bolsters at both ends and straight, or nearly straight sides. There are wide and very narrow Equal-End Jacks; equal-end pen knives are usually narrow.
A mark (often a picture or trademark on the face of a blade) made by using acid to dissolve areas of the metal. Also, the act of making such a mark. See Engraving and Stamp.
This pattern is a Swell-Center Serpentine with the blades pivoted at the narrow end and round cap bolsters. Western States called it the “Eureka” pattern.
In the cutlery industry a factor was an individual who contracted with outworkers (independent artisans) who made knives to his specifications and bearing his mark.
A large, light-weight folding knife with no bolsters, a pattern of Germanic origin. Typified by Case’s “Sodbuster” pattern. Occasionally produced with a locking device.
A double-end jack knife similar to a large Wharncliffe handle pattern. It always carries a pruning blade and a spey blade. Sometimes known as a “Rooster Comb.”
A farrier’s knife (often miss-spelled “ferrier” or “furrier”) is a fixed-blade knife with a stout blade the flat tip of which is rolled down into a small gouge for scraping debris from a horse’s hoof prior to shoeing. Folding knives having a hooked tool for that purpose are called “horseman’s knives.”
A short-handled bill-hook, or brush hook, formerly used for cutting fasces, or bundles of sticks used to re-inforce earthworks and ditches.
An antique spelling of “feast” knife. Before forks came into popular use people often used their knife to scoop food from their plate. A feast knife (usually a springless knife with a curved handle) had a wide blade which could flare to over an inch at the tip, which served as a blade and a […]
More commonly known by the trademarked name originated by its developer, DuPont, fiberglass-reinforced nylon was introduced in 1985 and has become the de-facto standard handle material for less expensive hard-use knives of modern construction. It is usually black but can be made in other colors. See also: Zytel®
Said of a knife that has a handle that is actually shaped like a familiar object, e.g. the popular “shoe” knives that have the shape of an old shoe. The handles may be stamped or cast in a mold, with realistic details. A knife with regularly shaped handles which have an image cast, stamped, or […]
Decorative marks usually cut (usually by hand) into a knife’s backspring and/or the spine of the blade. See: Milled. Fileworked three blade Sowbelly by Sheffield Little Mester Stan Shaw, made in 1973.
A blade usually found in a specialized Fish Gaff Pattern, pointed on the end and with a U-curved shape about 1 1/4″ across, for lifting a fish into the net.
A specialty pattern for fishermen, made with a long clip blade, a hook disgorger, and a curved gaff hook about 1 1/4″ across, for lifting a fish into the net. The gaff knife has a thick, nearly ninety degree curve at the head end to aid in gripping and pulling.
A Jack Knife with the blade end rounded and the opposite end slightly flaired and convex; it vaguely resembles a fish. See: Fishtail Jack.
The fish knife is a toothpick or tickler frame with a fish scaler, either on the spine of the single blade or as a second blade incorporating a notch at the tip as a hook disgorger. A bottle opener is sometimes built into an extended area of the tang on one of the blades.
Typically the spine of a blade in a fish knife having an unshapened “saw-tooth” edge used for de-scaling fish. Sometimes it is a separate blade incorporating a hook disgorger at the tip.
A knife with a wide, usually heavily decorated, silver-plated blade; formerly used in England to serve fish.
A long, narrow knife with a flaring cap bolster which resembles a fish’s tail. The bottom bolster often has an integral crossguard. With a guard, the pattern is usually referred to as a Bowtie.
A blade that has a flat surface from the spine to the cutting edge; i.e. the grind extends all the way to the spine. When there is more than one surface or grind, the blade is Saber/Sabre Ground. A Sabre Ground Blade
A veterinary tool with one to three or more springless blades pivoting in a handle that is essentially a small custom case. The short, double-edged blade is made as an extention on the side of a long tang. Fleam blades 1/2″ wide or more are veterinary instruments. They were struck, on the blade’s spine, with […]
A short, double-edged blade is made as an extension on the side of a long tang. Fleam blades 1/2″ wide or more are veterinary instruments. They were struck, on the blade’s spine, with a “bloodstick.” Single, folding fleams are sometimes found mounted next to a liner, and without a spring, in horseman’s knives. Do not […]
A knife which can be opened by snapping the wrist outward. In the UK, “Flick Knife” is a more popular term for a switchblade or automatic knife.
An assisted-opening knife which has an extension of the tang protruding from the back of the knife’s handle, which when pulled back (“flipped” – like a light switch), moves the blade outward past its bias point causing it to open fully.
A slim serpentine, or double-ended jack knife, with “Say It With Flowers” inscribed on the plastic handles. Florist’s knives have a sheepfoot, or sheepfoot and spey, blade(s).
A special pattern of multi-blade knife for fly fishermen with tools to aid in tying flies, changing one’s tackle set-up and other fishing-related chores. This knife, 4″ long, more or less, is built like a lobster pattern with a long spear or clip main blade, a hook disgorger/file, a thin spike, and a pair of […]
A larger (4 1/2″ or more) extra-fancy jack knife made with premium materials and workmanship; usually with a locking blade. While they bear no resemblance to the original Bowie knife (whatever it actually looked like), in the 19th century they were a gentleman’s folding self-defence weapon. See: German Bowie
Guards that fold into the handle are rarely found on fixed blade knives, but examples (usually European-made) do exist.
A folding guard is a guard that folds flat when the blade is closed, but moves into position when the blade is opened. Generally knives with this feature are rather large and have locking blades. A popular pattern with this feature is the Case 61011-1/2, commonly known as the “Cheetah”.
Any large (5″ or greater) jack knife rugged enough to be suitable for serious use by a hunter for field-dressing larger game.
A blade which has been formed by hammering a piece of heated steel into the desired shape, as opposed to a “ground” or “stock removal” blade.
Before the use of stainless steel for knife blades (ca. 1920), knives specially made for cutting fruit had blades made of (or plated with) silver, which will not react with the acid in the fruit juice, as a steel blade does, and cause the fruit to discolor. These knives often have fancy handles made of decorated silver and/or […]
A blade that has not lost any of its original size or shape due to sharpening is said to be “full.” However, if you don’t know what the original shape was it is dangerous to claim that a blade is full. Carefully sharpened blades can lose 10% or more of their profile and appear “original” to the untrained eye.
A specially shaped knife, which is usually just a single piece of steel with a long straight edge and an acute point, used in the garmet industry to patch fur pieces together.
A high-pressure fiberglass laminate, created by stacking multiple layers of glass cloth, soaking in epoxy resin, and compressing the resulting material under heat until the epoxy cures.
A term loosely applied to any handle with a folding blade and some other tool(s), or gadget, not covered by a specific tool-knife name. Examples include a tape measure or folding rule, fingernail clipper, cigarette lighter, removable pen or pencil, etc.
A Punal. A fixed blade knife with all metal mounts and sheath. The traditional knife of the cowboys of southern South America.
A folding knife, typically with a locking blade which is longer than the handle, so that when folded, the blade’s unguarded edge protrudes, up to several inches, beyond the end of the handle. Typically carried in a holster, it can be used folded or unfolded.
A satin-like finish on steel accomplished by using extremely fine grit. The last grinding step before giving it a “crocus,” or mirror, finish.
A grafting knife is used in the process of attaching a small, living limb (the “cutting”) of one species of tree onto a limb or the trunk (the “stock”) of another species by making an incision into the bark of the host tree and inserting and sealing the cutting in it so that the cutting […]
If a bolster has a single, half-round channel running across it, it is said to be grooved. See: Threaded Bolster, Pinched Bolster.
The wide part of a knife’s handle, at the place where the blade joins it, which prevents one’s hand from slipping onto the blade if the knife meets resistance while being pushed forward. Some folding knives have large T-shaped bolsters as guards; others have a “folding guard” pivoted on the blade such that it folds […]
A decorative technique in which a very precise, intricate and repetitive pattern is engraved onto a material. For knife handles the decorated metal is usually covered with tinted, transparent enamel.
A (usually, fairly small) Swell-Center Jack variant on which the swell on the blade side does not narrow toward the non-blade end. The handle resembles a rifle stock. See: Crown Jack (similar pattern). This is NOT a Gunstock Jack, but a Crown Jack; the Gunstock Jack’s form is more exaggerated.
A square-ended premium (serpentine) jack with a small widening of the handle’s head end.
If a knife’s tang is flat at the back end the blade stops distinctly when it is opened or closed half-way (90 degrees). This is called a half-stop. The tang of the above blade features a half-stop. This blade has a rounded tang end, which means it will NOT stop at 90 degrees when it […]
Half-whittler, half-trapper, half congress, etc. Years ago a knife manufacturer (Case) took a pattern they produced as a whittler and sold it with only two blades (pattern # 6208 1/2 – i.e. an ordinary penknife). To make it sound desireable they called it a “half-whittler.” (Whittlers are defined as having three blades. Likewise, a trapper […]
A knife in which the parts are all literally produced and fitted together individually, i.e.”by hand.” Many modern knives advertised as “hand made” are only hand assembled from mass produced parts. See: Benchmade.
The outer covering of the knife where one grips it. Handles are typically made of stag (deer antler), horn (cattle), bone (jigged or smooth), wood, mother-of-pearl (genuine marine oyster-shell), various metals, tortoise (sea turtle) and many different synthetic materials.
The shape or sillhouette of a knife’s handle. Probably named after the cutting tool (the “die”) used to punch out the liners of the knife. The handle die’s name can be the name of the knife’s pattern but not necessarily.
The material which covers the outside surface of a knife, where it is gripped.
A large sheath knife or short sword, typically German, used by hunters to dispatch wounded game.
A Jack Knife, in any of several patterns, which carries a large main blade and a punch as the second blade.
A type of surgical blade found on folding medical instruments. A long curved blade with a rounded tip having only the last third sharpened.
A Bowie-style, fixed blade knife produced by Andrew Hicks of Cleveland, Ohio, with a brass-bound handle and usually a 10″ blade. It was once thought to have been produced c.1840, perhaps the first official U.S. military knife (supposedly issued by the US government to US Army riflemen). It has since been shown to date from […]
A penny knife from Japan consisting of a one-piece, folded, sheet metal handle and a blade formed from a thin piece of steel sandwiched between two pieces of iron (See: San Mai).
The handle and guard of a fixed-blade knife. More commonly used with swords, its use with knives is discouraged.
The pin on which the blade(s) of a folding knife rotates. Generically, “pin” can also refer to one of the rivets which hold the handle scales or shield onto the knife’s liners.
Originally, a camping set with a handle and inter-changeable knife blade and hatchet, by Case and Ka-Bar. Today the term is commonly applied to slot knives and folding knives with a fork and/or spoon. See: Slot Knife. Ka-Bar Hobo with slot knife construction, from the 1938 BSA catalog.
A blade that has a concave surface from the spine toward the cutting edge, or in some cases, the beginning of the grind to the edge.
The material from the horns of the family bovidae – cattle, buffalo, bison, etc., used as handle material for knives. Horn from sheep and exotic African animals is used primarily by custom knife makers.See: Stag
A sportsman’s knife that includes a stout folding hook which is used to clean out the underside of a horse’s hooves. Sometimes it will have a “hidden” fleam blade next to one liner.
When a blade is opened it usually rotates about 180 degrees before it is stopped by the spring. If it opens noticeably further is it said to be hyper-extended.
A short, double-edged, (usually) non-folding blade on the end of a long tang in a wood or ivory handle, used to “erase” ink by scraping it from parchment, vellum, and paper. Often sold as “Civil War scalpels.” The style that is like a short dagger is, without its handle, sometimes sold to the unsuspecting as […]
A short, double-edged blade used to “erase” ink by scraping it from parchment, vellum, and paper.
If a bolsters and liner of a knife are a single piece this construction detail is called an “integral bolster-liner.”
A modern style of knife with solid metal handles having a recess for a decorative inlay. Patented in 1973 by Ron Lake, but often used in the 19th century for inexpensive knives.
A creamy-white dentine material that composes most of the tusk of the elephant, walrus, hippopotamus, etc. Elephant ivory is the most often encountered. Also fossilized tusk from mastodon, mammoth, and walrus. It is a traditional material on custom knives and fine cutlery. Ivory is being increasingly restricted due to environmental and animal poaching concerns.
A knife with all its blades pivoting at the same end and on the same side (a single-bladed knife is automatically a jack knife). See: Pen Knife and Multi-blade.
The grooves or patterns cut into (usually bone) handle material to simulate the appearance of stag. Old knife catalogues refer to jigged bone as “bone stag.”
A regular or equal end jack that is extra long (3 5/8″ or longer) and fat is a jumbo jack.
The Jumbo Trapper is slightly longer and nearly twice as wide as a standard trapper. While they didn’t invent it (Utica Cutlery was making it five years earlier), it was popularized during the 1920s in Remington’s famed line of Bullet Knives as the R1123 and R1128 patterns, and the same frame was used on the […]
If the bottom edge of a blade’s tang has a pronounced widening or a protrusion next to the choil, this is called the “kick.” The kick is what strikes the backspring, inside the handle, when the blade is closed, preventing the blade’s edge from striking the spring. See the illustration of the parts of a […]
Often called the first tool made by humans, it must be remembered that knapping a blade from a piece of stone requires hitting the stone with something, so the hammer was the first tool used by humans – to make the first knife.
Any knife with a pistol built into it or a pistol with a knife blade attached or folding out of it. In the first case it is considered a “disguised weapon” and a Federal Tax Stamp is required to legally own it. (Pictured, Sheffield made Unwin & Rodgers knife pistol, percussion model, mid-19th century; from […]
As the name implies, these tools have a knife, fork, and spoon which can be separated into individual pieces to be used for eating. A stud, or formed button, on one part fits into a keyhole-shaped slot in its companion and slides to lock the two pieces together, hence the name “slot knife.” Sometimes called […]
a.k.a. D-guard. A curved metal finger-guard attached to the handle of a fighting knife. Not to be confused with a “sub-hilt.”
Occasionally you may find a knife (usually a diminutive pen knife) with “Ladies Knife” marked on its side. This was a marketing ploy. Just because a knife is small (even the tiny “charm” sized miniature knives), or very fancy, or made of precious materials, does not mean it was specifically made for women to carry. In the […]
A style of clasp knife originally made by Calmels in the Laguiole reqion of France. A Laguiole typically has the business end of the spring carved in the shape of a bee. It will sometimes have a corkscrew.
Similar to a sheepfoot blade which has a spine parallel to its edge, the lambfoot has a slight taper and the rounding at the tip makes a slightly more acute point. See: Sheepfoot, Wharncliffe blades.
A type of surgical blade found on folding medical instruments. The head on some types of lancets (like the Gum Lancet pictured here) looks like a tiny axe. Thumb lancets may look more like a wide dagger, or other wide form. Gum lancet Thumb lancet
A knife, usually a small, single-bladed jack knife shaped like a leg having a foot or shoe. See: Ballet Knife.
A jack knife with a long non-folding letter-opening “blade” at its head end. Letter-opener knives were often advertising premiums. A “Desk Knife” may or may not incorporate a folding knife blade.
One of the metal plates onto which a knife’s bolsters and handles are attached or which separate the springs in a multi-springed knife. (Also, “Lining”).
A blade locking mechanism in which a section of one liner is tensioned in such a way that when a blade is fully opened the section moves inward, behind the tang, preventing the blade from closing.
In Sheffield, England, a little mester was an independent artisan who had his own shop or rented space in a factory and produced cutlery and other products. Sometimes they formed associations and produced parts for one another. (Lobster knife by Sheffield Little Mester Stan Shaw.) A 1973 Sowbelly by the most famous Sheffield Little Mester […]
A pen knife with blades pivoting from both sides, and perhaps both ends. Lobsters can be any shape and there are several pattern names unique to lobsters. (Pictured: Oval Lobster) Sleeveboard Lobster Equal End Lobster
A knife with a blade lock which is operated by depressing a lever somewhere on the back of the handle.
A safety device; any of a variety of mechanisms that prevent a blade, once opened, from closing without the user taking an additional action to un-lock it.
On very old knives: a kick which is not simply a widening of the tang but a pronounced, nearly square, extension of it. When assembling the knife, the kick would be slowly ground down until, when closed, the blade rested in the desired position inside the handle. (Illustration of jack knives with long square kicks […]
A commercial name given by Case to their #6217, a swayback jack pattern with sheepfoot and pen blades that was apparently popular in the weaving industry. Ka-Bar used this term as well and even registered it as a trademark. From the Goins’ Encyclopedia files — an example of the sort of thing you can access […]
A fixed blade knife with a long, thin, somewhat flexible blade (typically 12″ to 24″) used primarily for chopping brush or harvesting tropical plants such as sugar cane. A few folding machetes have also been produced over the years.
Also called a “sleight of hand knife.” Any knife, usually having contrasting handles or another special feature, used by magicians to create an illusion.
A knife used in the farming of sorghum, the maize knife is a jack with a short blade having a rounded end, much like a spey blade. A worn or broken pruner can easily be mistaken for a maize knife. Sometimes called a “corn topper.” See: Corn Knife
When you hold a knife horizontally, with a blade on the right and pointing upward, you are looking at the mark side of that blade. The opposite side is the pile side.
A robust (up to 3/8″ thick and as long as the knife), pointed spike which folds out of a rope knife and is used by sailors to tie and untie knots aboard ship. See: Rope Knife
Generally, the largest blade in a multiple-blade knife, but not a tool such as a saw blade.
Robeson sold a line of knives with a shield stamped “Mastercraft.” These knives had a piece of bronze attached to the tang of the blade(s) so that it rode on the spring rather than having steel-on-steel contact. Most Mastercraft knives encountered today are missing that piece of bronze. When the bronze cap is missing, the […]
A small knife-shaped device with one or more folding blades and one handle formed as a container with a hinged lid, designed to hold snuff.
A knife with any device which actuates or assists in opening its blade(s) without necessitating touching the blade itself. (Illustration of knives with slide-out blades from Smith’s Key, 1816.)
Most often a regular jack, which is long (4 1/2″ to 6″) and thin (about 1/2″ wide) with a single spear point blade. They are used to cut a plug out of melons to display the ripeness of the fruit. Also used in the meat packing industry, most melon testers have a vendor’s name or […]
Westinghouse’s trademarked name for a phenolic plastic laminated with other materials such as linen, paper, or canvas. Invented in 1937 for the electronics industry, it is tough and chemically resistant and is used for factory as well as custom knives.
A decorative effect similar to the edge of a dime, on the edges of the liners of a knife. Loosely, a similar zig-zag effect made by mechanically crimping the liner’s edge. See Filework.
(A philosophical definition) A tiny, yet fully functional knife, having all the same parts and materials, and functioning in the same way as a full-size knife; but being too small to be used for practical purposes. Most small knives are just small knives; miniatures are novelties primarily intended as charms or to display a knifemaker’s skill. Generally, a folding knife should be about one and […]
“Mint” does not mean “shiny.” Read that again! The description “mint” only applies to a knife when it remains exactly as it came from the factory. It can not have any use, or wear, period, although, poor finishing and manufacturing defects which were present when the knife was produced do not disqualify it from being mint. Once a knife […]
A decorative material made by fusing layers of different metals to produce pleasing layers of color. Do not confuse with damascus.
A Double-end Jack knife with two large, equally long blades. Moose with serpentine handle frame.
Usually (incorrectly) referred to simply as “pearl”, it is the nacreous material an oyster deposits on the inside of it’s shell, which can be cut and polished to a glass-like luster. It often displays iridescent colors and fascinating patterns that have tremendous “eye appeal.” Through the ages it has been the premier handle material on high […]
Technically, any knife with over one blade, the multi-blade term is a catch-all for knives, such as a “Swiss Army Knife” that don’t have a specific pattern name. Often such knives have many blades and special tools, such as a corkscrew, saw, gimlet, leather punch, hoof pick, scissors, etc. folding out of the handle. Six- […]
A serpentine, double-ended jack knife with two very narrow blades having extra-long clips. It was designed for trappers.
A small groove cut into the inner edge of a liner/handle for access to the pull. Also referred to as a Notch Hollow. (Illustration from the Winchester Model Drawings notebook, available in our Digital Library)
A smaller version of the rope knife for lighter work. Whalers do not have a bail.
An alloy of copper, zinc, and nickel, contains no silver. The usual nickel content is 18%, but in some cases lower percentages were used.
A large eureka pattern whittler with a pronounced swell and a unique blade shape. The heavy main blade is saber-ground with an exaggerated clip and swedge.
A equal-end, double-ended jack knife with a spear or clip point master blade and a spey as the second blade. They usually have celluloid handles and the words “Office Knife” pressed onto one side with fancy scroll-work decoration.
Popular after the Civil War and beyond; a dinner knife with a curved blade sharpened on the outside edge and ending in fork tines, for one-hand eating. Usually a fixed-blade but switchblade versions were produced. Newer knives having blades with a semi-circular cut-out at the tip (such as many straight razors do) are said to […]
A gunstock pattern lobster knife with a whittler configuration on its upper side and a long manicure file folded flush into the bottom side.
An equal-end pattern with a more pronounced convex arc to the handle’s edges than a ciger pattern. Generally small (2 1/2″) pen knives.
A handle with a long and very flexible, but not sharpened, folding spatula blade which is used by artists to apply paint to canvas (impasto technique) and by pharmacists to count or group pills on a platform. This type of spatula blade is sometimes found as the second blade in a physician’s pattern knife.
Antique books were made by printing multiple pages on both sides of one large sheet of paper, folding it repeatedly down to single-page size, and trimming the edges. When you received a book it was not uncommon to find some un-trimmed pages. Paper knives had dull blades with which to split the fold in order […]
Used with muzzleloading rifles: any knife used to trim excess patch cloth from around the bullet after is is pushed slightly into the barrel and before it is pushed all the way down to the powder. Many old riflemen simply used their regular sheath knife.
A word about knife shapes: The specific names that are given to the different shapes and styles of knives are called “patterns.” A knife’s pattern name can be based on the handle die, or shape of the handle (e.g. fishtail jacks), a specific function of the knife (e.g. pruners), or a specific design feature (e.g.whittlers). […]
Thin slices of exotic pearl species such as abalone and green sea snail, too small for use in knife handles, can be laminated into slabs much larger than can be found in nature. This material is very popular in collector knives.
Technically, only the loose pieces of nacreous material produced by certain shellfish, to surround irritants inside their shells, are referred to as “pearls.” However, the term is often substituted for “mother-of-pearl” when referring to anything made from mother-of-pearl; as in “pearl-handled knife.” Sometimes referred to as “marine pearl.” See: Mother of Pearl
A form of grafting known as “patch budding” is used with pecan trees. It requires placing a precisely cut “patch”, containing a bud, into an identically cut hole in the bark of the host tree. To make the cuts exactly the same size requires a knife with two parallel blades approximately one inch apart. The […]
Small buttons attached the spine of some small pen knives to make it easier to pull the blade open. Invented by – wait for it – W. W. Pellett in 1893.
A smallish knife that has blades that pivot from both ends. See: Jack Knife and Multi-blade.
Back when writing pens were actually made from bird’s feathers a device called a pen machine, basically a set of cutting dies in a wooden or ivory handle, was used to cut the end of the feather to shape. Usually a small folding blade was included at the opposite end of the handle.
A very basic springless folding knife with the blade pivoted in a slot cut into the one-piece handle (usually wood). Upon opening, the blade’s back-square stops against a simple wrap-around bolster or a pin fixed crosswise through the handle.
A Tibetan ritual knife, usually with a tri-radial, unsharpened blade and fancy, cast brass handle. Used to symbolically “kill” the demons thought to be inhabiting a person who is ill.
A long, thin, regular jack knife which has a flat, one-piece, “seal cap” covering the entire head-end of the knife. The sealed end was used by old-time physicians as an emergency pestle to grind up pills, making them easier to swallow when mixed with water. If the bolsters, liners, and springs are exposed at the knife’s head the medicine could get impacted between those parts and/or oil from the knife […]
Traditionally, clear, celluloid plastic handle scales with photographs and/or printed matter sealed under, and visible through, them.
(Slang) Specifically, a slang term for a sharp-pointed bayonet, the term is romantically applied to any virtually any knife designed for thrusting.
Any of the thin metal rods, or rivets, that form the pivot for the blade, hold handles onto the liners, or hold the entire knife together. The often encountered term “pin knife” is a misspelling of “pen” knife.
If a bolster look as though a someone squeezed its tip making a small indentation it is said to be “pinched.” See” Grooved Bolster, Threaded Bolster.
Any knife which contains a pair of pliers, either incorporated as part of the knife’s frame or which fold out, like a blade. Before the Leatherman tool became popular these knives were somewhat unusual; today they are ubiquitous.
A historical knife-making family in Europe; generically applied to the European version (usually having six blades) of the “utility” pattern.
A serpentine, equal-end or slightly tapered, jack knife. Older ones were round-ended: newer ones are usually square-ended. The blades pivot at the fatter end.
A small serpentine pen knife such as Case’s xx33 pattern is sometimes referred to as a “premium” pen.
The premium stock knife is basically a cattle knife except that it is built on a serpentine handle die. Premium stock knives can have up to six blades. Their main blade is a clip. Like cattle knives they will have a spey or sheepfoot blade. If they are under 3 1/2″ they are called “junior” […]
A large curved jack with a hawkbill blade. Older ones often came with a saw blade. Some have rounded heads, some have flat heads, sometimes with a seal-cap. Until recently pruning knives were not considered valuable; today the best names are bringing prices similar to other jack knives. Often called simply a “Pruner.” Pruner with […]
The indentation in a blade that allows the user to open the blade with a fingernail. The variations are: Common pull, regular pull, short pull, or “nail nick” – a short crescent-shaped indentation (pictured above); Long, or “French” pull – a long straight channel, up to half the length of the blade, and ending at […]
A gouge-shaped cutting blade or triangular awl/reamer (but not a gimlet) for making holes in leather and other materials.
A dagger blade in a “T”-shaped handle; when held the tang usually protrudes between the second and third fingers. Historically called a “gimlet knife” due to its similarity to traditional gimlets.
A radially symetrical knife with blades on four sides. Typically made as quill knives, most quadrangular knives also have blades at both ends so they can be found with 4, 8, 16, 24, 32, and more, blades. I once saw a quadrangular knife with 48 blades.
Quill knives were used until the end of the 19th Century to cut and shape the end of a large feather (the quill is the hollow shaft at the base of the feather) to form a writing pen. Most quill knives are single-bladed but they can have any number of blades. However, not all small […]
Common mis-spelling of Quillon, popularized by its accidental use in Harold Petersen’s influential book “American Knives” (1958).
aka Raze Knife. Usually a jack knife with a blade which is rolled over forming a gouge, similar to a hoof knife, at its tip. It is used to cut identifying marks (letters, numerals, etc.) into wood; e.g. beams when house-building or an owner’s names on barrels. There are a few rase knives with a […]
A large wood-handled folding knife made during WWI which has a blade and a folding spoon but does not come apart into two pieces. They were distributed by the Red Cross to our troops and were not government issued items.
A regular jack has straight sides which taper and are more narrow at the bottom, or blade-pivot, end. The bottom bolster is somewhat squared off.
Some fixed-blade knives have a flat, unsharpened area between the end of the sharpened edge and the guard and/or handle. This area is the ricasso and often has the manufacturer’s information stamped on it. See: Tang
A type of rope knife having a locking “marlin spike.” See also: Yachtsman’s Knife.
A knife in which the pivot pin of a blade extends out from one side of the handle and has a ring passing through it which is turned to open the blade.
A large curved jack, or curved regular jack having a heavy sheepfoot blade. It is used by sailors to cut rope by laying the rope on a solid surface and driving the blade through it with a belaying pin. Rope knives usually have a bail for securing them to one’s belt. Some rope knives have […]
A knife with measuring increments marked on the handle, blade, or on a folding attachment. (Illustration from Smith’s Key, 1816)
That part of the back-square of a folding blade’s tang which contacts the backspring when the blade is open. See the illustration of the parts of a blade.
A blade that has an area (usually about 1/3 to 1/2 the width of the blade) along the spine which has a uniform thickness. The beveling toward the blade’s edge starts below this flat area. Saber ground blades usually have a clip point and pronounced swedges (pictured above) but these features, no matter how radical, […]
A curved regular jack with a pronounced upsweep at its head end and a bulbous head area is called a “saddlehorn.” It is an old and fairly scarce pattern, only found in larger sizes (around 4-1/2″).
A fixed blade knife having a semi-circular blade, 4″ to 6″ wide, attached to a short, bulbous handle. Used by saddlers, harness makers, shoemakers, etc. to cut leather.
A salesman’s demonstration knife with the manufacturer’s identifying number’s, etc. marked on a blade with acidic cutler’s ink. Sometimes it will have handle scales of different materials.
Antler material from the Sambar deer of India and South East Asia. Sambar deer are protected, but shed their large antlers annually, and the shed antlers are collected by local people and sold for use by craftsmen. See: Stag
A European ritual dagger having an elaborately crafted handle in the form of a demon.
In use, folding knives are carried in the pocket, hung on a pocket or belt by a clip, or carried in a belt pouch, sometimes called a holster (not, as so many eBay users insist, in a “case”). Fixed blade knives and swords are carried in a scabbard or sheath. Scabbard is the term preferred […]
A type of surgical blade found on both fixed and folding medical instruments. It is leaf-shaped with an acute point. Note: ink erasers are frequently mis-identitifed as scalpels.
A North American Indian trade knife with a 7″ (more or less) flat ground blade and a wooden handle, diamond-shaped in cross section. (Illustration from Smith’s Key, 1816)
A type of mechanical fleam used on humans. It looks like a brass cube, approximately 1 1/2″ across, with a “trigger” protruding from the top and eight to twelve small blades, powered by an internal spring, on the bottom. The spring is cocked by a lever and when released by the trigger the blades rotate […]
Any knife, usually a utility pattern, made specifically for the official scouting organizations such as the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, etc. A utility pattern that is NOT one authorized by the scouts is not a scout knife – it is simply a utility pattern knife. (Do not confuse utility “pattern” with “utility knife” which is […]
Engraving or carving on natural materials such as ivory, bone, horn, etc. The engraving is filled with pigment to bring out the detail. Mass-production modern knives advertised as “scrimshaw” are plastic with molded or pressed detail. Featured photo: Color scrimshaw by Sandra Brady on a Randall Made knife (SharpByCoop photo)
Physician’s pattern knives, and many older pruners, have a metal cap opposite the blade end, which covers the entire end of the knife preventing dust and dirt from becoming packed between the spring, liners, and scales of the handle.
After the outside, textured layer (sometimes called the “bark”) is sliced from a thick antler a “second cut” can be taken and jigged like bone, for making handle scales. See: Stag.
Some fruit knives have a short tool with a blunt end as a second blade. It is for digging seeds or pits out of the fruit. It should not be confused with the similar manicure tool, on some lobster patterns and gentlemen’s knives, which has a file on its inner surface.
A handle which has a slight “S” curve. The extreme variations are the sowbelly and the saddlehorn. (“Serpentine”= snakelike)
A jack knife with a serpentine shape (aka Premium Jack). This pattern does NOT taper significantly from one end to the other. If there is a pronounced taper to the handles, and the blades pivot at the small end, the pattern is called a “Dogleg” or “Reverse Dogleg” depending on which way the cap end […]
A pen knife pattern having a handle which has a slight “S” curve. The handle may be tapered or untapered from end to end.
A needle used to introduce a bristle (seta), or silk thread, under the skin to cause irritation; thought to “distract” the body from some other area of distress. The large ones found on folding knives are for use on cattle.
(Pronounced “Ski’-ain DOO”) – A small single edged knife typically worn in the stocking with traditional Scottish dress.
Shear steel is made by breaking up pieces of cast steel and forging them into a solid mass.
A blade covering device, sometimes highly decorative, and designed to protect the owner from being cut while the knife is being stored or transported.
Any fixed blade knife which is intended to be carried in or with a blade covering device, sometimes highly decorative, and designed to protect the owner from being cut.
A blade with a straight cutting edge, and a spine that is parallel to the edge and curves almost ninety degrees downward at the blade’s end. See also: Lamb Foot, Wharncliffe.
A sleeveboard lobster which has the back edges of it handles cut away down to the backspring and a long, full-width manicure tool lying in the recess.
A small metal plate attached to a knife handle for decoration or as a place for an inscription. Shields come in many different named shapes. See chart of shield shapes. On a fixed blade knife, the shield is called an “Escutcheon.” Types of “Crest” shields Types of “Bar” shields Types of “Oval” shields Types of “Gimp” […]
The place where the blade’s grinding stops and the tang begins is called the shoulder. See the illustration of the parts of a blade.
An incomplete knife which includes the assembled liners, blades, and spring(s), and is sold to jewelers who design and attach their own handle scales.
Jack knife employing a handle die with straight sides which taper slightly and is widest at the pivot end. It looks like the diminutive ironing board used to press shirt sleeves.
A handle die with rounded ends and straight sides which taper slightly. It looks like the little ironing boards that used to be used to iron shirt sleeves.
Pen knife with a handle die having straight sides which taper slightly. Sleeveboard Pen with tip bolsters
A slim jack is a regular jack that is more narrow, relative to its length, than a regular jack.
A long (around four inches) and narrow Serpentine Jack with a clip blade and a pen secondary blade.
A slipjoint is one of the most common types of folding knife. It consists of a handle with one or more blades held in position by a back spring which biases them in the open or closed position.
A folding knife, fork, and/or spoon combination which can be taken apart into two or three pieces for use. Typically there are studs or extensions of the liner on one part that fit into “slots” in the liner of the other part(s), holding the pieces together for carrying. See: Hobo. Ka-Bar Hobo with slot knife […]
A multi-bladed knife which includes tools useful to the smoker, such as a pipe tamper, pipe cleaning tool, cigar fork, cigar cutter, or a long thin punch which is pushed down the center of a cigar to make as airway. Read about: Cigar Cutter.
A larger serpentine knife with a very pronounced curvature is called a Sowbelly. Misuse of this term has become popular in recent years due to the Sowbelly’s popularity, a Sowbelly is ONLY in the pictured handle shape, and no other. Three-blade Sowbelly made by Sheffield’s Stan Shaw in 1973.
A barehead slim or sleeveboard jack which carries a flexible spatula as its only blade. They were used by pharmacists for working with pills and powders and by artists as palette knives.
A folding knife blade where the edge and spine are nearly parallel and each curves equally toward the tip. Spear Point Blade with Saber Grind
A blade with a parallel spine and edge terminating with the edge sweeping up almost to the spine and having a short, clipped-off end. Used in cattle castration applications as well as plant budding and as an ink eraser, but the same term is used for each. (“Spey” = to remove the ovaries of a […]
A veterinary knife, with one spey blade and one long (2″ or so), thin tang that terminates in a short turned-down portion which is sharpened on the inside; used to convert roosters to capons. For sterilization purposes, the handles are usually made of metal. Small ones with upturned handles (as pictured) are commonly called “Rooster […]
A forked or branching spring typically found in lobster pattern pen knives. (Illustration from the Winchester Model Drawings notebook, available in our Digital Library)
A Split-Spring Jack has ONE hand forged solid spring that is literally split into two parts for about half of its length (from the two-blade end.) These date from the 19th century and are rare. See: Split-Spring Whittler
See “Whittler” below; this term is a permissible exception to the definition because it is the antecedent technology to modern whittlers. Some whittlers have their springs lying side by side, touching each other. Other whittlers have a tapered divider (See: Whittler, Tapered Divider; also Whittler, Catch Bit) between them so that at the two-blade end […]
A large multi-blade knife which carries useful tools such as a saw, gimlet, corkscrew, file, toothpick, tweezers, etc. Useful to the outdoorsman. A Sportsman’s Knife with a hoof pick is called a Horseman’s Knife.
Translucent cattle horn can be spattered with sulphuric or nitric acid, which turns the horn dark brown, to simulate tortoise shell. Unlike real tortoise shell, the color is only on the surface, not completely through the material. This material is extremely common on older straight razors, which were rarely made of genuine tortoise shell.
A small, spring-powered lancet that is cocked and released by a trigger, inflicting the wound suddenly (because nobody would sit still while a blade was hammered into their arm.)
A specific type of automatic knife mechanism which releases the blade by means of a lever mounted on one side. Often these knives are German made.
The thin, blunt section of the handle of a grafting knife which is used to hold the host tree’s bark open while inserting the cutting. Generally fixed and the head end of the handle (as pictured), occasionally it is a folding “blade”. Alternately, a dull, beveled “horn” near the tip of the knife’s blade, for […]
Found on early folders: when the tang of the blade is flush with the end of the bolsters while the knife is closed, and half open, it is said to be a square and clean (or clean and square) joint. This geometry positions the hinge pin close to the edge of the bolsters and makes […]
When a bolster is flat on top it is called a square bolster, regardless of whether it has corners or bevels. See the illustration of the styles of bolsters.
A single-bladed (sometimes double bladed) jack knife with a false edge along the spine of the blade used to be called a “Stabber Jack.” Usually built on a Swell Center or Coke Bottle shaped Frame. “Stabber Pattern” was used long ago to denote very inexpensive Regular Jacks.
Porous materials, such as wood, infused with plastic or epoxy to make them hard and durable for use in knife handles.
The antlers of the mammals forming the family Cervidae – deer, elk, moose, etc. commonly used as handle material for knives.
Any alloy of iron infused with chromium and/or other elements which impart resistance to discoloration and corrosion.
A mark made in metal by striking it with a pre-cut tool (the “die”). Also, the act of making such a mark. Manufacturer’s information is usually stamped on the tang of a blade. Solid metal handles are sometimes struck with a die (die-stamped or coined) to impart text or pictures. See Etch and Engraving.
A long butcher knife used for slicing steaks, called a “steak slicer” or, when curved and pointed, a “scimitar (or cimeter) steak knife.” Starting in the 1930s small, sharp, dinner knives, often serrated, were sold as “steak” knives for use with roasted or broiled meats.
An alloy of iron saturated with carbon to allow it to be hardened. Addition of other elements changes the toughness and stain resistance of the metal. Steels are designated by a series of letters and numberrs denoting their specific content, such as 440C, ATS-34, A-2, 5160, CPMS30V, etc.
Both natural and reconstituted stone makes beautiful and unique knife handles. A wide variety is available to factory and custom makers and is used both for single-piece handles and in “mosaic” handles composed of multiple pieces inlaid in patterns.
Some 18th and 19th century folding knives have thick plates covering their backspring(s) for striking a flint to start a fire. Alternately, some large English folding knives with extra-heavy blades were stamped, near the spine of the blade, “Strike Fire Here.”
A second single-ended guard on the handle of a fighting knife, mounted just below the main guard, and which fits between the first and second fingers of the user’s hand.
A large (3 3/4″ long or more and over one inch wide) double-ended jack knife with a massive spearpoint main blade and a secondary blade as large as many main blades in smaller knives. While most often found on an equal end handle die, it is sometimes found as a sleeveboard or swell-center. Also called […]
As you trace along the spine of a folding blade, away from the tip, there is a spot where it drops down at a 90 degree angle. This is the “run up.” It is the part of the blade which strikes the spring upon opening. Usually the run up shows above the edge of the […]
Essentially a Swell-Center Canoe Pattern, though the shaping is usually more subtle.
A jack with a pronounced downward curve and often a pronounced, rounded end. The blade folds into the convex portion of the handle shape.
The area along the spine of a blade, starting at the tip and generally extending about one-third of the way toward the tang, which is beveled somewhat creating a “false” (unsharpened) edge. On multiple-bladed knives it allows access to the nail nicks of parallel blades. Not to be confused with a “clip” point. On a […]
When a handle’s edge has a distinct widening at a point near its center (and then, generally, narrows again) it is called a swell-center. This term can modify almost any pattern name but in some cases this feature changes the pattern name. E.g. there is no “swell-center senator” pattern; it is simply called a swell […]
If you take a jack knife and widen the center of the handle, so that it swells out and then narrows again, it becomes a Swell-Center jack. If wider at the head end, the shape is commonly referred to as a “Coke Bottle” knife. Coke Bottle Jack
A Regular or Sleeveboard jack which has a pronounced swell or “pear” shape opposite the blade end. Sometimes called a “teardrop.” Commonly confused with the Regular Jack, which has a straight taper to the handle. See: Regular Jack.
The first knives made specifically for the Swiss military were made by Wenger & Co. in Germany in 1890. The first Swiss-made knives for the Swiss military were made by Karl Elsener in 1891. His firm eventually became Victorinox. Over the years several court cases have affirmed that only Victorinox and their major competitor, Wenger, could […]
The information (brand name, trademark, pattern number, etc.) stamped on the tang of a pocket knife.
The Tang of a fixed-blade knife is the part inside the handle. On a fixed-blade knife, the unsharpened area where the blade meets the guard and/or the handle is called the “Ricasso.” See: Ricasso, Tang [Folding Knife] Full Tang Construction Half-Tang Construction Narrow-Tang Construction Rat-tail Tang or Push Tang Construction
The flat un-sharpened area of a folding knife’s blade where it pivots in the handle. This area is usually stamped with the maker’s information. Note: On a fixed-blade knife the unsharpened area where the blade meets the guard and/or the handle is called the “ricasso.” The tang of a fixed-blade knife is the part inside […]
A “blade” found on folding medical instruments; essentially a thin hook with a needle-like point.
A type of surgical blade found on folding medical instruments. It is a small scalpel at the end of an extended tang.
If a bolster a fine groove running across it, it is said to be “threaded”. See: Grooved Bolster, Pinched Bolster.
A small (2″ or so), springless, thin, double-edged blade for phlebotomy (bleeding). Its two covers are not connected and rotate independantly. It is held by the thumb and forefinger and plunged to create the puncture, hence the name.
A clasp knife pattern, usually 5″ or more in length, with a pronounced taper at the head end. It carries a single clip point blade.
A knife which is included in a pouch or folding case containing a handle and a variety of interchangeable tools such as a file, screwdriver, chisel, hammer, bottle opener, etc. The handle, typically an equal-end jack, has a large spear point blade at on end and the opposite end has a provision for attachment of […]
Commonly, a Tickler pattern knife. Also see “Arkansas Toothpick” and “Texas Toothpick”; also an actual toothpick contained in the handle of a folding knife such as a Sportsman’s Pattern.
A beautiful mottled brown and translucent material cut from the shell of sea turtles. Once popular on high-grade cutlery, it had largely been replaced by celluloid by the early 1900s. Tortoise shell slabs were often under-laid with gold foil when used for knife handles. Its use is currently restricted by environmental protection laws.
A jack knife that utilizes the same 4″ to 4 1/4″ long Reverse Dogleg Jack handle die as a trapper, but with a clip point master blade and secondary pen blade. (Center knife in photo) See: Trapper, Standard
An exception to the “jack knife” rule (see: trapper, standard); an equal-end handle-die trapper with the clip and spey blades at opposite ends. Typified by the Remington R4353 Bullet Pattern and its smaller brother, the R4466 Baby Bullet. Commonly called a “Large Muskrat” pattern, which is incorrect as the blade configuration does NOT follow the […]
A trapper built on a 3 3/4″ Slim Reverse Dogleg Jack handle die, it is slightly more slender than the standard trapper. See: Trapper, Standard.
A jack knife with two equal-length blades, one being a clip point and the other being a long spey. About 4″ to 4 1/4″ long and built on a long Reverse Dogleg Jack handle die. A single blade knife on the trapper frame is called a Single Blade Trapper or one blade trapper. See: Trapper, […]
A set of hunting knives and associated tools, carried together in a single sheath. The term is also applied to a Far-Eastern sheath, often highly decorated, holding a single-edged knife for food preparation and a set of chop sticks.
A more European-styled version of the American Utility Knife with two extra blades on the back, one of which is usually a corkscrew. This pattern may or may not be equal ended. The Europeans refer to these knives generically as “pradels” although there is also a French manufacturer named Pradel; in America we refer to […]
A large equal-end knife which traditionally carries four blades/tools: a full-length blade, a can opener, a screwdriver/bottle-cap lifter combination, and a leather awl. The typical official Boy Scouts of America knife is a utility pattern (See: Scout Knife). In Europe this knife usually has two extra blades on the back, one of which is usually […]
A folding version of the Mediterranean dagger, popular in Corsica. Typically, the handle tapers from its head toward a single, long bolster which flares dramatically at the pivot point.
When a pocket knife blade is approximately 90% open or closed it should quickly “snap” the last 10% or so of the way under the power of its spring, without having to be pushed. Collectors then say the blade “walks and talks.” In recent years this term has been widely replaced by “snap.”
A blade with a straight cutting edge and a long, gently arced spine ending in an extremely acute point. The blade is named in honor of Lord Wharncliffe, the man who designed it, and who was a patron of Joseph Rodgers & Sons of Sheffield, England. This term has been misused a lot in recent […]
A Serpentine Jack with an even more pronounced taper and the blades pivoted at the wide end. The Wharncliffe is usually a smaller knife and should have a Wharncliffe blade although most made since the 19th Century do not. Named in honor of Lord Wharncliffe, a patron of Joseph Rodgers & Sons of Sheffield, England.
A serpentine pen knife with a very pronounced taper and curve; in the 19th century it would have had a Wharncliffe blade at its larger end but later examples do not necessarily carry that specific blade. Technically, these later examples with clip or spear point master blades should be classified as Serpentine Pen Knives. See […]
A “whittler,” in collector terms, is not necessarily a knife for whittling, but a technical term for a specific style of knife construction. “Whittler” is considered a pattern, but a whittler can be made on any handle die. They can be pen knives, cattle knives, stockmen, lobsters, or other styles, but they always have three […]
A type of whittler that uses a small spacer to separate the two smaller blades but does NOT separate the backsprings, allowing them to run parallel the length of the knife. The spacer is called a “catch bit,” so “catch bit whittler” seems like a good name for this type.
If you don’t think three-backspring whittlers are true whittlers, you’re really not going to like this one. Technically, a knife with five blades cannot be a whittler, and a knife with three backsprings cannot be a whittler. But since the “three backspring whitter” is a ‘thing’, some extend the concept by taking a three backspring […]
A Lobster Whittler is a lobster pattern knife constructed as a whittler on ‘top’ but with the two springs working against both the master blade on top and the manicure blade on ‘bottom’. The two secondary blades are each worked against a single spring as is the case with a standard whittler. See also: Whittler […]
This view of a whittler’s backsprings shows the center liner that separates the two smaller blades at one end, and tapers down to nothing so both springs can apply tension to the master blade. It has become popular to use the modern (and misleading) term “Split Backspring Whittler” for this, but a better term would […]
Technically, a knife with three blades and three backsprings cannot be a whittler because it violates the basic principle of the master blade riding simultaneously on two backsprings. However, because collectors like whittlers and want as many as they can get, the “three backspring whittler” has become a ‘thing.’ These do, at least, fulfill the criteria […]
The most popular woods used on old factory folders are cocobolo, ebony, rosewood, and walnut. Custom knifemakers use a wide variety of more exotic woods with dramatic colors and grain patterns. Wood can be dyed and/or cut into thin slabs and laminated for dramatic effect. See: Stabilized
The original damascus steel, also known as crucible damascus steel. This is not a welded damascus steel, its patterning comes from its structure as initially formed in the crucible.
Some manufacturers cut long, extra-wide grooves into their bone handles in addition the basic jigging. These grooves are thought to represent channels made in the bone by “worms” (or insects), and are supposedly a desirable aesthetic characteristic. Cattaraugus initiated this design element calling it “Indian Trail.”
DuPont’s trademarked name for a modern plastic material made of fiberglass-reinforced nylon, introduced in 1985. It is usually black but can be made in other colors. Zytel and similar FRN products have become the de-facto standard handle material for less expensive hard-use knives of modern construction.
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