Switchblade Sabers from the 19th Century
by Neal Punchard
Nearly every knife collector has owned or handled a switchblade knife along the way, but few have handled anything as large or unique as those featured in this article. The first known switchblades can be definitively traced back to the 1830s in England, but some might date a bit earlier yet from other regions of Europe. A great many spring-fired knives were made in several different countries throughout Europe during the 1800s, and the styles of those known examples varied greatly. While switchblades gained a rather dark tone from the 1950s onward, their original purpose was ingenious. Opening a folding blade automatically with one hand left the other hand free to hold on to something else. An added bonus was the fast opening action of a spring-fired knife when needed. This article will highlight two hefty special purpose European switchblade models from the mid-1800s.
Belgium has cutlery roots dating back centuries and it was Count von Berg who called on Belgian cutlers to come and work in Solingen, Germany, in the 13th century. In the late 16th century, many Belgian cutlers left their country to work in England. Around the late 1700s, the city of Namur was establishing itself as the cutlery hub of Belgium, similar to Sheffield, England, and Solingen, Germany. One of the first major cutlery companies was founded in Namur by the Charlier brothers in 1770.
This article appears in the September 2021 issue of KNIFE Magazine. Premium Online Members can click the blue button below to view the whole thing.