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Being a historical past buff, I’m very a lot thinking about understanding the age of each and every pocket knife in my assortment.  Whilst some knives are slightly simple to resolve a precise age, others are more difficult and handiest tough time period (plus or minus 15 years) will also be established.   Understanding the age of a knife offers perception such because the time frame it got here from (Civil Conflict, Nice Despair, and many others.), who will have used it and what it is going to have “lived thru.”  There are lots of traits that assist to make clear the age of pocket knives.  Those traits are mentioned under.

I realized about lots of the following guidelines from my absolute favourite knife ebook; Levine’s Information to Knives and Their Values.  Even if they’re out of print, they include a wealth of information and I extremely recommend you select up a replica anywhere you’ll be able to.  I might recommend getting the first – 4th editions.

Deal with Subject material

Deal with fabrics like stag, horn and clean bone had been round for centuries and are most often now not useful when organising an age.  Then again, some care for subject material will also be useful.  Easy or sawcut bone that has grid strains in it, occasionally known as scored bone, seem on many early nineteenth century knives together with barlows.  Jigged bone (dyed, automatically dimpled or gouged farm animals bone) used to be presented within the mid 1800’s and used to be used widely till the Nineteen Fifties.  Many knife makers switched to inexpensive jigged delrin (artificial) handles after this period of time.

Ivory and tortoise shell had been banned in the marketplace for a few years and in most cases dates a knife to the nineteenth century and even earlier than!

pocket knife handle materials
scored bone, jigged bone, celluloid

Celluloid, a plastic care for masking that may be present in many colours and designs, used to be first used within the 1870’s.  As it may well be made into all kinds of colours, it turned into a well-liked selection for knife handles.  Celluloid used to be present in pink, white and blue on patriotic scout knives in addition to the collectible sorts of Goldstone and Christmas tree.  Celluloid loved its top in recognition all over the Nineteen Twenties and Thirties and started to be phased out round 1940 because of its possible flammability and propensity to decompose over the years.

Tang Stamps

Corporate Names – clearly understanding what corporate made the knife is among the perfect tactics to resolve its age.  As an example, Ulster Knife Co used to be in industry and made knives from 1876 throughout the Nineteen Seventies.  Then again, the truth that there are a couple of distinct tang stamps is helping us to zoom in and get a greater thought of when the knives had been made.  Knives marked “Ulster Knife Co”  had been made between 1876 and c. 1941 and knives marked “Ulster USA” had been made after 1941.  As well as, Case knives have a widely recognized tang stamp gadget that is helping to this point their knives.  The “dot gadget” is helping to spot the precise 12 months a Case knife used to be made between the years 1970 to offer.

case pocket knife
Case XX U.S.A. (no dots) stamp – 1965-1969

Patent numbers:  in most cases six or seven digits, occasionally seem at the tang and would possibly assist to signify age.  Other patent numbers correspond to other years.  As an example, a patent selection of 945010 used to be carried out for in 1910.  Consequently, the collector would know the earliest date a knife can have been made.  Then again, remember that knives had been generally made for a number of years after the patent used to be carried out for.

As well as, the presence or absence of the phrase ‘England’ and ‘Germany’ at the blades of knives is important as neatly.  The US handed the Tariff Act of 1890 and required all cutlery to show the rustic of foundation at the tang stamp.  Consequently, any knife bearing stamps that come with “Solingen, Germany” or “Sheffield, England” can be made submit 1890.

The phrases Warranted and Celebrated had been advertising and marketing phrases that had been added to knife markings and in most cases dates a knife to the 1880’s or earlier than.  The time period “Solid Metal” on a knife signifies that it used to be made within the 1840s or earlier than, in most cases in Sheffield.

Blade Kicks

Blade kicks are the strip of steel at the tang that forestalls the blade edge from slamming into the backspring.  Most present pocket knives have an arching kick that sweeps out from the bottom of the tang and does now not have any proper angles.  Then again, blades that experience an oblong kick, often referred to as an extended sq. kick, point out {that a} knife that used to be made in Sheffield earlier than 1860.  Some kicks are very small bumps and are positioned on the base of the tang, very almost about the bolsters.  In my revel in, those options assist the date a knife pre-1840.

blade kicks
lengthy sq. kick (left) pre 1860.  Small, low kick (center and proper) pre 1840

Knife Building

Integral liners and bolsters:  Whilst you take a look at the ground of maximum folding knives, you’re going to see a transparent line between the bolsters and the liners.  This means that they’re separate items.  Then again, on many knives made earlier than 1860, the strains and the bolsters will likely be one piece.  That is known as integral liners and bolsters.  Lots of the knives that I’ve noticed this development on are Sheffield made knives.

integral bolsters and liners
Integral liner and bolster development, pre 1860

Shell Knives:  A far later means of knife development, began within the 1940’s are shell treated knives.  Those knives are most simply recognized by way of discovering small steel tabs at the very finish of the bolsters.  Those tabs helped to mend the handles at the knives as one of the vital final steps in its development.  This technique used to be invented in Germany and in the end approved to Imperial Knife Co within the 1930’s.  Colonial Knife Co carried out for this patent in 1942 and this temporarily turned into the most popular means of development for many reasonably priced knives throughout the 1980’s.

Imperial Knife
Shell Deal with Building – Imperial Knife Co. (additionally notice patent numbers)


  • Jigged bone – made submit mid 1800s, changed by way of inexpensive fabrics within the Nineteen Fifties (but even so Case and a couple of others)
  • Ivory handles – generally 1900 or earlier than
  • Celluloid – c. 1870s to Nineteen Forties
  • Patent numbers – knife can’t be older than the date related to the patent quantity
  • Nation of Foundation (Germany or England) – on tang or blade – submit 1890
  • Warranted or Celebrated – in most cases pre Eighties.
  • Lengthy sqaure kick – in most cases earlier than 1860
  • Small bump kick almost about bolster – in most cases pre 1840
  • Integral liners and bolsters – pre 1860
  • Shell handles with tabbed bolsters – Thirties – c1980.

What Else?

I’m certain that I’ve now not integrated each and every method to this point a knife on this submit.  Additionally, one of the date levels equipped are absolute best estimates.  Any additions, feedback or corrections?  Let me know your ideas within the feedback under:

Take a look at antique knives and uncommon knives!


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