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Choosing a Pocket Knife

Many of us can remember our fathers or grandfathers carrying a pocket knife. It was as much a part of their everyday carry as their wallet, handkerchief and keys and probably the most useful tool they ever owned.

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The pocket knife is a timeless tool, a companion that has traversed centuries, cultures, and landscapes. Its evolution tells a tale of utility, craftsmanship, and innovation. From its humble origins as a simple cutting tool to its modern incarnation as a symbol of craftsmanship and style, the pocket knife has held a special place in human history. This article explores the journey of the pocket knife through time and offers guidance on selecting a high-quality blade suited to modern needs.

The Historical Tapestry of the Pocket Knife:

The roots of the pocket knife stretch far back into antiquity, where crude blades crafted from stone or bone served as indispensable tools for early humans. These primitive knives evolved alongside human civilisation, transitioning from basic tools to finely crafted instruments.

One of the earliest examples of a folding knife dates back to ancient Rome, where soldiers and civilians alike carried a versatile tool known as the "pugio." This early precursor to the modern pocket knife featured a folding blade and served as both a weapon and a practical tool for everyday tasks.

As civilisations flourished and trade routes expanded, the design and craftsmanship of pocket knives continued to evolve. The Middle Ages saw the emergence of intricate folding knives adorned with ornate handles, symbols of status and wealth among the aristocracy.

The Industrial Revolution marked a significant turning point in the history of the pocket knife. Advancements in manufacturing techniques allowed for mass production, making pocket knives more accessible to the general populace. Brands like Case, Buck, and Victorinox rose to prominence during this era, setting the standard for quality and craftsmanship in pocket knife design.

Throughout the 20th century, the pocket knife maintained its status as an essential tool for adventurers, craftsmen, and everyday individuals alike. From the trenches of World War I to the frontiers of exploration, the pocket knife remained a steadfast companion, its versatility and reliability unmatched by any other tool.

Choosing Quality: What to Look For in a Pocket Knife:

In today's market, pocket knives come in a dizzying array of shapes, sizes, and materials. Choosing the right knife can be a daunting task, but by considering a few key factors, you can ensure that you select a blade that meets your needs and stands the test of time.

  1. Blade Material:

The blade is the heart of any pocket knife, and selecting the right material is crucial for performance and durability. Common blade materials include stainless steel, carbon steel, and high-carbon stainless steel. Each material has its own unique properties, so it's essential to consider factors such as edge retention, corrosion resistance, and ease of sharpening.

Modern high-tech steels like Böhler M390, Sleipnir, S30V and VG10 offer exceptional durability and cutting performance. Traditional materials like carbon steel and Damascus steel are popular for their classic appeal. The choice of blade material can impact the knife's sharpness, ease of maintenance, and resistance to corrosion.

  1. Blade Design:

The design of the blade plays a significant role in its functionality and versatility. Pocket knives come in various blade shapes, including drop point, clip point, tanto, and spear point, each suited to different tasks and preferences.

Drop point blades are versatile and well-suited to everyday tasks, while clip point blades excel at piercing and detail work. Tanto blades feature a robust design ideal for heavy-duty cutting, while spear point blades offer precision and control for delicate tasks.

Consider how you plan to use your pocket knife and choose a blade shape that aligns with your intended applications. Additionally, factors such as blade length, thickness, and grind can impact performance and ease of use, so be sure to evaluate these aspects as well.

  1. Handle Material:

The handle of a pocket knife plays a crucial role in comfort, grip, and aesthetics. Common handle materials include wood, bone, micarta and metal, each offering its own unique blend of durability, texture, and visual appeal.

Natural materials like wood and bone lend a classic, rustic charm to pocket knives, while metals such as aluminium and titanium provide strength and resilience. All of which are ideal for outdoor use.

When selecting a handle material, consider factors such as ergonomics (size and shape), texture, and moisture resistance. A comfortable, well-designed handle can make all the difference during extended periods of use, so be sure to choose one that feels comfortable in your hand.

  1. Locking Mechanism:

Safety is paramount when it comes to pocket knives, and a reliable locking mechanism may prove useful to prevent accidental closure during use. Common locking mechanisms include liner locks, frame locks, and back locks, each offering its own unique blend of strength, simplicity, and ease of use.

Liner locks are among the most popular locking mechanisms, featuring a thin metal liner that locks the blade in the open position for added security. Frame locks function similarly but utilise the handle frame itself to secure the blade, offering a more robust locking mechanism.

Back locks are simple and reliable, employing a spring-loaded bar that engages with a notch on the blade to prevent closure. While less common than liner and frame locks, back locks are known for their durability and ease of use, making them a popular choice among outdoor enthusiasts. Of course, a lock may not be required for many day to day activities.


There has been a lot of public discussion about the role of knives in society over the last few years and with good reason. In the wrong hands, knives like many other tools, can be used with negative consequences. However, it must be remembered that the overwhelming majority of knife users are law abiding citizens. Currently, UK knife laws regarding the ownership and carrying of pocket knives specify that individuals are generally allowed to own knives that comply with the regulations (OWA2019). In terms of carrying knives in public, UK law permits the carrying of non-locking pocket knives with a blade length of up to 3 inches without needing a valid reason. However, if carrying a knife that exceeds these dimensions (or features), individuals must be able to provide a justifiable reason for doing so and there are of course many reasons to do so. 


The pocket knife is more than just a tool; it's a symbol of craftsmanship, utility, and timeless elegance. From its humble origins in ancient Rome to its modern incarnation as a staple of everyday carry, the pocket knife has stood the test of time, adapting to the needs of each generation while retaining its essential charm.

When selecting a pocket knife, consider factors such as blade material, design, handle material, and locking mechanism to ensure that you choose a blade that meets your needs and reflects your personal style. Whether you're a seasoned outdoorsman, a dedicated craftsman, or simply someone who appreciates fine craftsmanship, a high-quality pocket knife is sure to become a cherished companion for years to come.

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