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Knife Knowledge-Pocket Knife Pattern Identification Guide

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Posted by Wild Bill on Jun 4th 2018

Although much of the knife business over the last few decades has moved to the tactical folder type knives, the appeal of the old-school pocket knife is still strong with many folks, as well as the collector market.

Each pocket knife pattern was invented for a particular intended usage, but these specifics have faded over time as knife users and collectors have gravitated towards pocket knife patterns that they prefer, whether due to size, number of blades, etc. 

Since the vast majority of pocket knife patterns were invented over 100 years ago (much more in many cases), we present here a pocket knife identification guide.

Due to the large number of patterns of pocket knives we will cover this subject over the course of several posts. 

This is obviously important for dealers, and for collectors who like to know the history of the knives in their collections, and also perhaps for those of you who inherited a treasured pocket knife from Dad or Grandpa.

TRAPPER:  The trapper pattern belongs to a larger family of knife patterns known as jack knives.  Jack knives have two blades on one end of the knife. The 2-blade trapper is a specific type of jack knife introduced in the mid 1920′s.

A standard trapper frame measures 4 1/8- 4/1/2″ long, and has two specific types of long blades, a “clip” blade and a “spey”  blade. A clip blade is the one on the right of the image, which tapers down from the mid-point of the blade to the point.

The spey blade has a straight back edge, and a point in the center of the knife point, instead of a tapered point. 

Trappers also have 2 bolsters, whereas many jack knives have a bolster only on the end where the blades are hinged.  A trapper without a bolster on the other end is known as a “barehead” trapper. 

Throughout the recent history of knife collecting from the mid 20th century to the present, the trapper pattern has been the #1 collected pattern for knife collectors. 

Trappers can be found in a wide range of handle materials such as bone, celluloid, stag, mother of pearl and others.

There are other variations of trappers some of which have only 1 blade.

From a utilitarian standpoint, the trapper was a handy knife to use to skin and dress small game in the field. offers an excellent selection of trappers numbering several hundred in variety, which can be seen by Clicking this link


STOCKMAN The stockman knife usually has 3 blades, the largest blade is a clip blade similar to that on a trapper, the second blade is a spey blade, which was commonly used for castrating young animals or for skinning.

The 3rd blade is usually a speepsfoot, but some stockmans can be found with a pen or a harness punch blade.  Stockman knives were introduced in the 1890′s. These knives were designed for use by ranchers and originally were marketed primarily in the West.

The stockman knife commonly comes in 3 sizes, small stockmans can be less than 3″ closed, medium stockmans are more like 3 1/2″ long, and large stockmans (or premium stockmans as they are sometimes known), can be 4″ to 4 1/2″ long. These measurements are all with blades closed. 

Stockman knives come in 2 varieties, square bolsters and round bolsters.  Functionally there’s not any particular advantage to one versus the other, it’s just a matter of personal preference. 

Sometimes stockman knives can be found with 4, 5, 6 or even 7 blades.  These are generally produced in limited quantities for the collector market.

Stockman knives are commonly found with jigged bone handles, celluloid or other synthetics, and wood handles. Less common are exotics such as mother of pearl, particularly in the larger size. A very good selection of stockman knives can be seen by Clicking this link for available styles on


BARLOW  One of the most widely held misconceptions among beginning and inexperienced knife collectors is that “Barlow” is a brand of knife, rather than a pattern.  This is perpetuated by the propensity of many manufacturers to stamp the word “Barlow” on the bolster of the knife. 

A barlow knife is a type of jack knife with one long bolster for extra strength. Barlow knives are less costly to produce than some other knife patterns, so they were intended for boys and men who needed an inexpensive pocket knife for work.

The barlow knife is one of the oldest pocket knife patterns known.  Its origins are traced back to Obadiah Barlow, who was a cutler in Sheffield, England and began his business around 1667. Obadiah was succeeded by a couple of more generations of his descendants and it is believed that they had an exclusive use to the word ‘Barlow” during the years they made knives.  The last of this line of Barlows died approximately 1798.

Barlow knives are typically double bladed, but there are some single blade knives on the market as well. 

These knives are produced with bone handles, which are generally smooth instead of jigged, and are also produced in a variety of synthetic handle materials in order to aim for a lower priced knives affordable by most.

The standard barlow knife frame measures about 3 3/8″ long, but there are also “daddy” or “grand-daddy” barlows which measure about 5 inches long.

These have been popularized by Case throughout the years, particularly in various limited edition collectible editions. Click this link to see a selection of various Barlow knives available on 

 PEANUT The peanut knife pattern is extremely popular among knife collectors, perhaps second only to the trapper. Its smaller size tends to make it a more attractive alternative than the larger and bulkier trapper.

The peanut knife can be classified as a small serpentine body jack knife, generally measuring about 2 7/8″ in frame size. They will generally have a clip and spear point blade.

The peanut makes an excellent everyday carry knife because of its small size and light weght, and its versatility for many small cutting tasks that may be encountered throughout the day. 

Peanuts are available in a wide variety of handle materials such as bone, celluloid, wood and exotics. 

Peanuts generally have double bolsters, also sometimes “barehead” peanuts with only one bolster may be encountered.  It is also possible to find peanuts with multiple blades 5,6 or 7 that are produced primarily as collectible items.Click this link to view a wide selection of peanut knives available on

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    • PeterCO

      There are different types of knives. And their destinations are also different. Some are made for self-defense, others are culinary If I chose a knife that can be carried with me, then I would choose on a folding knife. It is convenient and safe.

      • PeterCO


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