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Antique Pocket Knives Buyers' Guide

Antique Pocket KnivesKnife collecting is a hobby which has gained considerable momentum in recent years. The versatility of knives, specifically pocket knives, coupled with the ornate manufacturing processes of some of the more collectible brands make antique pocket knives very attractive to budding enthusiasts.

Marry that with the rise of Ecommerce on the Internet, and you have the perfect ingredients for a respectable, unique, and impressive antique knife collection.

However, what exactly should you be looking for when shopping for quality, collectible pocket knives?

The Vikings, Swiss And Romans Used Them

Before starting your collection, it is important to understand a bit of the history behind pocket knives. Knives in general predate recorded history, and were initially made of stone or any hard material capable of holding a sharpened shape. The Romans and Vikings were the first (known) manufacturers of folding knives, some of which closely resembled our modern day Swiss Army knives.

The 17th century saw a sizable increase in pocket/folding knife production.Slipjoint Pocket Knife Slipjoint knives, which contained a small backspring designed to hold the knife in the open position, were first invented in this time period. The next few centuries saw the introduction of Swiss Army knives, switchblades, butterfly knives, even small-caliber, single-shot pistol knives. In contemporary times, you will find a vast array of different knife styles, functions, and uses.

Blade Steel Is Important

One of the most important factors in buying a pocket knife, specifically in this case antique pocket knives, is the quality of the steel out of which the blade has been forged. In recent years, knife steel has been designed to be rust-resistant. IN the past, however, this was unfortunately not the case. Most antique knives will have at least some rust buildup on the blade. In assigning value to a collectible knife, the amount of rust will be taken into account. Obviously, the less rust the more valuable the knife.

The hardness of the steel is also a deciding factor in assigning value. Blade hardness can be determined through the use of a Rockwell machine, which will determine the Rc value of the steel. The majority of knives fall somewhere between 50 and 63 on this scale, 63 being considerably more resilient than 50.

Once a knife blade's hardness rating has been discovered, the blade type must be considered. Certain styles of blades are more common than others, and this corresponds to the value of any given antique blade.

Common Blade Types

Clip Point BladesClip point blades have always been a popular design with knives, and are still used today. The clip point gets its name from the concave cut out on the upper portion (non-sharp side) of the blade, which comes together with the slope of the sharpened side to form a sharp point.

Daggers were also popular, especially for self-defense, being designed to be equally sharp on both edges, coming together to form a formidable, sharp point.

Drop point blades are of simple design, most closely resembling the shape of a modern steak knife. Slightly less common, and therefore a little more valuable, are sheepsfoot knives. The sheepsfoot resembles a hoof, or sheep's foot, when the straight, sharpened edge is facing downwards.

Tanto blades are very collectible due to their aesthetically pleasing shape. The sharp side of a tanto blade swoops outward, lengthening the sharp edge like a less-extreme (and smaller) scimitar.

Some Funny Old Names

Other types of knives are camper knives (Swiss Army-style), canoe knives (a folding blade at both ends), elephant's toenail (a short, fat blade), laguiole knife(a long, thin blade with a thin handle),Antique Congress Pocket Knife congress knife (a gently curved handle with four different blade styles, two per side), penknife (a small, scalpel-like blade), and whittler (generally three blades designed specifically for whittling purposes). Obviously, there are many, many more styles available... too many to mention here... but suffice it to say the rarer the blade, the more valuable the knife.

Next, when shopping for antique pocket knives, it is imperative to determine whether or not the blade has been reshaped or completely replaced. Reshaping is generally pretty easy to determine. If the blade is misshapen, or no longer fills the handle pocket designed to house the folded blade, chances are your blade has been reshaped in the past. This can happen as a result of misuse, such as a broken blade or severe dulling. Often times, the point of the blade will be dull, especially if the misshaping was not done by a professional. Blade replacements can be difficult to spot. One of the best ways to find out if your blade is a replacement is to compare the pin metal (the part that holds the blade to the handle) with the blade metal, if the color/rust coverage is off, the blade is probably not original.

In conclusion, a little knowledge of the different types, materials, and styles of antique pocket knives goes a long way. If you are looking to collect knives, learn what to look for before purchasing. For even more buying ideas take at look at some classic pocket knives.

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