Pocket Knife Designs-Styles-Shapes

Popular Pocketknife Designs

Pocketknives are a basic tool that people use for cutting. When the tool was first invented, its shape was crude and basic, but overtime, makers of the handy device began enhancing the knife style's design elements. Producers started adding extra blades and features to pocketknives. Popular pocketknife designs include Stockman, Whittler and Canoe. Barlow, Trapper and Muskrat are also well-known pocketknife types. Knife manufacturers frequently equip their product with blades that have a specific purpose, such as a sheepfoot, to make them more useful. In addition, pocketknives are collectible, and people who collect them can purchase antique versions as well as new models that will likely be a collectible for future generations.


The Stockman knife is also called a Stock knife. It is a serpentine shaped pocketknife with double ends. Most models have three blades and two springs. However, collectors can purchase Stockman knives that have four or five blades. Models with five blades typically have three springs. The brand was introduced around 1890 to offer consumers a new option as the style was less bulky than other knife types. It also features fancier design options. The Stockman knife is similar to the Cattle knife, and its creator used a rancher's pattern to design it. Stockman knives have a clip point master blade while the second cutting edge is generally a spey. The last blade can be a harness punch, sheepfoot or pen. Stockman knives usually feature a square or round end.

Stockman Knife Design-Case BrandStockman Design/Custom Lmt Edition Buck 301 Folding Pocket Knife
Two nice Stockman designs by Case & Buck.

Each of the knife type's blades has a specific purpose. For instance, the clip point is the longest blade, and it can slice meat, dress small animals, peel pieces of fruit and clean a fish. The sheepfoot blade's design is meant for push type cutting jobs like sawing through a rope or opening boxes. The spey blade will cut easily through flesh. In the past, farmers used the knife to neuter or spay livestock.

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Congress knives generally have a convex or curved front design with a straight or shallow back section. The knife model typically features two or more blades, but the most common versions have four blades. Collectors can purchase models that have as many as six blades. However, the style is rare. A Congress knife will likely feature two main blades, which are usually the sheepfoot and spear blade. The additional blades are typically a coping and pen blade.

Case 2003 Allegheny Mountain Bone Congress Collectors ClubFight'n Rooster Knife Congress Whittler
Two Congress style pocket knives. Case & Fightn' Rooster.

The tool's back bent handle makes the knife style easy to recognize. Furthermore, the main knife blades are considerable enough that knife owners can use them as a substitute for larger blades. With the inclusion of the coping and pen blades, the knife style is also ideal for intricate cuts.

Over the years, southern farmers have used the Congress knife to cut tobacco plants despite its original purpose of making quill pens. Initially, people in the south owned the knife model, which made it a regional item. However, the knife gained notoriety as President Lincoln was carrying one when John Wilkes Booth assassinated him.


Barlow style pocketknives typically have one or two blades, a large metal bolster and a handle shaped in the form of a teardrop. In constructing the knife, the manufacturer connects the knife's blade or blades to the handle's small end. The Barlow knife first appeared in Sheffield, England, during the 1600s. However, several American knife manufacturers began producing the tool, and as a result, it became popular in the United States. In fact, according to reports, George Washington had one, and Mark Twain wrote about the knife style in several of his famous novels.

Historians have attempted to track the Barlow knife's history, but four different families with the last name of Barlow claim that their family is the originator. The author of "The Barlow Knife" article, Laurence A. Johnson, believes that Obadiah Barlow of Sheffield, England, most likely developed it around 1670. In 1745, Obadiah's grandson, John Barlow, began working in the business, and he decided to ship the knives to America. According to another report, Luke Furnace, who was from Stannington, also produced the knife style. Mr. Furnace's production records date back to the late 1700s.

Hen & Rooster Barlow KnifeOld Keen Kutter St Louis Schrade Cut Walden Daddy Barlow
Some nice older style single blade Barlow's.

The Barlow knife's design made it hardy and affordable. To ensure the affordability of the knife, manufacturers made the blade from high carbon steel. They also constructed the handle from bone. To increase its durability, early manufacturers built the bolster large and wide. Originally, the knife had just one blade, but now, the tool features two. Also, current knife developers finish and polish new versions.


The first Canoe knife was constructed before 1915. The knife's name comes from the handle since the shape is reminiscent of the shallow canoes that some Native Americans used in the past. Most Canoe knives feature two blades that share the tool's single back spring. However, collectors can purchase versions that have three blades or more. The main blade is generally a spear and the other blade is typically a pen. Canoe knives that have three blades will usually feature a spear, pen and punch blade.

Vintage Tennessee German Eye Canoe KnifeFury Bone Pocket Knife
Two Canoe designs. The shape on the left most often comes to mind.

The knife style is popular with anglers because it cuts through fishing line easily. Anglers also use the Canoe knife to perform other fishing related jobs like cutting hooks off lines and cleaning fish. Some manufacturers group the Canoe knife into the Cattleman category. New models may feature an engraving of a Native American Indian in a canoe on the knife's main blade.


Whittler knives feature three pen blades. The model is likely to include a large blade on one end of the tool with two small blades set at the back. Whittler knives generally have two springs. The two small blades operate on one spring, and the large blade functions on both springs. Knife manufacturers make Whittler knives in a variety of sizes. Furthermore, the knife style's handle can be made from assorted materials including bone, wood and plastic. Modern Whittler knives frequently come in classic pocketknife sets, and manufacturers produce the knife type with blades that have a classic stockman configuration. For instance, the straight blade is set next to the master clip with the small curved blade on the other side. However, instead of the typical stockman blades, the knife style will have Whittler blades. Some manufacturers list the knife type as a Carpenter Whittler.

Case Classic Cranberry Swirl 083 Whittler KnifeCase Whittler Knife 2008/Smooth Molasses Spiderweb
These Case Whittler's would look great in any collection!

Knife professionals often claim that in the past, knife producers did not differentiate their Whittler knives from penknives. Therefore, collectors may have the opportunity to buy antique Whittler knives that were originally marketed as penknives. Today, Whittler manufacturers list the knife style in a separate category as the model is now a collecting specialty.

Sowbelly Stockman

Stockman knives generally have three different types of blades, which include the clip, sheepfoot and spey. In addition, Sowbelly is a handle style that is smaller near the blade end. The handle's design is similar to the serpentine style. Sowbelly Stockman knives may feature a curve in the bolster, and this design feature gives it a natural line when users open the blade. Some versions may have a stop pin to prevent the blade from encountering the back spring.

2009 Schatt Morgan Harvest Orange Smooth Bone Sowbelly Stockman DesignSow Belly Stockman Case 2001 Tony Bose Amber Barbed Wire
Nice view of the Sowbelly pocket knife shape.

The stop pin feature lets manufacturers create wider blades. Frequently, Stockman knives are medium sized tools that fit easily in a pocket. Users can open the blade with the tool's nail nicks, which are indentations for the person's fingernails. The knife style is one of the most popular models available due to its usefulness.


The Trapper knife received its name because people who trapped for a living frequently used it. In addition, the knife model has been popular with people who like to hunt as they can use the knife to skin and gut animals. The knife model features a sharp clip point blade that curves as well as a spey blade. Today, hunters can purchase compact versions that they can store in their pocket. Trapper knives are available in various lengths as they frequently measure 4.5 to 3 inches or less. In addition, manufacturers typically hinge the knife's blades on the same side. Case produces one of the most popular Trapper knives, which is the company's 54 pattern. Case has manufactured the Trapper knife in different styles. For instance, the knife type is available with one, three or even five blades. The company's Trapper knife may include a sole thumb stud-opening blade that locks. Knife users call the mechanism the "Trapperlock." Collectors can purchase Trapper knives that have a Wharncliffe style blade, but traditional knife collectors claim that the model is not a real Trapper knife.

Case XX USA 7254 SS Trapper Design-2 Blade Folding Trapper Design/Buck 311 Slim-Line Pocketknife
Case & Buck Trapper style pocketknives.

The Hobo Trapper is another version of the classic knife. The Hobo knife's manufacturer substituted the spey blade with a fork and added a spoon. The model even features removable parts, which lets the owner use the utensils conventionally.

Texas Toothpick

Texas Toothpick knives are produced as single blade and double blade tools. Collectors may also refer to the knife style as a Switch or Tickler. The master blade on a Texas Toothpick knife will be a long clip blade while the second blade is a pen or fishing blade. The Case Company began manufacturing the style before 1940. Collectors who are interested in older models should look for styles that have less of an upward arc. To determine an old Texas Toothpick, collectors can review the pattern number. Older models will have one fewer zero in the pattern code. According to reports, the Toothpick knife is rumored to be the first switch knife model. Years ago, owners of the knife would set a matchstick between the spring and blade to cause the blade tip to extend. The addition of the toothpick would permit the user to hook the tip on a pant leg seam or pocket, which allowed them to open the knife quickly with just one hand.

Fightn' Rooster Seafoam Texas Toothpick Pocket KnifeWinchester USA Made Texas Toothpick-Candy Stripe Cartridge 1992
You gotta love the name & shape! Two beautiful "Texas Toothpick" pocket knives.

Manufacturers have produced the knife style in a variety of sizes that range from 5.5 to 3 inches. In addition, the knife's most popular and valuable patterns are the largest tools. In the past, tavern knife fighters used the tool. Farmers also preferred the style because of its handiness.

Stiletto Blade Folder

Traditionally, the word "stiletto" has referred to any dagger with a slender tip that features a point along with a triangular cross section. During the '50s, people began using the term to describe the automatic switchblades that became souvenirs for many American soldiers after World War II ended. Historians have traced the switchblade design to Chatellerault blades, which originated in France during the mid-1800s. The first modern Stiletto Blade Folders were introduced in Maniago from 1900 to 1920. The town's location is in the northeastern part of the country.

Camillus Cuda Maxx 5.5 Tactical Stiletto Blade Folder

The Stiletto Blade Folder's design is distinctive as the knife's blade rotates on an axle mechanism, which is set at the base. The knife model features a long, narrow spring made from metal. Typically, the spring is the full length of the grip. Also, the knife developer cuts down the center of the spring to form a taut V shape. The spring opens in the direction of the blade, and when the user folds it, the knife's base squeezes the V in tight to form tension. A Stiletto blade will feature a separate spring-loaded device that forces a pin into a hole located at the bottom section of the blade. The mechanism locks the blade into place. When the user activates the knife's trigger, the device releases the locking pin, and the constricted spring extends to its original straight form, which forces the blade into an extended position.


Historians have dated the penknife back to the 1400s when people needed sharpening devices to maintain their writing tools. The penknife's creation predates the pocketknife. However, early penknives did not fold. Furthermore, they were not safe or conveniently sized for their owners' pockets. In the past, people with limited financial resources typically owned one multipurpose knife. They used the tool for all of their cutting needs, which included repairing their pen nibs. Wealthy people and professional scribes owned pen or quill knives that they reserved for the specific task of maintaining their writing devices.

Modern Spyderco Penknife DesignOriginal Antique British Sheffield Penknife
Modern Spyderco and antique Sheffield. Both penknives.

By the time the Regency period arrived, most people had a penknife. Also, later versions of the knife folded down into the base, which made the model safe for pocket transport. Penknives from the Middle Ages to the first few years of the 18th century typically feature blades that the manufacturer attached to the knife's handle or haft. The early blades usually had a slight curve, and they generally measured just 2 inches or less. Penknife blades were made from steel to create the sharp edge that people needed to cut their quills. Wealthy people frequently owned fancy penknives with hafts constructed from tortoise shell, horn or ivory as well as mother-of-pearl. The opulent knives often included silver, gold and precious stone enhancements.


Copperhead pocketknives are jackknives that feature a specific pocket end bolster pattern. The shape extends upward to protect the sharp corners. Also, developers indent the tang to eliminate the edge. The style prevents the owner's pocket from wearing down due to the sharp corners. Most models come with two blades, but collectors can purchase older versions that have one blade. In most Copperhead knives, the master blade is a clip blade. However, some models have a Wharncliff blade as the main cutting implement. When the knife features a second cutting edge, it is usually a pen blade. The Case Company began making its Copperhead models prior to 1915. Copperhead pocketknives are also called Vietnam knives because soldiers from the Vietnam War frequently had them.

Bulldog Copperhead Pocket Knife Elk Stag Scales 1998 Case Copperhead Folding Knife
Every knife enthusiast needs a copperhead in their collection!

Manufacturers of the Copperhead pocketknife also make the tool in a mini or baby model. The smaller version often has a clip blade, but it may include a spear. The knife's second cutting edge is usually a pen blade.


The original producers of the Muskrat made the knife for trapping purposes. In addition, the Muskrat pocketknife is a double end jackknife manufactured by Case. The company marketed the first Muskrat model prior to 1940, and to make the knife model, Case uses its Stockman knife mold.

Muskrat Design-Vntg Case 1973 Case XX Vintage Muskrat-1973 Closed View
Vintage Case Muskrat design shown here. 1970s.

The knife style has two identical clip blades that users can open on opposite sides of the base. Muskrat knives are still popular with today's knife collectors. In addition, owners of the knife style claim that it is easy to sharpen due to the blade's design, which features less of an upward sweep on the cutting edge. Collectors should use caution when buying antique versions of the Muskrat knife because there are a large number of counterfeit models on today's market.


Most collectors refer to the 2 3/4-inch serpentine style jackknife as a Peanut. In most cases, the knife style has two blades, but collectors may come across models that have just one. In fact, manufacturers have even produced Peanut knives that have three or more blades. Modern versions typically feature a clip blade as the master cutting edge while the second blade is usually a pen blade, spey or small pair of scissors. Older models may include a spear as the main blade. If a Peanut knife has three or more blades, then collectors typically refer to it as Big Nuts. The Case Company started producing the knife style before 1915.

Peanut/Case XX Pocket Knife Peanut 6220 Genuine Stag Case Closed View Case XX Pocket Knife
Classic Peanut design by Case.

The company continued to produce the Peanut, and from 1940 to 1980, Case constructed the knife style's handle in imitation pearl, black composition, bone and delrin. Genuine stag, yellow composition and cracked ice were other knife handle materials that the company used. Older editions may have a long pull or a saber ground as the master blade. If collectors buy a Peanut knife with these features, then they will have a tool that is more valuable. Some Peanuts were made without a left-hand bolster.

Small Lockback

Pocketknife manufacturers make Lockback knives in several different styles. However, to be in the Lockback pocketknife category, the tool will feature locking mechanisms as well as single blades. Many of them have a clip blade, but collectors can purchase models that have a skinner blade.

Boker Tree Brand Sm Stag Handle Lockback Pocket Knife-Closed ViewLockback Pocket Knife-Boker Tree sm Stag Handle-Open View
Boker lockback design shown here.

The Case Company began manufacturing the knife model before 1915. Collectors may also find the knife version under the title "Hobo." The Mako knife is another Lockback knife that the Case Company produces. The knife model also has a clip blade that locks when the user opens it. Case introduced the Mako around 1978. During the same year, the company introduced another Lockback knife called the Hammerhead. The knife style features a single clip blade.


The Gunstock pocketknife is a regular or slender jackknife. The tool's master blade will either be a spear or clip. In addition, the secondary blade is generally a pen. The Case Company started making Gunstock knives before 1920. It discontinued the line during the mid-1970s. Collectors can locate them with a pattern number, and if the knife has 1/2 listed after the code, then it features a clip blade.

Case XX Stag Gunstock Folding 2 Blade Pocket KnifeSchmachtenberg Bros. New York
Collectors will typically have at least a few Gunstock designs in their display.

The knife style was often produced with rough black, delrin and bone handles. In addition, antique versions may come with shields. Today, several companies develop Gunstock knives. Modern versions include multiple blades as well as handles made from materials like bone, wood and plastic.

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Pocketknife manufacturers make the tool in a variety of styles, sizes and models to ensure that consumers have the cutting tool that they need. In addition, knife developers continue to produce new editions of classic knife models as they are still popular.