More on Clasp Knives.
The clasp knife dates back to the Romans era, but the knives we are concerned with here are 17th and 18th century. As with any description of an antique item of which there were many makers, there may be some grey areas regarding shapes matched to periods. The pistol grip clasp knife fits into the early to mid 18th century, but of course their use would have gone beyond this date. The curved design seems to date to the late 18th century. But in the 19th century the shape of the clasp knife handle became straight, with no curve.
17th century pistol grip knives.
17th century pistol grip Gully knife. Considered to be a fighting knife. I am unable to tell if this has a back spring or not.
My own knife of similar size does have a back spring, but the blade is so long that the spring is pretty much ineffectual.
18th century French pruning knife.
A similar knife of mine with bone slab handle.
Found at a site of the Conoy Indians in Lancaster County which dates from 1718 to 1743.
A similar knife of mine that has a back spring. This type though is generally accepted as being a 1770s design
This one is dated to the 1770s.
A Spanish lock knife.
18th century Spanish or Catalonian or Balearic lock clasp knife. The lock is released by pulling on the ring at the back of the knife.
1735-1745 French Jambette.
This diagram of Lentega knives are very similar to the Jambette knives. These are friction knives the same as the Jambette, no back spring, and no lock. The back of the blade had a tab to restrict travel of the blade, and pressure on this tab area with thumb or hand secures the blade in the open position.
This early to mid 18th century suspension ring blade is believed to be Spanish. These operate the same as the Jambette.
This is the copy I made for this type of knife.
This is an image of what has come to be known as a “penny knife”. Its origins appear to be lost in time. Some say it is an 18th century pattern, others say the name is a modern one and simply means a cheap clasp knife with no back spring and no lock or back tab or ring. Below though is an interesting tale:
The custom takes place every year on the eve of Ascension Day and dates back to 1159 when three noblemen were hunting a wild boar. The boar is reputed to have sought refuge with a hermit on Eskdaleside but the three hunters attacked the hermit and killed him. As penance for their crime the noblemen were told they must build a hedge, cut with a penny knife, at low tide.
French cutlers images published in 1771.