Monday, 25 February 2013

More on Clasp Knives.

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.
Jambette blades.

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.
Further Information:


Gorges Smythe said...

A lot of variety there!

Unknown said...

The last Knife seems to me like a "Trattenbacher Taschenfeitel" (Pocketknife from Trattenbach in Austria)


Jenny said...

That is awesome - thanks Loup!

So the locking stud on the back is Spanish/French in the 1770's, as far as we know? Odd that something so fundamental as a locking blade seems unknown for so long - but I guess lots of stuff is obvious in retrospect.

I've been admiring this one recently (but not the price tag) -

Keith said...

Tags are below the images Jenny, the 1770s one is above. The Spanish lock knives are simly classed as 18th century, which I always find annoying because this covers 100 years!!! These could be earlier that the 70s.

Fimbulmyrk said...

WOW. A lot of material to think about.

Did the ring on the friction folders serve any purpose other than hang it up? I have often seen knives of the type with lanyards and thought those might be used to keep it shut in the pocket...

Keith said...

I think the main purpose Fimbulmyrk was to secure the knife so it can not fall. This would be especially important for seamen working high on the rigging. But this ring also serves as a lock, in so much as you can secure the open blade in place by placing your hand, or your thumb, over this ring & the tang.
Regards, Keith.

Unknown said...

I know I am a little late to this conversation, but I am in need of a source base for constructing an object biography for an eighteenth-century pocket knife of possible Dutch origin that is being stored at Valley Forge National Park. If there are any sources you can provide for me, even as starting points for research or as possible leads for finding other primary sources, I would greatly appreciate it!

In return I would happily share my findings with anyone that is interested!

Thanks again.

Keith said...

Chelse, you might like to think about joining our group forum & asking there.