The evolution of the pocket knife

We have recently added SOG knives to our online store, and we LOVE them!  The addition of SOG knives and the innovative changes in just the SOG product line have made me realize how far knives have come!

Folding Knives have come from a pretty humble beginning dating all the way back to 500 BC.  The early pocket knives sure did not look like the SOG folding knives you may carry today.  Pocket knives continued to advance and evolve over the years.  Other functions were added to these pocket sized sidekicks, making them more versatile, and easier to use.

I came across an article that highlighted the history of the pocket knife.  I’ve taken some facts and pics from the article to share.  Here is a link to the original article- The History of the Pocket Knife.

The oldest pocket knife that has ever been discovered dates back to about 600-500 BC.  It was discovered in Austria and consists of a single blade with a handle constructed out of bone.

The 1st Century Romans were also discovered to be avid pocket knife users.  There were many bronze folding knives discovered from the Roman Empire during this era.  The Roman’s folding knife used friction instead of springs to keep the blade locked tight away and required pressure from a hand or thumb to keep them open.

1st Century Pocket Knife

Multi Tools sure have come a long way.  The Romans were the first to create a type of multi tool.  The earliest multi tool discovered had a spoon, blade, spike, fork, spatula, and pick.  It is believed to date back to around 200 and most likely belonged to a wealthy traveler.

Seeing them side by side, it’s easy to see the great advances in innovation, design and engineering between the early Roman multi Tool and this popular SOG multi tool.

200-multi-tool  Sog multi tool

Many folding knives have also been discovered from the Viking era.  There were many friction folding knives similar to the 1st century Roman folding knives, but also many clasp knives that used a catch to hold the blade open.  Now, most folding blades use springs and locks like the very popular Flash folding knife from SOG knives.

Here is a side by side to compare:

viking-pocket-knife   flash

In the 1600, many more advances and designs of folding knives were becoming more popular.  The pistol grip knife gained popularity in the early 1600s and was most likely used for fighting.


Between 1650 and 1700 the peasant knife or “penny knife” became very popular I England.  It was much more affordable, allowing it to be more widely distributed especially among farmers and workers.  The slipjoint knife also gained a lot of popularity during this time.  The slipjoint knife featured a backspring that would keep the blade in the open position.  This backspring design is what most pocket knives or folding knives still use today.


As the 1600’s came to an end and a new century was on the horizon, a few new designs in folding knives began to surface.  The Navaja became popular in the late 1600’s and was a Spanish folding knife that operated similar to the penny knife in England.  Much like the penny knife, the Navaja was most typically used by workers to do simple tasks like sharpening quills.  The Navaja was different in that it was also used as a weapon.  Years after it was popularized a locking device was added to the folding knife, making it one of the first folding knives with a locking mechanism.


The Butterfly pocket knife was also introduced in the early 1700s.  Butterfly knives have two handles that conceal the blade until flipped around.  The butterfly knife was typically used for self-defense or as a utility knife.  SOG uses the same clever engineering of concealing the heart of the tool in the handle on many of their multi tools.


In the mid 1700’s the switch blade was introduced.  The switchblade was known for their spring loaded blades that could be employed by a push of a button.  The Stilleto was another switchblade style folding knife that was popularized in the mid 1900’s .  Both switchblade style folding knives were often used for fighting or self-defense.

switchblade-pocket-knife   stiletto-pocket-knife

Various styles of folding knives surfaced and popularized throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.  New innovative features were added making the folding knives more specialized for various uses.  SOG consistently produces innovative styles of these vastly popular pocket companions that we have come to love over the years.  SOG has created an extensive line of tactical knives, hunting knives, and knives and tools for the outdoor enthusiasts with superior engineering and cutting edge designs.   It’s this kind of dedication to quality that has brought us great folding knives like SOG’s Flash II, and the Twitch II.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Recent Posts

Blog Calendar

November 2017
« Jan