Transcending Traditional Knives

There is a reason why knife designs still prosper after 100 years.

Traditional patterns mean one thing—longevity. Failing to survive the perils of the open marketplace finds many once-popular patterns ending up on the trash heap of history. While short-run reject patterns may be desired by collectors, if you are going to use a knife you likely are most interested in performance.

A knife that doesn’t perform, that doesn’t live up to its billing, does not remain in the inventories of a knife company. But when a knife does perform, when it exceeds expectations, and when it exceeds those expectations year after year, that knife will likely become a standard, a classic, a traditional.


It does hurt for a knife to have a catchy name. For instance, walking into a hardware store or big box retailer and telling the clerk, “I want to see 175” or “I want to compare your 6254s” doesn’t have the ring of “I would like to take a look at your trappers.”

The name “trapper” conjures a mind picture for me of a grizzled man bent over with a burden of steel traps across his back, a lever-action Winchester in one hand, held balanced just in front of the lever, trudging through calf-deep snow on his appointed rounds.

Sorry, but 6254 just doesn’t do that, although most collectors instantly recognize that as the pattern number for a Case trapper. Try it for yourself. What pictures come to mind when you hear names like muskrat, hawkbill, marlin spike, electrician or stockman?


Most traditional knives will have multi-blades. That’s because, in the real world, workmen who use knives need a sharp blade, and a less-sharp blade for the rough duties, and that third blade doesn’t hurt as a back-up.

These knives originated in a time when locking the back was considered unnecessary. “Always cut away from yourself” was not just a saying, it was good advice. I recall the first time I tried to convince an old courthouse trader of the advantages of a lockback knife. “Excuse me, sonny,” he said, “I plan to do my cutting with the sharp side of the knife, so there’s no need to lock that blade.”


Look around at the selections of many cutlery companies. There are still a great many traditional knives hidden in among those black-handled serious-looking folders. The knives illustrating this article are but a mere sampling. There’s a reason why they’re still around… they work.

In a world in which “new” is the buzzword, when “tactical knives” have superseded what we used to call “survival knives,” when lockbacks crowd out multi-blades on many store shelves, and, yes, in a time when requirements of having a cutting tool close at hand are diminished, there is still something comforting about a knife that has survived 100 years of trends and change.

Traditional Knife



Overall: 5 5/8 inches

Blade: 2 1/2 inches

Steel: 440C

Handle: Brown bone

Retail: $21.95


By J. Bruce Voyles

Photos supplied by the manufacturers