Traditional Pocket Knife Handle Design Types

Over the years hundreds of handle designs have been used for pocket knives. In this article you will learn the basics of pocket knife handle design and handle die types.

Pocket Knife Handle Dies and Patterns

When discussing the handle of a pocket knife you will encounter a couple important terms.

Handle die ultimately refers to the handle shape of a particular pocket knife. And Patterns is a term that is often used interchangeably with handle die.

The sheet metal liners that create the frame of the pocket knife gets stamped into their final shape via a steel die, which is where the name handle die comes from.

The majority of the most popular handle shapes used today stem from designs created from 1840 to 1890. While there are numerous attempts at innovation throughout the century plus of pocket knife development, the majority of knife handles will use one of the following styles.

British Pocket Knife Patterns

Sheffield England was the center of cutlery and pocket knife design in the 1800’s. They produced thousands of knives both for domestic and international sale. Many cutlers produced handle designs that were produced specifically for the towns in which the cutler was based.

Probably the most well known handle shape produced of this type is the horseman’s multiblade. While there is some variation in this styles configuration of the basic design includes a spear blade, quill blade with a saw side and a corkscrew, punch, and hoof pick.

Other iconic styles include penknives called the senator and the congress. Sailors knives with a rope spike is another well received handle die. The English folding knife is also considered one of the British pocket knife patterns.

This jackknife, known as the English Jack, is between four and seven inches long when closed. It offered a single locking blade or spear point blade.

Another popular model is the British Lobster, which has a bolstered sleeveboard and a large nail file blade on one end. These knives became very popular in America and many were shipped over to meet the demand.

French Pocket Knife Patterns

France produced knives for many centuries and some of the most collected pocket knife handle patterns come from there.

One of the most well known handle dies is the Opinels from Cognin. These knives were sold throughout the world and were incredibly popular. They offer a wooden handle in a penny knife design with a rotating ferrule lock.

Original examples of this knife in ivory and horn have also survived.

Another great pattern from this time is the Laguiole. This lock clasp knife came in a fine slim design known as a yatagan style. It usually will be found with a single main blade and a corkscrew.

France also produced a pattern called the pradel. Named after the cutlers who designed it, this design is quite like the classic American Barlow jackknife. The pradel offers a short spear blade.

German Pocket Knife Patterns

While German cutlers are well known for their sword design, they also created some of the most cherished pocket knife patterns ever made.

Solingen was the center of pocket knife production and this is where thousands of pocket knives destined for international sale were produced.

The most iconic German pocket knife design is the large folding hunter with a stag handle. This German style pocket knife came in many different sizes and handle shapes.

It is common to find examples that are equipped with a large main blade and a corkscrew and a small saw.

A horn or stag foot handled clasp knife was another popular model. This knife is very similar to the American toothpick or tickler knife.

Japanese Pocket Knife Patterns

A very popular Japanese pocketknife design with modern collectors is the Higonokami. This elegant knife is all metal with a sharp laminated steel blade with a cut off point.

The blade is flat ground on the backside and sabre ground of the front side.


Most modern pocketknives take their handle design cues from the traditional knives above. While there are hundreds of variations, most modern knife makers owe a lot to the ingenious designs of the cutlers of the past. If you are looking for more info on pocketknives check out the links below.

Types of Pocketknives

Vintage Pearl Handle Pocketknives

Written by Fred

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Types Of Pocket Knives: Complete Guide

Pocketknife Collecting: Top 5 Tips For Being A Successful Collector