How do you choose the best pocket knife? Some of the new tactical knives have really cool designs. But, since they don’t have a history of popularity, they can’t be considered in this contest. They may be popular now, but that might be short-lived.
The winner must have a history of popularity for many years. How about 1964? If a knife style was invented in that year, like the Buck 110 Folding Hunter, would that be a long enough history? What about the 1600’s? That time frame would certainly be a long enough history. That’s 400 years, or 4 centuries. If a pocket knife style is still as popular now, as it was 400 years ago, that would make it the winner. So that’s how I came up with the winning knife. If you don’t agree, please post your comments here.
I believe the Best Pocket Knife of All Time is the Barlow Knife. Once used by George Washington, and Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer.
The famous Barlow Knives are well-known by people who appreciate a well-made, quality business gift. They were originally made in the USA by Barlow, a company that was based in Los Angeles CA from 1930 to 2005. Barlow made pocket knives, key chains, and money clips and imprinted the customer’s logo on them. This was very popular for businesses to promote themselves to their customers. Barlow products had a lifetime Warranty. If the if the items broke, or failed, the end user could just mail it to Barlow for a repacement. The shipping both ways was paid for by the end user. After 12 years, we still get inquiries about this warranty, which is no longer available.
In 2005 the promotional product industry giant, Norwood bought them. Production was kept in China, where Barlow transferred it in 2003, just 2 years before the sale.
Then in June 2009, the Great Recession forced Norwood Promotional Products Holdings, Inc. to declare bankruptcy. So the Barlow Knives brand was once again sold. This time, BIC Graphic North America, another giant, bought Norwood at auction for $162.5 Million. BIC kept the Norwood brand and the little Barlow brand.
Probably the inability to make enough profit forced BIC to sell in June 2017. HIG Capital bought BIC Graphic North America and its Asian sourcing Division for a mere $80 Million. The sales at the time were over $300 Million, according to Bizjournals.com. So this is the third time that the Barlow brand was sold. HIG Capital of Miami FL is a huge company with $21 Billion in equity capital under management. Promotional products are not new to them. They bought Halo, a promotional product distributor, in 2003, and sold it in 2007. The selling price was $62.5 Million. So the $80 Million price it paid for BIC was a real bargain.
It is expected that HIG will continue the same service and products, and do well in this market. Hopefully, the Barlow brand will continue.
When people ask me about the barlow knives, I ask them to let me know which “barlow” they want to know about. The word barlow has 2 meanings. The first meaning is the name of an American company that used to make pocket knives, tape measures, and key chains. They were all high quality, and made in America. USA-made items were very popular, and still are. The Barlow company was sold to another company in 2007 approximately. Then that company was sold to a third company shortly after.
The second meaning of “barlow” is a style of pocket knife that dates back to the 1600’s in England. This is the knife that George Washington used. It still gets a ton of Google searches today.
It is these barlow knives that I am showing you today. These have 2 stainless steel blades, a slightly teardrop-shaped handle, and a large metal bolster.
When you hear the words “barlow knives”, most people think about the old fashioned knives that were invented in England in 1670. More of their background is shown here on “History of Barlow Knives“. These knives were built rugged, with an over-sized brass bolster, so the blade was firmly secured in its cradle. They were, and still are, 3 3/8” long closed. Their familiar slight tear-drop shaped makes it comfortable in the palm of your hand when using it. They come in all prices, and are made by many knife manufacturers around the world.
But here are 9 Barlow knives that you may not have heard of. They aren’t fashioned after the famous barlows. They used to be made by the Barlow company in Los Angeles, California until the turn of this century. Barlow was bought out by another company, which kept the trade name. This company, Norwood, was bought out by Bic Graphic about 10 years ago. These Barlow knives, some of them renamed, are sought after by people who remember the original LA company, and like their quality and economy. So here are the 9 popular Barlow knives that you may not have known existed until today…..
Pocket knives are so popular because they are collector items. Other reasons are: They are useful, portable, made of steel, helpful in self defense, a powerful tool in a small package, and made of interesting handle materials. In our opinion, the best pocket knives in 2016 are these. Our selection is based on popularity with our customers, and our own opinion on the quality put into these beautiful knives. In alphabetical order, they are:
The Boker Magnum King Barlow 01MB559DAM is styled after the antique barlow knives made in the 1600’s in England. This design of a subtle teardrop shape fits well into the hand. Like all barlows, it is 3 3/8″ closed, and has an over-sized bolster. The burl wood scales (handle) add much character. The pinnacle of its beauty is the genuine damascus blade. It also has a lockback mechanism. This is a safety feature not found on the original barlow knives.
By far, the pocket knives of all pocket knives is the Buck 110 Folding Hunter Lockback. Its size, weight, composition, extra sharp stainless steel blade, and wooden handle with stainless steel bolsters make it the king of pocket knives. When someone asks for a Buck knife, this is the one they are referring to. USA-Made.
Case has been making pocket knives by hand since 1889. Located in the woods of Pennsylvania, they take pride in the hand-made tradition. The 7200 Executive Lockback is the top seller. People like it because it is the right size and shape for a man’s pocket. There are no sharp edges on the handle to cut into your pocket. The stainless steel blade comes super sharp, and it is easy to keep sharp your whole life. USA-Made.
Kershaw “Scallion” Knife, Camo 1620
The classy Kershaw Scallion Camo 1620 knife satisfies both the camo lovers and the knife collectors. The patented Speedsafe opening mechanism makes it fun to open with one hand. No worry, there is a tip safety lock to prevent accidental opening. A removable pocket clip makes this knife a real keeper. USA-Made.
You must have a favorite pocket knife. Tell me about it. Is it one of these? See if you agree with me that these are the 5 best pocket knives in the world.
Boker Magnum King Barlow. Boker is a big name in quality knives. They design and produce them around the world, using the best stainless steel. This barlow is a lockback formulated to please the hard core barlow lovers. Its prize features are a real damascus blade and burl wood scales (handles). This knife is the crowning glory of the long history of barlow knives, which originated in the 1600’s.
When someone asks for a Buck knife, this is the one they mean, even though Buck makes a lot of styles of cutting instruments. The 110 was first made in 1964, and just celebrated its 50th anniversary.
Case Trapper Knife. Case makes all of its knives in the USA. This Natural Bone Trapper 91445 is the best selling Case knife by a long shot. Hand made, fine stainless steel, pure bone handle, and a lifetime warranty make it a winner.
Kershaw Scallion Camo Knife.
They make this one in the United States out of the best material. It is a precision piece comprised of assisted opening, closed safety lock, and of course, the popular camouflage design.
Kutmaster Compact Rescue Knife. Popular because of its stylish look, and its usefulness. Black blades command a mysterious look, along with the black handle. The tanto style blade adds to its attractiveness.
When was the first time that someone used pocket knives to deliver an advertising message? When was the first Logo actually put on a knife, a logo not belonging to the knife’s manufacturer? What is an old advertising knife worth today? All these questions are answered in a unique book, ADVERTISING CUTLERY, by Richard D. White, c. 1999. It’s published by Schiffer Publishing Ltd, Atglen, PA.
It’s an amazing book to me, but I’m partial to company logo knives. I sell them for a living. I’m glad Mr. White decided to assemble this valuable information and present it in a fun, easy to read way. You can tell he loves knives, and has been collecting them for a long time. The book divides the collectible knives into categories:
Advertising on knives began about 100 years ago. That was long before laser engraving. According to Mr. White’s pictures (and the book is loaded with color pictures), the early logo knives were imprinted with the die-struck method. That’s when a heavy stamping machine forces the imprint from the die into the metal handle. This imprinting technique is still used today on name plates and key tags. I haven’t seen it used currently on knife handles.
Die cast was another early way to advertise on a knife handle. This provides a 3 dimentional look that is very impressive.
Then hot stamping and screen printing were used. Hot stamping uses a heated die, which pushes the color of a foil ribbon into the plastic handle of the knife. The heat makes a slight indent into the partly melted substrate. This method is still used today, but not so much on knife handles.
Screen printing is familiar to most people. That’s when the ink, or paint, is pushed through the porous areas of a screen onto the knife handle. This is still very much used today on knives.
Today we use laser engraving, machine engraving (like a jeweler’s), electro etching, screen printing, pad printing, and laser engraving followed by a color fill.
If I had a quarter for every time someone has emailed me that question, I’d be rich by now. Mr. White’s book has these guidelines for determining the answer to your question.
THE 5 FACTORS WHICH AFFECT THE OVERALL VALUE OF ANY COLLECTIBLE CUTLERY ARE:
The advertiser is also a factor. If it was a company that used to make asbestos, or any other obsolete product or service, that knife has more appeal to a collector. Barlow style knives have their own special appeal.
Do you have an old advertising knife? Tell us about it, and email a picture. I’d be happy to see it. So would everyone else. Thanks.
Pocket knives make great corporate gifts because they:
Last a long time
Display your logo to your customers and employees
Have a high perceived value when presented as a special gift
There are about 13 major manufacturers of engraved pocket knives in my opinion. That’s why they are on my website.
Bear & Son
These fine companies are listed in alphabetical order, so as not to give preference to any one.
Barlow Norwood imports economical pocket knives from China, and engraves them with your logo at a reasonable price. These knives are good for mass distribution, and don’t break the bank.
Bear & Son is an American knife company with a fine reputation. Our favorite is the wood handled barlow knife.
Boker is an old knife company with world-wide presence. They have major manufacturing facilities in all corners of the globe, and use the finest steel. Everyone in the knife business knows Boker.
Buck knives are made in the USA and some are made overseas, to compete with other knife companies. When someone asks for a Buck knife, he is asking for the USA-made Buck 110, folding hunter knife.
Case knives are all USA-made, and have a fine history that is enjoyed by many Case knife collectors, and Case knife clubs around America.
Dakota pocket knives are made in China, but don’t let that bother you. They have a good quality and are worth every penny of the price. Many of them are around the 10 dollar amount, with a perceived value higher than that.
Gerber Knives are made in the USA and some are imported from China, because of the competition. Gerber has been a favorite for many years. They have some unique styles available.
Kershaw Knives are mostly made in the USA, but some are being imported from China. They are made of the finest steel, and both the imported ones and the domestic ones are a fine piece of work. You’ll like the feel of a Kershaw knife.
Kutmaster, or Utica Cutlery has a nice collection of modern and traditional designs. For top quality custom engraved knives, you can count on Kutmaster.
Leatherman Tools is now making a few pocket knives again. Your logo can be quality laser engraved on the blade or the metal handles. Leatherman is a Class A knife and multi-tool manufacturer. All products are American-made, or American asssembled.
SOG is a knife company that got started by supplying the military with knives. The people that ask for a SOG knife know its history.
Starline is an American supplier, not a manufacturer of engraved pocket knives. They import the knives from China. These pocket knives are well built. Don’t let the low price fool you. Starline chooses some new and unique styles when they add knives to their catalog.
Swiss Army, Victorinox, is a very familiar name in the knife world. Although not as sought-after as Buck or Case, everyone has heard of Swiss Army. They are high quality, and many have scissors, tweezers, and other tools included.
All of these engraved pocket knives are engraved or imprinted in the United States.