A Brief History of the Folding Knife


For the majority of recorded history, most people worked with their hands for a living. Whether that meant farming, fishing, hunting, carpentry, or some other occupation, chances are the average person would have considered a folding pocket knife one of those essential tools for daily life.


These versatile tools have been used over thousands of years for a variety of purposes, notably hunting, fishing, carving, and other daily tasks. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the folding knife was historically known as the peasant’s knife or farmer’s knife.


Today most of us (at least in the United States) no longer work with our hands to survive. But folding knives have remained remarkably resilient, with many using them for everything from opening packages to cutting fishing line.


In this article, we’ll look back at the long history of this trusty tool.



Folding Knives and their History

According to current research, the earliest folding knife on record dates back to Early Antiquity, around 600 to 500 BC. Known as the Celtic Knife, it was discovered in what is now Upper Austria and featured an iron blade with a handle made of bone. However, this folding knife didn’t lock in place, meaning the wilder had to force it to stay in position with his thumb once it was deployed. 


As civilizations developed and technology advanced, so did the design and materials used in folding knives. In late 1600s Spain, the Navaja, an early locking pocket knife, was developed. Not only was it a useful tool, but it quickly became a way to circumvent laws that forbade non-nobility from carrying swords. The Navaja became the preferred blade of thieves and assassins alike, earning the ire of authorities and garnering a bad reputation for this humble-yet-useful EDC tool. 


In 1891, the first Swiss Army pocket knife was introduced. Breaking away from single-blade folding pocket knives, the Swiss Army knife was a multi-bladed pocket knife designed to be a multi-purpose tool for soldiers, with various attachments such as a blade, screwdriver, and can opener. Today, the Swiss Army knife is still a popular choice for those who need a versatile and reliable folding pocket knife.



Folding Knives Today

During the 20th century, folding knives became even more popular and diverse in their design and function. Technological advances like the development of stainless steel in Germany in 1912 made stainless steel folding knives like the modern F1 Alpha possible. 


Companies such as Spyderco and Benchmade revolutionized the industry by introducing new materials like lightweight polymers and innovative blade designs. These companies also popularized the use of pocket clips, which allowed users to easily carry their folding knives with them at all times. 


In recent years, pocket knives have become even more diverse and specialized, with designs ranging from tactical knives for self-defense to collectible knives for display. There are now folding knives available for virtually any purpose, and they have become an essential tool for many people around the world.


Overall, the history of folding knives is a rich and fascinating one, filled with innovation and evolution. From the simple knives of ancient civilizations to the modern, high-tech designs of today, folding knives have proven themselves as indispensable EDC items in our daily lives.