Today’s gent’s knives are what they are instead of what they used to be.
In years past, there was a genre of knife small, fancy and unobtrusive. It went by gent’s knife or Sunday-go-to-meeting knife, the latter where the hard-working sodbuster was laid down on the day of rest for something to better match the formal Sunday duds. Loosely defined, that knife consisted of fancier materials and a blade less than 3 inches long
However, the argument can be made that today’s gent’s knives are exclusively gent’s knives no more. According to officials of the knife companies that make them, all kinds of people spring for the knives popularly known as gent’s knives. There are sub genres, and their popularity is growing.
Take, for instance, A.G. Russell Knives, whose customers tend to gravitate not toward EDCs or tactical knives but smaller gent’s-type knives.
“In the past year or so, we are seeing an increase in interest in these smaller knives that can be carried unobtrusively, both with pocket clips and without,” the team at A.G. Russell wrote in an e-mail. The knives worn with the Sunday best tend to be more traditional, according to the company’s spokespeople. It’s a subcategory of small knives that sport a sharp appearance that includes premium handle materials. Added the Russell team, “A great gent’s knife is not too large, has an elegance about it, but still performs well.”
For an example of a piece that represents the new generation of gent’s knife, look no further than the A.G. Russell Vest PocketSemi-Skinner. Designed by the late company founder and BLADE Magazine Cutlery Hall-Of-Fame member® A.G. Russell, the knife is a mix between classic design and contemporary materials—the latter being a carbon-fiber handle and premium CPM S35VN stainless blade steel.
The heart of the knife is the bigger-than-it-should-be semi-skinner blade. As the company website noted, A.G. loved the semi-skinner blade, a pattern he credited Cutlery Hall-Of-Famer Bob Loveless for introducing to him. “A.G. saw the need for a small, lightweight pocket knife that would sit comfortable in any pocket, especially vest pockets, and the opportunity to create one with the blade he liked so much,” the site explains.
It is a blade shape that excels with work done at the tip, which is critical for a smaller knife.
“A good gent’s knife is really good at detail work,” the site notes,“in which blade and tip control are very important.” As a result, the Vest Pocket’s blade is at ground and boasts a thin edge geometry ideal for slicing cuts.
The stainless steel bolster is also critical to the design, as it covers the squared-off heel of the blade that connects with the lockbar. Unprotected, the heel could wear away at the fine fabrics of a vest pocket, for instance.
A.G.’s sketch of the knife (pictured below) was scanned into a CAD program in March 2018. Un-fortunately, he didn’t get to see the knife in production, as the iconic knife entrepreneur passed away in October of the same year before the design could be fully realized.
SPECS: VEST POCKET SEMI-SKINNER/A.G. RUSSELLKNIVES
BLADE STEEL:CPM S35VN stainless
HANDLE MATERIAL:Carbon fiber
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:ChinaMSRP:$99.9
The Maserin Knives Turtle Gentleman’s Knife
No discussion of gent’s knives would be complete without mentioning the classic designs that hail from all over the globe. Take for example the Turtle, a timeless design Maserin injected with traditional materials and refinement throughout.
In 2006, Italian knifemaker Claudio Volpato designed a small knife with a blade under 2 inches and sent the prototype to Maserin. “We industrialized it,” recalled Claudia Maserin, along with her two brothers owner of Maserin, and the Turtle was born. “ The knife is still popular considering we first showed it long ago. The best handles are ebony and briarwood, and the damascus blade version is still very appreciated.”
Some of the small knife’s more notable features are the pivot pin with its concentric lines, and the skeletonized titanium clip anodized blue. Part of the goal was to take classic materials and transform them “We looked for elegant and traditional materials,” Claudia explained, “wooden handles like ebony and olive.”
Realizing that some women were gravitating to the Turtle because of its small size, Maserin officials handled the knife in pink giraffe bone several years ago. “We don’t design a knife thinking of final users in terms of gender but in projecting elegant knives,” Claudia stated. “We know they can be perfect both for women and men.”
Early versions of the blade were at ground of 440C stainless steel. Now, they are N690 stainless. The result is a knifes mall enough to slip into the small pocket of a pair of jeans and that opens easily one-handed.
“Our gent’s knife is good for everyday carry,” Claudia maintained. “You can open an envelope, a parcel, cut a fruit. It is the knife you need when you find yourself saying ‘If I had a knife …’
BLADE STEEL:N690 stainless or stainless damascus
HANDLE MATERIAL:Woods of bocote, briar, ebony, olive or walnut
POCKET CLIP:Skeletonized titanium anodized blue
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:Italy
MSRP:Depending on options, from about $77 to $19
The Spyderco Pochi Knife
Rigid definitions of a gent’s knife don’t quite cut it in Joyce Laituri’s book. The Spyderco spokesperson met a knife enthusiast at a knife show out to acquire some knives. The man towered well over 6 feet and was “built like an NFL linebacker, with paws like a bear,” she recounted. Though he appeared gentle-manly, a blade under 3 inches would be too small for him.
“In today’s industry,” Laituri began,“there is a broader view of what constitutes a dress knife. Is it its size, cost, function, materials, appearance? That definition is unique to each knife carrier.”
For some, a gent’s knife may be a small, elegant knife. Others, Laituri points out, decide that the most gentlemanly knife they can carry on their wedding day is a 5-inch folder or even a Spyderco Military model. The company eschews the term gent’s knives for prestige knives, Laituri said, in order to better describe the breadth of people who carry such edged tools. Meanwhile, a Spyderco knife that has attracted knife carriers for a whole slew of reasons is the Pochi, a flipper-folder collaboration with Japanese custom knifemaker Kazuyuki Sakurai.
“There is a market for anyone look-ing for the non-traditional,” Laituri said,“and the Pochi has been well received—surprisingly so—because it is so different from traditional pocketknives.
Some Pochi users, she added, like the design because they find it both charming and functional. Others are attracted to its upswept blade hollow ground from high-end CPM S45VN stainless steel. Some, attracted to the zoomorphism of the design, carry it because they like dogs, Laituri said.
Pochi, which roughly translates to the most common name for a dog in Japanese, has all the essential canine elements, resembling something like a pug on the go. Like many small Spyderco knives, Laituri said the Pochi is designed to bring large cutting power in a small package. “ The dog tail rotates out to create a pinky shelf,” Laituri noted, “adding length to the handle for a better grip.”
BLADE STEEL:CPM S45VN stainless
POCKET CLIP:Titanium anodized blue;closed knife carries blade tip up
LOCK:R.I.L. (Reeve Integral Lock)WEIGHT:1.7 ozs.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:Taiwan
USER EVOLUTION: Bear & Son’s Bold Action 14’
According to Matt Griffey of Bear &Son Cutlery, the world of gent’s knives has been changing and part of that has been due to the evolving nature of the workplace.
“We see less manufacturing professionals and more office setting careers,” he said. “Gentleman’s knives t the workforce movement and the lifestyles that come with it—accounting, computer techs, engineers and so on—with the knife having a small or slim physique and constructed from higher quality materials.”
At the same time, Griffey notes some of the slim knives are growing in size, and in the forefront of that change has been the increase in autos.
“Automatic knives have always intrigued both the traditional and modern knife enthusiast,” Griffey wrote, “and to-day more states are approving the daily carry and ownership of these types of knives.”
Trying to comply with many of the new auto laws, Bear & Son introduced the BearOPS Bold Action 14. The result is a knife available in a selection of color choices with its anodized aluminum handles and also the Sandvik 14C28N stainless steel blade, all made at Bear’s plant in Alabama.
Aluminum is a lightweight, low-maintenance material and 14C28 has a reputation of being corrosion resistant, durable and “an awesome performance steel”—essential features on a knife with a smaller blade and plenty of tasks to do.
“The Bold Action 14’s typical use would be common cutting chores around the office/home like opening small packages, cutting cordage and opening envelopes,”Griffey said, noting the knife can handle bigger tasks, too.
Meanwhile, expect more gent’s knives—or whatever you want to call the small fancy folders—in the future
“There is a market space for gentleman’s knives,” Griffey said. “Today, there are a lot of different choices and we’re lucky to and so many knife designers pushing the limits with materials, sizes and overall de-sign in the category.
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