If anyone is interested, I will continue with this frugal knife thread as a series. I do have quite a few excellent but inexpensive knives that are, in my opinion, “must haves” for anyone.
Here’s the first…the mighty Barlow…(and probably the most expessive knife I'll be talking about)
The Barlow Knife
Having an interest in history, weapons, and Mark Twain, I have always wanted a 'shur e'nuff fer reel Barlow nife". (NOTE: I have several old time knives, I find that things old and still made are both functional and frugal…they work.) The one's I came across were all cheap POS so I never looked further. Well now, I am reading Huckleberry Finn and I had to look again, sure 'nuff...Case, Bear, and several others make nice quality Barlow’s...Oh Yeah!
Here’s one I really like, an Eagle Barlow knife for $30 from the BSA…
Classic 2 blade Barlow Knife designed for Boy Scouts of America. Durable 440 high carbon stainless steel blade, with a long cutting edge life. Solid brass liners for smooth blade action, durable red tan ash wood handle, nickel bolsters for a classic look that will not tarnish easily.
The history of the barlow knife has been difficult to trace. At least four American Barlow families have claimed that they invented the barlow knife. According to Laurence A. Johnson in his article, "The Barlow Knife", that was published in The Chronicle of the Early American Industries Association, Inc. in June 1959, the Barlow knife was probably first manufactured by Obadiah Barlow at Sheffield, England, around 1670. Obadiah's grandson, John Barlow, joined the business around 1745 and it was he who was chiefly responsible for developing the exportation of the Barlow knives to America. Another source says the barlow knife was also made by Luke Furnace of Stannington, which in the eighteenth century was a small village on the outskirts of Sheffield. Luke Furnace's name occurs in the Sheffield directories from 1774 and 1787, but not in the 1797 directory, so he was presumably dead by then. He put the mark "1760" on his knives. The original Barlow, after whom the knives are named, was working in Sheffield at the same time as Luke Furnace.
An 1823 directory of Sheffield, England cutlers (knife makers) shows Samuel Barlow on Neepsend (Street). In the Sheffield suburb of Stannington, Barlow Bros. is listed as a cutler. (The Heritage of English Knives, David Hayden-Wright, 2008)
The barlow knife was designed to be tough, and to be affordable. To keep the price low, the blade was high carbon steel, and the handle was bone, and not much time was spent in polishing it. To make it tough, the bolster was big and thick. The original barlows had only one blade. Now they have two, and more care is taken in finishing and polishing them.
John Russell may have been the first American to manufacture Barlow knives. The John Russell Company, now the Russell Harrington Cutlery Company of Southbridge, Massachusetts, first made Barlow knives at their Greenfield Massachusetts, factory in 1785. They were called the Russell Barlow knife and instead of the word BARLOW on the bolster, they were stamped with Russell's mark, an R with an arrow through it. Today these Russell Barlows are valuable antiques.
Personally, and please remember folks what I state is merely my opinion and experience; I have two categories for knives, tools, and weapons, though obviously they can and do overlap. As well, for a non-knife person I never recommend a non-locking folder or a fixed blade without a guard. The risks are simply too great if you do not know what you are doing, heck they are great even if you do know what you are doing.
Many of the knives I own where purchased for nostalgias sake rather than necessity and some were bought because I just liked them. Quite a few years ago, my Pal gave me a Victorinox Camper SAK as a gift from his trip to Europe and that has been my constant companion over the years and what better pocket knife/tool to have than a SAK? Therefore, realistically, how many knives does one man actually require?
In addition, I tend to take care of my things and do not intentionally beat the snot out of my knives, as some folks tend to do. In an emergency, anything goes, nevertheless on a day-to-day basis, I am careful with them. At work, I kept a razor knife and an el-cheapo dime store knife in my toolbox as loaners or for cutting up abrasive materials.
Well now, everyone has an estimate of my thoughts on this subject…let’s talk knives shall we?
One of, well actually now two of my favorite frugal fived blade utility knives are Mora’s. The first I bought many years ago and the last I just picked up a few months back.
Over time, I found that, while fishing, and especially from a boat, a fixed blade sheathe knife is a hellofa lot more convenient than a pocketknife. Based on that requirement I did not want an expensive knife that would probably get lost sooner of later so I gambled $7.00 and bought one. I won the gamble…big time.
That first one is a traditional Swedish “Mora” knife (#2 if I recall correctly) and an excellent value. They do not get much simpler than this style; however, the quality is outstanding. All I have done to mine was bead blast the shiny finish off the ferrule and blade, sharpen it, and soak the handle in olive oil. This I do periodically with all my wood handled knives. To maintain the edge I use a steel and strop it on an old leather belt.
The plastic sheathe is workable nevertheless I keep meaning to get a nicer leather sheathe for it…it is a good knife and worthy of a nice sheathe.
A word of note and caution here, with any knife style similar to the Mora #2: grip the knife with the thumb and first three fingers. The little finger should be resting against the butt to act as a stop so the hand does not slide down the blade. Draw cutting is preferred with this type of knife and any non-locking pocketknife as well.
Mora #2 - Straight, slightly clipped blade in carbon steel (not laminated), 4¼-inch blade, 4" red birch wood handle, functional plastic sheath.
I bought the last one, a Craftline Mora for three, well actually four reasons. First it is stainless steel, second the handle is superb, and third, the sheathe is well designed, it secures the knife and wears well on the belt with out the necessity of removing the belt to fasten or unfasten the knife it. Fourth and lastly, it is a heavier blade being .089” in thickness.
The Craftline Allround is a general-purpose knife. The Sandvik stainless blade is about 3 7/8" long, 13/16" wide, and .098" (2.5 mm) thick. It has the usual Mora Scandinavian grind, and is hardened to about 57 on the Rockwell scale. The knife and sheath weigh only 4 ounces.
As a somewhat of an old-fashioned traditionalist I like the old style Moras, but from a practical standpoint the Craftline is a tough act to follow, especially at only $14.00!
The best prices and service I’ve found is at Ragweed Forge http://www.ragweedforge.com/SwedishKnifeCatalog.html stop in and check out his wares…you won’t be sorry.
YOU FORGOT THE OLD STANDBY....
THE MORA CLIPPER! awesome because its In od green .....carbon steel version
the Appalachian Trail knives they sell at Lowes aren't half bad for an el'cheapo cutter... I own a few
Keep em coming, I'm all ears....eh, eyes.
Great post! I love my moras. I almost picked a Barlow at a flea
market last week. I regret not picking it up.
kenneth the ghost
Bush Class Basic Certified
I'm a fan of the moras as well, I have a #2 that I keep in my GHB.
There was another guy that carried a barlow if I remember right. His name was Washington. I believe he ran a little army out East and skirmished with a few Redcoats.
For the frugal minded, or somebody that don't want to shed alligator tears if they lose their knife, or drop it in the lake, Rough Rider's are hard to beat. The fit and finish is as good as Case, the 440A steel is heat treated right, and they come out of the box sharp, and hold an edge really well. $10 + shipping for a big old Trapper, 3 blade stockman, or Barlow.
I've been blessed in that I've acquired some really fine knives over the years, and I enjoy them, but when I head out to the farm to work, or go fishing, or camping, I drop a RR in my pocket.
Another frugal knife not mentioned much is the Marttiini Model 571. I've got several Mora's, but I like the blade shape of the Marttiini better, and the fact the steel is as it came out of heat treat. The handle fits my big old mitt really well, and that's a plus. The sheath, like all inexpensive Scandinavian knives is lame, but I just cut the belt slots off, and rivet a 1" wide loop of leather to the sheath. Works like champ, and for $10. If you want a leather sheath, Ben's has them, along with the knife.
There's lot's of frugal knives around these days, and some of 'em working surprisingly well.
Here's another one...
Here's another Rough Rider that doesn't get any attention:
I've got two of them, and and the chinese quince burl handles on the two I have makes the one in the attached picture look bland. Well heat treated 440A, meticulous fit and finish, and $13 dollars out the door. Needs a better sheath, but that's easily fixed. Just order one from Jantz Supply or Texas Knifemakers supply, and wet mold it to the knife.
You can beat the snot of these frugal knives, and they'll just ask for more.
Opinel folders are good and cheap for the quality, too, most models available for $10 or less!
Matt in Tx