How to Determine the Age of a Western Knife

By John VanCott
Hunting knife

Many people like to collect pocket knives and hunting knives. One issue you, as a beginning collector, may come across is how to determine the age of a vintage knife. Many brand-new knives are made in antique styles and use natural material. There are a few factors to look at that will help determine the age of a Western-made knife.

Look at the materials the knife is made of. Pre-20th century knives had handles of wood, bone, antler, iron and other natural materials. These materials are still in use but can help you know a knife may be older. Plastics were introduced at the beginning of the 1900s. Bakelite and celluloid plastics were among the first used. In the 1950s, resin plastic was common on advertising knives. About 1970, stainless steel blades were introduced that do not rust or tarnish easily. Natural materials are still used, especially by home craftsmen, but techniques for mass produced knives are different than those used in the past by commercial knife makers.

Look at the blade and handle of a knife for makers' names and hallmarks. Makers marks change over years, and the style of the mark may help identify when a knife was made. Manufacturers came into existence and went out of business constantly. Knowing the date firms were in operation can place a marked knife in the proper era.

Check a knife for wear and repairs. While pristine condition does not always mean a knife is new, use always brings wear to the blade and handle of a knife. Repairs and sharpening are common and can show longtime use.