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A pocketknife may be called a jackknife or a penknife, and a penknife is also a specific variety of pocketknife. By any given name and in styles ranging from Barlow to Peanut and Dog Bone to Sodbuster, a folding knife is usually 2 to 6 inches in length and suitable for carrying in a pocket. It defines versatility.

Simple pleasures to more complex needs, a proper pocketknife gets the job done—whether slicing an apple or used in self-defense. It worked in ancient Greece through crude folding implements with bone handles. And it’s a current go-to convenience today, largely the result of the Swiss Army brand’s success.

After its outsourced manufacturing debut in Germany, Victorinox founder Karl Elsener brought the knives’ production to Switzerland in 1891. The Swiss government, which decided its soldiers should carry a pocketknife, awarded half of the manufacturing contract to Victorinox and half to Wenger.

Victorinox advertised its knives as “The Original Swiss Army Knife.” Wenger used the term “The Genuine Swiss Army Knife.” Victorinox acquired Wenger in 2005. With its ode to the country’s red flag and centered white cross, about 45,000 Swiss Army knives are made daily and 10 million are sold annually.

Primarily made from three kinds of steel—carbon, stainless and tool—here are four popular pocketknives.

Case Mini-Trapper (pictured above)

The junior version of the brand’s signature amber bone Trapper has two full-length blades, the Clip and Spey. The former is a multi-purpose blade and is ideal for detail work. The Spey is an all-purpose utility blade.Founded in 1889 by four brothers who originally began selling their hand-crafted knives in upper New York from the back of a wagon, Case’s current models are fancied by trappers of small game. 



Kershaw Cryo 

Founded in 1974 by Pete Kershaw, a hunter and fisherman in Lake Oswego, Oregon, the company has had different owners and has offered many styles during its modern tenure.The Cryo’s handle is stainless steel coated with titanium cargo nitrate, exuding innovation. It has a speed-safe assist opening engaged with dual thumbstuds or a flipper. The blade is secured in place with a liner lock. A reversible carrying clip is included. 



Opinel Folding 

This iconic knife dates to 1890 when it was invented by 18-year-old Joseph Opinel, who worked for his father, a blacksmith in the French Alps.The handles are made of beech, olive, walnut or oak. The No. 8 model has been featured in countless museums, books and galleries around the world. The stainless-steel blade is anti-corrosive and easy to sharpen. 



Swiss Army Spartan 

If only one pocketknife were available, this one would be hard to beat. It includes the essentials: large and small blades, can opener with a small screwdriver, bottle opener with a large screwdriver and wire stripper, tweezers, reamer with sewing eye, corkscrew, toothpick and lanyard ring. 

With its slim profile, the 12-function knife is versatile and durable. Its manufacturer’s description says it all: “At their heart, all our pocketknives are a survival tool; multitaskers that deliver in any situation.”



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