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What Makes a Good, Traditional Barlow?

Discussion in 'Traditional Folders and Fixed Blades' started by waynorth, Nov 12, 2012.

  1. waynorth

    waynorth Dealer / Materials Provider Dealer / Materials Provider

    Nov 19, 2005
    When you have enjoyed a fair quantity and quality of life, and you gather enough scars from tripping over life's pitfalls, you win the privilege of, at least pretending, to be a philosopher.
    And you try, if you still have some spirit, to ruminate on the things that make life just a little better for you and your tribe.
    I am honored to know a guy who lives and breathes pocketknives, and likes to discuss them with me when he has time. He's not yet at full rumination, like my own self!!:rolleyes: But he has a few moments now and then!
    Anyway, having been an avid collector of Barlows, and being still a gung-ho appreciator of same, I undertook to discuss with my friend the subtle things that attract people to the humble Barlow knife, and that keep me going back again and again to delight in them.
    There is the simplicity, the sturdy presence, and often the simple but proud insignia on the bolster. I told him it was about time someone made the closest thing to a traditional Barlow that could be achieved in today's world, and he agreed this would be a worthy achievement.
    Since we live 3000 miles away, I sent him a roll of old Barlows, as an aid to discussion, including some of the ones pictured here:
    I think the oldest and youngest Barlows I own are in this third scan. One of these could be 130 years old!!
    The knives in this picture are from a parallel universe, where people write upside down! I don't know how they got here.
    If you are an old hand at antique knives, don't say anything yet. I'm sure a lot of the newer members will enjoy figuring out the identities of the more ambiguous markings.

    Enough for one post, I will tell you more about our discussions shortly.
    Respectfully submitted, waynorth.
    CelloDan, Duckdog, chuck4570 and 6 others like this.
  2. Grateful

    Grateful Basic Member Basic Member

    Oct 5, 2002
    Wow! You have accumulated a very nice collection of Barlows.
  3. waynorth

    waynorth Dealer / Materials Provider Dealer / Materials Provider

    Nov 19, 2005
    There are a lot of years represented there, Jim!
    cigarrodog likes this.
  4. Vanguard41xx


    Dec 29, 2010
    Very nice collection! Must have taken a lot of time to accumulate those!
    Say, what is your favorite out of the pictures you posted? Just curious. :)
  5. Vanguard41xx


    Dec 29, 2010
    Double post
    Worldbridger likes this.
  6. Grateful

    Grateful Basic Member Basic Member

    Oct 5, 2002
    I bet so. I don't have the knowledge to really identify most of them. Lots of work has been done with the humble barlow. I imagine yours have done there share. How many of them do you suppose were in use when horse and mule power was still relied on?
  7. knowtracks

    knowtracks Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 16, 2006
    Ohhhh, this is gonna be a fun thread! :cool:

  8. pertinux


    Feb 1, 2012

    It's going to be even more fun when "What Makes a Good, Traditional Barlow" becomes "Who Makes a Good, Traditional Barlow."


    Charlie, he's such a tease!

    ~ P.
  9. waynorth

    waynorth Dealer / Materials Provider Dealer / Materials Provider

    Nov 19, 2005
    Well, a lot of you know WHO;) makes (will make) a good Barlow, but I found the process such fun, I wanted to re-live it with you all!:)

    Now the lower, right knife in the first scan is a righteous Barlow. It is not too broad in the beam, is beautifully fitted, and I really like the signature design on the bolster. Some of them have too much information, or don't catch your eye like an abstract design will catch it. That one at the lower right is from New York Knife.
    They were masters at putting a pleasant knife in a person's hand. Well made and perfectly functional, NYKs are a joy to carry and use. Unless you know better, you might mistake the N in the signature for a Z, but either way it is a great graphic. Love to hear Gene's take on that (Gene, the master of the Forum Label, opine us please!!):D

    Note, some of these knives have hammered pins, as opposed to "spun" pins, attesting to their respective eras! They look so good on simple saw-cut bone handles don't you think??
    cigarrodog likes this.
  10. waynorth

    waynorth Dealer / Materials Provider Dealer / Materials Provider

    Nov 19, 2005
    Sometimes, you know what is coming, but the anticipation is fun just the same!!

  11. pertinux


    Feb 1, 2012
    Well, fun for you, anyway. Others aren't as good at "suspense." ;)

    All in good fun, Charlie. I love that you are pursuing this, and look forward to the result.

    Re: design decisions. If I recall correctly, a spear point main is the first consideration?

    I am unfamiliar with Barlow history. Is a spear point more typical/historically traditional, or are there other factors at work? Looking at your pictures above, there seems to be a fair representation of both clip and spear blade mains.

    Also, are the secondary blades on traditional blades usually pen blades? I'm guessing "yes," but again am very new to this.

    ~ P.
  12. waynorth

    waynorth Dealer / Materials Provider Dealer / Materials Provider

    Nov 19, 2005
    ~P, Spear blades were often listed as the first option, with a clip blade being a close second.
    Schrade, Case, KeenKutter and some others offered optional blades such as a sheepfoot, or a spey, or sometimes a "one-armed man" blade that you could hook on something and open one-handed.
    The secondary, if present, was almost always a pen.
    Spey bladed Barlows are usually the rarest. I have seen two made by Case, and managed to score one by Schrade Cut Co. That is in a few decades of looking!
  13. SBuzek

    SBuzek KnifeMaker

    Dec 7, 2006
    The smooth bone on the bridge in the fourth scan is stunning.Nice collection sir.
  14. Doug Add

    Doug Add

    Jan 9, 2012
    Thank you Charlie.

    Barlow was the first knife I bought with my own money as a young boy.

    I love admiring your treasures, and look forward to what others will post.
  15. pertinux


    Feb 1, 2012
    Thanks for the response!

    For the purposes of visual clarity, I've cropped your Righteous Barlow :))) from the image above and placed it within your slightly-edited text:

    (I apologize if I've misconstrued your meaning in any way, but if so will edit accordingly.)

    ~ P.
  16. waynorth

    waynorth Dealer / Materials Provider Dealer / Materials Provider

    Nov 19, 2005
    You are bang on, ~P. That one has real nice proportions.
    Some are quite crude and blocky, like a Chevy sedan. This one is like a Jaguar XKE!
  17. waynorth

    waynorth Dealer / Materials Provider Dealer / Materials Provider

    Nov 19, 2005
    I want to thank everyone for the compliments! I wish I could invite you all in for a CF* and CE** fest!

  18. Doug Add

    Doug Add

    Jan 9, 2012
    You know I'd take you up on that invitation if we weren't on opposite ends of the continent.
  19. bakerg2g


    Apr 22, 2010

    That would be awesome if we could!..lol. Some of the best examples I've seen
    of the "working man's" knife. Thanks Charlie..

  20. WA Martin

    WA Martin

    Jan 23, 2007
    Careful, some of us are closer than others and have fairly easy access!

    Oh, all these photos have me drooling again. I'm beginning to wonder if my name will ever rise to the top of somebody's list again so I can have him do me a barlow to CE and CF myself. Or I might have to see if I can talk another favorite maker into doing a barlow with a spear point as he is rather fond of a large clip.

    Oy, vey!

    A question for you Charlie, Case has their Grandaddy Barlow which I think is 5" closed (I need to get mine out and look at it), did anyone else make production runs of larger barlows or has everyone else pretty much stuck with the 3 3/8ths inches you cited in a different thread?
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2012

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