The British Army introduced a new, smaller clasp knife just before the start of the Second World War. Older patterns remained in service however, alongside commercial copies of the service clasp knife that could be purchased to replace lost or broken items. Today we are taking a look at the larger, older pattern of clasp knife and as this example does not bear military marking, I suspect it is a commercial copy:
Sadly this example is missing its lanyard loop, but the metal pegs for attaching a piece of copper remain. The size difference is only really apparent when it is shown next to a standard WW2 small clasp knife:
The earlier pattern is a good 1/2 to 3/4 inch longer. This example of the knife has the standard bexoid scales to either side of the knife:
The knife unfolds to reveal a blade, marlin spike and tin opener:
The shape of the blade and the tin opener actually conform to the later WW2 pattern of issue clasp knife rather than the WW1 pattern, so this commercial example is an odd hybrid.
To allow the tin opener and blade to be opened, a cut out is included in the body of the knife. Note also the pin where the lanyard loop should be attached:
As mentioned above, this particular knife does not have a date or a War Department ownership mark on it, suggesting it is a commercailly produced example, which would also explain why it does not conform to the patterns set out for these knives normally. The maker’s marks are very hard to read, but I can make out Sheffield, at that point the centre of knife manufacture in the United Kingdom:
Clasp knives, like any other tools, need to be cared for and the 1939 Army and Navy Stores Catalogue offers this advice to purchasers of pocket knives:
A pen or pocket knife requires a stiff edge, and if laid flat on an oil stone, so as to touch the polished side of the blade, the edge is ruined. The blade must be held at an angle of 20 or 25 degrees, and have an edge similar to a chisel. This is technically called the ‘cannel’ and is marked on all new knives by a fine white line, which does not revove or touch the polished surface. Knives improperly whetted are often condemned without reason as being too soft or hard.
Unless the joints are ‘oiled’ they are liable to become rough and hollow, thereby causing the points of the blades to protrude.