My affinity for Case knives dates back to the 1960s. I grew up on a suburban neighborhood street that dead-ended into woods. The best times I had in those woods were with my dad on our impromptu Saturday picnics. My father always carried along what seemed a very large, fixed-blade knife in a leather sheath on his belt. There was nothing cooler to a boy my age. That knife, marked with the trademark “Case XX,” was kept in the garage for utility work around the house and yard.
I didn’t actually end up owning a Case knife until I ran across a Case display that caught my attention at an NRA convention. Maybe it’s the nostalgia from my childhood, but since purchasing a Case knife, I end up carrying it in my pocket whenever I don’t feel the need for carrying a modern “tactical blade.” Owning and using a Case XX knife allows you to stay connected with a long tradition of American craftsmanship that dates back more than 130 years.
What’s a Pocketknife?
The term “pocketknife” is one that isn’t used as much anymore, having been replaced by “EDC” knife, “tactical folder” or even “automatic” knife. A pocketknife was generally applied to a small “slipjoint knife” that was carried for strictly utility or recreational purposes, such as whittling. The blades are opened via a nail “nick” in the blade designed for your thumbnail to pull the blade out to its open position. Pocketknives cannot be considered backup defensive tools, as these blades normally don’t lock in place and require two hands to open. They are designed for cutting things — not people. They are designed to be carried in the pocket amidst change, keys and whatever else might be rattling around in there.
Before 9/11, someone could carry a small pocketknife onto an aircraft since it wasn’t considered a weapon then. We even carried pocketknives to school back in the day, and no one thought twice about it. (Times have obviously changed.) A pocketknife was a tool and, for young boys, a rite of passage to increased responsibility. Case knives have been a go-to brand for 13 decades.
For Old Times’ Sake
I decided to buy a Case pocketknife as a souvenir during the first NRA conference I attended. My choice was a compact Texas Medium Jack two-blade model, mostly because of its low price and compact size. I slipped it out of the box and into my pocket and instantly fell in love with it.
The nickel silver bolsters, Case emblem and brass rivets stand out nicely against the black Delrin scales. The clip and pen blades are wickedly sharp. Its high-carbon “Tru-Sharp” surgical steel blades keep keen edges for a long period of time while still maintaining more corrosion resistance than normal carbon-steel blades. Both blades sharpen with relative ease.
I have carried this pocketknife for three years, and I like it so much that I purchased one for my next-door neighbor for Christmas and intend to pass mine down to my son. While this exact model is no longer being manufactured by Case, you can easily find them for sale on the new and used markets.
Yellow Synthetic Chrome Vanadium Medium Stockman
At the next NRA conference, I decided to pick up another Case pocketknife. I spotted the yellow synthetic Case lineup and was immediately attracted to the vibrant color. The yellow synthetic handle material has been used by Case for more than 100 years, and its color reminded me of an inexpensive knife that I bought around the third grade. I decided to purchase the three-bladed Yellow Synthetic Chrome Vanadium Medium Stockman, impressed by its convenient size and its versatility.
The pocketknife is a good-looking knife, with a bright “tumble polish” blade finish in which you can see your reflection. The bolsters are nickel silver, and the frame and rivets are brass. The blade profiles are clip, sheepsfoot and spey, which afford the user multiple cutting and carving options.
However, this pocketknife isn’t called a “Stockman” for nothing. While the clip blade has always been a great general-purpose blade, the sheepsfoot and spey blades were originally designed for ranchers. Specifically, the sheepsfoot blade was for trimming sheep hooves, while the spey blade was used for castrating livestock. Today, the sheepsfoot is more likely to be used for wood carving and whittling, while the spey’s point design is useful for dressing and skinning small game.
I really like this little pocketknife and have had it for two years now. The different blades are well-suited to non-stockman chores, and its body is just the right length to comfortably fit in my medium-sized hands. The blade hones nicely for a great sharp edge and, like all Case knives, it looks as good as it functions.
Amber Bone Peach Seed Jig Russlock
Last year, I received a sale advertisement for the Case Amber Bone Peach Seed Jig RussLock knife, which is Case’s version of a one-hand-opening lockblade. As I recall, the knife was priced on sale for $45. I just couldn’t pass up purchasing one.
It is a distinctive and elegant pocketknife and was named after Case founder John Russell “Russ” Case when it was introduced in 2000. The opening system is unlike any other one-hand-opening system on the market of which I know. Instead of using a thumb or finger stud on the blade, it uses a jimped lever for opening, which causes the lever to protrude almost a half-inch beyond the bolster when closed. There are rounded ridges on the lever to engage the thumb, and the opening mechanism is not spring-assisted. The blade is held in place by a standard liner lock.
The model I purchased is equipped with Case’s Amber Bone Peach Seed scales. It is not a synthetic material or made from fruit but rather procured internationally from the hearty shin bone of Zebu cattle. The pitted surface allows for a secure grip, and the color pattern looks great.
Trying to catalog and review every Case knife would be akin to trying to catalog and review every last variant of the 1911-pattern .45 Automatic
I’ve found that it takes a bit of practice to learn to work the jimped lever. In fact, I had to watch a YouTube video to see how to do it. This isn’t a rapid-opening pocketknife rivaling the speed of an automatic knife. It is simply a one-hand-opening knife. To open it, put your strong-hand thumb on the lever and push down while holding the base of the knife in your palm. This initiates blade opening. Once the blade is raised 90 degrees to the handle, switch to your index finger to continue rotating the blade to the locked position.
When opened, the jimped lever rests on the bottom of the knife, and the rounded ridges serve as a resting point for the thumb while cutting. The blade is released by pushing on the liner lock.
I also purchased a very nice Case leather belt sheath in which to hold the pocketknife, though I keep it in the sheath in my trouser pocket. The sheath helps keep the lever pointed up toward the pocket opening instead of down so that it isn’t digging into the pocket liner.
Of the three Case knives I own, I like this one best. It’s such a distinctive-looking cutting tool. The Amber Bone Peach Seed scales are as functional as they are attractive. If you are looking for a totally different and effective cutting tool, this knife is for you.
Smooth Rosewood Ridgeback Hunter
I don’t own this particular Case knife, nor have I had the opportunity to handle it. I include it here because it is the closest currently manufactured Case fixed-blade that I can find to compare to the old Case XX my dad had. It has a beautifully finished wood handle — rosewood to be exact, quite possibly what the handle on my dad’s old knife was made of. Silver nickel rivets hold the scales in place, and a hole is drilled for attaching a lanyard.
The curvature of the blade — a Sabre concave-ground sweep made of Tru-Sharp surgical steel — is designed for skinning chores. The Tru-Sharp surgical steel is highly corrosion-resistant, which is extremely important with blood’s highly corrosive nature. A leather Case sheath is included.
Designed by the legendary Blackie Collins, the knife’s full-tang construction guarantees strength. There are thumb grooves on the back of the blade for a more secure purchase, and the rosewood handle is ergonomically formed to also enhance the grip and provide cutting control.
If you are looking for something different in a fixed-blade outdoors or even EDC knife that is easy to carry, this model might be worth your consideration. If it isn’t for you, Case offers many additional fixed-blade utility, hunting and survival knives — both traditional and modern — from which to choose.
Something for Everyone
When it comes to Case knives, it would take a book to cover the entire Case lineup and its history — and, in fact, books have been written on the topic, some of which are listed in this article if you are interested in learning more about or collecting them. But trying to catalog and review every Case knife would be akin to trying to catalog and review every last variant of the 1911-pattern .45 Automatic: It would probably be technically possible, but it would truly be a lifelong pursuit.
Case has an amazing history, producing the finest pocketknives and fixed-blade knives ever made. They’re worthy of daily use, collecting, presentation and passing down to future generations. The quality is incredible, and Case and its “XX” symbol are recognized everywhere. There is certainly a Case knife for everyone; there is even a tactical blade or two in the company’s lineup. If you are looking for a high-quality all-around knife that you’ll be proud to carry, Case will likely be able to not only meet your needs but also truly exceed them.
Some Further Case Reading
Boser, Shirley and John Sullivan. Images of America: W.R. Case & Sons Cutlery
Company. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2006.
Ferguson, Dewey. Romance of Collecting Case Knives: Pictorial Price Guide. 4th ed. Fairborn, OH: Self-published by the author, 1978. (Note: There are four editions of this book available.)
Pfeiffer, Steve. Collecting Case Knives: Identification and Price Guide. Iola, WI: Krause Publications, 2009. (Note: There was a 2nd edition of the same title published in 2015.)
Case Knives: CaseKnives.com
Case Goes to the Moon
When astronauts first stepped foot on the moon on July 20, 1969, Apollo 11’s three-man crew carried custom-designed Case knives stamped “Astronaut Knife — M-1” in their survival packs. Case’s Astronaut Knife M-1 traveled to the moon and back a total of nine times during NASA’s Gemini and Apollo space missions. The machete-like blade measures 11.75 inches long and is made of special high-carbon stainless steel with a double row of saw teeth. The handle is made of polypropylene, a lightweight plastic that exudes no fumes — two vital factors when it comes to space travel. Case produced 100 commemorative replicas of the knife for the general public on the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing. For more information on the Astronaut Knife M-1, readers can follow the link above to a YouTube video produced by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
— Frank Jastrzembski, Associate Editor