5 Time-Honored Pocket Knives from Around the World

Much like a favorite local dish, a pocket knife will give you some insight into the customs and heritage of a country of region. If you’re looking to add some foreign blades to your knife collection, here are five time-honored pocket knives from around the world.

France: Douk-Douk
The Douk-Douk is a bulletproof, dead simple folder with a beautiful exaggerated clip point blade. They are made by Cognet Knives and hail from Thiers, France, but these stylish slipjoints are world travelers themselves. The Douk-Douk was a popular item of carry in French-owned parts of Oceania and Algeria. In fact, the Douk-Douk derives its name from a Melanesian avenging spirit.


South Africa: Okapi
The Okapi was originally produced for German colonies in South Africa. Its unique lock functions much like a traditional lockback, and is disengaged by pulling a key ring attached to the back. It takes a bit of getting used to, but this is really what separated it from other knives of the time. The Okapi lock is cheap to make and can take a real beating, making it perfect for folks who wanted to use their knives hard without worrying about them. In fact, the Okapi could be seen as one of the first real ‘beater knives.’ The official Okapi can occasionally be found and purchased outside of South Africa, and Cold Steel makes a version with more modern materials called the Kudu (pictured here).


Philippines: Balisong
The balisong, or butterfly knife, has a huge following today. Some knife knuts only collect and use balisongs. Whole websites are dedicated to teaching people how to use it for tricks, and it also has a long history of being used as a weapon. It might also be one of the oldest knife designs in the world: some sources claim that the balisong was around as early as 800 AD, and used in early Filipino martial arts. It certainly has a legitimate claim as one of, if not the very first one hand-opening knife. Those with the aptitude for it can effortlessly open and close a balisong with the right moves.


Germany: Mercator K55K Cat
Solingen, Germany, like Seki-City Japan, is one of the cutlery centers of the world. The K55K Cat knife was a product of the Solingen Golden Age. An early locking folder, it was first produced in the mid-1800s. Soldiers returning from WWII brought them back as souvenirs. It’s hard to blame them: a 3.5″ locking blade in a sub-3 oz. chassis is still hard to resist more than 150 years after the knife was first made.

Mercator K55K Cat

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Japan: Higonokami
Japanese bladecraft needs no introduction. The Higonokami was the de facto pen knife in Japan for most of the last century. The Aogami Blue Paper steel is in a class of its own performance-wise, and the blade shape is sure to please fans of the Osborne 940. And the Higonokami is made by a single trained craftsman, just as it was 100 years ago.


Knife featured in image: Cold Steel Kudu