November 7, 2014 Comments (5) Researches

Around Europe in 47 Knives: The Most Iconic Knives In Europe

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Knives have been around since caveman chiseled stones to meet their daily needs. Nowadays, thankfully, knife making has progressed quiet a ways. In Europe knife making and knives have a rich, deep, and complex history, dating back to cavemen themselves. Therefore, the continent is home to thousands of diverse and unique knives and knife making cultures stretching from medieval Belgium to Ottoman Turkey. Being such a diverse and unique area, however, we wondered how knives differed around the continent. For example, is an iconic knife in Belarus the same as a knife in Bulgaria? Is there an iconic knife from Albania? Due to the fact that there has never been any in-depth research of this kind before, we took it upon ourselves to find these answers. We contacted local knife makers, museums, knife collectors, and local historians from every country in Europe. This never-before done research took over a month of grueling research and labor.

Who knows better than the locals? That was our philosophy during our hunt for Europe’s most influential knives. Therefore, we got in touch with locals across all of Europe to hear their opinion on their nations knife making and its history. The research yielded two interesting findings. The first finding was that in some areas there were too many traditional knives to chose from. These countries had a plethora of historical/traditional knives and therefore finding the most iconic ones required even more research and investigating. The other finding was the opposite. In some regions there seemed to be no national knives. This, however, wast just the surface. By consulting more locals and doing more digging we eventually found a traditional and historical knife.

The knives listed are not necessarily old, but, most importantly, they’ve been among the most iconic and influential knives in their respective country.

ICONIC KNIVES IN EUROPE- INFOGRAPHIC!

knives-europe-infographics

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ICONIC KNIVES BY COUNTRY

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albania

Albanian Bursa Knives

albanian knife

For those of you who don’t know, most of the Albanian population lives outside Albania itself. Their traditional knife is no exception.bursa

The “Bursa Arnavut Çakısı“, literally the “Albanian Knife of Bursa“, is a pen knife that Albanian immigrants brought with them to the Turkish city of Bursa in the 1990’s. Little can be found online bursaabout this knife, but there are knife makers in Bursa, like Süleyman Güney, who are still crafting these knives. In fact, this knife is still an essential part of the cutlery in Bursa to this day.

Here are some peculiar characteristics about the “Bursa Arnavut Çakısı“:

  • The handling is made of horn (specifically, ram horn)
  • The number of stars on the knife identifies the size
  • The knife maker’s name appears on the blade

Read this thread on a popular polish knife forum for more pictures.

austria

Austrian Glock Knife

austrian knife

The Glock Knife is a military knife developed by Glock in cooperation with the Austrian Jagdkommando (Hunting Command) and the Austrian Army. Besides being used by the Austrian Armed Forces, it is also used in the Royal Danish Army, the German Federal Police, the Polish Military Gendarmerie and more.

The Glock Knife is a multi-purpose knife, that can also be thrown.

belarus

Belarusian Navaja

belarus navajaThe “Belarusian Navaja” was a very popular knife in Belarus during during the 1980’s and 1090’s. It is manufactured and produced in Belarus.made in belarus

  • Made in Gomel (Belarus)
  • Available in blue, red/pink and black
  • Overall length: 245mm
  • Blade length: 110mm

People we’ve talked to remember this as a reliable and multi-purpose knife.

belgium

Belgian Lierenaar

belgium

Belgium has a long and rich tradition of knives. I got in touch with the Gembloux Tourism Office, and Tim was kind enough to shed some light on Belgian traditional knives.

In Belgium, there were different cities where they made traditional knives in the past. Examples are Lier and Aarschot in Flanders, and Houyet, Namur and Gembloux in Wallonia. In all of those cities they made numerous of different typical knives. If I had to choose one, I would go for the Lierenaar. But that might be because I was born and raised in lier. In different areas, different knives are popular.

The Belgian Knife Society also recognizes the Lierenaar as one of the most iconic knives from Belgium.

bosnia

Bosnian Traditional Bichaq

bosnia

These knives were made in the 18th and 19th centuries, in Sarajevo, Foča and other Bosnian cites. Although some of them possess unique and unusual variations, most of them are of the same design.

bosnia

You can read a very interesting thread about Bichaqs here also find more pictures here.

bulgaria

Bulgarian Knives From Gabrovo

gabrovo knives

Gabrovo, a city in the middle of Bulgaria, is home to a very rich and deep tradition of knife making. Blacksmiths were held with high regard and were among the first ones in town to create a guild organization. Folk songs were even created to recognize also how important blacksmiths were for the economy of the city.

There were three ways blacksmiths made knives:

  1. Iron and steel were welded together and then forged. This process was called “Kainak” and the resulting knives were promptly named “Kainaklii”. These were cheaper knives used for everyday chores.
  2. Iron and steel were forged several times until they became homogeneous, making the blade tough and sharp. High quality armaments were made using this process.
  3. Steel was the only material used for the blade. Among others, razors were made following this process.

Gabrovo historian Dr. Petar Tsonchev estimated there were over 150 types of knives (some are pictured above). Even if most of them have been lost with only their names remaining, Gobrovo is still known for its traditional knives and many blacksmiths still work there today.

Bulgarian Karakulak

bularian karakulak

The Karakulak is the a shorter bulgarian version of the turkish traditional Yatagan.

czech

Czech Rybička

czech

“The first one sons get, the first that they lose but the last they forget”

This legendary Czech knife, the “Little Fish“, has a long story behind it. Made by the Czech knife factory Mikov, its production started approximately 100 years ago.

To date, Mikov makes from 30 to 50 thousands of these knives every year, including limited editions. It’s the most successful Mikov knife and a symbol every Czech knows about.

czech little fish

Czech Mikov Fixir

czech mikov fixir

The Fixir is another Czech knife made by Mikov. it’s a popular hunting knife that has been sold for over 50 year.

denmark

Danish Erling Vangedal Scout knife

danish scout knife

This is the most popular danish scout knife. Erling Vangedal bought the factory in Lyngby (Denmark) in 1968. He sold the factory in 1980, to focus on a new idea: the ice cube bag, which turned out to be a great success.

estonia

Estonian Puss

estonia

It was very hard to find any information on Estonian knives. Talking with Viljo Marradi, an Estonian knife maker, he told us he’s not aware of any classic Estonian Knife.

We eventually stumbled upon the “Estonian Puss“: very similar to the Finnish Puukko, the only official difference is that the Estonian model is wider near the blade.

finland

Finland has a very long and rich history in terms of knives. The Finnish Puukko knives, with over 2500 years of history, are known, sold and collected all over the world.

We got in touch with different Finnish knife makers, the Finnish Knife Association and knife collectors and narrowed down the (huge) list of Finnish puukko knives to these 3 important models. If interested, I suggest you to read this blog about nordic knives for more.

Finnish Horsehead Puukko

finland

Finnish Lapin Puukko

finnish lapin puukko

Finnish Wood Jewel Puukko

finnish woodsjewel puukko

france

French Opinel

france

The Opinel knife is one of the most famous french knives in the world, and overall one of the most iconic and easily recognizable pocket knives ever.
Its production started in 1890 in Savoie (France). The knife became popular among farmers and winemakers towards the end of the 19th century. The word spread fast in France and, later, around the world. The rest is history.

French Laguiole

french laguiole

The Laguiole is another iconic french knife from Occitania. It’s most likely the result of the Spanish Navaja brought by immigrants merged with local pocket knives. The first model was designed in 1829.

germany

Take a look at these threads for more traditional knives.

German Marcator K55K

germany

The K55K is a very simple German pocket knife produced since 1867.

The knife designer’s name is Kaufmann, which means “trader” in english. Mercator is the latin word for “trader“.  The first “K” refers to the designer’s initial, “55” is the company street address number and the last “K” stands for “Katze“, that means “Cat” in english.

German Jagdnicker

german jagdnicker-compressed

The Jadnicker is a classic german hunting knife.

greece

I had the pleasure to ask a local, Aris, his opinion on greek knives.

I believe you’d have a hard time tracking down a typical traditional greek knife. This is due to three reasons, a) terrain, b) external influences and c) decline of artisanal production in favour of imported stuff roughly starting in the ’50s. Communication between provinces was hard due to the terrain, mainly mountainous or insular. Also, ever since the roman conquest Greece has been occupied by external forces that brought about an amalgamation of influences: the Romans, the Thracians, the Phenicians, the Egyptians, the Slavs, the Albanians, the Ottomans and many more, they all interacted with the indigenous population and that can be seen in some knives made by smiths in the Venitian-occupied islands of the Ionian sea compared to knives made by smiths in the mainland that was occupied by the Ottomans.

Greek Lefkaditiko Knife

greece

This classic greek knife is from a small island called Lefkada, You can find more pictures here (greek website).

Greek Cretan Knifegreek creatan knife

A traditional knife from Crete. This knife appeared in the late 18th century, and the art of making it flourished throughout the 19th century and early 20th century.

when I think of a traditional greek knife the cretan one comes to mind; mainly because it is still being made. I believe most greeks would say the same

hungary

Hungarian Szankovits

hungary

A traditional Hungarian knife, dating back to the early 1800s. Tibor Szankovits and his sons Viktor and Örs make these knives, following their ancestors’ traditional techniques.

Hungarian Maskara

hungarian maskara

Another traditional Hungarian knife, the Maskara. Knifemakers follow the same techniques used 100 years ago.

Szántó Szabolcs maskara

You can also find more pictures here.

ireland

Irish Skain

ireland

A small bronze Irish dagger. More info here.

italy

Italian Stiletto

italy

First seen in the 1400 in Italy, the stiletto developed into the switchblade knife we know today, and large quantities were imported in the US after the second world war.

Resolza Knife From Pattada (Sardinia)

italian pattada resolza

The Resolza or Arresoja is a traditional knife from Pattada (Sardinia, Italy). It’s the most iconic knife from Sardinia, and it was first developed by two brothers between the 19th and the 20th century.

You can also find the biggest Resolza in Pattada’s museum: it’s 4.85m long, and weights 297kg.

macedonia

Macedonian Zhrenche Knife

macedonia

This traditional knife is part of the Mariovo Mens’s Dress from Stravina (Bitola region, Macedonia). You can read more about it here.

netherlands

Dutch Paardenmes 

dutch paardenmes horse knife

The Paardenmes or horse is a classic dutch kitchen knife. These knives were mostly made from boxwood, with intricately sculpted handles.

norway

Norwegian Classic Knives From Telemark

telemark knives

These traditional knives are from Telemark (Norway). It was the first place in Scandinavia (or even in Europe) where laminated steel was used.

You can also watch this interesting video on youtube, and more pictures here.

Norwegian Busletto

norway

With over 100 years of history, Busletto is a traditional knife maker in Norway.

Norwegian Helle Tollekniv

norwegian helle

The Tollekniv is an all-purpose belt knife by Helle.

poland

Polish Bandit Knife

poland

This is one of the only knives that can be considered Polish. It it said it was once used by bandits in the Carpathian Mountains.

I suggest you to read this interesting article about it (It’s in polish- use a translator).

bandit knife from poland

portugal

Portuguese Corta-e-Pica

portugal

Talking with a Portuguese knife collector, he told me he finds the “Cut-and-Stick” the most iconic Portuguese knife. It has a fork on one side, and a blade with a wine opener on the other other.

Portuguese Caneças

portuguese CANEÇAS

A traditional Portuguese knife.

romania

Romanian Traditional Curved Blades 

romania curved blade

After researching classic Romanian knives for a while, it was clear that this country doesn’t have a strong knife making history, and there’s no Romanian knife factory. Romanian knife enthusiasts tried to find a traditional knife for their country, as you can read here and here, but failed.

I got in touch with local knife makers and two of them told me that the most common knives used in Romania were curved and edged on the inside, the so-called “sickle knives”.

russia

There are so many classic Russian knives, whether you consider fixed blade knives, foldable knives… it’s just impossible, and unfair, to choose one.

In fact, the territory is so vast that people had different needs and a wide variety of different knives existed.

USSR Hunting Knives

russian hunting knives

See more here.

USSR Foldable Knives

ussr foldable knife

See more here.

serbia

Serbian Knife From Turija

serbian knife turija

This knife is from Turija (Serbia).

turija knife

slovakia

Slovak Shepherd’s Knife

slovakia

A classic shepherd’s knife from Slovakia. You can find more here.

sweden

Mora Knives are traditional knives made in Mora and in villages nearby.

Swedish Mora (Carl Andersson)

sweden

Carl Andersson started making knives towards the end of the 19th century. You can find more pictures here.

Swedish Mora (Broderna Jonsson)

swedish Broderna Jonsson

Jönsson Brothers were knives manufacturers from Östnor, just outside Mora.

spain

Spanish Navaja

spain

One of the most iconic folding knives in Europe and one of the oldest still in production. The first Navaja knives appeared in the late 1600s.

switzerland

Swiss Army Knife

switzerland

 

The Swiss Army Knife is a popular swiss knife invented by Karl Elsener in Ibach. His company later became the world famous Victorinox and still produces those knives today.

turkey

Turkish Yatagan

turkey

The Yatagan is an Ottoman knife that was used from the mid-16th to late 19th centuries. It was also used in the Balkans.

UK

English Fairbairn-Sykes Knife

england

A classic english fighting knife developed by William E. Fairbairn and Eric A. Sykes in 1941.

Scottish Sgian-Dubh

scottish sgian dubh

Classic Scottish knife, part of the traditional dress.

English Jack Knife

english jack knife

Classic english knife made in Sheffield.

ukraine

Ukrainian Kolodach

ukraine kolodach

One of the only traditional Ukrainian knives known. I asked more about it to an Ukrainian knife maker, Bogdan Popov (you can see his beautiful knives here).

It is said there was a Zaporizzya cossacks combat knife called “kolodach” but I know little about it. In the western Ukraine where I live people used polish, hungarian and german (austrian) knives .

What are the most popular knives in your country?

Let us know in the comments below!

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5 Responses to Around Europe in 47 Knives: The Most Iconic Knives In Europe

  1. MaryB says:

    I didn’t know there were so many different knives… so cool.
    I’ve just sent you an email with another knife from my country, hope it helps!

  2. Andrew says:

    That’s awesome!
    I loved the infographic.

    How could you find a knife from Serbia? I’ve lived there but didn’t know there was a traditional knife.
    Thanks

    • Roberto says:

      Hey Andrew, I’m glad you liked it.

      I’ve been in Serbia too but couldn’t find any traditional knife while I was there.
      Anyway, after getting in touch with 3 different knife makers, one of them sent me some pictures and told me more about this knife from Turija.
      I can give you his contact details if you want.

  3. Jen says:

    Hey, thanks for this! been looking for traditional knives for a long time 🙂