The 20 Most Influential Knives...


Tom Krein
June 23, 2008, 08:54 PM
After seeing the thread on the 20 Best knives I thought it might be interesting to do a list of the 20 MOST INFLUENTIAL KNIVES. This is my list. Feel free to post your own list or agree/disagree with my selections. In a few cases a Makers work is more influential than any single piece, although I will try to name a specific piece... Remember this is my LIST, your list will probably be different. I hope this is food for thought and stimulus for discussion.

Here we go...

First up custom knives/makers as I feel they drive the industry.

1. Bob Loveless Drop Point Hunter. This has to be one of the most influential designs ever. Bob was also a big time steel researcher, always looking for higher performance steels.

2. Michael Walker Liner Lock Folder. This knife/design revolutionized the locking folder industry.

3. Bob Lum "American Tanto". The angular "Tanto" design was originally done by Bob Lum.

4. Lile First Blood. While not the first hollow handled knife this knife captured the imagination of the boys/men of an entire nation.

5. William Scagels Knives. Bill was the father of modern knifemakers. He built knives that continue to inspire makers. One of his knives was also the inspiration for another maker on the list Bo Randal!!

6. Bo Randal #1 Fighter. Bo's knives have been a high mark for a LONG time! They were highly desired by a LOT of fighting men in multiple wars!

7. Harry Morseth's Knives. Harry was also an early pioneer in the handmade knife industry. He brought the Scandinavian style knives to American and blended them perfectly with the American syle. He was an innovator in sheath design and also built some of the coolest knifemaking equipment ever.

8. Bob Dozier's Personal. The Dozier Personal was my first Dozier Knife and one of my first high performance knives. Thats not why Bob makes the list though. Bobs knives make the list because he started making true high performance knives at a reasonable price and continues to do so today. He was also one of the pioneers in kydex sheaths.

9. Bill Moran's Knives. Bill popularized the art of the hand forged knife and "rediscovered" damascus (pattern welded) steel. He also helped found the Blade School in Washington, Arkansas.

10. James Bowie's Knife. Simply couldn't leave this one out, even though nobody really knows what it looked like... It has spawned hundreds of designs and millions of dreams of adventure.

Next up are the production knives that I feel are the most influential...

11. USMC Ka-Bar. This knife has been at the front with our Marines for a DAMN long time and it is still one of the best fighting knives out there in my opinion!

12. Buck 110. The Buck 110 set the mark HIGH for a really long time. They continue to be a good hard use working knife.

13. Shrade Sharpfinger. This knife has a special place in my heart. It was one of the first good knives I could afford. While maybe not influential in the industry I bet it influenced a lot of kids and got them off to a good start!

14. Leatherman Original. What a great idea! This was the first (and best in my opinion) of the multi tools! Long live Leatherman.

15. Spyderco Worker. This knife was the catalyst of the one-hand knife market and the first to use a hole in the blade to open the knife. Thanks Sal!!

16. Rapala Fillet Knife. Rapala has dominated this market for as long as I can remember. Doubt it?? Go to any Mom and Pop fishing store and odds are they will have Rapala. Go to Wally Word and Rapala....

17. Victorinox Soldier. This is where the whole SAK market came from. I love SAK's! They really are a great value!

18. Gerber LST. This is another knife that may only be on my list. It is one of my first early "good" knives. It was also a pioneer in the use of synthetic handles to make a lightweight folder.

19. Case Eisenhower. The fact that knife is named after a PRESIDENT of the United States of America because he liked these little knives so much that he gave them out as gifts is enough for me. How things have changed... and not for the good. :(

20. Mora. These inexpensive knives have taken over the bushcraft world. They cut like crazy and are a very good value.

Honorable Mention..

Gerber Mark II dagger. What a great design. This knife saw a lot of use in Vietnam and all the conflicts since. It is a great fighter design.

Pacific Cutlery Balisong. Here is a production knife that ended up driving the custom market! That does not happen too often.

Well thats my list. Lets hear what you think!


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June 23, 2008, 10:21 PM
Great list Tom! Let me sleep on it. I think I can come up with a list. Stay tuned...


June 23, 2008, 10:46 PM
I like it.

I consider the Rambo knife to be a derivative of the Randall #18 so I'd substitute it there, but I do agree that First Blood had a wider influence on popularizing the hollow handle knife (I just don't consider that as being influential in the knife world).

I'd put the Marbles Ideal in place of the USMC Fighting Utility. The Ideal spawned the USMC FU/USN MkII and the USAF Survival and a whole raft of imitators. All those sheath knives with big honkin fullers and stacked leather washer handles are the grandchildren of the Marbles.

I'd try to find a place for Ken Onion's assisted openers since they've had a huge influence in production and custom knives, but I'm not sure who I'd bump and which list to bump from.

Perhaps Charlie Ochs's Florida Black Knife (coil spring auto with a plunge button lock) or the Microtech refinement rates a place also. MT pretty much spawned the rebirth of autos even though Benchmade was producing them before Tony made the first Minis.

June 23, 2008, 11:11 PM
Now that's a list! I really agree with #1 and believe Bob was the first to use 154CM, right? Scagel is another one that has to be on there - I like that list. Many would argue about Dozier being on there and Lake probably deserves a spot.

Eleven Mike
June 24, 2008, 12:13 AM

Great thread. I think the list would be much improved if you would give us a better idea of how each knife has been influential. For example, I have never heard much discussion of the Schrade Sharpfinger, and I'm curious why it was chosen as an influential entry-level or "boys' knife," rather than the Barlow, or one of the other common pocket knife patterns. Similarly, why the Eisenhower, rather than the Stockman or Sodbuster?

In addition, I question the inclusion of a plier multi-tool on the list. Because they aren't knives. But then, they have influenced the Swiss Army brands to innovate, due to competition.

I also question the influence of the Gerber Mark II. How is it different from the myriad stilettos that have gone before or come after?

And finally, this thread is not as good without pics. :)

June 24, 2008, 12:15 AM
I agree with all except the Leatherman , replace that with Carson's M16 , or an assisted Onion...


make it 25 , Remove Leatherman and add Lake , Carson M16 , Onion Assists , Case or Boker Sodbuster , and hmmm not sure who else.

Tom Krein
June 24, 2008, 12:40 AM
I was afraid no one was going to post... I should'a known better.

I look forward to your list.

I did actually consider putting the Randal instead of the Lile, but the "RAMBO" knife had a much bigger influence in my mind. Maybe not a good influence, but it did reach so many more. Who didn't NEED a "survival" knife after watching RAMBO??

For sure Ken's Speed Safe needs a spot on the list! DUH...

Bob Loveless was the first to use 154CM as far as I know.

The main reason I think Dozier should be on the list is his pioneering work in kydex!

I agree this thread needs pics! I may try and edit some in tomorrow... :banghead:

The Sharpfinger would probably only be on my list... like I said it is MY list.:D
When I was growing up they were about the best deal for the money at Wally World. We all had them. Spent many a summer day on the creek with my Sharpfinger.

Honestly it could have been any of the slip joints, but I simply like the Eisenhower's, especially for the reason I said. Can you imagine if a current president not only endorsed but gave away brand X knives...

Why is everyone so down on Multi-tools? Why are they not knives? Just because there is a pair of pliers on the handle it makes it not a knife? Is a Swiss Army Knife not a knife because it has a screwdriver or a saw? I find them very handy...

thats the though thing about making one of these lists! At first I couldn't think of enough to make 20 and then I couldn't get it under 30!!


It was a challenge. Lets hear what you would change...


Eleven Mike
June 24, 2008, 12:59 AM
Why is everyone so down on Multi-tools? Why are they not knives? Just because there is a pair of pliers on the handle it makes it not a knife? Is a Swiss Army Knife not a knife because it has a screwdriver or a saw? I find them very handy...

I don't think anyone's down on multi-tools. Saying they aren't knives is not a put-down. It's just an observation. I love my Leatherman Supertool, and I've used them pretty hard.

And they don't "have a pair of pliers on the handle." Rather, they ARE a pair of pliers, with a knife on the handle. That's a big difference between the Leatherman and the SAK or Scout Knife. The latter two are conventional pocket knives, except that the "other blades" happen to be screwdrivers and such.

So one type is a knife, the other is a pliers.

June 24, 2008, 01:17 AM
Great list..I like it..

June 24, 2008, 02:37 AM
Saying they aren't knives is not a put-down. It's just an observation.

It may be just an observation (though it has sounded like a put down, especially in the other topic) but it is, in my opinion, an incorrect observation. The Leatherman Charge TTI ( not only has two separate blades but one of them is an S30V blade. I'd say it's a knife. You carry it in your pocket or a belt pouch, it has a blade you open when you need to cut something, when you're done you fold it back up and put it back in your pocket or pouch.

Call me crazy, but that sounds remarkably like a knife. Just because it's not a "conventional" knife doesn't mean it isn't a knife.I'm going to go with Tom. Just because it has a pair of pliers doesn't mean it's not a knife, and a damned good one at that. The M9 bayonet has a pair of wire cutters when you combine it with the sheath. It's still a knife (though arguably not a very good one.) The Swiss Champ has a HUGE number of things on it, in many ways the blade seems like it was an afterthought, but it's still a knife. My old (Camillus?) Boy Scout knife, not to mention my current Victorinox Huntsman Boy Scout knife has a can opener and a leather punch, but they're also knives. So's my Leatherman Wave, as is the Charge TTI I plan to get one of these days.

June 24, 2008, 06:06 AM

Great list, great thread idea.
I appreciate the input of others as well.

I am going to use influential in another context if you will.
I mean come on, we cannot limit knives to just 20. *smile*

No particular order, and just what comes to mind.

1. Opinel
2. Douk-Douk
3. G.I. Demo ( Camillus)
4. Electrician's knife ( Camillus, Military Issue)
5. Christy Knife
6. Advertising knives (free, such as Purina )
7. Barlow
8. One Arm Jack ( Case and others)
9. British Military Issue ( lambs foot, marlin spike)
10. Camp/Boy Scout knife
11. Case Eisenhower
12. SAK Army Issue.
13. SAK Classic
14. Hen & Rooster, Bertram era pen knives
15. Boker Tree Brand
16. Buck 110
17. Case Yellow Handle Series
18. Shrade Walden "stainless" series
19. Shrade Old Timer series
20. Imperial Midget (small, single carbon steel blade, on a beaded key chain). might be easier to name what is not influential, as I have more to add.

Spyderco Delica, for instance , and the "Magic Knife" ( one had to know how to hold it, to get it to open) and I did not even get to fixed blades.

June 24, 2008, 08:47 AM

Looks like we need to define "influential". I took it to mean influencing knives and knifemaking and the knife "industry" as opposed to having a popular influence.

Heck, if we're going for popular influence in the last 100 years the "Top 20" would probably have the following:

Classic 30cm Italian switchblade since every teen had to have one back in the period right after WWII.
Barlows were what you had to carry if you lived in any farming region.
A 2 or 3 blade Trapper was almost a requirement if you were in an area where hunting was common.
The USMC Fighting Utility had a huge popular influence and people still carry it.
Walker Lock for all the liner/walker/frame locks out there (yes, I know the electrician's knife had something like it)
The SAK, 1 blade, can opener, screw driver, awl, with or without the saw, corkscrew, toothpick, tweezers.
Whoever made the first thumb-stud one hand opener.
The First Blood had a big popular impact and did spawn a huge interest in "survival" knives.
The Bowie knife (in the classic clip point heavy blade style).
The Sharpfinger simply because it was nearly as ubiquitous as the Trapper folder.
Buck 110.
Kershaw/Onion Random Task AO
Pacific Cutlery Butterfly.
Randall #1.
The coil spring/plunge button auto (Benchmade Reflex/Microtech UDT).
Gerber's LST since it lead to all the other molded polymer folders.
Spyderco Worker for being the first with pocket clips and one hand opening hole.
The Rapalla Fillet.
Loveless's Drop Point and it's endless imitators.
Lum's Tanto even though it was CS that turned it into a popular phenomenon.

And that's after throwing what I consider important pieces off the list just to get it down to 20.

I'm embarrassed to say I don't remember the first thumb stud opener, but it belongs on the list even if I can't credit it properly. Emerson did the first "saucer", but the influence is minimal behind the thumb-stud and hole.

June 24, 2008, 08:55 AM
Its a pretty good list but I could not have left out my Benchmade 154CM that keeps me warm here in Iraq(it covers the "just in case Dept") and I also love those products from COLD STEEL! good readin though-keep it up

June 24, 2008, 09:53 AM
I thought about it and couldn't come up with a list that differs much from Tom's list. Instead of listing all 20, I'll just post what I feel is should be replaced. No offense Tom, just my opinion ;) . Not all fit in the same category but I'll leave your list in order.

1. Bob Loveless Drop Point Hunter.

2. Michael Walker Liner Lock Folder.

3. Bob Lum "American Tanto".

4. Lile First Blood.

5. William Scagels Knives.

6. Bo Randal #1 Fighter.

7. Harry Morseth's Knives.
Replace with:
Marbles Woodcraft I agree with hso. Influential and a staple among hunters/trappers. The influence can be seen in knives from Bark River, Rapid River, and Northwoods and thats without leaving the state of Michigan :D.

8. Bob Dozier's Personal.

9. Bill Moran's Knives.
Replace with:
Tom Brown Tracker/WSK Like Lile's First Blood, it captured the imagination of the following generation. Inspired Hollywood as well as custom knife makers. Today there are several variations available from Red Scorpion 6, Dan Koster and others. While Moran is influential as a maker, I think his knives lacked influence on the general public.

10. James Bowie's Knife.

11. USMC Ka-Bar.

12. Buck 110.

13. Shrade Sharpfinger.

14. Leatherman Original.
Replace With:
Ken Onion Leek by Kershaw. "Imitation is the best form of flattery". This knife put a legal alternative to auto's on the market for a reasonable price. So popular that its been copied by Chinese hacks in just about every variation of the knife. Even the rainbow finish. While there are much nicer "flippers" out there, like the D. Ralph Gun Hammer, the Leek is what made the "flipper" popular among the masses.

15. Spyderco Worker.
Replace with:
Spyderco Endura While the Worker was the first, I think the Endura and Delica put the brand in the eye of both the public and the imitators. The Endura knock-offs seem to be the ones found from flea markets to keychain sized copy's in gas stations. Again, "imitation is the best form of flattery"

16. Rapala Fillet Knife.

17. Victorinox Soldier. (I would add the Wenger SI as its the cousin to the Soldier)

18. Gerber LST.

20. Mora.
Replace with:
The Russell Green River Buffalo Skinner This knife has been a staple of woodcraft and mountain men for over 100 years. Its the influence of Dexter Russell and Old Hickory kitchen knives. Rumor has it, modified Buffalo Skinners are what brought us such knives as the Kephart and Nessmuk. So popular that cliche's like "to the hilt" were even replaced for a time with "to the Green River", meaning to run an enemy through to the tang stamp of their Green River knife. Still popular today at Rendezvous (fur trader reenactments).

Honorable Mention:

(I only add this as Honorable mention because I lack the details needed to secure this maker a spot on the list.)

Sheffield Cutlery Company
From the mid 1800's, this company had produced "pen and pocket" knives that changed how we carry knives. They were the influence of brands like Case, Imperial, Schrade, Cattaraugus, and an almost infinite list of others. True pioneers in their efforts to bring slip joint pocket knives to the masses.

Tom Krein
June 24, 2008, 10:52 AM
Good list!


June 24, 2008, 11:16 AM
I have to agree with having Ken Onion's stuff in there.

I'm surprised nobody mentioned the Fairbairn-Sykes style fighting knife (

I also think the Smatchet is an interesting bit of bladework though I'd prefer a Khukri for actual field work so I think the Khukri ( probably be on the list as well.

June 24, 2008, 02:22 PM
The Glock Military knife may not be influential, but with the sawtooth back it's hard to beat for useful.

June 24, 2008, 02:51 PM
I had the FS on my list but had to toss it out because there were other more influential knives.

What I like about an exercise like this is it forces you to think about all the knives you consider influential. Since that list exceeds 20 different knives, you're then forced to start ranking them and swapping out different knives to be in that top 20. That makes my head hurt since I know so many knives and knife manufacturers and knife makers, but it's fun anyway.

June 24, 2008, 05:03 PM
What I like about an exercise like this is it forces you to think about all the knives you consider influential.

Grandpa's homemade knives and tools.

Maternal grandma had her husbands homemade wooden tool box, with homemade hinge and leather.

He could make anything, fix anything, work metal , work wood , and leather and whatever else.

In that very large tool box, amongst the brace and bit, he made the wood for and bits for, the screwdrivers, chisels...knives.

The first one I saw was the "hog killing knife".
I guess there must have been two dozen, from butcher size , on down to his 1/2" blades with wooden handles he did his whittling and carving with.

Folks wanted him to make them knives and tools for tasks, along with all the other things he did.

That hog killing knife was simple, but it would flat cut, skin and butcher!
His stones...simple, still he could flat sharpen a knife!

*lumpy throat, moist eyes*

The were all stolen, except for the hog killing knife and one screwdriver.

He toted a Case Peanut, and one of his fixed blades in a sheath.

One of my influences for sure!

Eleven Mike
June 24, 2008, 05:06 PM
The Fairbairn-Sykes, Gerber Mark II

Could someone explain why these knives are influential? Aren't they just daggers? What makes them special?

June 24, 2008, 05:08 PM
The man, his life experiences, and contributions to keeping folks safe.

June 24, 2008, 05:17 PM

The question of what "influential" means is still on the table.

My version of influential originally was having an impact on evolving knifemaking/manufacturing. My second version was on having an impact on popular culture.

The FS has been viewed for 60 years as the Commando Dagger. It is distinctive in appearance and has become iconic in the publics' mind. As such it has captured the imagination of the public as the knife of daring raids and clandestine operations behind enemy lines and has been copied and knocked off endlessly.

The Gerber MkII played a smaller, but similar role after Vietnam.

SM has more of a influential on a personal level perspective.

So which definition of "influential" are you asking about?

June 24, 2008, 05:22 PM
The Fairbairn-Sykes, Gerber Mark II
Could someone explain why these knives are influential? Aren't they just daggers? What makes them special?

Well, I did provide a link.
Here it is again.
and the Gerber

If a knife (the FS) that had a major impact on wartime ops during WWII isn't a seriously "influential" knife then I don't know what is. I know of at least two men who got to live out their full lifespan because the FS was superbly designed for the job it was intended to do and another who attributes escape from a POW camp to a Gerber and a lot of luck.

June 24, 2008, 05:45 PM
huh? what, you mean dark ops knives didn't make the list? whoa, buddy, hold the phone!

Tom Krein
June 24, 2008, 06:33 PM
hahahaha... jahwarrior, thats funny! :D


June 24, 2008, 07:54 PM
Don't worry , I am sure Dork Ops made a totally different list. ;)

June 24, 2008, 08:29 PM
It is a pretty good list. A few of them I'm not familiar with.

June 24, 2008, 09:06 PM
Loveless knives are just beautiful. Good lists.

June 24, 2008, 09:37 PM
huh? what, you mean dark ops knives didn't make the list? whoa, buddy, hold the phone!

Stay tuned. Next weeks episode will be "the 20 most over-the-top advertising campaigns!"

Expect to see Dark Ops and Extreme Shock somewhere near the top. :evil:

June 24, 2008, 10:40 PM
USMC Ka-Bar,

Gurkha Kukri,

AK-47 Bayonet

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