When is a penknife a pocket knife?

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When is a penknife a pocket knife?

Royal Armouries

In today’s blog, Peter Smithurst, Curator Emeritus of Historical Firearms at The Royal Armouries explains the difference between a penknife and a pocket knife.

I was asked recently about terminology in cutlery, especially pen and pocket knives.

Firstly, when is a penknife a pocket knife?

Traditionally a penknife was used of course for cutting a quill pen. Its blade was fairly small and had a razor-edge. To enable it to hold an edge, the blade was also very hard which also made it very brittle and easily chipped or simply broken – they are often found damaged because people used them for other things like sharpening pencils and finished up taking a chunk out of the blade. A pocket knife was much tougher – its blade is not so brittle so it can be used for other things like whittling bits of wood or taking insulation off electric cable or…

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