Tuesday, June 27, 2017


Readers have shown an interest in the subject of historic butcher, slicing and boning knives.  These are the knives that have been in families for a generation or two, perhaps even more.  Every homestead, farm and ranch has a collection of these knives.  When a goat, hog, deer or even white-winged dove, Eurasian collared dove, turkey, quail or duck are collected for the pot these thin-bladed knives are invariably pulled from the drawer and called on to do most of the work.  Make a barbecue and these very same knives see all the action.  Savvy campers and woodsmen rely on these types of knives for work around the spit or grill.  So it was a century ago when pioneers, woodsmen, mountain men and hunters lived isolated lives far from established cities.  Woods roamers in generations past sought practical and serviceable knives.  Even today in remote parts of the world the needs remain the same.  People usually can’t afford the luxury of scores of knives nor do they want to burden themselves with needless stuff.  A knife is a tool and almost certainly has one primary purpose: Food preparation.  Vegetables for caldo, thin slices of bacon for the griddle, cuts of cabrito; the list is extensive.  But the knife selection is basic.  The most used knife seems to be the long slicer followed by the boning knife with the classic butcher knife at the ready.

If folks send me photos of their family's old historic butcher, slicing and boning knives I'll post them in this gallery section. It helps if photo submissions are accompanied by a brief (very brief) history of the knife, the make and blade length.

Jordon Marston wrote me the following letter and sent this photo: 
 "I have been a longtime reader of your blog and very much enjoy your content. We share many similar interests.  I live in northern Canada at about 60 degrees N. My wife and I have a small homestead with a garden, pigs and chickens. While we spend most of our time outdoors, we currently reside in a 12'x18' cabin. Heated by a wood stove, a small solar panel gives enough power to run a few lights and powers a laptop computer. We draw our water from a nearby stream for both ourselves and our livestock. We live about 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the closest town of around 400 residents. Moose hunting, fishing, wild herbs and berries are very much part of the culture here. My community is primarily made up of indigenous peoples who still trap, dry fish and moose meat and participate in other traditional pursuits. I have learned much from them. [I've included] four of my knives that fit your description. They were used the other day in the butchering of meat hens in preparation for winter. From left to right, the knives are a 6" Lamson Forge, 7" unknown, 8" Old Hickory and an 8" Chicago Cutlery butcher knife. While I purchased the Old Hickory fairly recently, the other three served many years on my grandfather's dairy farm doing who knows what. They serve me well butchering moose, hogs and chicks now while also being excellent camp knives.  As a long time knife lover, part time knife maker and homesteader, I loved your piece on these old working knives. They cut well and sharpen easily. Thank you for your writings! I look forward to more!"
Jordan from the Yukon

Below are two views of JR Guerra's grandmother's butcher knife.  JR says his mother recalls his grandma using the knife on their ranch in the late 40s and 1950s to butcher goats, hogs and even large cattle.  For the record, the knife is a Blackjack 14 with a 7.5" blade and overall length of about 10 inches.  In the photos below the old butcher knife sits alongside one of JR's hunting knives and a Tramontina 12" machete.

Here's a photo of an ancient boning knife that belonged to JR's grandmother. I remember my granddad owned several knives that looked exactly like the one in the photo below.

John Tawes sent several photos of his historic knife collection.  Mind you, these are using knives and the marks and patinas show proof of that fact.  I found one photo particularly intriguing. 

Note the bolster on the large butcher knife. John made no mention of what make of knife this is but it looks to be made of high carbon steel with a full tang. The sheath above this old knife appears to be rawhide. Also note the boning knives to the right. I've seen boning knives that have been sharpened thousands of times.  After years of  use they end up looking like fish filleting blades. The hook knife on top also caught my eye but that's for a different discussion.

Above is another look at John's butcher, slicing and boning knives. All of them filled with character and each telling a story of years of service preparing food for families across the land.


  1. Arturo the knife with the large bolster is an unmarked blade that I reworked and added the handle to. I have an old W. Ben Hunt book that my son was looking at and liked the camp knife so that was my rendition of it. The sheath is of rawhide, made by him with some help from me. The hook knife is also of my making. I reworked the smaller knife in the same photo for my other son from and Old Hickory skinner that was pretty beat up. Thank---John

    1. John, great job on both knives. I thoroughly enjoyed the photos

    2. Thanks, also wanted to mention that the price tags are not what I paid for them, just what the seller was asking.