The Barlow knife often is sold as a folding pocket knife. It is designed that way, but it comes with a few unique characteristics over classic folding knives. Most importantly, it has a very tough bolster. Second, the handle is shaped like a tear. It stands out in the crowd due to its unique rigidity and strength.
The knife is extremely comfortable to use due to its handle, but it may also feature one blade or more different tools. Generally, it comes with a couple of blades. It is used in outdoor adventures, as well as all kinds of applications around the house. Now, what exactly do you need to know before choosing the best Barlow knife? What are the top-rated options on the market?
What is a Barlow knife?
Whether it comes with one or two blades, the knife is easy to identify because of its large metallic bolster. The blades are normally attached at the smaller end of the handle. Initially, this knife came to life in England. It is associated with Sheffield and the 17th century, yet most British users claim they have never heard of it. To most people, it is only a folding pocket knife.
The knife was introduced to the USA in the 18th century. During its initial stage, the knife featured a bone handle. You may still find a few options out there that resemble this classic appearance. As for the blade or blades, they were usually made of high carbon steel. Old school knives were not really polished, but quite rough.
The bolster is very thick and noticeable. It is also big. In fact, this is probably the main aspect that can help you identify a Barlow knife. The primary reason behind this design was to add to its strength, as it was used in heavy-duty operations in all kinds of environments. Other than that, the original design came with one blade. A second blade was later on for more functionality – many modern knives come with two blades these days.
The name is given after Obadiah Barlow, a Sheffield man responsible for coming up with the design in the 17th century. His grandson is responsible for bringing it to the USA later on.
The Barlow knife is a convenient tool to have these days. Whether you are after a Case or Russell Barlow knife, the tool is used in multiple industries for various applications. It can be used to open packages, cut fruits and vegetables on a camping trip, remove a splinter, make drainage holes, and so on. If you need a blade for a particular application, such a small and strong folding knife will get the job done in no time.
Now that you understand how Barlow knives work and what their main characteristics are, what are the best-rated options in commerce and what should you expect from them?
2021’s 5 Best Barlow Knives
Case XX WR
Versatile knife – Just like any other Case masterpiece, this Barlow knife is made in Bradford, PA, USA. It is an excellent tool for everyday activities, whether you are into hunting, camping, outdoor adventures, or small fixes around your home. It is extremely versatile, lightweight – 2.7 ounces – and easy to carry around with no risks of injuring yourself. Also, it belongs to a larger collection of Barlow knives.
Superior blades – Unlike the classic Barlow design, this Case Barlow knife brings in two different blades. One of them has a sharp tip and can be used to cut and poke. The other one is a bit wide and features a relatively flat rounded tip, yet it also has a sharp side. Both blades are made of stainless steel, so they are less likely to rust and corrode. They are also easy to sharpen should they go dull at some point. Each blade is 3.25 inches in length.
Old school handle – The handle features an old school appearance. It is made of bone, just like the initial Barlow knives. You can get it in two different designs – natural and amber. Everything else is the same. The handle is 4.12 inches in length and works well for both small and large hands. Furthermore, there are a few bolsters for stability and smoothness. Each blade must be pulled out manually – no automatic operation.
Care and maintenance – Both blades and the handle are likely to last for ages if well looked after. There is not much to do in terms of maintenance though. While you can clean the knife in a dishwasher, the manufacturer recommends cleaning it manually. Dry it thoroughly before closing it. It might be worth keeping the blades slightly oiled when not in use – it will preserve the finishing too.
- Good looking design
- Two different blades with numerous capabilities
- Easy to look after
- Smooth opening and closing
- Feels well put together
- Blades do not lock open
Imperial Schrade 278 Jackmaster
Value for money – Imperial surely knows what it takes to come up with a value for money Barlow knife. This knife costs less than most of its competition. Unlike most expectations, it beats every other Barlow knife in this price range and provides versatility and high-quality standards, whether you count the materials, the overall design, or the size. Furthermore, it can be used for all kinds of applications around your home or outdoors.
Excellent blades – The blades are based on 3Cr13MoV stainless steel. This type of steel has a beautiful finish, good strength, and excellent resistance against rust and corrosion. The knife features two different blades. You have a clip point blade, as well as a pen blade. The main blade measures 2.4 inches in length, while the second one is a bit shorter. They both feature nail pulls – no automatic springs.
Superior handle – The handle is a mix of two different materials. You have a metallic part towards the smaller end, as well as celluloid for the rest. It is well put together and comes with stainless steel bolsters. Pulling blades out is quite smooth, as they do not rub against each other or the sides. The handle measures 3.3 inches. Altogether, the knife weighs 0.12 pounds, so it is light and convenient to carry around in your pocket.
Extra and maintenance – The Barlow knife comes with brass pins. The back springs are solid and heat-treated for durability and flexibility. When it comes to maintenance, stainless steel is classic. Avoid cleaning the knife in your dishwasher, but do it manually. Also, dry it thoroughly before closing it. It might be wise to give it a quick splash even if it looks clean – small particles or dirt on the blade could cause scratches when closing it.
- Small and compact design
- Well put together
- Two solid blades
- Lightweight profile
- Comfortable celluloid handle
- Blades are not always razor sharp out of the box
SZCO Supplies Rite Edge
Great value for money – SZCO Supplies’ best Barlow knife brings in excellent value for money. You have a classic Barlow design with a couple of blades and classic materials. What really matters is the fact that it is well put together and blades will never rub against each other or the sides. A bit of maintenance will keep this knife going for ages.
Classic blades – Unlike the first Barlow knives on the market, this one is a bit modern and features two different blades. Both blades feature sharp tips, as well as nail pulls – there is no automatic operation. The main blade measures 2.25 inches in length, the shorter one is just over an inch long. They are both made of stainless steel – easy to sharpen, rust and corrosion-resistant.
Wood handle – The handle is just as basic, but it gets the job done. You can find this knife in one style only – light wood. You can see the natural grains of the wood. The handle is four inches in length – good for large hands too. The smaller end features a metallic construction to keep the blades together. All in all, the knife weighs 0.17 ounces and will never open up accidentally in your pocket.
Extras and care – There are no fancy features. Bolsters are metallic and keep everything tight. Opening and closing the knife might feel a bit difficult during the first few uses. As for care and maintenance, random oiling now and then will keep the handle look good, as well as the mechanisms smooth. Wash it after each use – just a bit of tap water – and dry it before closing and storing it.
- Excellent value for money
- Simple and efficient design
- Two useful blades
- Good health and safety
- Smooth operation
- No automatic operation
Rough Ryder Barlow
Strong and reliable – Weighing less than four ounces and feeling sturdy when in use, Rough Ryder’s Barlow knife will surprise you with its strong profile and capabilities. Although it is relatively small, the knife is well put together and can be used in a plethora of different activities – outdoor and camping adventures, small fixes around your house, or emergencies in the middle of nowhere.
Quality blades – Following the modern upgrade of Barlow knives, this unit comes with two different blades. You have a clip blade, as well as a pen blade. The main blade measures 2.37 inches, while the shorter one is 1.75 inches long. They are both made of 440A stainless steel. They are rust and corrosion-resistant and easy to pull out – no automatic operations, but nail clips.
Beautiful handle – The handle looks amazing. It is based on natural bone and well polished. It feels super smooth and comfortable. There is no shield, but the tear profile makes it stable and less likely to slip out of your hand. It measures 3.37 inches in length and comes with a large nickel silver bolster. It is well made and hosts a smooth mechanism to take the blades out – no rubbing whatsoever.
Care and maintenance – It pays off cleaning the knife after using it on rough materials, as small particles on the blades could cause them to rub or scratch. Plus, you do not want dust and debris inside the handle, do you? As for washing it, do it manually, rather than in a dishwasher. Dry the blades before closing the knife. Blades might be rust and corrosion resistant, but the inside of the handle is vulnerable.
- Good looking design
- Simple and convenient
- Smooth opening and closing
- Sharp right from the factory
- Easily accessible nail pulls
- Blades are not always perfectly centered
Old Timer 280OT
Versatile and Dependable – Coming at an affordable price and featuring durable materials and good craftsmanship standards, Old Timer’s Barlow knife will not disappoint you. It is highly dependable and provides easy access to the blades, but it is also secure to keep in a pocket with no risks at all. Heat-treated back springs are also handy to ensure blades will never slip out.
Durable blades – Since they are made of 7Cr17MoV high carbon stainless steel, blades are clearly durable and likely to last for a lifetime. High carbon stainless steel features good edge retention, as well as a solid resistance to corrosion and rust. The main blade is 2.3 inches in length, but there is also a smaller one. Both of them feature nail pulls and open or close with no issues at all.
Nonslip handle – The handle is just as attractive. The saw cut handle is textured. Whether your hands are wet or sweaty, it will never slip out. It is just under four inches in length, meaning it is suitable for most people. Altogether, the knife weighs 2.6 ounces, so it is light to carry around and use – no pressure or discomfort. Being slightly wider than other similar knives, this one allows lots of room for blades to open and close very smoothly.
Maintenance – The knife is likely to support you in all kinds of applications. You can use it anywhere, anytime. Maintenance is not really needed, yet you may have to sharpen the blades after too many uses. Clean it manually and dry both blades – as well as the interior of the handle – before closing the knife.
- Simple and dependable design
- Durable materials
- Easy to open or close
- Suitable for all kinds of jobs
- Heat-treated back springs
- Might feel a bit too small for those with very large hands
Frequently asked questions
What exactly can I use a Barlow knife for?
The Barlow knife has never been considered a weapon. While it can be used in self-defense, it is mostly suitable for work-related applications. You can open packages, cut stuff, and so on. It is also suitable when you go camping – you never know when you might need to cut something to set the tent up, for example. It is great for small fixes around your home, yet it could be used in emergencies as well.
Should I get one or two blades?
The first Barlow knives that hit the market came with one blade only. The same design was kept for many years. With time, Barlow knives have diversified a little. They were not perfect and small extra tools have always been handy.
These days, modern Barlow knives come with two different blades – it is quite difficult to find a new Barlow knife with a single blade unless you get a vintage model. If you want a new and sturdy knife, you will most likely have to get two blades.
What is the point of a thick bolster?
The bolster is larger than average in bolster knives because these tools were used for heavy-duty applications, so they required a sturdy build and lots of stability. The same rule has been kept over time, so new knives also feature large bolsters.
Deciding on the best Barlow knife will give you plenty of options that follow similar designs, sizing standards, and capabilities. However, materials, craftsmanship standards, and design quality will vary from one model to another, hence the necessity to do your homework upfront. Any of the above-mentioned models will bring in a good experience though.
Hi, I am Jay. I am the creator of Knife Guides, your one-stop site for everything related to knives. I am a computer engineer by profession, knife aficionado by passion. Here I work with a group of people who’ve always had a passion for knives and blades. Over the years we’ve kind of become experts and decided to share our knowledge and ideas. I am also an avid hiker and enjoy offshore gamefishing.