20 October 2007

(with some later additions)

Barrel Knives from Eskilstuna



Per Thoresen

Postboks 2841
NO-7432 Trondheim
Norway

per.thoresen@gmail.com

My knife blog (in Norwegian only): http://kniver.blogspot.com
There are some pictures here (Norwegian text only).
A related kind of barrel knife is shown here (English text).
Some barrel knives made outside Sweden are shown here (Norwegian text only).

This article is text only. I will add pictures later. Until then, just to let you see what this is all about, here are three great barrel knives (click pictures to enlarge). A very large Westersson, a Segerström with a corkscrew, and a one-of-a-kind handmade from Norway:

































The barrel knife - a Swedish specialty
The barrel knife was a Swedish success story. For decades the knifemakers of Eskilstuna turned out incredible numbers of these knives, and shipped them to many countries all over the World. Barrel knives have a certain charm that is hard to pass by. Even knife collectors who don’t really collect them often have a few alongside their “real” collection.
In most countries the name referres to the barrel shape of the handle, as in the English barrel knife. The knives were also sometimes marketed as the patent knife. In Sweden they are called konstkniv or konsttäljkniv, which may be translated as “art knife”, “artistic knife” or “artistic whittling knife”, and sometimes emigrantkniv (emigrant knife). In Norway we usually say tønnekniv (“barrel knife”) or kneppekniv (“clicking knife”). In German the term is Fassmesser (“barrel knife”).
The typical barrel knife has a blade fixed between brass liners that are inserted into a wooden, barrel shaped handle with iron fittings, and locked into place. You press down the the lock, extract the knife from the barrel, unfold it, and insert it again in the outstreched position. In this position it is locked into place in the barrel with a click, and functions like an ordinary knife, perhaps not quite as stable. A great part of the barrel knife’s charm lies in its somewhat cumbersome mechanism. It was something to take out of the waistcoat pocket and show to others and explain to children.
The knives came in many varieties, in many sizes, and from many producers. The handles were made from birch, walnut, ebony, ivory or man-made materials (kasein?). The ebony and walnut barrels sometimes have a carved dragon pattern (and sometimes a floral pattern, but always bear in mind that a carving can be a later addition). Barrels in ivory (I have seen these only from Westersson and Johan Engström, but I suppose there are others) seem to have been made in the smaller sizes only (the largest I have seen in ivory is 39 mm). Some ivory knives have a gilted blade.
The vast majority of barrel knives have a barrel made from curly birch, in its natural colour or stained brown.
Some have a corkscrew in the handle. These (from Segerström, in three sizes) are rare, extra cumbersome, and therefore extra popular. To collectors “rare” and “popular” very often means “expensive”.
The knives were made in great numbers, a lot of them for export to Europe and the USA, and they are well-known in other parts of the World as well.

With a child security lock!

The lock may well be called a child security lock. I have seen five versions of the lock:
Pin lock”:A pin inside the barrel fits into a hole in the spring.
“Tooth lock”:
A
“tooth” in the spring fits into a hole inside the barrel. Only on some of the most recent knives.
“Step lock”:
A
“step” in the spring stops against a metal stopper inside the barrel. Perhaps the oldest, but it was used for many years.
Rim lock”:
The
spring stops against the rim of the endcap. Only on knives with aluminium endcaps.
Twist lock”:
A
lock that is turned into position. Only on knives with a flat handle of man-made materials.
Of these the first and the third locks are most usual, and the third and the fifth are the nicest.

Collecting barrel knives
With every possible variety included a collection can get a little out of hand, but as always it is entirely for yourself to decide how large you will allow your collection to become.
A really comprehensive collection, with every size from every maker, with all varieties, and with all different markings from them all, would be really impressive. But, perhaps, also a bit boring? What some collectors will regard with pride will give others the question: Why am I doing this?
One knife of each size can be a suitable goal for a nice little collection, and then you can try to get as many producers, materials, markings and other varieties represented within these limits. If you want all the knives to be in very good quality as well – as you certainly do! – and old, and with really beautiful wood, and everything in pristine condition, this scope for such a collection may be challenging enough.
Another obvious way to collect is by maker, trying to get every size and variety from one specific producer.
The rarer varieties will always find a place, no matter how you define your collection, and no matter how disciplined you are. You will want one with a corkscrew, one with an ivory barrel, one with a carved barrel, and so on. If you can find them.
What you definitely don’t want are the most common sizes from the largest producers, in bad condition. You may think that a bad knife will be replaced with a better specimen as time goes by, and then you can sell the first one. You may find it difficult to sell.
On the other hand: If you find a “monster barrel” (explained below) or one from a rare producer – let us say a Jonsson or a Gustafsson – you may have to take what you find, no matter how it looks. You may never find a better one.
If you for some reason decide to buy a knife in bad shape, the lack of quality should be reflected in its price.
On the bright side: Very few antiques dealers know which producers are rare. A Hedengran may cost the same as a Holmberg.
So, where do you find them?
Collecting barrel knives is an international hobby, as they seem to surface everywhere. Some knife dealers manage to find them all the time, while others tell us that they are extremely rare.
An obvious place to start looking is eBay and other Internet auctions. Here you will find knives from some of the largest producers – Johan Engström, Holmberg, and Segerström – and from time to time there are even some of the rarer knives on offer.
Internet auctions are also good places for getting rid of extra knives that you no longer want.

Information
In his great book Knivar från Eskilstuna (Eskilstuna 1999) Arne Marmér has a lot of information on barrel knives. In Swedish only, that is. Sadly Marmér died shortly after the publication of his book, and the next one, his nearly finished work on Eskilstuna razors, was never published. Knivar från Eskilstuna is an excellent help for collectors of knives from that important city of knife makers, but it also leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Here I have some additional information, and some questions. There is a lot more to find out for anyone who wants to go into this.
Apart from Marmér’s book information is to be found within the fellowship of knife collectors and knife dealers. For valuable discussions – and knives! – I will especially thank the Norwegian knife dealer Bjarne Delbekk, the Norwegian collector Harald Gerner, and the American collector Brian Halsall.

The surprise: Sweden was not first!
Johan Engström’s patent from 1882 has been regarded by most as the start of the barrel knife story, but Marmér tells us that Jakob W. Engström beat him and may have made barrel knives as early as 1876.
A much greater surprise came when Brian Halsall informed me that not even 1876 is the beginning:
In 1874 Hans Christian Nilson in the USA received the patent for such a knife (U.S. Pat. 149.146). The knife in Nilson’s description is just like those from Eskilstuna, and according to the patent papers Nilson was the inventor. It may be possible to find more information on him. He lived in Grand Rapids, Wisconsin.
So Sweden was not first to patent barrel knives. On the other hand: Judging from his name this Nilson may very likely have had a Swedish background.
To find two patents for the same idea is not as uncommon as you might think, and there have been even more U.S. patents very similar to these.
Some questions: Did Hans Nilson work with a producer in Eskilstuna, making barrel knives there before 1874, then emigrate to the USA, and make a try as knife producer? If he did: Why didn’t he make real trouble when Engström got the patent and started supplying the American market with knives of Nilson’s own invention?
A suggestion: Nilson may have developed the barrel knife in the USA, and returned to his native country with a good knife model to offer the producers in Eskilstuna? And then he let Engström take out the patent in Sweden, in return for some good money?
Next question: How could so many producers in Eskilstuna make barrel knives when Johan Engström held the Swedish patent? Did they all produce under a licence from Engström, or perhaps even from Nilson?
A digression, I suppose: In USA there was a knife producer (or perhaps an importer?) by the name Axel Nilsson. His blades are marked SWEDISH STEEL. There is probably no connection to Hans Nilson, as Nils(s)on is an extremely common Swedish name. His knives are not barrel knives.

Producers and traders
A large number of knife producers in Eskilstuna made barrel knives. Marmér has listed these eleven:
M. Blomqvist (1876-1886)
J. W. Engström (1864-1880)
Johan Engström (1874-1915)
A. G. Gustafsson (1869 - about 1890)
A. Halling (ca 1870-1921)
H. Hallström (1882-1917)
P. Holmberg (1876-1960)
Jernbolaget (1868-?)
C. G. Larson (ca 1890-1894)
E. T. Segerström (1864-1925)
A. J. Westersson (1889-1905)
The years show the time when the producers were active, which is not necessarily the time their barrel knives were produced, as they did not make them from the start till the end. Engström’s knives are often marked 1874. This is not the knife’s production year but the year of the company’s foundation. Proof of this can easily be seen in his razors which are often marked with later exhibition medals in addition to the 1874 logo. The knives with the 1874 mark are probably not even his oldest, as Engström seems to have started using this mark at a later date.
In Marmér's book the name is spelled C. G. Larsson. The knives I have seen are marked C.G. LARSON, with only one S, so that is what I choose. Some are marked C.G.L. ESKILSTUNA.
These are not the only barrel knife producers in Eskilstuna. Here are some more:
Hedengran & Son (1833-1916)
J. A. Hellberg (1891- )
Hugo Jonsson (1917-1960) (not yet confirmed)
C. J. Lindström (before 1900 till after 1909)
C. A. Ström (1900-1937)
Buster Bentson and Per Ekman write in their book Scandinavian corkscrews (Täby 1994) that EKA (which took over Hallström’s company in 1917) made barrel knives up till about 1950. Bernard Levine in his Levine’s guide to knives and their values states that E. A. Berg (1880-1959) made barrel knives. I have not seen any of these. Marmér does not mention them.
According to Marmér barrel knives were made in Eskilstuna until 1954, with Pontus Holmberg as the last producer.

Almost all Swedish barrel knives were produced in Eskilstuna. In the town Mora there was one barrel knife maker:
Bröderna Jönsson (1936- )
Jönsson knives have a barrel made from one piece of plastic. They were made around 1960 and come in red, black and blue, and probably more colours. I haven't seen them with a maker's mark, only with MADE IN SWEDEN, and sometimes MORA.


Jernbolaget
For some strange reason: In Marmér’s book one of the large companies – Eskilstuna Jernmanufaktur AB, usually called Jernbolaget – is barely mentioned, without a special chapter. Apart from being a producer Jernbolaget was a large seller and exporter of the goods of other producers. There is more information in the publication Eskilstuna Jernmanufaktur Aktiebolag 1868-1943 by Olof H. Wermelin (Eskilstuna, 1943). This book is not in Marmér’s litterature list, and I think it may have managed to elude him.
Several at that time small Eskilstuna factories got a special contract from about 1880 and a couple of the following decades: They produced exclusively for Jernbolaget and got its support with capital and marketing. Holmberg and Johan Engström did this, among others, probably also Westersson, as many knives are marked both Jernbolaget and A.J.W. on the blade. In most cases the A.J.W. is placed in the usual position on the blade, but it may also be placed across the blade.
Two combinations:
No 1: I have seen knives marked Westersson on the blade and Holmberg on the brass.

No 2: I have also seen one with Holmberg's mark on the blade and Jernbolaget's on the brass.

Both knives has its original, polished blade, a pin lock, and a 65 mm and a 64 mm barrel (the knife inside being of the same size in both, only with this slight difference in barrel sizes).
As both producers made barrel knives for Jernbolaget such combinations are not too surprising. The blade in No 2 has a shallow, etched marking, indicating that it is one of the more recent knives, perhaps made after WWII. The markings also indicates that Holmberg's cooperation with Jernbolaget continued even after the two initial decades.
Later I found another one with the Holmberg/Jernbolaget combination, and with deep stamps. Probably older than knife No 2.
Some knives are without a producer’s name but with Jernbolaget’s logo: a crowned anchor with a large E.
There are barrel knives with the brass stamped only ESKILSTUNA SWEDEN, or only MADE IN SWEDEN, and some are unmarked. Perhaps Jernbolaget? Perhaps unmarked to leave space for an importer to place his own mark on the brass?
A question: Did Jernbolaget itself make any barrel knives at all?
I have mentioned patent rights and export to the USA. A suggestion: Engström bought the patent rights from Nilson but soon realized that he had no means of really profiting from them on his own, and so made a deal with Jernbolaget? A deal the others of Jernbolaget’s producers could join in on until the patent expired?

Paul Berghaus
Paul Berghaus in Göteborg was a wholesaler in sport fishing equipment. Among us collectors of fishing reels the company is well known for its PEBECO reels that were made for him by ABU around 1940-1950. Long before that, in 1892, Berghaus patented a barrel knife in England (Brit. Pat. 23.005), in cooperation with the famous English fishing reel producer Samuel Allcock, who had a large sale in USA. The knife has a doble row of saw teeth in the back of the blade, and a screwdriwer in the protruding part of the blade when the knife is closed.
At least two producers made knives for the Berghaus company, which hardly had any production of its own: Segerström and Johan Engström. I have a knife without a producer’s name, with the blade marked like this:
PAUL BERGHAUS PATENT
ESKILSTUNA

Another knife has this stamp in the brass and nothing on the blade.
In a third knife there is only the Segerström mark, while a fourth knife has both a Berghaus and a Segerström mark.
A fifth knife has an unmarked blade, and brass with Johan Engström’s stamp. It is without the screwdriver and with only a single row of saw teeth.

Edward Zinn
According to Marmér Edward Zinn was an English knife importer who ordered an enormous amount of barrel knives from Johan Engström. Marmér was right about the enormous number, but not about the country. Edward Zinn was an American. According to Goins’ Encyclopedia of Cutlery Markings, page 311, he had his office at 210 11th Ave, NYC, in the 1910s. In 1914 he registered the picture of an elephant as his trade mark, which he used on the knives he imported from Sveden and germany.
Zinn sold other kinds of Eskilstuna knives as well, alongside knives from other countries. I have seen some Zinn barrel knives with the brass stamped Holmberg, and some stamped Segerström, but most are without any producer’s stamp, and then the producer’s identity is most uncertain.
The blade is usually marked:
EDWARD ZINN ESKILSTUNA

Very often there is the picture of an elephant, indicating that the knife should be made in 1914 or later, as that was when he registered the elephant logo.
The stamp may also be on the brass instead of the blade. Unlike most barrel knives the Zinn knives are often marked with a size number.

Other traders in England and the USA
Several traders had their own stamp on the brass, and no producer’s stamp. Here are some examples, first Stacy in London:
STACY 4 NEWGATE ST

And then the New York importer Severin R. Draescher:
S. R. D.

I have seen a picture of two knives in USA with this mark (at least one of them has a Segerström blade):
C. A. DRAKE


Dealers or producers?

Three knives that are not in Marmér’s book, with these stamps on the brass:
HELLSTEDT & CO ESKILSTUNA
and
EDGREN ESKILSTUNA SWEDEN
and
OSCAR PETERSON ESKILSTUNA
SWEDEN

These are common Swedish names but, as the knives were on offer on eBay from the USA, they may have been American importers, perhaps of Swedish origin. I have seen pliers and a pair of compasses from Hellstedt and I suppose he was a producer of other goods who made some few knives.

NK
The Swedish department store Nordiska Kompaniet has its mark – NK – on the blade of some knives from Pontus Holmberg. Probably among the last series of barrel knives that were made. These are also the only ones I have seen with a tooth lock.
NK was founded in 1902, and most likely had an extensive trade in barrel knives right from its start. I would not be surprised to find an older knife with an NK mark.

Jean Mette
The surgical instrument maker Jean Mette in Oslo, Norway made knives, razors and knife blades. Mette also sold barrel knives, with this mark on the blade:
JEAN METTE

The knives have no other stamps, but are apparently from Eskilstuna rather than being made by Mette himself. Nice knives, especially from a Norwegian point of view.
It seems that C. G. Larson made these. It is a little strange that Jean Mette chose such a small producer, but my Jean Mette knife have what I think are typical Larsson details.

Mora
In Sweden barrel knives come from Eskilstuna, but there are exceptions: on a model the brass is marked:
MORA Made in Sweden

The barrel was made from plastic and came in three colours: red, blue and black, and may be even more. A red handle is most appropriate for the knife producing city of Mora, as that is what a typical Mora fixed blade knife often has.
This model may have been made in Mora, but I find it more likely that its origin is Eskilstuna, and, judging from its details, perhaps Pontus Holmberg.

Knives made in other countries
USA?
Considering the large export to the USA, and the fact that there are several similar U.S. patents, it is most likely that some were made there, both real barrel knives and related knives. I have not seen any that without any doubt is made in the USA.
A knife that may have been made there, or perhaps is just an import, has a blade with this mark:
J. T. TORRY
WORCESTER MASS.
The company is The Torrey Razor Company. As the barrel is made from curly birch I would guess that its origin is Sweden. The end knob is without a hole, and the knife does not give the impression of having been made by one of the major producers. I have seen two such knives on eBay.

Finland
On the Internet I found the information that barrel knives were very popular in Sibiria, where they were called “Finnish knives”. I thought there was a misunderstanding here, and that the knives were named like this because they came from Sweden via Finland. That was before I saw the 1897 catalogue from the Finnish producer Fiskars, which shows that Fiskars at that time made barrel knives in three sizes; 3", 3½" og 4", all with a barrel in ebony. The picture in the catalogue shows a standard barrel knife. It is marked like this across the blade, near the barrel:
FISKARS



England?
I have a barrel knife with this blade stamp:
ANDERSON

It has an ebony barrel and is really well-made.
Another one has this blade stamp:
F. ALDIS PIMLICO

This one is also a little different. Pimlico is a part of London.
I think both these knives may have been made in England, along with a considerable number of other barrel knives.


Germany
There are knives with this stamp:
F. HERDER

These come from the knife producer Friedrich Herder in Solingen. Well made, in many sizes. I guess they were produced in the company’s own factory.

BÖKER
Heinrich Böker in Solingen also made barrel knives. The only one I have seen a picture of, is marked HENRY BOKER on one side of the brass, and GERMANY on the other. The knife was in Australia, and according to Levine this may be Böker’s stamp for knives that were to be exported to Australia. I suppose the stamp was not only for Australia. It is to be found on knives and tools in USA and Canada (all with a GERMANY stamp), and I have seen it on a sabre from 1851 in the USA, that is before the Civil War. During the war both sides bought such sabres from Germany. The American poet and diplomat Charles Henry Boker (1823-1890) from Philadelphia wrote patriotic poems. His name suggests a connection, but I know nothing more about this. The Böker barrel knife is marked with size number one, so it was also made in other sizes.
As both Herder and Böker made such knives it is likely that other Solingen companies made them as well.
Another one:
EDWARDS SONS & CO GERMANY

Perhaps made in Germany for an American or English company Edwards.

Bleckmann?
I saw on eBay a barrel knife with this stamp on the brass, from an Australian seller:
BLECKMANNS CUTLERY GERMANY
The wood was not curly birch but something very ordinary.
In Solingen there was the knife, razor and sword manufacturer and exporter Joh. E. Bleckmann, established in 1808 and continued until 1971. They probably made this knife, even if it only has the company's name and not its logo.


India?
Barrel knives were also made in the East. A number of unsigned, carved knives, mostly with a floral pattern, apparently originates from India.

Others?
Barrel knives may have been made anywhere. Today there is some production in France, where there also seems to be a considerable interest in barrel knives by the knife collectors.
Sometimes I would not even begin to guess. There are some small, thin ones with two kinds of stamps on the ricasso. One of them is a “V” stamp, on another knife made in the same way there is a strange stamp I cannot read.

Handmade barrel knives

Lots of knifemakers have made a few barrel knives from time to time. In Sweden there are for instance some good ones from Olle Johansson.
In Norway as well some have given this a try, like Eskil Langland at Ler in Sør-Trøndelag. His knives are unsigned, and they are rougher and with more tool marks than those from Eskilstuna. You have to have a confirmed Langland to compare with.
Einar Sperre made a few with engraved silver fittings from Torstein Groven, and some undecorated with his own fittings.
I have one from Haakon Olsen Lae in the Toten district. It was probably made in the 1880s.
There are still some Norwegian makers. At knife shows knifemakers sometimes bring a barrel knife from their own production. Best known are those from Tore Noddeland and his son Lars Harry, with beautifully carved barrels.
Sometimes someone has carved the barrel on an ordinary factory made knife. These knives can be especially interesting when the work is done by a well-known knifemaker or artist. The two most interesting I have seen so far are two knives at the Vigeland Museum in Oslo, carved by Gustav Vigeland. One of them is an especially nice work. The other one is very simple, but I think the marking (very hard to read) is from Hugo Jonsson.

The Norwegian knifemaker Lars Birkeland also made some.
I have an English example where a silver smith with the stamp G.W. has refined a knife from Johan Engström. He has covered the entire barrel with silver, silver plated the brass, and exchanged some details for his own. It has a London symbol and the symbol for the year 1886.


Sizes

Barrel knives are often collected by size, the size being the length of the barrel. As it is practical to measure the barrel without pulling out the knife some collectors include the end-plate in the barrel length. I prefer to measure only the barrel itself.
I think there should be a difference of at least 4 mm before I will call it its own size. This is not without complications, and also the thickness of the barrels vary. Two knives with the same length, but with a significant difference in thickness, may perhaps not be considered to be of the same size.
It is not always easy:
1.
I have two barrel knives with a corkscrew, in the intermediate size. One of them has a barrel of 84 mm, the other one measures slightly under 88 mm. The knife inside is the same in both. The wood between the ferrules is also the same length in both, it is the ferrules that vary. The larger barrel is longer than “necessary”, so that the brass does not protrude from it the way it should, while the smaller barrel is the “right” size. I am happy that the difference is a little less than 4 mm. If it had been slightly over I would have had a problem regarding them as being of one size, and also a problem regarding them as two sizes.

2.
I have three knives from Johan Engström with a barrel length of more or less 12,3 cm. The barrels are 12 cm, 12,3 cm and 12,4 cm. That makes a difference of the critical 4 mm. I still regard them as being of the same size. The knives themselves are exactly the same size in all three of them, whether in the folded or extended position. The one that looks right is the one with a 12,3 cm barrel.
The thickness of the blades may also vary, as it does in these three knives, and is perhaps an indication of age. Here the blades, in the above order, are 3,8 mm, 3,2 mm and 3,5 mm. Their locks are step lock, step lock and pin lock. The one with the smallest barrel lacks the SWEDEN in the wood. The vast majority of J.E. barrel knives have the 1874/arrow logo, and I think the one without it is the oldest of these three knives. (The 1874/arrow logo was in use at least as early as 1886.)
There may be as many as 30 different barrel lengths. From the smallest of 2,1 mm and up to ca 125 mm there are roughly speaking one for every half-centimeter. Beyond that there are some monsters with a barrel of 19,5 cm, 25 cm, 29,5 cm, 30 cm, 35 cm and 36 cm, and probably more. I have heard of one that is 38 cm, but not seen it.
There are rumours of some very much larger than these. It may well be possible. Many factories around the World made, for display purposes, enormous versions of other types of folding knives, made exactly like their standard models. The largest I have seen is an American knife which in the open position measures 145 cm. We can only hope to find a barrel knife of this size.
The monster knives were made for display, and were indeed useless outside the shop window – or the knife collection! They were made in the era of the large national or World exhibitions, and I suppose their intended purpose was to be displayed there. They must have been real show stoppers.
Even with the vast production it is apparent that barrel knives were largely handmade. At least the early knives. If you take two knives from the same factory and try to switch knives and barrels they seldom fit as well in the other barrel as in their own, and the lock may not work.

One day an unfinished knife was found, and it showed how the ferrules are fitted: The grove for the ferrules are cut with a hand tool.
Brian Halsall writes in a letter concerning this knife:
“The knife is unfinished, in the sense that the wood handle has the grooves in it from the shaping chisel the maker used. They look very much like the chisel marks left by stone sculptors when they use a ww shaped chisel to simulate hair. It made me look very closely at some other handles, and I found a couple of later Holmbergs that were not finished completely where the wood meets the bolster, and the grooves were there! Seems as though someone stole mine from the factory, because there is nothing to suggest it was a reject. These really were handmade.”

The smallest

These are very popular. The barrel measures about 21 mm. As their tiny size is the main point collectors hunt for those that are a fraction smaller than the rest. I have yet to see one under 21 mm, but rumours say they exist.
The barrel, and the blade, are sometimes slimmer than others.
The 21 mm barrel is rarely seen, in fact so rarely that the next size, the 25 mm, is often considered the smallest.
In all barrel knives the click should be perfect. In the smaller sizes there is an added reason for this, as they often were attached to the watch chain. Now they hang from a neck string on people attending knife shows. They better not fall off.
In the smaller sizes they are often unsigned by the maker. You have to decide for yourself if that matters. It may not affect the price much, if anything. Still, a stamp is always nice, and I like the look of one 24 mm I have, with a full A.J.W. JERNBOLAGET ESKILSTUNA on the brass.
The barrel is usually made from curly birch, but may also be ivory or ebony.
The ferrules are usually iron, but may be brass

With a corkscrew
Barrel knives with a corkscrew, made by Segerström, have always been popular. Now, when lots of people search eBay and other Internet auctions and can see what corkscrew collectors out there are willing to pay for these knives, prices have changed dramatically also here in Scandinavia.
There are three sizes: 75 mm, 84 mm and 96 mm.
The knife inside the barrel is quite ordinary, except for the stamp PATENT on the brass. The stamp is visible also with the knife inside the barrel. Inserted in the barrel there is a corkscrew, with its own spring-loaded release mechanism.
I have told there are some with an ebony barrel with a carved dragon motive. In have not seen them. As Segerström made other carved barrel knives there is no surprise if he also had dragons on his corkscrew barrels.

The most collectible?
Or at least some very nice ones, listed at random:
130 mm and larger
The smallest (21 mm)
Two blades
With a corkscrew
With a saw in the back of the blade
Carved barrel
Ivory barrel, especially with a gilted blade
Flat handle of man-made materials
Companies with small production
Any otherwise ordinary knife, but old, in perfect condition, and with a barrel of outstanding curly birch.

The majority

The most common knives to find are those from Holmberg, Segerström and Johan Engström. After those we have the knives from Jernbolaget and Westersson, and then Halling. From then on there are few around.
If you plan a collection from one company only, and choose another one than these six, your collection will be very small!

The relatives
The typical handle of the barrel knife is also to be found on some quite rare fixed-blade knives. Even if they are not barrel knives a few of them could find a place in the collection.
A close relative, and one that definitely deserves a place in a barrel knife collection, is this one:

Carl Hellberg
Carl Hellberg patented a different barrel knife construction, with a lever inserted in the barrel for sliding and locking the blade in open or closed position.
The blade is stamped:
CARL HELLBERG
ESKILSTUNA

Marmér has not registered this producer. One Carl F. Hellberg is mentioned in his book, but he was born in 1774. Perhaps he was our Carl’s grandfather?

When the old folks remember – and get it wrong


On eBay there was an Engström barrel knife with this description:
“1874 Hand Crafted Knife
This knife was hand crafted in 1874 by a man named Joh Ingstrum. He was a fisherman on the tuna boat the Eskilstuna in England. This knife was handed down to my father in law. Mr. Ingstrum was his great or great, great uncle. I forget which. The knife is in excelent condition and is of beautiful craftsmanship.”
As always: Don’t believe everything you read, or everything a dealer tells you.