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Three sizes of Schrade Imperial Trappers – From left to right; Model IMP13L, handle length 4.0”, blade length 3.0”, white Cracked Ice scales; Model IMP17T, handle length 3.5”, blade length 2.7”, Black Swirl scales; Model IMP19PRT, handle length 2.8”, blade length 2.2”, Abalone Swirl scales.

Bladeology: Traditional Pocket Knives
The Trapper Pattern

March 2016

Dan Martinez

I’ve been having a lot of fun exploring the world of knives. My exploration has now led me to classic American pocket knives – the kind that your dad or your grandpa might have carried around in his pocket every day. For me up to now, the traditional pocket knives have never had much allure. But today, I’m learning why these knives were so depended upon by generations of men.

Imperial Schrade is a revered name in the world of traditional pocket knives. Sadly, after 100 years, the company went out of business in 2004. The company’s brands and trademarks were purchased by an outfit called Taylor Brands. The good news is that Taylor Brands is doing a lot of good with the Schrade name. The classic Schrade brands include Schrade, Uncle Henry, Old Timer, and Imperial. In addition, Taylor Brands is also the licensee for Smith & Wesson branded knives. Most of the classic and loved old patterns are still in production and Taylor is churning out many innovative new products. The bad news is that these knives are now all made in China.

There are many folks that are quite butt-hurt that this great old company’s products are now made in China. Since my appreciation for Schrade knives is new, I don’t mind. It’s what I’ve come to expect in today’s market. Are the China knives equal in quality to the old made-in-America knives? No. But the old Schrade was no longer competitive – that’s why they’re gone. The new Schrades are quite decent in quality in my opinion, and very affordable. As a business, Taylor Brands is doing quite well.

If you must have an American made traditional pocket knife, be prepared to pay at least 4 to 5 times the price, and up from there. The prices for these Chinese Imperial Trappers are around $9 to $12 dollars each online. For prices like that, you simply can’t go wrong.

The classic Trapper pattern is characterized by two blades of equal length: a clip point blade and a spey blade, hinged at the same end. The clip blade is typically long and slender, what is often called a California clip point.

The original use of a spey point blade is said to be for castrating young male farm animals. But the blunt, rounded point can also be quite useful for skinning small game, such as you might find caught in your trapline, hence the name of this pattern of pocket knife.

In the largest size, that spey blade makes for a nice butter or mayonnaise spreading knife, if your uses for a pocket knife don’t involve cutting up animals.

The smallest Trapper is the most comfortable for actually carrying in your pocket on an everyday basis. Its blades are still big enough to be useful for most everyday cutting chores. However I must admit that my favorite size is the medium. It is the Goldilocks, just right size for me.

It seems like traditional pocket knives have been all but forgotten in today’s world of tactical folders. That’s too bad. I hope that I might have been able to spark some of you to take a fresh look at grandpa’s old pocket knives.

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