Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Types of Knives - The Sunfish

One of the most popular styles of pocket knives among collectors is the sunfish. While often referred to as a rope knife, the sunfish pattern is actually an early nineteenth century American pattern that was favored by many carpenters in the southern parts of America. Most sunfish patterns have a very wide back and a thick blade that is similar to a sailor’s rope knife. Most sailor’s knives or rigging knifes had a “hawk bill” style of blade and quite often had a bail or hole for a lanyard. The majority of sunfish patterns do not have a bail (metal loop).

While sunfish patterns were produced in various lengths, they commonly had the same thickness and width. The sunfish is normally a straight handle design with two bolsters but there are some that have a swayback type of handle. The blades are fairly short and are usually less than three inches in length. The main unique characteristic of a sunfish is their handle and their blades are usually quite wide.  Sunfish knives normally have two blades: a spear and a pen blade. There are some single blade patterns but these are not very common.

The sunfish pattern is based on a double-ended jack knife pattern and has many different names that have been associated with it over the years. It’s been called an elephant toenail, a vest pocket axe, an oyster shucker and most certainly was not what could be considered a “gentleman’s” knife.  This pattern was most likely marketed with a wide variety of uses and this probably gave rise to the various names that are now associated with this style of pocket knife.

One characteristic of the sunfish that is not commonly mentioned is the strength of its backspring. Due to its wider width, the backspring of a sunfish is amazingly strong for its size and it takes a modest amount of effort to open the blade as a result. It also takes some very careful maneuvering on your part when closing the blade. It is a very strong design for a “working” knife that comes in a compact package.

Got sunfish?

Staying above the water line!



Anonymous said...

I don't own one of those, I saw A.G. Russell's version and was (still am, lol) tempted to buy one. It seems like a bulky pocket carry knife, but no first hand knowledge of this. I like those round bolsters - comfortable to grip.

Thanks Riverwalker.

riverwalker said...

To: anonymous 7:21

They're a pretty stout little pocket knife. The wide blade really helps.
If you find a smaller sunfish, they are less bulky...I actually have what's called a "baby" sunfish but the medium versions are pretty decent. I've seen a few large sunfish but most appeared way too bulky for my carry purposes.

Thanks anon.


riverwalker said...

To: Mark

Smoky Mountain Knife Works is a good place to start or you can search Amazon to find some bargains on a medium sunfish.


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