Early magazine advertisements for the Schrade Sharpfinger knife, humorous hyperbole when they appeared, have proven themselves prophetically true over time. “For Small Elephants and Large Squirrels”… the Sharpfinger remains an excellent wild game skinner after more than thirty years that few others equal in utility and none excel in my opinion. “In thirty years you can give it to your grandson”… after more than thirty years of near constant field use in camp chores, skinning, dressing and butchering large and small game, waterfowl and fish, I am yet to wear out or break my original Sharpfinger. I have given one to nearly every family member over the years and am yet to have one come back broken or even excessively worn from over sharpening or correct use. My four granddaughters are in line for one when they come of age, whether I survive to that time or not.
The Old Timer 152OT Sharpfinger is one of my favorite classic Schrade Old Timer fixed blades. The 152OT was the sixth Old Timer sheath knife when it was first introduced in 1974 and was produced continuously for almost exactly thirty years, nearly a third of a century. It was first manufactured after the Schrade-Walden name had been changed to Schrade Cutlery (in mid 1973), so an example with the Schrade-Walden tang stamp would be a truly rare collectable (though not impossible since factory production records show just over 9,500 pieces shipped by year end and another 2,300 in process!). It did appear in the mid 1973 Schrade Cutlery shortline catalog, even though most research sources state 1974 for the first production. In the 1973 catalog, it was referred to as a "Sharp Finger", later changed to a single word, "Sharpfinger" in 1980, when it listed for $17.95. Interestingly, when the trademark was registered (in 1974) it was two words just as it appeared in the first catalog, and was never re-registered as one word. The knife listed for $37.95 in the 2004 catalog, the last issued before the mid year bankruptcy forced the company's closing and liquidation.
With 1973 being only a partial production year, as mentioned above, 9,500 pieces were shipped. 1974 was the first full production year and 36,093 were shipped. In 1975, with advertising and full catalogs, production rose to 69,554 pieces shipped. Production steadily increased from then on; 1976 – 90,501 plus 11,955 of the new 155SC Scrimshaw version and 14,250 for Peterson Publishing for a year end total of 103,906 pieces of the pattern. 1977 – 111,512 plus 6,000 Peterson Publishing, plus 232 152SC and 11,397 of the new 155SC totaling 129,141 pieces eclipsing sales of each of the other offered fixed blade knives and all but a few of the pocketknives. 1978 – 130,499 plus 13,581 155SC totaling 144,080 pieces for that year. The Sharpfinger had firmly established itself as a sales leader.
The Sharpfinger has downward curve shaped brown dyed saw-cut textured Delrin handles, referred to by the Schrade trade name of "Genuine Saw Cut Delrin", advertised and guaranteed as unbreakable. I bought one almost as soon as they came on the market and during all of my years of using this knife in hunting and fishing, and also having examined thousands of other used examples, I have never seen one with the handle slabs broken. Melted from campfires or stoves, yes. And deeply scratched or worn nearly smooth by long term use, but never broken. Most noted damage from use, other than blade thinning by overly aggressive sharpening, are missing shields and tipped blades (caused primarily by prying with the thin, pointed tip).
In cross section, the handles are generally rectangular with radiused edges. This shape aids the user in maintaining blade orientation, while not being uncomfortable to hold as would the same shape without the rounded corners (as seen on some post-closure copies by other manufacturers). The downward curvature, arched along the spine of the tang is very "ergonomic", though that was not a term in vogue in the early 1970's. It fits the user's palm well. The handle halves are held to the sturdy full exposed tang blade by two flush nickle silver flat head compression rivets, and a 3/4" oblong nickle silver Old Timer shield is set flush on the right handle (rectangular shaped with radiused ends and single stroke letters "OLD TIMER"). On occasion over the span of production, antler jigged Staglon, black, orange, green or cream (ivory) Delrin handles have been used on special and private issues. Jigged bone and Sambar stag, impregnated laminated wood (oak, birdseye maple and walnut) will occasionally be seen as well.
The handle has an unlined thong, or "lanyard" hole near the rear and earlier production knives were provided with a leather thong for the user to install. At some time during production, the wrist thong fell out of vogue with users and it was deleted from the package, but the unlined thong hole remained. As an interesting side note, a few enterprising Sharpfinger owners who were also fond of smoking “hemp” used the thong hole as a “roach clip” to hold their “cigarettes” and some examples will be found today with otherwise unexplainable burn marks around the holes in the handle! (Don’t ask me how I know this obscure trivia). I am sure that this is one creative use for the Sharpfinger which Uncle Henry never envisioned!
A prominent choil on the ricasso in front of the handle acts as a lower guard and protects the fingers from the sharpened blade. While it is not as prominent as the extended choil of the 15OT predecessor, it is smoothly radiused on the handle side to form a rest for the user's index finger in normal use grip, or the thumb with the knife rotated 90 degrees for skinning strokes. A raised thumb rest on the top of the tang aids in blade control for finer work. Unlike the grooved feature of the 15OT, the thumb rest of the Sharpfinger is smooth. These two features, as well as the blade sweep, are modifications of the Sharpfinger's much larger ancestor, the 15OT "Deerslayer" introduced in 1964. The 3 1/2" full tang blade is flat ground 1095 carbon steel in it's original design. A stiff blade, the blade stock is approximately 5/32" thick. Often described as a modified skinner, the blade has a pronounced skinner belly with a sharp, upswept tip, and just a hint of a false edge on the upper spine. Overall length was listed as 7 1/4" and weight 4.1 oz.
I have found three basic sheath designs so far. One was used beginning with the introduction where the keeper strap originated inside the left side of the sheath and wrapped over the choil to the male portion of the snap mounted on the center of the sheath face. The first sheaths had a pointed end to the keeper straps, then a rounded end. The blade tended to cut this strap inside the sheath when inserted or withdrawn by the user, and at least one former employee has commented that this sheath style resulted in complaints of lost knives due to the strap coming unsnapped. This may be the least common sheath, though by no means rare.
After the first few years the sheath was redesigned (sometime in the early to mid-eighties) with the keeper strap moved up to the handle. This pattern is most common and was used until the end of production in 2004. The strap was fed through two slots diecut into the belt hanger above the sheath throat, and riveted to it. Sheaths of this type may be seen with the top closure snap portion either left or right. Perhaps this is an unintentional artifact of the right or left-handedness of the sheath assembler. With the later sheaths, left-handedness became much more consistent, as was the case with most of the manufacturing details at Schrade with the use of more automation and compliance to QS and ISO standards. Sheath finish color varied over the years from light tan, light russet, dark russet, to true brown. Occasionally an undyed replacement sheath shows up on the market. A few special and private issue sheaths are dyed black, usually with white stitching, and a few have appeared with exotic finish textures. All sheaths had a formed front panel stitched with brown or black thread to a flat back panel, with two small rivets finishing the stitching at the throat. The back panel extended upward above the front piece and folded backward to form the integral belt hanger loop. Because of the small size of the 152OT sheath, none were made with the stone pocket found on other Schrade fixed blade patterns. There were stamped “tooled” border lines on the integral belt hanger and around the sheath border outside the stitching on the earlier sheath design. Some of the later ones deleted this simple decorative detail.
I should mention that a third design, a pouch style sheath with no keeper strap was used briefly beginning in 1983 on production and some limited edition knives and was also available as a separate accessory sheath, the SAS17.
As with many other Old Timers, there are some small, relatively minor engineering changes on the 152OT over the years, but most are negligible, and not evident without using accurate measuring devices. One notable change was in the grind which went from plain (flat) grind to hollow grind when the blade steel was changed from the traditional 1095 carbon steel to stainless late in production.
No distinctly different tang stamps have been noted so far on standard production knives, other than those a byproduct of worn stamping dies, or in the case of limited editions, special private issues, and the relics appearing from the Schrade sample room.
Earliest production was marked with the right-hand tang stamp "SCHRADE" over "U.S.A. 152" perpendicular to the blade and read from the handle. This tang stamp remained unchanged throughout the years of production. While the larger 15OT and many other Old Timer patterns utilized the "OT" suffix on their tang stamps, the 152OT followed the precedent of the 165OT and left the "OT" identifier off the tang stamp. The earlier Walden 15OT's and 165OT's were serialialized on the left tang perpendicular to the blade, but I have never seen a production Sharpfinger serialized, excepting a few limited editions. The only difference I have found in the tang stamps is in minor lettering style changes of the digits. The first knives had full serifs in the “1”, then no serifs ( top and bottom), then half serifs ( top only). Evidence via dated SFOs suggests that the first style tang stamps were used at least through 1988.
The success of the 152OT inspired Schrade to issue a stainless Uncle Henry Signature version of the knife in 1982, the 152UH "Wolverine", sporting a Staglon handle (Delrin molded and accent colored to imitate stag antler) with the Uncle Henry signature “bomb” shield as found on the Signature Series pocketknives, and two flat rivets, all in nickle silver. This was a handle design first used on the 165UH during the short two year first production run in 1969-'70 and repeated on a second later production in 1994-'97. The 152UH was supplied with the standard sheath. It's tang stamp is "SCHRADE+" over "U.S.A. 152UH" on the 440A stainless blade as one might expect.
One of the very earliest special limited edition Sharpfingers was the “Granddad’s Sharp Finger” of 1975. The base knife was dressed up with black sawcut Delrin handles, brass rivets, a coined brass empire shield and special blade etch, was serialized and came with a dark brown sheath in a flocked lined hinge top leatherette gift box. MSRP was $25.00 with records indicating 9,216 pieces sold.
A second early limited edition use of the pattern was the first Scrimshaw fixed blade, the 152SC (tang mark was simply “152”) in 1975-76 depicting a broaching whale and whalers with a harpoon on the “simulated whale’s tooth” ivory Delrin handle, a whaling ship on the reverse. It came in a special slip top box with an embossed faux “elephant hide” textured black leather sheath. This first issue was followed by subsequent issues sold both singly and sets with new artwork most years (not all) until 1999. After 1999, most of the Scrimshaw knives depicting wildlife repeated earlier used artwork designs, thus it is nearly impossible to determine the year of production unless accompanied by the original packaging and paperwork. Even then, one must be familiar with copyright dates and trademark changes.
These knives were the brainchild of Schrade artist Frank Giorgianni who presented the idea to Henry Baer. It proved to be a very successful series for many years. Most of his designs will bear his tiny, almost hidden initials "FG" and the year of the artwork, often the year preceeding the release date. When Mr. Giorgianni retired, subsequent pieces were designed by his sucessor and will sometimes bear his initials or signature.
The Scrimshaw art for the 1977 Sharpfinger pattern (155SC) was an eagle with a banner proclaiming “LIBERTY” and “JUSTICE” on the mark side and a drawing of the ship “MAYFLOWER” on the reverse..
The Scrimshaw art for the 1978 Sharpfinger pattern (155SC) was a brown bear walking left to right. The artwork on the reverse side was deleted and replaced by a small panel for the owner's initials.
There was no Scrimshaw art for the 1979 Sharpfinger pattern (502SC) as it was replaced temporarily with the SC501 drop point 145 pattern.
The scrimshaw art for the 1980 Sharpfinger pattern (502SC) was a bust of a pronghorn antelope.
The scrimshaw art for the 1981 Sharpfinger pattern (502SC) was a ram.
The scrimshaw art for the 1982 Sharpfinger pattern (502SC) was a cougar
The scrimshaw art for the 1983 Sharpfinger pattern (502SC) was a brown bear
The scrimshaw art for the 1984 Sharpfinger pattern (502SC) was an elk
The scrimshaw art for the 1985 Sharpfinger pattern (502SC) was a deer fawn
The scrimshaw art for the 1986 Sharpfinger pattern (502SC) was a raccoon
The scrimshaw art for the 1987 Sharpfinger pattern (502SC) was a polar bear
The scrimshaw art for the 1988 Sharpfinger pattern (502SC) was a pheasant
The scrimshaw art for the 1989 Sharpfinger pattern (502SC) was a coon hunt
The scrimshaw art for the 1990 Sharpfinger pattern (502SC) was a mare and foal
The scrimshaw art for the 1991 Sharpfinger pattern (502SC) was a hunter
The scrimshaw art for the 1992 Sharpfinger pattern (502SC) was a bighorn sheep
The scrimshaw art for the 1993 Sharpfinger pattern (502SC) was a deer
The scrimshaw art for the 1994 Sharpfinger pattern (502SC) was an elk
The scrimshaw art for the 1995 Sharpfinger pattern (502SC) was antelope
The scrimshaw art for the 1996 Sharpfinger pattern (502SC) was a moose
The scrimshaw art for the 1997 Sharpfinger pattern (502SC) was a deer
The scrimshaw art began to be recycled from earlier designs.
The Scrimshaw Sharpfingers were also made as SFOs for K-Mart and other retailers on occasion. Often, in order to make them unique for the customer, the artwork was “mirrored” and stamped on the left side of the handle and the pattern number was reversed (i.e. 502SC became 205SC).