Huh? What? French Balisongs?

May 2, 1999
I was flipping through Levine's Guide to Knives, looking for something on my favorite fighting folder, the navaja, and ran across some pictures of balisongs. The author jabbered a little bit about this and that, and then said that the balisong seems to have originated in 19th century France.

While this stirkes me as kind of weird, there was a strong Western presence in the Filipines for 4 centuries, and come to think of it, I've never seen/heard of a balisong dating earlier than the 19th century.

This Levine guy is said to know his stuff, but does anybody have any documentable fact either supporting or opposing this position?
Do you have a reliable date for a 19th century balisong? I have seen it claimed that the balisong was invented in the 1940s in Norway and spread from there to the Philippines. I don't know anything but what I've read. A 19th century balisong would at least refute that story.

-Cougar Allen :{)
I'm just going by what I've seen in various knife collecting books. I've never seen a balisong from the 1800's, I've just seen this theory proposed. Actualy, I've never even seen a balisong that wasn't of relatively recent manufacture. That's why I'm asking if anybody has any actual documentable facts regarding this. I've heard some say the design is native to the Filipines, and indeed as old as time itself.

Norway? Are you being serious? What's the proposed mechanism of introduction? At least France is on the Iberian Peninsula, therefore I could see it being taken to the South Pacific colonies. But Norway? Well maybe so, you know, Chinese coins occasionaly have turned up in Viking hordes
... Seriously though, are there Norweigan balisongs?
Kind of -- there's one, with light plastic handles and a wire bail latch; it's not designed to flip open one-handed. The story is -- I'm not claiming this is true because I really know nothing about it except what I've read, in books and posted on the net -- but one story is that 1940s Norwegian balisong was the first and it spread from there to the Philippines and the story about balisongs having existed there for centuries is a myth. There's no problem of transmission -- remember this is the 1940s we're talking about; the global economy was well established by then.

I would love it if someone can post real evidence that balisongs were made in the Philippines previous to the 1940s. This has come up on rec.knives before and nobody has refuted it yet. Until I see some evidence of old balisongs I'm going to continue to be afraid the stories of the balisong being an ancient Philippine knife might be as false as the claims that samurai used American tantos to penetrate armor.....

-Cougar Allen :{)
Yeah, honestly I don't care if balisongs originated in Timbuktu. They're one of the ethnic knives that intrest me, and I just think it's weird that there's so little concensus as to where this thing is from or who came up with the idea. And, it seems, even less evidence.

I understand worldwide trade networks were established well before the 1940's. That's not really what I was getting at, more along the lines of what trade intrests did Norway have in the region? WWII?
I have no idea of where or when balisongs originated but considering the simplicity of the design and the fact that you have a strong locking folder with no springs or complicated locking mechanism I find it hard to believe that the design is not several hundred years old.


who dares, wins

The design of the balisong is believed to be simple. Jeff Imada in his books states the Philippines designed it in the 1800s yet acknowledges that the design itself was pretty worldwide, that someone would have come up with it one way or another.

Imada even provides an US sketch of the knife meant for a patent.