Mercator K55K and the history of lockback knives?

Discussion in 'General Knife Discussion' started by KHarper, Apr 21, 2019.

  1. KHarper


    Jan 4, 2019
    I'm curious when lockback knives as we know them today were actually invented. I kind of got the idea from wikipedia that Buck Knives invented the modern lockback with the 110 Hunter, but in retrospect that might be total horse manure. The Mercator K55K has supposedly been in production since 1867, and it uses a modern style lockback system. So, has the K55K been changed since 1867, or were lockback knives around well before the 110 ever existed?
    And by "lockbacks" I mean the type as used on the Buck 110 and other modern knives, not rachet locks or picklocks, or other types like they used on najavas, etc.
  2. Old Biker

    Old Biker

    Sep 25, 2016
    I know nothing about the Mercator K55K knife. But I have two books on Remington knives. Both books show a copy of a 1930 Remington knives price sheet, which includes pictures of the R1306 and R1630, both of which are lock back style knives. So it would seem that style lock was being used at least by 1930 and probably before.

    GIRLYmann likes this.
  3. Dr Heelhook

    Dr Heelhook

    Jul 24, 2007
    If the Mercator has looked the same ever since the 1860’s, that is a really early example of a modern style lockback. The lock design is a bit different from most other lockbacks of today though.

    Look it up, it’s a pretty neat knife.
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2019
  4. Reitwagen


    Mar 2, 2009
    Buck didn't make the first lock back knife, they improved the product and developed the market, much as Henry Ford did with the automobile. As far as I know, the Mercator knives of today are virtually unchanged from 150 years ago. Stephan Schmalhaus has a very informative video on the Mercator, but don't watch too many of his reviews, he will make you want to buy knives that you never gave a thought to before.
    CableGirl, pinnah and colin.p like this.
  5. eveled

    eveled Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 11, 2016
    The “pocketknife” page on Wikipedia says there were lockback knives in 15th century Spain.
  6. Dr Heelhook

    Dr Heelhook

    Jul 24, 2007
    Those were more like ratchet locks, not modern lockbacks.
  7. Sidehill Gouger

    Sidehill Gouger

    Dec 29, 2007
    There were rockerbar locks (same as Buck, Al Mar, etc) on Sheffield knives in the 1830-40's.
  8. BenchCo Spydermade

    BenchCo Spydermade

    Feb 10, 2014
    If youre talkin bout the mercator black cats, thats the real original gangster knife from the days. Not worth much, but a great piece for the truly knowledgable collector for its significance in knife culture.
    Reitwagen likes this.
  9. cbrstar

    cbrstar Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 7, 2015
    I always thought it wasn't inventing the lockback but more so inventing the "Hunting Folding Knife" what buck was famous for. I can't help though the myth of inventing the first lockback is due to how popular they were and being many peoples first locking knife in the 60's.
    BenchCo Spydermade likes this.
  10. tltt


    May 1, 2008
    Offhand, I think Sidehill is right with Sheffield being the first rocking bar knives -

    Smith's Key trade directory 1816 posted by Jack Black -

    [​IMG] .

    [​IMG] .

    Circa 1830's - 1850's -




    Waynorth posted this pic years ago of a good assortment of 1800's - early 1900's rocker bars -

    [​IMG] .
    vba, dirc and afishhunter like this.
  11. Sosa


    Feb 6, 2014
    Get a douk douk and pound the bolsters locking it open, OG French shank before people knew how to buy a dollar store steak knife
  12. GIRLYmann


    Nov 7, 2005
    FYI... Historical bbackground

    Production Video
    colin.p likes this.
  13. KHarper


    Jan 4, 2019
    That's why I got one. Not that I consider myself a "knowledgeable collector", but it seemed like a significant and interesting knife. And not just because it was popular with gangs and hoods, but because of the historical interest, and the fact that German soldiers in both wars carried them (probably even in the Franco-Prussian war, come to think of it). And they fit with the "cheap knives widely used" category I've been interested in lately. And they are really good looking, both in shape and because of that black handle with the black cat design on it - which I'm sure has a great deal to do with their popularity among teenage toughs. They look exactly like the kind of knife that some 17 year old in a leather jacket would find a great fashion accessory, as well as functional (you can actually stab someone with the locking blade), and cheap enough for anyone to buy. Not only that, but they are Solingen steel, so they ought to be quite good. I haven't tested mine to see yet, but it comes pretty sharp and gets even sharper. And you can get stainless ones now, as well.
  14. KHarper


    Jan 4, 2019
    I've heard of that, and I don't really understand why a person wouldn't just buy a decent fixed blade knife it that's what they want. A douk-douk is popular because it's cheap, decent, AND a folding knife. I suppose if you already have one, and want to put it to use...
    Although I have a douk-douk (an El Baraka, actually), and it seems to me that with the strength of the backpring, one could just about stab a person without bothering with hammering the bolsers shut! Maybe that's an exaggeration, but the blade is very stiff. And if it did try to close on you, there is a middle position which is just as stiff as the open or closed position, so the blade won't snap closed on you (which is a comfort, since it would just about remove your fingers!). I'm glad it has that middle position, because you really have to grasp the handle firmly to close the blade, let it snap to the middle position, shift your fingers out of the way, and then push it closed. It's hard grasp the handle firmly enough without your fingers right in the way of the blade, and without that middle position, I'd really worry about it snapping shut on my fingers. With it, I don't worry.
    But I like the douk-douk. I got one just for the heck of it, because it looked interesting, but it really grew on me quickly. It fits well in the pocket, and the blade is a useful shape for utility work (although really, really ugly!). It's made from good, although very soft, carbon steel which takes a very sharp edge. You have to touch the edge up frequently, but it's so easy that I don't mind at all. The handle is not at all ergonamic, but it works. I'm sure something else will come along and replace it soon, or I'll go back to my Opinel, but for now I'm EDC-ing a douk-douk, and it works fine as a pocket knife. Carries really easy and thin, in pocket or hung from a clip. Very durable finish, so I don't worry about banging it up. Cheap, ditto. The El Baraka version doesn't have that ugly "douk-douk" decoration all over the blade, just a tasteful design on the handle (although I wish I would find one with a plain blade and a plain blued handle; the chromium-handle on the El Baraka is tough, but I'm not crazy about the looks). And how many other places, besides an authentic higonokami, can you get a decent blade steeped in history and interest, forged and manufactured by hand in a small shop, the same shop the knife has always been made in, by a crew of ten workers, under the grandson of the man who invented the knife? It isn't like other modern repro knifes that have the same DESIGN as an historical knife, it IS the same knife, just it was made a few years ago, not 100 years ago. And as much as I like a higonokami, the blade geometry doesn't appeal to me as much. It's cross-section is like a splitting wedge.
    vba likes this.
  15. dirc


    Jan 31, 2018
  16. Pilsner

    Pilsner Platinum Member Platinum Member

    Oct 28, 2017
    I always get lured by threads about this classic knife. ;)

    In the sorts of Victorian and Edwardian literature that involve heroic, square jawed, Empire builders - ahem - you occasionally find references to a locking clasp knife “of the German type”. This, I think, was intended to convey that it was therefore a quality item, at a time when Sheffield knife production wasn’t the joke it is today.

    Of course, in those novels of derring-do, the knife will be purchased early on, only to reappear, in true Chekhovian fashion, in the final Act. When the manly English hero is captured by the cowardly baddies, always foreign, usually swarthy, it is the knife that often saves the day. This will either take the form of cutting through the hero’s bonds or prying open a lock or floorboard, but never for stabbing - as a knife is a “coward’s weapon”, only suitable for [swarthy] foreigners. ;)

    Interesting to note that these dashing characters are forever prying things open with folding knives. If only Bladeforums had been around, all that nonsense would never have been written... :D
  17. bobobama


    Jan 15, 2017
    Lol, you got that right! His videos are very informative and well put together and he has such a smooth, easy-going style. Great exposure to knife brands from across the ocean that we don't hear much about.
  18. KHarper


    Jan 4, 2019
    Which book(s) exactly are you referring too? Or is this just something you imagine might be found in these books?
  19. Rykjeklut

    Rykjeklut Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    May 23, 2018

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