By the time I came into the picture, my grandfather had long since passed and I was left to wander about in his old workshop trying to decipher a man that I never knew. Along with being a great father, husband, and hard worker, he was a WWII veteran, farmer, and a high-level tinkerer; making widgets and gizmo’s that suited his needs. Through osmosis I grew to become quite the tinkerer (and eventually husband and father) myself, and those days spent in his workshop allowed me to get to know the man through some of his trinkets and treasures. Out of those findings the most exciting were a couple of his old knives, one of which was this old staghorn Barlow-style folding knife that had been worked harder than the soil on the family farm.
A Barlow style knife is part of a collection of knives that feature styles with names like Trapper, Canoe, and Sowbelly. They are generally associated with the 1950’s, the Old West revival, and boy scouts due to their classic style, affordability, and design. In reality, these knife styles first went into production in the 1800’s and over time, their defining characteristics have faded away too the point that they are all all lumped into categories like “Case” or “Old Timer” style knives nowadays. No matter how you refer to them though, these vintage style knives have become commercialized over the years and conventional wisdom has long held that they generally lack premium quality. Though I can’t speak for all brands, I can tell you that there’s one company out there – Great Eastern Cutlery – that is handmaking Barlow styles of knives here in the United States and they could very well be the next big thing. Well, actually – that’s not true. They already were the “next big thing” back in the 1800’s. Read on.
From the 1890’s to the 1930’s, Tidioute Cutlery, out of Tidioute, Pennsylvania was one of the few companies producing these, now vintage, style knives. Back then, you could find these designs nearly everywhere, but since the brand was dissolved, they have become more and more rare and sought after because of their classic style, excellent craftsmanship, and immortality. In 2006, Great Eastern Cutlery (GEC), located in Titusville, Pennsylvania, re-launched the brand utilizing the classic Tidioute styles and are not only committed to producing these knives to the same standards, but are also holding up Tidioute’s lifetime warranty – which extends all the way back to the originals that were made over 100 years ago.
Since the re-launch, the Tidioute knives have been growing in popularity, initially with collectors, but in the past couple of years they’ve caught on like wildfire with other knife enthusiasts as well. I can’t help but think this newfound popularity has something to do with beer. Why? Well the company’s #15 Beer Scout Knife is the ONLY draft beer knife that I know about on the planet, and it is designed to be a real bud when it’s time to open some suds.
Coming in at 3.5” closed the Beer Scout features a 2.75” slip joint, sheepsfoot, 1095 Tool Steel and a “crown lifter” which resembles an elongated flat head screw driver (which it can be used for) , along with a bottle opener. The extra length of the crown lifter was designed to add leverage so you can easily pop the top off any pressed-cap glass bottle. What’s more – and what adds a layer of mystery to this already awesome knife – is that with the purchase of every Great Eastern Cutlery Tidioute Cutlery #15 Beer Scout Draft Beer Knife you are enrolled in the Beer Scout Knife Club. After considerable Googling and sleuthing, I still don’t know what that means – but does it matter? I’m hooked.
I picked this one style of Tidioute knife for obvious reasons (because craft beer is en fuego!), but Great Eastern Cutlery makes a whole line of the classic Tidioute styles and they’re all worth a look. Most are slip joint knives, but they do make the Cody Scout knife, for example, which features a lock back locking mechanism.
Overall, you’re going to pay about 2x-3x more for one of these classic tools, but if you’re into a quality blade that you plan on using for a lifetime, and passing down to future generations, look no further. But, do look around – because there are a lot of folks selling these on collector sites, major knife sites, and even eBay, at a fair price for a handmade American blade.