Case Knives: 11 Things You Should Know

You might have come across case knives in a vintage shop and wondered what their actual use is. So, here’s all that you need to know about their origin, purpose, and maintenance.

1)  What are Case Knives?

Case Knives are pocketknives manufactured by Case. These are called case knives because they come in a case or cover.

Case Knives are mostly useful during hunting, to help in cutting wood, soft fruits, or even tender meat. These may be used to make kindling for a fire, to open bottle caps, to clean a fish, or to cut ropes. However, make sure not to use a case knife as a mechanical tool instead of hammers or screwdrivers.

2)    Why Are Case Knives So Expensive?

In order to carry out various functions, case knives usually have a range of blades, each made in a specific shape and design. The effort that goes into achieving this ideal design is great, adding on to the expenses required in testing and eliminating any flaws that the design may have.

Due to their small size, the precision in putting everything together requires a lot of manual labor even if the knives are manufactured on automated equipment. Moreover, case knives are produced only in limited quantities by Case- a well-reputed, prestige brand. All of this justifies the greater cost factor case knives have.  

3)    Are Case Knives Made in the USA?

Case Knives are made in the USA by the knifemaker company known as Case which has its manufacturing units in Bradford, PA. Case knife manufacturing started in 1889 when the ‘Case Brothers’ began selling handmade case knives from a small cart in New York. Case knife has remained a valuable item particularly on the trails, since then.

4)    What Are Case Knife Handles Made of?

Materials used for making case knife handles are diverse, ranging from traditional wood to synthetically prepared composites. Each case knife is marked with a four-digit code. The first digit of this code indicates the type of material used to make the handle. Common materials and the initial digit of code used to represent each material is listed below.

  • 1= Walnut: Walnut handles are relatively cheaper, quite robust, and durable. These are usually represented by the code 1199.
  • 2= Slick Black or Black Composition: These handles are tough with smooth texture and glossy appearance, making amazing work knives.
  • 3= Yellow Composition: These are bright yellow handles known for high durability and high visibility. You won’t have an issue finding your case knife back if you drop it on a trail. 
  • 4= White Composition: Made of the same material as yellow and black composition handles, these are just dyed white.
  • 5= Stag: These are made from different parts of a deer’s antlers: Genuine Stag-made from outer part of deer’s antler, Second Cut Stag– made after removing first layer from the antler and then jigged, Red Stag– made from red dyed antler stag, Midnight Stag– made from dark colored antlers, and Vintage Stag– made without fire treating the antlers.
  • 6= Jigged Bone and Laminated Wood: These include handles made of cow bones, wood and Delrin in various colors and jigged patterns- Smooth, Standard, Rogers, Corn Cob, Rogers Corn Cob, Peach Seed and many more.
  • 6.5= Genuine Bone Stag: It is made from the shin bone of cows and is jigged and treated with flame to achieve the look of real stag antler material.
  • 7= Woods: These include handles of Curly Maple, Rosewood, Oak and Pakkawood. Tortoise Shell Imitation is also made using different woods.
  • 8= Pearl, Abalone and Paua: All these materials are obtained from inner shells of oysters. Thin pieces are cut, and similarly colored layers are bonded together to make sheets for the handles. No artificial coloring is present in these.
  • 9= Imitation Pearl or Cracked Ice: Imitation Pearl looks as real as a Genuine Pearl. It is sometimes flaked which is then called Cracked Ice.
  • 10= Micarta: This is a durable and light weight paper or linen based laminate that is bonded together with epoxy resin. It is rarely used today.

These numbers may even be preceded by letters representing some other material types and appearances. For example:

  • A6= Appaloosa Smooth Bone
  • B= Imitation Onyx
  • CI= Cracked Ice
  • CT= Christmas Tree
  • EX= Exotic
  • G= Green Metal Flake, Red Metal Flake or, Pick Bone
  • G6= Smooth Green Bone
  • GS= Goldstone or Gold Metal Flake
  • H= Molten Brown or Cream Composite
  • HA= High Art
  • I= Imitation Ivory or Mammoth Ivory
  • M= Metal
  • P= Pakkawood
  • R= Candy Cane Stripe Celluloid
  • RM= Red Mottled
  • S= Silver
  • SG6= Smooth Green Bone
  • SR6= Smooth Green Bone
  • V5= Vintage Stag
  • V6= Vintage Bone

5)    Are Case Knives Made with Real Bone?

This might seem astounding but yes jigged bone handles and stag antler handles are made of real bones! Shinbones of cows are the most widely used bones for making knife handles. These can be dyed in a myriad of colors and can be jigged in many ways. Real Stag antlers- rather expensive bones- are also used in high quality, expensive case knives.

6)    What are Case Knife Blades Made of?

Material for Case Knife blades is very selectively chosen to obtain the ideal cut. It must be hard, corrosion resistant and capable of being shaped into intricate designs.  It is therefore made of stainless steels or chromium-vanadium steel alloys. Surgical steels, ATS34 and Damascus steels are also used.

These all are high carbon steels, making knives extremely hard. Surgical and stainless-steel blades are more resistant to rust than chromium-vanadium blades. Damascus steel is the most appealing knife making material. It has layers of different steel welded together to form intricate designs.

7)    Can You Engrave a Case Knife?

Yes of course! Case offers endless customization options to make your knife look exclusive. You can have your blade, handle, or even its accessories and packaging customized. Engraving is done through a graver, or a hardened steel tool called burin. Laser embellishing and color printing is also available.

8)    Can You Put a Clip on a Case Knife?

Modern day case knives come with all sorts of accessories to make their carriage trouble-free. So, it won’t be tough for you to find a clipped case knife. However, older knives did not come with clips.

 If you are an owner of an old case knife, wishing it had a clip, there’s nothing to worry about. Case knife slip cases with clips are easily available in the market!  These come in different sizes and you may select one according to the size of your knife.

9)    What Angle Should You Use to Sharpen a Case Knife?

If you own a case knife, you must know the how to keep it well maintained and sharp as well. Ideally, to sharpen the knife blade, hold it at an angle between 10° to 15° from the surface of the sharpening stone.

Case offers a wide array of sharpening stones and accessories. You may use a ceramic stone or metal stick to sharpen your knife, starting from coarser materials and moving on to finer ones to get the perfect finish.

10)          What is the Smallest Case Knife?

In this world where people are always in search of abundance and are often heard saying “the bigger the better”, case knife owners may be looking for something extremely miniature. An enthusiast of such vintage knives will definitely prefer a knife that is lightweight and will slip unnoticed in any pocket or attach easily to a keychain. So here we have collected some of the smallest case knives to pique your interest:

  • Case Genuine Stag Tiny Trapper knife: It has Tiny Trappers which are a small-size model of the Trapper blades, Clip blade and the Wharncliffe blade. Its closed length is 2.38 inches and blade Lengths are 1.85 inches and 1.85 inches each.
  • Case Genuine Stag Small Pen Knife: It has two blades, the clip blade, and the pen blade. Its closed length is 2.63 inches and blade lengths are 2.0 inches and 1.47 inches respectively.
  • Case Brown Synthetic Small Stockman Knife: It has three blades- the clip blade, sheepfoot blade and the pen blade. Its closed length is 2.63 inches and blade lengths are 2 inches, 1.5 inches, 1.49 inches respectively.

11)          Do these Knives Have a Lifetime Warranty?

Case guarantees every single Case knife it sells to be without any kind of faults, and they warrant it for the lifetime of the customer. It hence takes the responsibility to fix any defective product, or replace it with a brand new piece.

However, Case does not take responsibility for regular wear and tear or any damage that results from misuse. If the knife was damaged on the owner’s part, they might examine and repair it, but not free of cost. Moreover, Case knives are not supposed to be used for hammering, chiseling, or prying open difficult objects. Any damage caused by rugged usage cannot be claimed against warranty.

You may be an enthusiast of artefacts or a passionate hiker wishing to collect the best hiking gear – either way, case knives are bound to grab your attention. Though expensive, case knives prove to be a valuable addition to your equipment.


I’m Ahmed, the guy behind I’ve owned several types of knives and sharpeners over the last few years and have become obsessed with everything to do with knives. I’m always trying to improve my cleaning and sharpening process, and always on the hunt for the next best knife. But when I’m not spending time with my hobby, I’m here, writing about Knives and Sharpeners on KnifePulse to share with you what I learn along the way.

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