Recently, a bit of an argument came up over on the balisong forum on over the origins of a certain balisong. I've thrown this page together to show the two balisongs mentioned in the thread and try to clear it up.

The images on this page are only available in the size show.


The knife in question is very similar to this one

It was made in Sweden by Knifabriken Gnosja Sweden in about 1945. The tang stamp on the blade clearly show this.

It's really a curious balisong and one that I'm delighted to have in my collection. Notice the sort of hook on the top horn in the picture above. That's actually a bottle opener.

The latch is quite different. It's rather intricate and spring-loaded. Unfortunately, when I see these knives, the latch is usually missing or broken. But, this one is in excellent condition.

This knife does not have the tang pin that stabilizes most balisongs when they're open, but it does have a pin on one of the two handles that mates to a hole on the other when the knife is open. This pin stabilizes and strengthens the knife when it's locked open.

One of the other posters suggested that the knife might be a Hackman camping knife. Maybe one like this:

The Hackman knives such as the one shown above were made in Finland. The one shown is called a "CIA Balisong" because legend has it that the CIA once issued these knives to field agents. I don't know if that's true or not.

That same poster also suggest that the design might have originally come from the Hemming Brothers Knife Company in Connecticut. The Hemming Woodsman, which was introduced in about 1910, is one of the first balisong made in the US. (Billings and Spencer proceeded Hemming Brothers by two years.) It's design also has some unique aspects, but it's quite different from the Knifabriken Gnosja knife.

This Hemming balisong also has an unusual latch.

In fact, none of the three knives shown on this page have a conventional "T" latch. Each of the balisongs shown on this page has some sort of unique latch design. So, I'm glad that I put this page together if for no other reason than to show you three different latch designs.

The handle inserts on the Knifabriken Gnosja are black Bakelite. The Hemming unfortunately has very dark red/brown Celluloid inserts. You can see that they've shrunk a little.

Here are the two balisongs together.

The other reason I'm glad to offer this display is that the two knives featured here are both very old and yet their design and construction is very sophisticated and very well developed. To have gone from a crude invention in the Philippines in 1905 (as some suggest) to the developed and stylized design of the American Hemming Woodsman in just five years seems very unlikely. While not as impossible, it also seems unlikely the knife would spread to Sweden and pick up a refined, spring-loaded latch by 1940 (keep in mind that things didn't move quite so fast before the advent of e-mail, fax machines, and jet airplanes). No, I suspect that the balisong design is older than 1905. These two fine examples only add more evidence to that assertion.