The History of the Knife: A Journey Through Time

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10 min read
classic folding knife

From the advent of the first sharpened stone to the stainless steel blades of modern times, the knife has been a constant companion of mankind. With a rich history spanning millions of years, the evolution of the knife reflects the progress of human civilisation.

Knife History: Stone Age Tools

The history of the knife began about 2.5 million years ago during the Stone Age. The first knife-like tools, known as Oldowan tools, were created by our ancestors by simply chipping stones to form a sharp edge. These rudimentary tools were typically fashioned from a single “core” stone, and were primarily used for hunting and basic survival.

The Dawn of Metallurgy: Copper and Bronze Knives

As humanity transitioned from the Stone Age into the Bronze Age, the materials used to make knives also changed. The discovery of metallurgy, the science of extracting metals from their ores, paved the way for the advent of copper and bronze knives.

Around 3500 BC, people in the Near East discovered the process of creating bronze by combining copper and tin. This marked a significant leap in knife-making technology as bronze was stronger and more durable than stone, making it an excellent material for crafting knives.

The Iron Age – A Revolution for Knives

The most monumental period in the evolution of the knife was the Iron Age, which began around 1200 BC. During this era, humans learned to mine and process iron, which proved to be a more superior material for knife-making than bronze or stone. Iron knives were not only sharper, but they also held their edge better, making them highly efficient tools.

The Middle Ages: Knives as Warfare Tools

During the Middle Ages, the knife evolved into a weapon of war. The blades became longer and eventually took the form of swords. These knives-turned-weapons served not only as tools for hunting and survival but also as symbols of power and status.

The Emergence of Dining Knives

In the 15th century, knives started to take on a new role in the culinary world. Wealthy individuals began to carry knives with them not just for protection, but also for dining. These knives often had a dual purpose: they could be used to cut meals and as a means of self-defense.

By the 17th century, the use of knives in meals had become widespread.

Stainless steel knife

The knife as we know it today was born in the 20th century with the discovery of stainless steel. This material revolutionized the knife-making industry as it is easy to manufacture and maintain. It also offers excellent corrosion resistance, making it the most widely used material for knife blades today.

The Craft of Knife-Making Today

In the present day, knife-making is considered an art form. Custom knife makers, like the Bernard family who have been crafting knives since the 90s, use a combination of traditional and modern techniques to create knives that are as beautiful as they are functional. They utilize quality steel to ensure durability, sharpness and edge retention, and they also incorporate style and personality into each piece.

The Knife: A Timeless Invention

The knife has certainly come a long way since its humble beginnings as a sharpened stone. Today, it is an indispensable tool in our daily lives, used for a multitude of tasks from preparing meals to performing surgical procedures. Indeed, the history of the knife is a testament to human ingenuity and our ability to adapt and innovate over time. And as technology continues to advance, it’s exciting to think about what the future holds for this simple yet essential tool.

So, whether you’re a culinary enthusiast, an outdoorsman or simply someone who appreciates the art of knife-making, the rich history of the knife is sure to fascinate and inspire. So, the next time you wield a knife, remember the centuries of evolution and innovation that have shaped it into the tool it is today.


The knife, undoubtedly, is one of mankind’s greatest inventions. Its evolution mirrors our own journey as a species – from our earliest days as hunter-gatherers to our current era of technological advancement.

The knife serves as a stark reminder of our past, a useful tool in our present, and a symbol of the endless possibilities for our future.