Fish Knife (Colonial): A Complete Guide

May 17, 2021

These days, in the middle of an era where technological developments are unstoppable, finding items from the colonial past can mostly be done by visiting museums. It is even more challenging to find vintage objects that can be used at home or in the kitchen like—knives. 

Nonetheless, avid collectors and fans are a great source of vintage items. You’ll be surprised to see that admirers of aged items have a fish knife, colonial stainless pocket knife, or vintage folding fish knife. Sitting on their collection shelves are colonial fish knives that are now rare and hard to source. Some owners who want to earn a buck make their discoveries available to the world by selling on different eCommerce platforms. With this, colonial knife hunters can skip the process of jumping from one antique store to another just to find old knives. They can visit online stores instead. 

Before you even go online shopping, please look at this article, where we’ll discuss colonial fish knives' history, variations, and other essential information. May this guide help you in picking the perfect colonial fish knife!

A Brief History of Colonial Fish Knife 

There is no detailed history that tells the development of the fish knife. In the past, there was no exact answer to the question, “Where are colonial knives made?” 

However, in the history of colonialism in America, when colonists from Europe came, the leading food they had for sustenance was fish. Because of this, many different fishing tools were developed both by the colonizers and inhabitants of the US to catch codfish, trout, and other food from surrounding bodies of water. 

As time passed, the development of a fish knife (colonial) might have followed to answer specific needs of individuals having fish as their main source of food. Also, fishermen have particular cutting needs, which may have pushed them to develop a tool precisely for them. 

What Makes A Fish Knife Colonial

If a knife is estimated to have been created in 1492-1763 Colonial America, then the fish knife is colonial. There are still many collector’s item knives available in antique shops. However, most of them need cleaning for usability. 

Colonial Fish Knife Characteristics

  • Frame: Different types of frames are used for a colonial fish knife, but some of the most common structures are the toothpick, coke bottle, and folding hunter frames. Note that the frame should not be your basis for checking whether the tool is a fish knife. Always check the scaler and the blade. 
  • Scaling Blade: The scaler is the crooked side of the blade used to remove fish scales. Knife enthusiasts say that a tool will not be a fish knife unless there is this part. This part is beneficial for fishermen who always prepare fish. 

The smooth and sharp side, on the other hand, is used for the slicing or fish fillet preparation. Often, a toothpick knife is mistaken as a fish knife, but the scaler sets the latter apart. This slight difference matters a lot for collectors of a colonial fish knife, colonial pocket knife, or vintage folding fish knife. 

  • Hook Remover - Another special characteristic is the hook remover placed in the opposite end of the knife, at the end of the handle. Other knife types do not have hook removers. 
  • Bottle Opener: In some fish knives, there will be a hook-shaped bend in the knife's middle section, just above the handle. This part is a bottle opener, making the knife an all-in-one tool for fishermen who need food and drink in their angling expeditions. 
  • Clip Blade: A clip blade is typical of colonial fish knives. The clip blade is not exclusively for fish and can be used for cutting needs.

Fish Knife (Colonial) Utility

With the different parts included in a tightly packed colonial stainless pocket knife or vintage folding fish knife, there are a lot of things you can do like the following:

  1. Home display: This may not be an active way to use a colonial pocket knife, but with something so rare and valuable, it’s understandable to show the knife off for everyone to see. Good vintage finds look nice and cozy displayed in a unique cabinet alongside your other collections.
  2. Fish preparation: If you wish to put your vintage folding fish knife to good use, use it according to its purpose. After catching your favorite fish, start scaling and filleting it. Most fish knives are shorter, but you can also prepare bigger fish if they are sharp. The most valuable part of a folding fish knife is the scaler. Just a tip, it is better to scale with your knife folded, so the handle and the blade won’t be wobbly and loose in the long run. 
  3. Dressing your game: Are you also into hunting? Do you often catch fowls or rabbits? A colonial fish knife can also help you dress and slice what you’ve hunted.

Colonial fish knives are handy, so you can comfortably take them anywhere. Also, you can utilize a colonial fish knife in any everyday cutting need. 


In a nutshell, you will know if a fish knife is colonial if its creation ages back to the American colonial era. Not any knife can be considered a fish knife, as collectors and experts suggest. The scaler is the main characteristic that sets a colonial stainless pocket knife or vintage folding fish knife apart. This part aids fishermen in their fish preparation. Despite being created for fish preparation and fishermen’s use, you can also use a fish knife in everyday cutting needs.

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