U of S | Mailing List Archive | alt-photo-process-l | Re: pen knife

Re: pen knife

I've always thought of a pen knife as smaller than a man's pocket knife, more the size of a lady's or child's pocket knife, meant for small cutting jobs like sharpening pencils (or pen nibs, hence the name) or whittling a whistle from a willow branch. When I was a kid, I had one with a mother-of-pearl handle that I thought was pretty neat.

On Jan 7, 2008, at 7:56 PM, Richard Knoppow wrote:

----- Original Message ----- From: "Judy Seigel" <jseigel@panix.com>
To: <alt-photo-process-l@usask.ca>
Sent: Monday, January 07, 2008 7:41 PM
Subject: pen knife

Contrary to the actual words, a pen knife is like a Swiss Army Knife but with only 2 blades -- a big one at one end and a little one at the other end, that fold into the handle. ...Boys & men would carry them in their pockets in case they had to sharpen a pencil or play a quick game of mumblety peg, scrape some chalk off a pastel stick, or other chore around the house. In other words, a "pocket knife" (Is that term still in use? I feel like Methuselah !)


On Mon, 7 Jan 2008, Dave S wrote:

It is sort of fun to read old articles. For example, to make the powder for
the process, the articles say you can scrap pastel with "pen kr ife." I
checked the article. It looks like it does say that, but I think it probably
means "pen knife." The author probably wrote the article by hand, and
perhaps the typsettor didn't understand the writing. But what is a "pen
knife?" I am guessing it must be something like what we call X- Acto knife
today if it is used for scrapping pastel to make powder. But that is just my
interpretation. Reading old articles (or any article) always involves some

I rather think the origin of the term comes from a small knife used for sharpening pen nibs rather than to any resemblance to a pen. I always associated the term with the sort of knife Judy describes, i.e., a small folding knife.

Richard Knoppow
Los Angeles, CA, USA