Medieval Utility and By-Knives

One of the characteristics that surprises modern people about medieval knives is how small they can be. The larger knives and daggers used for protection and heavy work we have looked at before. These Medieval Knives and Daggers worn on your belt as weapons are what most people think of today when they think of medieval knives. 

In this post we will start a deeper look at the smaller everyday utility and by-knives, the most common tool, of the middle ages. These small knives could have a sheath or could be hung on a string from the neck or at your work bench. They are common finds along the Thames shore by mudlarkers attesting to their wide ranging use by people of the period. In our post about knife and dagger resources for further study there are some great books with examples. But today we will start by looking at a few pieces from The Oakeshott Collection. These knives are excellent examples of several of the types of these small blades.

Medieval utility knife by Arms & Armor Inc. forged blade with pinned scale grip.

These knives range from sturdy little tools to quite delicate pieces that must have been impressive as accoutrements at the table or when the need for a blade arose. We looked at a couple of these pieces in our discussion of knife and pricker eating sets. There are many pieces that would fit both these categories. Today when a knife is found it maybe quite difficult to tell if it was a by-knife on a sword scabbard or used at a table in its original intended use but that does not detract from our appreciation for these small knives.

Arms & Armor INc. Medieval Knife

We do make one knife in our regular stock items that would fall in this group of knives  it is our A&A Medieval Knife. We have also made several custom knives for different projects over the years. Below are several knives made for a movie several years ago.

 Knives made for props on The Season of the Witch

By knives made for The Season of the Witch

 So check out the video where we start to explore these cool little knives.

divider swords

Nathan Clough, Ph.D. is Vice President of Arms and Armor and a member of the governing board of The Oakeshott Institute. He is a historical martial artist and a former university professor of cultural geography.  He has given presentations on historical arms at events including Longpoint and Combatcon, and presented scholarly papers at, among others, The International Congress on Medieval Studies.

Craig Johnson is the Production Manager of Arms and Armor and Secretary of The Oakeshott Institute. He has taught and published on the history of arms, armor and western martial arts for over 30 years. He has lectured at several schools and Universities, WMAW, HEMAC, 4W, and ICMS at Kalamazoo. His experiences include iron smelting, jousting, theatrical combat instruction and choreography, historical research, European martial arts and crafting weapons and armor since 1985.

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