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Modern penknife

The penknife has a small, very sharp blade that is usually attached to a handle . The “small blade” in a multi-part folding knife is also often referred to as a penknife.

The cutting edge angle of the blade is between 13 ° and 19 °. In the past, it was used to prepare the quills of large bird feathers for writing and drawing. Currently such knives are of some users even for sharpening of pencils , colored pencils, crayons etc. are used. Such knives are also used, for example, for modeling and cutting a wide variety of materials, in the art of etching and in calligraphy for sharpening nibs .

A traditional penknife, which is still used in Japan today, is the Kiridashi - Kogatana , a stiff blade 15-20 mm wide that is bevelled on one or both sides at an angle to the longitudinal axis of the blade.

Penknives in the Stone Age

Stone Age penknives (top two rows)

At the end of the Upper Paleolithic , the penknife (also back knife , back point or azilia point ) was a common type of tool made from flint . It is the archaeological key form of the azilia or the penknife groups . The principle of the back knife - the blunt back for an adhesive bond - appears for the first time in Gravettien (regional Pavlovian ), where these are usually referred to as Gravette blades or, if the end is tapered, Gravette tips .

Penknives consist of a blade, one long side of which has been convexly curved and stabilized at the same time by retouching the edge . With the straight longitudinal edges, two penknives were glued into a wooden arrow shaft opposite one another. For this purpose, two notches were made in the arrow shaft and the penknives were glued in with birch pitch . Although no complete arrow from the Azilien has survived (but remains of the shaft pitch on the penknives), it can be assumed with a high degree of probability that these were used in pairs as arrowheads .


  • Pierre Honoré: The Book of the Paleolithic - The dispute over the ancestors. Econ-Verlag, Düsseldorf and Vienna 1967, p. 115.
  • Meyer's Encyclopedic Lexicon. Bibliographisches Institut, Mannheim / Vienna / Zurich 1973, Volume 8, p. 586.