P1020198P1020264These two knives are used in animal husbandry, to clean and trim the hooves of sheep and goats of different types or breeds. They have stainless steel blades and both take a good edge. Of course they came from UK suppliers, but they are made for international markets and so are available in other countries too.

These three knives are knives I like having around. The top Lamb’s foot knife is the third one I have worked through over the decades, the middle one is the stainless steel foot rot knife and the third is a fruit paring knife by Victornox that is excellent for inlay work. P1020268Personally, I carry a lamb’s foot penknife (top) in my pocket all the time and even though it may well be illegal for some, I have kept one there for 57 years to date. I use it alongside my usual Stanley folding knife and in my view these are about the best general woodworking work knife I’ve ever owned even though they have a plastic handle sandwiching the inner workings. It does make excellent knifewalls and cuts open packages like no other. I keep the whole blade surgically sharp the whole time and never let that slip. I grew up in an era when no man went to work without a penknife with a substantial blade. Of course, much to the shame of culture, some people do carry knives for the wrong reasons and not many need one for actually working with today.

In the US the general term for the same tool is of course a pocket knife whereas in the UK a penknife is the same basic tool sliding in and out of the pocket throughout the day. The penknife title originated from its function in cutting swan and goose quills for creating writing quills as dip pens in handwriting.  The originals were simply fixed with no folding mechanism to house the blade for pocket storage. The slip joint, the term used for the folding mechanism on pen and pocket knives enabled the safe storage in the pocket and thereby the added convenience of carrying one with you anywhere. As I said, all men at one time had pocketed in their trouser pants a functional and sharp penknife.

P1020178The curved blade that came on the knife shown wasn’t quite curved enough and so I gouged out a hollow and then used my Thorex to deepen the curve a little more. P1020204Had I needed a tighter curve I would have used a torch to bend it more and then retempered it but this was the shape I wanted and three strokes worked. The knife does come with the two sharpened edges but I didn’t want a push and pull blade in one so I ground the unused edge a little so `i could thumb-push on it as needed. This safer with children too.P1020206

I snapped off the top of the curved tip to access the blade better for sharpening with a pair of pliers and then commenced sharpening.P1020186 P1020191If you have a diamond hone it will work well but in this case I wrapped an oval stick I shaped with various grits if abrasive wet and dry and then finally with a strop charged with buffing compound. P1020187The handle could be reshaped with a rasp but I actually found it comfortable.



  1. Gary Blair on 19 January 2015 at 9:32 am

    Paul, I never knew why they were called “penknives” until now! We live in a very different world now, I’m sad to say…. When I was a boy growing up in Texas, all the boys carried folding pocket knives (and yes, no one cared if we carried them to school….as long as they were left in your pocket during class). It was a matter of pride who had the sharpest knife. We even played “mumblety-peg” on the playground after lunch and during recess…. And there was never an incident…. Different times.

  2. Cliveous on 19 January 2015 at 2:24 pm

    Paul Is this hoof knife a straight handled one or left or right? I can imagine that each could have merit. It looks like you ground the edge that is held toward you while carving and that you carve in a direction away from you. These may be elementary questions but I am t that level.
    Thanks for all of your direction and encouragement.

  3. jmpurser on 19 January 2015 at 4:19 pm

    I still remember being required to hand over my pocket knife going into boot camp because the 2 3/4″ blade was 1/4″ over “the limit”. The fact that the people confiscating my “dangerous” knife were about to hand me an automatic rifle and a bayonet was my first experience with “The right way, the wrong way, and the Army way!”

  4. Charles on 20 January 2015 at 12:49 pm

    Growing up in the 40’s and 50’s, I can’t remember any boy who would have left the house in the morning without his pocket knife- we even carried them to school with us (gasp!). How else to make found objects into useful ones? I can remember playing mumbeldypeg with Don Snyder on the church lawn while waiting for the bus. Try that today.

  5. Rob on 25 January 2017 at 9:41 pm

    A little off the subject but here goes, the fruit knife or turning knife is a victorinox. They are the same people who make Swiss Army knives, they also make the best low budget kitchen knives I know of and if you are frustrated in the kitchen with pretty useless knives these are definitely the ones to got for. They are easy to sharpen and hold a good edge you will not regret buying a couple of these.

  6. Sinta Wiranata on 28 February 2019 at 9:27 am

    Interesting article. Cooking is an activity we always do while at home, whether it’s to cook food or just boil noodles. From simple to complex, it certainly requires at least 2 cooking utensils. Kitchen utensils that must be had when married are those that have the main function to help cook in general. I have a lot of kitchen utensils, I didn’t have time to linger in the kitchen but my mother was a reliable chef for me. meesterslijpers.nl

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