The Old Vintage Leather Handled Knife

Leather Handled Knife
Leather Handled Knife

I recommend using a fine Diamond stone. With them you’ll be able to obtain an edge within minutes. I’ve had good luck with Smith’s Products.

USA -( As a kid, there weren’t that many knife manufacturers so it goes without saying that there wasn’t that much to choose from. Then on top of that, even if there had been more offerings, I didn’t have enough money to buy the cool knives I wanted.

The first real job I had was at the Bud Fox Texaco in the 10th grade and we worked 7:00-7:00, six days/wk. for 60 cents/hr. So, knocking off an hour at lunch, that meant I only made $39.60/wk. I don’t know if they had minimum wage laws back then or not but if so, I never heard of them.

Years later after getting married, one day my wife looks over and said Tom, you’re the eternal tightwad. (I’d prefer to refer to myself as thrifty but maybe I had carried it to an extreme level). We were in a store and I was looking at an old school leather handled knife and whining how I had wanted one ever since I was a kid. She said Tom, you’re not a kid anymore. You’ve got a real job. Buy the dang knife! So now I’ve got a few.

Nowadays, nothing epitomizes the old school leather handled knife era like Case XX knives does it? If I remember correctly back in the day a company named Western Knives made a lot of the leather handled knives but to my knowledge they went out of business and sold a few times ending up in the hands of an Asian company.

But have no fear, if you’d like to purchase a leather handled knife to remind you of old times, Case XX carries a line. Here’s a few of the ones that I like:

I have the 323-5 Part # 10342 SKU 221016. It’s a nice stout knife with a 5-inch upswept blade.

I also like the Part # 10344 SKU 221018

And, the 385 SKU 225255

Nothing would be cooler than gutting your deer with an old school leather knife is there? Might as well be wearing an old school red plaid wool shirt to further top off visuals for the picture. I noticed that knifecountryusa carries the above three knives as well as a few more.

One thing that I’ve noticed while hitting at the local gun shows is that most of the old leather handled knives are in rough shape. So, let’s talk about taking care of them for a moment. If you never properly dry out your boots or oil them what do you think they’d look like in 5 years? Much less 30, 40 or even 50 yrs.

Most people figure their boots have a 3-6 yr. life so we can deduct from that we’d better treat our leather handle knives different if we want them to last for a long time. We’ve got to get a different mindset for these knives. You following my drift?

If you’re a cowboy think of your saddle. For your saddle you’re going to get it cleaned and oiled up every year, aren’t you? If not, it’s going to crack and deteriorate over time. I used to rodeo a lot and the saddle I won back in 1973 gets oiled up periodically to help preserve it. It still looks nice and is functional.

So, I’m going to say do the same with your leather handle knives. Don’t put them away wet. Let them dry before you store them. Blood is rough on stuff so clean the blade and the handle. I assume if the handle is super blood-soaked you could clean it up with saddle soap.

Then I’d recommend wiping the handle down at least yearly with Neatsfoot Oil or Lexol. I think that should help preserve the handle in pristine shape. Like I said above, I see a lot of the really old leather handle knives in rough shape on eBay or at the local shows along with their cracked-up sheaths. This could have been prevented.

About Tom Claycomb

Tom Claycomb has been an avid hunter/fisherman throughout his life as well as an outdoors writer with outdoor columns in the magazine Hunt Alaska, Bass Pro Shops, and freelances for numerous magazines and newspapers. “To properly skin your animal you will need a sharp knife. I have an e-article on Amazon Kindle titled Knife Sharpening for $.99 if you’re having trouble”

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Bringing back the warm and fuzzy memories here…. I distinctly (more or less) remember the pride and excitement I felt when I passed my “knife and ax” class in a camp-out in the boy scouts. Then going down to Sears with my mom, where they had a small Scouting department and purchasing my first sheath knife. When I found out I was headed to Nam I ordered three knives from Randal. A fighting knife for myself, another for a buddy, and a camp knife. They didn’t get delivered until I got back from Nam, and luckily I never had call… Read more »

Jim Macklin

A wax based leather treatment that protects the surface but won’t soften the leather is a good idea after a once in a lifetime oiling. I worked in a sporting goods store 50 years ago for $37.50 a week take home. I wish I still had the knives I bought there. An original Gerber MK I Viet Nam era knife, a Marbles USAF Survival knife with a rough raw stacked leather handle, numerous CASE stag handle pocket knives, a Bianchi by Cooper that retailed for $28.50 [now $1,200]. There were also several German knives carried in stock. Nothing from Japan… Read more »


Great read here. I still have two old K bar knives I aquired in the 70s with leather handles. I also have three of the original Western knives made in America, one of these is leather. To be honest, I have not given the handles the treatment they deserve. But they are all still very usable good quality tools. I will try to do better in the future.

tom claycomb

Thanks for the compliment. That’s cool you have 3 original Western knives. This display of knives is Jim Combe’s, owner of Elite Rifle Works. He has a good selection.


I have a nice one I got from my wife’s grandfather who he passed away years ago. In great shape, stored in my gun safe but I have never cared for it properly. I will oil my handle tonight after work! I also have a few knives I treasure and have recently become interested in collecting more. Am a recent reader but this as well as your other articles are inspiring! Thanks!

tom claycomb

Thanks for the compliment! Cool that you inherited your wife’s granddad’s old knife. Treasure it.


Dear Tom, I wanted to thank you for your article about leather handled knives. I finally got my chance at ownership when I joined the Boy Scouts and my mother could no longer claim I didn’t know enough to handle one safely. I could barely walk around without keeping my hand clenched around the hilt and a grin on my face. Next on the list was having the butt of a .45 in the same place on my belt, but that was a few years coming. Nowadays, my wife knows me well enough to demand I hand over the wallet… Read more »

tom claycomb

Ha ha, great comment. Made me laugh. All of our wife’s must be in the same club enforcing the same regulations!!!