A copperhead knife is a type of pocket knife that features a unique copper-infused carbon steel blade. Copperhead knives stand out for their distinctive reddish-brown blade color and excellent edge retention. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what makes these knives unique, their history, common uses, and some top models on the market.
The Origins and History of Copperhead Knives
Copperhead knives were first developed in the 1970s by knife maker Leslie Buck. Buck pioneered the use of a copper-alloyed 420HC steel for knife blades. The addition of 2-3% copper to the steel was found to significantly increase the blade’s corrosion resistance and edge retention compared to standard 420HC steel.
The copper in the blade forms hard copper carbides that help strengthen and reinforce the steel’s crystalline matrix. This enables the blade to hold its edge remarkably well, even with repeated sharpening over time. The copper also gives the blade an attractive warm reddish-brown patina.
Buck named his new copper-infused blade alloy “Copperhead” after the venomous pit viper snake known for its distinctive coppery-colored head. The name was a natural fit for these corrosion-resistant brownish-red blades.
During the 1980s and 90s, Copperhead knives grew in popularity among knife enthusiasts and collectors. The blend of performance, beauty, and made-in-the-USA craftsmanship appealed to many buyers. Today, Copperhead knives are produced by a number of leading American knife companies like Buck, Case, and WR Case & Sons Cutlery.
Common Uses of Copperhead Knives
Here are some of the most popular uses of copperhead pocket knives:
- Everyday carry – Their compact size makes copperheads ideal lightweight general utility knives for daily tasks.
- Hunting and fishing – The rust-resistant blade is perfect for use in the field and around water.
- Camping/hiking – Excellent mid-sized outdoor knife for campers and hikers.
- Workshop tasks – Good all-purpose knife for the workshop, garage, farm, etc.
- Collecting – Copperheads are prized by knife collectors for their unique blades.
The copper-alloyed blades offer strength, durability, and reliable edge retention for any cutting task. Their handsome looks are an added bonus!
Key Features and Benefits
Here are some of the standout features and advantages of copperhead pocket knives:
- Copper-Infused Steel – The key benefit. Adds hardness, corrosion resistance, strength, and edge retention.
- Distinctive Color – Warm natural reddish-brown patina. Looks great over years of use.
- Pocket-Friendly – Compact clip point blade profile ideal for EDC in pocket.
- Locking Mechanisms – Many feature secure locks like lockbacks and LinerLocks.
- Easy to Sharpen – Holds an edge very well but still easy to sharpen when needed.
- US-Made – Quality American craftsmanship and materials.
For buyers looking for a rugged, corrosion-resistant pocket knife built for daily carry, a copperhead knife ticks all the right boxes.
Top Copperhead Knife Models
Here is a look at 5 of the most popular copperhead knives on the market today:
|Knife||Blade Length||Overall Length||Key Features|
|Buck Copperhead||3.125″||7.375″||420HC copper alloy steel, lockback mechanism, clip point blade, Made in USA|
|Case Copperhead||3.13″||7.38″||Tru-Sharp surgical steel, copperhead handle, slipjoint mechanism|
|WR Case Copperhead||3.13″||7.38″||Chrome vanadium steel, copper bolsters, jigged bone handle|
|Boker Copperhead||3.1″||6.9″||440C stainless steel, anodized aluminum handle, linerlock|
|Schrade Copperhead||3.1″||7.4″||8Cr13MoV stainless steel, thermoplastic handle, linerlock|
These are just a small sample of the many excellent copperhead knife options out there. Major manufacturers like Buck, Case, Boker, Schrade, and WR Case all offer high-performing copperhead pocket knives made with American craftsmanship.
How to Care for a Copperhead Knife
Caring for your copperhead knife properly helps keep it performing at its best for years. Here are some tips:
- Avoid submerging or soaking the knife for extended periods to prevent damage to the wood or plastic handle components.
- Use a silicone cloth to wipe down the blade after use, especially if cutting acidic foods.
- Apply a thin layer of food-safe mineral oil on the wood handle occasionally to condition it.
- Clean handle and blade with mild soap and water as needed.
- Store the knife somewhere cool and dry when not in use.
- Sharpen carefully on water stones or a sharpening system when edge dulls.
The copper in the blade will still gradually patina over extended use. This natural aging is part of the appeal for many users. But following these tips will keep your copperhead performing smoothly for many years.
How Copperhead Knives Are Made
Copperhead knives are crafted using classic knife-making techniques paired with modern technology and processes. Here is a general overview of how they are manufactured:
- The 420HC steel is mixed with 2-3% copper using precision methods to ensure uniformity.
- Blade blanks are cut using CNC machining for consistency.
- Blades are ground to shape then heat treated to optimize the steel’s hardness and toughness.
- The handles are cut and shaped from various natural or synthetic materials.
- Additional components like bolsters, liners and pins are fabricated.
- The blades, handles, and other components are assembled by hand and secured precisely.
- Final finishing steps are completed like polishing, etching, etc.
- Quality control checks are performed to ensure top craftsmanship.
- The finished knives are packaged for shipping.
Automated processes like precision CNC machining are combined with skilled hand assembly and finishing work. This allows large-scale production while maintaining the level of quality that knife enthusiasts expect.
With their copper-infused steel blades that take a great edge, hold it well, and resist corrosion, it’s easy to see why copperhead knives have become so popular. Their warm, reddish-brown patina gives them a natural, handsome look that just gets better with age. While collectible, these are knives meant to be used and enjoyed. With proper care, a good copperhead knife should provide a lifetime of reliable performance.