Knife patents: A ‘front flipper’ from 1900

Knife patents: A ‘front flipper’ from 1900
 

According to a 2018 article in Knife News*, the invention of the front flipper is generally attributed to South African knife maker Fanie Le Grange, who developed this opening system around 2005. As with many innovations, however, there were earlier attempts, like Robert Papendell’s invention from 1900.
 
We do not know who Robert Papendell was, except for the fact that he came from Germany and lived in Brooklyn, New York, around 1900. That is what he states in U.S. patent No. 689.513, for which he applied on September 28, 1900 and which was granted on December 24, 1901. Robert Papendell must have had a merry Christmas that year.
The patent covers what Papendell describes as follows:
“My invention relates to knives, and has for its special object to produce a pocket-knife of the pivoted-blade type whose blade can be readily opened by means of a pivoted finger-piece at the end of the knife handle”.
The description and the drawings show that this blade-opening finger-piece was a separate part, attached to the pivot-pin of the blade. The rear of the finger-piece had an extension, which rested against a pin which projected laterally from the knife blade. When the finger-piece was pressed downward, the extension opened the blade sufficient for the spring to come into action. Or, as Papendell describes it in his patent:
“By locating the abutment on the side of the heel of the blade I am enabled to throw the blade up by the finger-piece alone sufficiently far to bring it past the dead-point and bring the blade-spring into action”.
Papendell’s invention is not a front flipper in the modern sense. The finger-piece is not an integral part of the blade. But it is interesting to see how the basic idea already existed 120 year ago.
 
 


The drawings from Robert Papendell’s United States Patent No. 689.513, granted on
December 24, 1901. Papendell was a German living in Brooklyn.