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 Interesting history of the Kudu or Okapi knife

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dannycanuck

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Interesting history of the Kudu or Okapi knife - Wednesday, February 02, 2011 3:49 PM ( #1 )
So I found out some interesting information today.

What I already knew was that the CS Kudu was based on the Okapi knife. These knifes are indeed, as suggested by CS, South African made. However, what I found out today is that, they are originally a German folding knife that was made in the early 1900's in Solingen which is well known by many people for its cuttlery and steel craft in general. The reason it is called the Okapi is because it was made for the German colonies such as Namibia.

What else is cool is that these things ranged in all sorts of sizes and shapes. Serrations were also something that was sometimes included. It seems that there is a defining look about them (the wood with silver metal decoration) and the bizzare locking mechanism. These are the defining qualities rather than a particular handle or blade shape. They stopped making these in Germany in 1988 and now they are being made by a South African company that purchased the trademark.
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Madnumforce

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Re:Interesting history of the Kudu or Okapi knife - Wednesday, February 02, 2011 4:42 PM ( #2 )
The same kind of cheap folders were also made in France, and was called the "Cra-cra", because of the sound the ratchet makes, and often engraved with so called "corsican" symbols. There was no precise manufacturer, it was a kind of folder design largely spread. I bet simillar ones were made in Sheffield, Albacete, Toledo, etc. During WW1, it was a pretty popular soldier knife.

This deisgn is a cheap, mass produced version of earlier and better made of what is called in french "couteau à palme", some dating from the 17th century. It also was a common features on the Navajas. The sligthly curved handle is a very old shape, attested in the earlier popular folders (at least in France, and it's old enough to have spread in Canada through french colonies and trading posts), and called "jambette", which later evolved in the Basque and Laguiole shapes. Virtually, the Okapi/Cracra/Kudu already had all it's constitutive elements deviced in the 18th century, but the new market of the colonies in Africa, Asia and South America really boosted the growing industry to produce cheap and efficient folders.
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dannycanuck

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Re:Interesting history of the Kudu or Okapi knife - Wednesday, February 02, 2011 9:15 PM ( #3 )
That is good to know. I always suspected that these other European designs had something to do with the Okapi, but I couldn't make the connection. Now that we know that these are really a German knife its easy to see that they likely took their inspiration from the French and/or Spanish. I believe that the name Okapi was used because it was seen as a mythical beast like the unicorn until it was discovered in 1901 and it became quite the media event (imagine what it would be like if somebody actually found a unicorn or a sasquatch) and so it would be a popular animal to name it after for a design that came out to market for German-Africans in 1902. This is such a cool knife and it is just so much cooler now that its history is more clearly revealed. Thanks! Its been my EDC for a while and now when people ask about it I can say more than "oh its some kind of South African styled knife". I guess that isn't even strictly true, since they just make them there now.
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sonoranscott

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Re:Interesting history of the Kudu or Okapi knife - Wednesday, February 02, 2011 11:22 PM ( #4 )
I didn't realize their were French versions of this style as well. Although, some French knifemakers still make absolutely beautiful (and definitely not cheap) ringlock folders.  J. Mongin comes immediately to mind.
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Madnumforce

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Re:Interesting history of the Kudu or Okapi knife - Thursday, February 03, 2011 2:19 AM ( #5 )
Yeah, Mongin is a good exemple. His folders could almost be called reproductions of much older knives, as it's a timeless classic. Right now, the french brand "Au Sabot" still makes some cheap Cra-cras, some with a one piece olivewood handle, and some with two pressed horn halves riveted to a steel spacer.

Mongin's:


Au Sabot:


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dannycanuck

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Re:Interesting history of the Kudu or Okapi knife - Thursday, February 03, 2011 9:23 AM ( #6 )
Yeah those are pretty similar less the decoration found on the German/South African knives. Very cool!
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Re:Interesting history of the Kudu or Okapi knife - Friday, February 04, 2011 4:22 AM ( #7 )
dannycanuck


So I found out some interesting information today.

What I already knew was that the CS Kudu was based on the Okapi knife. These knifes are indeed, as suggested by CS, South African made. However, what I found out today is that, they are originally a German folding knife that was made in the early 1900's in Solingen which is well known by many people for its cuttlery and steel craft in general. The reason it is called the Okapi is because it was made for the German colonies such as Namibia.

What else is cool is that these things ranged in all sorts of sizes and shapes. Serrations were also something that was sometimes included. It seems that there is a defining look about them (the wood with silver metal decoration) and the bizzare locking mechanism. These are the defining qualities rather than a particular handle or blade shape. They stopped making these in Germany in 1988 and now they are being made by a South African company that purchased the trademark.



Most of the criminals in SA use these Okapi knifes and a lot of them injure themselves because this knives don't lock when open.
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