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After posting this story about the campaign-style fork and knife, I got an e-mail from woodworking researcher extraordinaire Jeff Burks. Burks, a trade carpenter, is a voracious collector of books, magazines and journals relating to woodworking. He also spends a lot of time researching patents related to tools and the trade.

Which brings us to this awesome link from Jeff to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

It’s a Roman folding multi-tool circa A.D. 300 with a fork, knife, spoon, pick and other stuff. It’s just the thing for the centurion on the move. This makes me think the Swiss should start calling its multi-tool a “Roman Army Knife.”

Also from the industrious Mr. Burks: This link to a patent granted in 1873 for a folding fork and knife that look almost exactly like the one shown in the book on campaign furniture. The patent claims the product would be useful for “travelers, excursion parties, soldiers and others requiring or desiring to carry eating implements with them.” Hey, that’s me!

Also in the same vein, a combination fork/spatula and a variant on the knife/fork tool with an elastic tongue.

Finally, I also got a nibble from a manufacturer who might be interested in making the metal parts and selling them as a kit. Stay tuned.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 9 comments
  • 1700woodsman

    Incidently, I inherited a very large amount of Cuban Mahogany, that was a very large conference table top. The table was made in the late 1880’s, but the mahogany is very sound. This wood is very reddish colored and is awesome when polished. I have five pieces 18″ wide, by six feet long, by about 1 1/2″ thick. each piece is comprised of three or four glued planks. I did have six that size, but am using the sixth one for projects.

  • 1700woodsman

    This project is not only a good one, but as a living history reenactor, I can say, a historically correct one, as well. There were many types of these, and this type, as well as a very neat folding knife and fork set can be found on ebay. Not finding plans for these and other projects, I’ve often resorted to purchasing them from ebay, for the use as a pattern, to build my own. It’s on the collectables, rev. war, reproduction and re-enactor area.

  • chief38

    Take a look at some of the Civil War sutlers like Fall Creek Sutlers to see some of the examples of folding forks and knives in their haversack stuffers. Little later than the Early British campaigns but still close.

  • Maurice

    I’d love to get my hands on some kits! I’ve got numerous scraps of mahogany that would be perfect for tis. And, as a Civil War reenactor, I could really appreciate carrying a set into the field!

  • metalworkingdude

    One of the knife maker suppliers (Koval, Knife and Gun Finishing, Jantz Supply) might be interested in making these as a kit. They sell knife kits already (including things like steak knives and carving tools for wood and fowl), have access to laser cutters, grinding operations, heat treating and so forth. And of course all of the materials for assembling said kits.

  • stjones

    No, no, no. It’s the red celuloid/plastic scales that make a Swiss army knife a Swiss army knife. The Roman tool is more of a Leatherman.

  • LongLook

    Years (60+) ago when I was a Boy Scout, somewhere I acquired a set like this with white plastic handles. I may still have them but have to look around. They worked well too.

  • James Vroman

    The hardware kit would be very interesting!!!

    Sure your not just forking with us?????? 🙂


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