The Best Canal Street Knives

We are fortunate to have a very intimate relationship with the makers of Canal Street Cutlery, and see a side of their knives that very few others can. We sit on what Wally Gardiner mockingly calls their Board of Directors, and here they share their design process with gusto, and the history and rationales for these designs. We’ve watched every single pocketknife and hunting knife in their line go through at least one design change. It’s a fascinating exercise where they take the knife and deconstruct and reconstruct its components to improve and upgrade it. This process involves a lot of loud meetings as they sweat out the details, then run back out on the floor and make models and refine and define the process of producing it, and come back to a table to poke at it and explore its issues, and then back out on the floor again to implement and retest, over and over again.

It’s at meetings like these we have learned about their knives and what goes into them. From our perspective, after four (4) years of observing this process, Canal Street Cutlery makes some of the finest pocketknives being made today. A look of care goes into the way they are designed and made.

The following represent what we think are the best Canal Street knives and why and the reasons why we think so. There are five of them and we have chosen a representative handle material for each knife type based on the reactions and feedback we get at shows, and other interactions both inside and outside the industry.

The Sunset Smooth Bone Moon Pie Trapper
The Moon Pie Trapper is the first pocketknife that Canal Street Cutlery designed and manufactured all the components for. The first one was produced in 2007 and the first open stock handles were in Amber jigged and Stag Bone. It is called the “Moon Pie Trapper” because one of the cutlers thought the big cap at the end looked like the moon with a bite taken out of it. The design goals were to strengthen and upgrade the classic two-blade trapper and raise the industry standard components used in making it. They attacked the standard design and materials of the liners, the bolsters and caps, and the springs, the assembly pins and rivets, and the taper and finish of the blades and tang.

The industry standard liner is brass or nickel silver, and Canal Street upgraded the liner of the Moon Pie Trapper to heat-treated stainless steel. They widened the bolster and cap – first in nickel silver - and then, in 2013, they upgraded them to stainless steel. They intentionally recessed the tang ends inside the bolsters and rounded the ends to avoid snagging issues and create a uniformly smooth and firm opening snap. They widened the striker and thickened the springs to improve the walk. The springs were also fashioned out of heat-treated stainless steel, and changed the diameters of the pins and rivets. They instituted a two way flat grind on the blades and finished them with two separate finishes, one for each side of the blade (mirror finished mark side, satin finished pile side), instead of a standard uniform vibratory tub finish. They selected two main blade steels for the blade from Latrobe Steel: 440C Stainless Heat-Treated to 57-59Rc and D2 Tool Grade Carbon Steel Heat-Treated to 59-60Rc.

The blades of the Moon Pie Trapper go through a two-step sharpening process where they are edged with a grit belt and then honed with a cardboard wheel. All pins and attachments go through a countersinking process, which requires individually hafting each knife after it is assembled. The final result is a strikingly substantial trapper – that has no equal on the market today. The blades release with outstanding walk and close with resounding smart talk. The blades hold a sharp edge for prolonged field usage. The Sunset Smooth Bone glistens on the knife and gives a warm woodsy feeling. This is a well-constructed durable, beauty, designed and constructed to last the test of time.

The Sunset Smooth Bone Moon Pie Trapper

The Amber Stag Bone Trailing Drop Point Hunter
The Trailing Drop Point Hunter is a basic sheath knife, and it was the second knife that Canal Street designed and manufactured all the components for. The first model was also was produced in 2007. It is called the “Trailing Drop Point” because a notch for a finger rest was designed into the front end behind the point. A Drop Point is lower than the spine of the blade. The design goals were to provide the hand with a comfortably balanced cutting extension for the hand. One places the forefinger comfortably on the trailing notch while grasping behind the bolster guard with the three back fingers. A Drop Point is designed to cut with pressure from the forefinger hence the notch improvement.

The original bolster the Trailing Drop Point Hunter was nickel silver, but has been upgraded to stainless steel. It is an enlarged bolster that has a finger guard. The blade has a full tang visible through the entire handle. They instituted a two way hollow grind on the blades also finished with two separate finishes, one for each side of the blade (mirror finished mark side, satin finished pile side), instead of a standard uniform vibratory tub finish. The two main blade steels are Latrobe Steel: 440C Stainless Heat-Treated to 57-59Rc and D2 Tool Grade Carbon Steel Heat-Treated to 59-60Rc. The two-step sharpening process with a grit belt and cardboard wheel honing is all done by hand. All pins and attachments go through a countersinking process, which requires individually hafting each knife before sharpening.

The final result is an elegant, comfortable tool with a powerful blade perfect for field dressing. The stag bone handle provides a durable grip with an old word worn feeling. The belt sheath is hand-stitched leather, wet formed to snuggly fit the blade and handle to the side.

Amber Stag Bone Trailing Drop Point Hunter

The Reclaimed American Chestnut Cannitler
The Canal Street Cannitler is a marvel of pocketknife engineering that substantially improves the power of the classic three-blade whittler. The large “Canoe” style bolsters that were integrated into this whittler is how the name of this incredible pocketknife is derived: Canoe-whittler; but be sure to double the “n” instead of the “t” if you want to spell it correctly. The design goal here was to eliminate the wedge in the classic split back spring of a classic whittler. Because the wedge tapers to a paper-thin point, it is nearly impossible to execute without leaving a gap where the springs meet. Canal Street also strengthened the blade pivot and support with the oversized bolsters and super thickened the main blade, making it a uniquely powerful and compact. The blade tangs are once again well recessed and rounded to give a non-snagging smooth action. The springs are tapered to eliminate the wedge, and the liner is crimped to give the smaller blades an angle to open and close around the main blade without striking it. The blades are Latrobe D2 Carbon Steel heat-treated to Rc 59-60 with a chunky 1054mil two-way flat ground main spear blade that is a compact 2¾” long. The support at the tang leaves no wiggle when using the main blade with a side-to-side whittling motion and there is a built in finger rest on the rounded ends of the smaller blades where they meet the rounded liner edges.

The Reclaimed American Chestnut wood handles were salvaged from a historic tobacco barn in Hopkinsville Kentucky and are stabilized with a drying agent and resin making them harder and more durable than bone. In total this is an All-American classic with a comforting wood grained look surrounding a powerful compact durable blade with outstanding operating support.

Reclaimed American Chestnut Cannitler

The Mosaic White Tail English Barlow
The Canal Street English Barlow harks back to the origins of the pocketknife, and Barlows have long been a part of American legend and folklore that can be traced back to George Washington and Mark Twian’s Huckleberry Finn. But this pocketknife while rooted in tradition incorporates one of the latest innovations in knife-making which has been pioneered by Canal Street Cutlery. Introduced this year (2013) it is the first production pocketknife ever to incorporate a stainless steel bolster and to be made of “all stainless-steel construction.” The process, invented by Dave Swinden has been considered one of the holy grails of the knife industry for at least a half century.

Put aside the innovation of this knife and look at it - because what you have is an outstandingly simple classic pocketknife, elegantly executed, with stunningly practical applications and true awesomeness. It would be hard to leave this knife off the list of their best and it has already become a favored knife of many collectors. The White Tail Mosaic handle process invented by Michael Pratt has wowed everyone who has sniffed it close up.

Mosaic Whitetail English Barlow

The Jezebel Half Moon Trapper
The last of our big five is simply known as Jezebel to many people, and Jezebel has had much written about her. The Canal Street Half Moon Trapper is the basic single blade pocketknife made by Canal Street. Revised three times in design she sports a 14-4 CrMo Latrobe Stainless Steel Clip Blade Hardened to a 59Rc (This steel is the equivalent of 154 CM or ATS 34). It’s two-way flat ground and hand polished with a razor buff, and a beefy heat-treated thick stainless steel spring. The bolsters and caps have been upgraded to stainless steel from nickel silver and the liners are also stainless steel. This is just a great basic slip joint pocketknife. The tang is well rounded and recessed with a smooth opening non-snagging walk, and a gentlemanly look. The story of Jezebel is chronicled here on another blog we wrote (, but the long and short of it is that she may be the most well travelled, well written about personality in the Canal Street lineup. She oozes charm and pocketknife seduction with a amber tortoise shell resin handle that glows in natural sunlight.

Jezebel Half Moon Trapper

So there you have it, the Best of Canal Street Cutlery. If you want to have a representative collection of Canal Street knives – these are the ones we think you should build your collection around.


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