Invented by German steel exporter Heinrich Kaufmann in 1867, the Mercator knife gained popularity in the United States following World War II, when returning servicemen brought the blades home from Germany. Among knife aficionados, the Mercator maintains a cult following for its utility, handmade quality, and long history. The Mercator is immediately recognizable for the famous imprint on the black, powder-coated steel handle: K55K below an outline of a cat. The first “K” stands for Kaufmann, while “55” refers to the street number of the original head office. The last “K” refers to the German word for cat, katze.
Use the nail-nick (crescent shaped sliver on blade) to pull the blade out easily. Depress the steel lever at the handle of the knife to fold the blade back in. Check the locking notch of the lockback regularly to ensure that it is working properly. Keep all sand and grit out of the knife and keep the mechanisms clean. To properly care for the carbon steel blade, wash it with mild soap and dry thoroughly after each use. Never place in the dishwasher. A moist towel can be used to wipe your blade between use with different foods. This is critical when cutting highly acidic foods. With care and over time, a carbon steel blade will develop a deep gray or blue patina from exposure to different elements. This coating is similar to the seasoning of a well-used cast iron skillet, and it protects the blade from rust and discoloration. This dark patina is the sign of a favorite, well-used knife. If your blade does develop rust spots, steel wool and a little soap should remove the rust, though it may also leave tiny scratch marks on the blade, so go gently. Clean the knife's joints by applying an industrial lubricant or oil and scrubbing crevices with a toothbrush. Remember to keep your knife sharpened; a dull blade is more dangerous than a properly maintained one.
Otter-Messer, a blade manufacturer based out of Northern Germany, absorbed the Mercator brand made famous by Heinrich Kaufmann in 1995 and revived the knife based on yellowed drawings of the original design. Though simple and functional, the narrow knife is made by hand and requires over 120 steps to produce. Otter-Messer was founded around 1840 in a traditional grinder's watermill by the Berns brothers. The company name refers to the indigenous otters that live in the riverbanks and streams of Northern Germany.
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Made of durable carbon steel, this Mercator pocket knife features a lockback blade, tin can opener, corkscrew with helix construction, and awl (metal spike). The lockback mechanism ensures that the blade stays in place while in use. The heel of the handle holds a tin can opener. The helix construction corkscrew (meaning that the corkscrew is bladed throughout so that it cuts through the cork) folds out in the middle of the handle, allowing you to use it as a grip when uncorking wine. Finally, the awl is included for loosening knots and piercing holes in leather and fabrics. Because sometimes you need that extra belt loop hole pronto.
• Blade length: 4" (9 cm)
• Body with knife extended: 9" (22.8 cm)
• Body with knife folded: 5" long x 1" wide x .5" thick
• Can opener: 1.5" long x 0.6" wide (3.8 cm x 1.5 cm)
• Cork screw length: 2.5" (6.3 cm)
• Awl length: 2" (5 cm)
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