How to Date Klein Knives to A Specific Year or Era (5 Methods)

Klein knives are clear vintages, and they’re one of those knives that went to the war.

They’re not like the other vintage war knives I’ve dated because they’re not fighting knives. In most of the places that I’ve come across a Klein knife, it was either a military electrician’s knife or for another handyman.

Still, it’s worth looking at this classic piece of history and estimating when they were made.

If you have a Klein knife of your own, this dating guide is all you need today.

History of the Klein Knives

Like Camillus knives, the history of the Klein knives is also tied to a German immigrant, Mathias Klein.

The Germans are well known for their impressive engineering and excellent knives, which is what this knifemaker brought into the US.

Founded in 1857, Klein Tools was known for various tools, one of which is knives. The brand is around today, and they keep making knives, pliers, screwdrivers, nut drivers, and a variety of other hand tools.

Klein Tools has established itself as a genuine American brand since it continues to make its products in the US.

First founded in Chicago, Illinois, the company has made no move to establish shop abroad or move its production abroad.

Even though a German immigrant owns it, Klein Tools played its part in the world wars by supplying soldiers with the necessary electrical hand tools to get the best out of the war.

One of those hand tools that went to the war was their category of Klein knives.

Challenges with Dating the Klein Knives

The biggest challenge with dating these knives is their inconsistent stamping.

Some Klein knife models featured a tang stamp that points to the year when they were made, but these stamps are relatively inconsistent. Klein also missed some letters on the stamps, making it sometimes difficult to establish a linear year rule when dating by the letters on the tang.

Likewise, some Klein knives were contracted to other knife brands and manufacturers back in the day.

Those manufacturers could have stamped their tangs differently from the main Klein knives, leading to further confusion on which tang stamps to accept and which ones to leave off.

Finally, I’m not too fond of how the Klein knives stopped following the tang stamps religiously for some time, only to resume again like nothing happened.

Such gaps make the years harder to follow, and the exact dates when these knives were made could be lost.

5 Ways to Date Klein Knives Correctly

Fortunately, there are clever ways to date your Klein knife to a specific year or establish the era when it was made.

Here are the most straightforward and most recommended methods of dating these knives:

Method #1: Check the Alphabet Tang Stamps (1972-)

I first look at this for most of the knives that I’ve come across.

If you read the Klein knife dating challenges section above, you know that the tang stamps can be dicey. So, pay attention here.

Klein knives used alphabetical stamps (A to Z) for their knives.

The first attempt at alphabet dating like this was in 1972. This means you won’t find much luck with older knives besides knowing they were launched before 1972.

That said, here’s a guide to the year by tang stamp:

Tang StampYear
I1972
J1973
K1974
L1975
M1976
N1977
O1978
P1979
R1980*
S1981
Z1988
Klein Knives Alphabetical Tang Stamps & Year I

In 1979, Klein tools made a mistake where they skipped the Q and went straight to R. As soon as they hit the letter Z in 1988, they started over with the letter A, since they initially started with the letter I.

So, after 1988, the tang stamps looked like this:

Tang stampYear
A1989
B1990
C1991
D1992
E1993
F1994
G1995
H1996
I1997*
J1997*
Z2013
Klein Knives Alphabetical Tang Stamps & Year II

For the 1997 year, Klein tools made another mistake where they stamped their knives with I and J for the year. The numbering was reasonably consistent from there again.

Method #2: Check for Three Letter Stamps (Pre 1972)

The knives that Klein Tools made before 1972 were stamped with a three-letter code.

I’ve tried to get one of such knives to show you, but they’re pretty hard to come by. If you have one of them, you can share it with others in the comments.

This is where it gets confusing:

While most Klein knives dating to the pre-1972 era came with three-letter stamps, not all of them do. This means you can have a Klein knife that is truly that old without being stamped anywhere on the tang or blade.

That is one of the biggest confusions that arise with this knife brand.

Method #3: Check the Brand Name Tang Stamp (Circa 1857 – 1952)

I was lucky to find an S card for the Klein knives from 1952.

There was a time when Camillus was making some of Klein knives under contract. This S-card (shown below) was the instruction sheet for the Camillus factory workers on making the Klein knife to fit the needed specs.

On the S-card, you can see that the knives were supposed to come with a tang stamp “M. Klein & Sons.

Research around this stamp from additional sources shows that the knife age could extend into 1857.

If you have any of these Klein knives with such a tang stamp, the knife was built around 1857 – 1952. That’s such a wonderful one you have at hand there.


PS Due to the date when these knives were made, it’s safe to assume that these were the ones that went to the second world war (WWII).

It’s quite a story that must be behind that knife, and quite more stories it might have to tell itself.


Method #4: Email the Company

Some vintage Klein knife owners have been lucky in emailing the company with their questions.

I am sure the company reps will be happy to get such emails as it bears testament to how well-made and long-lasting their knives are.

I should also note that the person who replies to your email might not know much about the knives. Chances of that are low, and I’d expect that they ask someone who knows better but have that at the back of your mind.

When emailing the company, attach clear photos of the knife. You could also add some history on how you came about the blade (optional).

I don’t know how long it takes them to reply, but I’d bet you should get the first response within a week of sending your email.

Method #5: Speak with Knife Enthusiasts, Collectors and Dealers

Only do this if you can find knowledgeable and honest ones.

I bet there are still a lot of honest knife dealers and collectors out there who know something about the Klein knives. They might even have old catalogs, collection books, or guides that help them identify the specific date of your model.

I’ve heard stories of some dealers trying to strong-arm owners of classic knives into parting with them. Some of the shady ones might even lie to you about the value of your knife so that they can get it for cheaper from you.

Alternatively, you can go to knife forums or active sub forums to post the knife and get feedback from veterans who may be there.

Speaking of vets, you may also have some luck in military forums (since this is a knife that went to war) if you can find any that’ll let you in.

Got Your Klein Knife’s Age Yet?

You should be able to get the date/ narrow down the era of your Klein knife with the suggestions above.

Once again, I am happy that you have come across such a fine knife – and I hope you keep it for even longer.

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