Tuf-Nut and Other Pocket Knives

I’ve got a small wooden box on the dresser where I keep “heirlooms.” Any thief who mistakes it for a jewelry box is going to be disappointed. Well, now that I think of it, it has three rings in it: a Cub Scout ring, a Boy Scout ring and my Philmont Scout Ranch ring.

Tuf-Nut knives came from Buckner-Ragsdale

It also contains these two knives. Probably every boy in Cape had at least one of these Tuf-Nut knives. They came with blue jeans bought at the Buckner-Ragsdale store on the corner of Broadway and Main Street.

Have you earned your “Totin’ Chip?”

The Tuf-nut and the Boy Scout knife that dangled from a belt clip were rites of passage. You were supposed to have a “Totin’ Chip” before you could use any wood tool like a knife, saw or axe.

The wooden-handled pocket knife was a gift from my Grandfather, Roy Welch, when I was about eight years old. The handle was chipped when I got it and the blade had been sharpened so many times that it was about a third smaller than when new, but I still treasured it.

54 Replies to “Tuf-Nut and Other Pocket Knives”

  1. I did and in the 5th grade Mrs. Pierce made all the guys in class turn over their knives…she gave them back us after class and we were told not to bring them back…Mike Rogers, Mike Ervin we among those with Tuf-Nut knives….Gees what a memory!
    I stopped carrying a knife around about that time…I guess getting into trouble was not my thing and who needed a knife if you were city boy like me.
    I wish I had one of those today…nice and solid with white handles and the knife blade all shiny…
    Very Cool.

    1. I’ve always carried a pocket knife since those days. I’ve been carrying the same folding Buck knife I bought when my oldest was in Boy Scouts 20+ years ago.

      I was flying back from Washington, D.C., in pre-9/11 days when I got stopped by airport security in D.C. and told I couldn’t get on the plane with the knife.

      I had plenty of time to kill, so I said that I wanted to talk with a supervisor. I explained that the rules said that you couldn’t carry a knife with a blade longer than three inches.

      My knife originally had a three-inch blade, which would have been legal, but I had broke about a quarter inch of the blade off trying to pry up a floor tile. That would make it even less than the legal maximum, I argued. “Measure it and see for yourself.”

      “I don’t have a ruler,” the supervisor said.

      I pulled out a dollar bill and said, “A dollar bill is exactly six inches long. If I fold it in half, it’ll be three inches long. As you can see, my knife blade is less than three inches long.”

      They gave up and waved me on.

      1. What would the right price be? My husband had one. The only gift his Grandfather gave him. It was lost with the many moves his family made. I would love to get him one for a surprise.


        1. Erlene, just saw this post… are you really interested in the knife? If you are, I would LOVE to see it get into the hands of someone who would really like it and that it would mean something to. Let me know…
          Pati Hughes-Fudge

        2. Ma’am have you found a tuf nut knife I have one I would gladly give it to you since it means a lot to your husband it’s by far not new but you are welcome to it sincerely
          Robert Hanstein

  2. I’m not from Cape but I had 4 Tuf-Nut knives at one time. Sad to say I have lost them over the years. I still carry a Old Timer. For some reason I feel lost if I don’t have a pocket knife on me. I can still remember both my grandfathers, my dad and great uncle carrying pocket knives and how they would use them for just about everything. Oddly enough enough my first knife wasn’t a pocket knife. I felt like the king of the world when my dad presented me with the Hitler youth knife he brought back from Germany after WWII. I no longer have it as I have passed it on to my son. He will have a conflict he has 2 sons. Thanks again Ken for the memories. I read every e-mail I get from you. While I’m not from Cape like a lot of people from the surrounding area we spent a lot of our youth & adult years there. Heck I can remember when Kings Highway & everything West wasn’t there. At least on the southern end. Like all older Cape residents I’ve watched it grow and spread out. I’m glad there is someone who can help keep the memories of our youth alive and well.

  3. I have always carried a pocket knife, except in places where you can’t. I have an Old Timer my father gave to me probably close to 50 years ago. My wife and I and some friends flew to Montana a year ago and one friend and I left our knives home. We were constantly needing them. Felt lost without them.

  4. My Dad always carried a pocket knife, and I could count on being able to fix or cut anything whenever I was with him. My husband, Doug, carried Daddy’s knife for years. I used to pack my Girl Scout knife whenever taking a group of students overseas; you never knew when a really good looking sausage or pastry might need to be shared. These days, when opening Christmas presents, the grandchildren sing a chorus of “O-Pa has his knife”.

    Something I just remembered…..My Dad had his pocket knife, and then he had other knives stashed in the tackle box or on his workbench. The pocket knife was not used for the more industrial jobs.

  5. Ken: I can’t believe you still have a receipt from Buckners for your Scout uniform! I am actually old enough that all of my uniforms came from the Scout shop at Buckners. My official Boy Scout knife and sheath knife came from there as well. Boy Scouts can no longer carry the knife on their belt any longer. And yes we still issue the “totin chip” before the boys can use their pocket knife.

  6. I worked in the basement at Buckner Ragsdale Dept. store ==In 1982 Buckner Ragsdale closed, and my Mother and I went in business, as Miller’s Work Clothes and Uniforms- We had the last Tuf-Nut days in 1983–The knives were not being featured by the company any more–I gave away many of these knives, but I still have a few still in their little plastic package.

      1. Oops, I just realized this post was 5 years old! But I was trying to find out about Tuff Nut knives because I picked one up the other day… I love small knives and love a little history. This little 2 blade knife made its way to California… don’t know where the company started.. are you still interested in finding one?

  7. My dad worked on saturdays at Buckners in the shoe department till I was in college. I had a Tuff Nut knife and jeans the whole time. I had to give my knife to rs Pierce too. We didn’t have much Money in those years so dad was able to get the employee discount for clothes and shoes. Jack Lampkin was good to us in those times. He always gave me a free knide if I lost mine. Dad was scout master for Troop 4 and I had my totin chip since cub scout days.

  8. Sign me up for one of those Tuf-nut knifes too. My mom wouldn’t let me carry one. Hey, she was an English teacher …….

  9. I’ll have to ask my husband about Tuf-Nut knives. I just know that up until the time of security checks in the last decade or so, Don always carried a pocket knife for utility purposes. For years afterward, he would automatically reach toward his pocket when there was a package to open or something similar.

  10. Personally I never heard of Tuf-Nut knives but I’m re-living the Boy Scout experience through my sons. It’s fabulous (especially when Boy Scout summer camp is on Catalina Island).

  11. I still have a brand new Tuf=Nut knife. I still carry a big ole Leatherman complete with everything including pliers! i guess it was my boy scout training…

  12. I suppose there are but few who recall just how rural and economically isolated Cape was up through the 1950’s into the early 60’s. Tuf-Nuts and the other goods sold the store’s ground floor are remembered for their durability and value. It may surprise some to know that Buckner’s sold more Tuf-Nut’s than Levi’s, perhaps because of the knives.

    Yvonne, her mother and the father son team of the Williams’ were an important part of the Buckner’s family. I wonder if such relationships aare as common now.

    My personal recollection about Tuf-Nut is not about the knives, because our mother would not let us keep them. As a result she spent much of her last years reacquiring them for her not inconsiderable descendants. Rather, perhaps the earliest TV commercial the store did was in conjunction with that company. As I recall, Walter and I stood in a KFVS studio with a couple of older guys dressed head to toe in Tuf-Nut work clothes. The only line I remember is “and pockets a foot deep.”. it did not get national release. Others may seek the knives, but if anyone has access to the KFVS film vault, I’d like a copy of those 30 seconds.

  13. I consider myself fortunate to still have my Tuf-Nut knife, considering what a small fortune we all threw away in the form of toys, comic books etc.

  14. My father-in-law and grandfather-in-law were the Williams father and son duo from Buckner Ragsdale. They both managed the downstairs department for years. Don’t know exactly when my grandfather-in-law started but we have pictures from the 20’s and 30’s of the downstairs department as well as a few pictures of the flood in the early 50’s. My father-in-law retired in the 70’s and passed away in ’94. When cleaning out the attic we too found a some tuf-nut memorabilia. My husband (John) and his two brothers (Rob and Jim) were used as models in some of the early commercials (1950’s)

  15. The Williams brothers have their own claim to Cape fame. As I recall it was Jim Williams in his Nash who ran the blocade at Wimpy’s, hastening the decision of the Lewis’ to close. Perhaps It will be the subject of a future thread. In the meantime, I have the prone, chrome naked lady hood ornament from that vehicle to trade for Tuf-Nut goodies. Contact Ken who has stood in the brokering position before.

      1. Just went to an auction in Cape this weekend. What did I find? An old Ulster Boy Scout knife and two very nice condition Tuf-Nut knives by Imperial. These look never to have been used or sharpened, but one has some surface rust (just a little) on the blades that would probably rate it down to an “8”. It has a maroon logo. The other is a “9.5” and is really near new. It has a red logo.

        These are available for $17 and $25, respectively. I’m keeping the Boy Scout knife! 🙂

  16. You are correct about the Nash running the blockade at Wimpy’s, however you have the wrong brother (not naming names) and I am not so sure that it resulted in the closing of Wimpy’s, maybe someone else will know more info on this incident.

  17. Since the eldest of our clan has weighed in, I have little to add, but as a lawyer I get paid by the word, so I’ll add some anyway. The Downstairs Store of Buckner’s was an idyllic place for a boy, almost a hideaway with a very cool door where one could find all sorts of marvelous things. Mr. Williams Sr. would ‘let’ me put the price tags on the jeans when they arrived in boxes, a small tag with two pins. Try putting one through that double layer denim. Fortunately my blood didn’t show on the jeans. Also downstairs was the Poll Parrot (?) Shoes x-ray machine for making a ‘scientific’ determination of shoe size. One now wonders how much radiation we received through that miracle. With respect to the knives, our dad does indeed still collect them, though Mom was successful in tracking down the scores needed to make certain the dozens of grandchildren and great grandchildren each received one and understood the legacy. With regard to the photograph attached to Ken’s story, that model of the Tuf-Nut knife was the standard model. But there was another–‘premium’ I’d call it–reverse-curved on each end with a longer blade. I secreted one away from our Mom lo those many years ago and have it still. If I could discern how to attach a photo of it, indeed I would. Thanks to all for a pleasant walk down this lane.

  18. when first got on the cape fire dept. our uniforms come from buckners and each year we would get a new or two tuf-nut knifes.

  19. The Poll Parrott x-ray machine downstairs was fascinating to me. So was the payment zipping on the wire up to the office. I couldn’t wait to get a pair of Tuff Nut jeans so I could get a knife. My Boy Scout knife came from there too. The knives have disappeared but I still have my Tote and Chip card!

  20. I went looking threw my old stuff and found 2 TUF-NUT knives. One is a single blade with Sports Fan and TUF-NUT on the handle. The other is a 2 blader with TUF-NUT on both sides of the handles. Wonder how many models were made….Ray Boren

  21. As a Wimpy daughter I don’t recall this blockade you all are commenting about, but I am guessing it occurred when I was teaching school in Ferguson, MO. Wimpy’s closed because it needed repairs to a leaky roof, and the bank was offering the Lewis brothers a nice price for that corner location. Also none of us in the next generation wanted to take over the business and work 7 days a week at very long hours like our fathers did.

    1. I’m a failure. I have the handkerchief and pocket knife, but don’t carry a lighter nor chapstick.

      I do have a handy tool on my key chain that’ll break your window and cut your seatbelt if you have to escape after a crash. I also have a tiny LED light on the ring. Will those count?

  22. You bet – I was never without one. My mom worked just a block south at Montgomery Wards and we bought all our Boy Scout and Cub Scout goods from Buckner-Ragsdale. I must have had a dozen of them over the years from about 1947 to 1955. Most of the boys at May Greene had them and we played mumbley-peg with them at recess and lunch time. There was a drug store in between Wards and Buckner’s-can’t remember the name – but they had a fountain and the best danged grilled cheese sandwiches I can remember….

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