Photographs by the author

The Marlinspike Knife from Colonial Knife Company is built to a U.S. Navy design and comes with the lanyard shown here, and the Department of Defense National Stock Number (NSN) etched onto the blade.

Before I had a rigger’s knife I used various pocket knives, X-actos, and scissors for cutting line. I kept a lookout for a good rigger’s knife, but most seemed too big for the smaller jobs that I took care of on our fleet of boats. That all changed when I found the Marlinspike Knife from the Colonial Knife Company. A 4-1/2″-long folder, it’s a nice size to fit in a pocket.

The Marlinspike Knife has a hardened 440A stainless-steel 3″ blade with a deep fingernail groove for easy opening. The blade does not lock when open. The frame and pins in the knife are also stainless steel. The blade’s 2-5/8″ cutting edge is straight for its entire length, a very useful feature for cutting line. You can make a long draw cut without having to pivot the knife to keep the whole length of the edge on the rope. The sheepsfoot blade’s flat spine curves down to meet the cutting edge to make a point that reduces the chance of piercing injuries and the blade’s satin finish helps hide fingerprints. The blade needed minimal attention straight out of the box, just a few strokes on the stone to finish the edge. The blade stays sharp through an afternoon of small-line cutting and will cut through 3/8″ polyester line, both braided and three-strand, with one stroke.

The spike locks when in use. Its release latch also serves as a shackle key.

The folding marlinespike is 316 stainless steel and locks in the open position, which keeps the spike from folding on your fingers when prying jammed knots open. The push-down lock release also serves as a shackle key and as a lanyard attachment point—a rope lanyard is included. The marlinespike is an excellent size for working the cordage that we use with small boats, whether loosening tight knots, splicing line, or laying open strands line for whipping.

The durable Zytel handle has scalloped areas that ensure a firm grip. It is impact and abrasion resistant. Zytel can be sterilized in boiling water, which is one of the reasons that the U.S. Navy chose the material; it conforms to requirements for use by medical personnel.

The heavy-duty design has been around the U.S. Navy since the First World War, so the design is battle tested and the construction of this knife is well executed by Colonial. I have enjoyed the knife so much that I bought a second one; one knife is dedicated to our rigger’s kit, and the other floats around the shop and the fleet.

Kent and Audrey Lewis mess about in an armada of small boats on the inland waters of Northwest Florida. They log their nautical adventures at

The Marlinspike Knife is sold by The WoodenBoat Store for $54.95 and directly by the Colonial Knife Company for $79.99. The knives come with the Department of Defense National Stock Number (NSN) 5110-00-530-1757 etched onto the blade, and each knife has a serial number. They come with a lifetime warranty registration card, as well as care and maintenance instructions. Colonial also offers the knife with a half-serrated, half-straight blade.

Is there a product that might be useful for boatbuilding, cruising, or shore-side camping that you’d like us to review? Please email your suggestions.