The Mercator K55 Black Cat is a classic German-made pocket knife forged from high carbon steel (or more modern but harder to sharpen stainless steel) in Solingen, Germany since 1867. The K55 Black Cat was popularized in the U.S. by soldiers returning from WWII who brought back the K55 as souvenirs. Since then the K55 has set the standard for an inexpensive, sturdy and non-threatening EDC (every day carry) pocket knife.

The K55 is an all-metal lock back knife. The folded and riveted single body construction results in one of the slimmest and lightest pocket knives available. The lock is very strong and positive. You do need to press firmly on the lock back lever to disengage the lock and fold the blade. It will not close accidentally while you are using it.

Mercator K55: Made in Germany since 1867.

The stainless steel blade models are a good choice for use in wet environments while the traditional high carbon steel version is designed to be sharpened to a razor's edge. The high carbon blades should be dried off it it gets wet. The 3.5" drop point blade does not feel unwieldy and this is mostly due to the fact that the knife is both thin and light without being flexible. Typical of most German made tools, the Mercator K55 is a very utilitarian design. The one concession to flash in the K55 is the gold etched cat mark pressed into every handle.

Mercator K55 Black Cat
Blade 3.5"
Length closed 4.25"
Weight 7.75 oz.
Blade material Carbon steel or stainless
Handle material Stainless steel
Locking ✔ Lock Back
Made in Solingen, Germany
Price $30
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As great as the K55 is, it is not the only classic, inexpensive daily carry pocket knife. Let's explore some amazing alternatives from around the world.

Buck 110

USA! USA! USA! The American alternative to the Mercator K55 Black Cat is the classic Buck 110. This is the knife that every American male of a certain generation has carried in their pocket at one time or another. Invented back in 1963 by Al Buck himself, the Buck 110 features a 3 3/4" blade with fingernail cut which makes opening easy. The knife locks open positively with a flush lock back lever that disengages in the rear. Like the K55, the Al Buck designed lock will not allow the knife to close accidentally during use.

Buck 110: An American classic since 1963.

The Buck 110 is fairly thin but unlike the Mercator K55 can be had in a variety of scale materials. The traditional version is made from brass and ebony wood. The Buck 110 is a knife that will last a lifetime and then some. It's no wonder that many a Buck 110 has been passed down from one generation to the next.

Buck 110 Folding Hunter
Blade 3.75"
Length closed 4 7/8"
Weight 7.2 oz.
Blade material 420HC stainless
Handle material Ebony / brass
Locking ✔ Lock back
Made in USA
Price $50
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Buck 110 Folding Hunter LT

If you love the thought of carrying a Buck 110 but the size and weight (or even the look) just seem a little too antiquated, enter the 21st Century Buck 110 LT. The LT stands for light weight and in the Buck 110 LT, the wood and brass handle is replaced with indestructible nylon. The advantage is both lighter weight and a material that will probably outlast the wood and brass of the original Buck 110. You still get the proven Buck 3.75" blade in 420HC stainless steel.

Buck 110 LT: The 21st Century Buck.

If you want the traditional advantage of the Buck 110 but in modern materials and lighter weight, the Buck 110 LT is worth your consideration. It's also cheaper than the wood and brass Buck 110.

Buck 110 LT
Blade 3.75"
Length closed 4 7/8"
Weight 3.2 oz.
Blade material 420HC stainless
Handle material Nylon
Locking ✔ Lock back
Made in USA
Price $32
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Opinel No. 8

The Opinel No. 8 is to France as the Mercator K55 is to Germany. Invented by Joseph Opinel in 1890, the Opinel No. 8 is the definition of a well-designed tool knife. It uses a unique rotating stainless steel "Virobloc" safety ring that allows you to secure the blade in the open position. The handle is made from solid French beechwood and the shape feels great in the hand. In fact, many consider the rounded handle shape the perfect evolution of a knife handle.

Opinel No. 8 The perfect size Opinel pocket knife.

The 3.28" stainless steel blade is made of Swedish Sandvik 12C27, which is an excellent combination of rust resistance and the ability to hold a sharp edge. You can get an Opinel in a variety of sizes, but the No. 8 is the original and many consider it the perfect combination of carry-ability and functional size. If you're unsure which size is right for you, just get the No. 8.

Opinel No. 8
Blade 3.25"
Length closed 4.25"
Weight 1.6 oz.
Blade material Sandvik 12C27
Handle material Beechwood
Locking ✔ Lock ring
Made in France
Price $17
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Cold Steel 54VPM Lucky One Gentleman's Knife

Cold Steel is known for high speed, low drag tactical folding knifes. However, that does not mean they don't also offer a super useful, traditional slip joint version. The Lucky One is an elegant re-imagination of the classic gentleman's knife but made out of modern materials. The 2.6" blade is premium CPM-S35VN blade steel which is matted to carbon fiber scales. This creates a knife that is actually lighter than the ultralight Opinel No. 8.

Cold Steel: Gentleman's knife with high tech finishes. 

The Cold Steel Lucky One is smaller than the other alternatives in this list. However, it is made in Italy (hence the elegant lines) and being a slip joint knife, it is legal nearly everywhere in the world.

Cold Steel Lucky One
Blade 2.625"
Length closed 3.25"
Weight 0.9 oz.
Blade material CPM-S35VN
Handle material Carbon fiber
Locking ✘ Slipjoint
Made in Italy
Price $68
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CASE Hammerhead

Made in Pennsylvania, this American made classic is another great alternative to the Mercator K55. The 3.5" blade is forged from proprietary Tru-Sharp stainless steel which gives it a corrosion resistant but easy-to-sharpen edge. The Case Hammerhead mates this blade with a polymer and brass handle with a positive locking mechanism. The blade is also engraved with the unmistakable hammerhead shark emblem.

Case Hammerhead: Another American classic.

The Case Hammerhead is more expensive than the Mercator K55. Selling for about $74 it is on the pricey side but it is designed to last forever and could become a family heirloom that gets passed on to your children or grandchildren.

CASE Hammerhead
Blade 3.5"
Length closed 5"
Weight 9.5 oz.
Blade material Tru-Sharp
Handle material Polymer
Locking ✔ Lock Back
Made in USA
Price $74
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Victorinox Swiss Army Sentinel

When you think of Switzerland, it's hard not to picture the Swiss Army knife. But unlike the ubiquitous tool, the Sentinel is a liner locking knife that only contains a single, large blade. Actually, Victorinox could not resist adding at least a few extras so molded into the handle are a toothpick and tweezers.

Victorinox Sentinel: The blade only Swiss Army knife.

The blade comes in both plain and serrated versions and is a tad over 3" in length. Unlike a fingernail cut, the Sentinel includes a highly usable thumb hole which allows one handed opening. A liner lock positively holds the blade open during use. One of the best aspects of any Swiss Army knife is that they never attract the unwanted attending of more tactical ("scary!") pocket knives. Made in Switzerland, the Sentinel is an affordable and slim choice (for a Swiss Army knife) that you can carry every day.

Victorinox Sentinel
Blade 3.2"
Length closed 4.375"
Weight 2.6 oz.
Blade material Swiss stainless
Handle material Polymer
Locking ✔ Lock Back
Made in Switzerland
Price $35
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SOG Traction EDC

If all of these traditional-looking knives are not your style, then perhaps the tactical looking, lock back knife with a thumb stud might be the answer. If that sounds appealing, then look no further than the SOG Traction. The 3.5" long blade comes in either a clip point or tanto and is made from 5Cr13MoV stainless steel. The Traction utilizes a traditional lock back mechanism that keeps the blade open within its lightweight glass-reinforced nylon handle.

SOG Traction: A tactical lock back knife.

The styling of the Traction is totally modern and no one will mistake this for the Mercator K55.

SOG Traction
Blade 3.5"
Length closed 4.2"
Weight 2.3 oz.
Blade material 5Cr13MoV
Handle material GRN
Locking ✔ Lock Back
Made in China
Price $27
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Everyone should own the German made Mercator K55 Black Cat. But if this knife does not speak to you but you still want a classic lock back, un-scary pocketknife then any of the above alternatives should fit the bill.

What do you think? Did we miss a great alternative or one of your favorites? Please let us know by leaving a comment below.