Thursday, January 15, 2015

Review: Shelham - 3099 Clasp knife

Way back in 1995 or so, for Giftmas, my gf's brother-in-law (who worked for the DSTO in some capacity) gifted me, and my gf's other bf a set of these clasp knives. For 20 years this has lived in my pockets, packs and car-glove boxes.

I did some research recently, to try to work out just exactly where they come from, as I've had different people tell me different things over the years. I have a good friend who was an engineer in the Army Reserve, who called it a "sapper knife".

[edit: a different friend, with 2 years as active an ADF Engineer told me on the weekend he's never heard them called "sappers knives" and only ever referred to them as "clasp knives". Primary Source FTW]

My knife is marked SHELHAM 3099 AUSTRALIA and  STAINLESS STEEL MADE IN JAPAN. Other versions I've seen online are marked with the knife's NSN of 5110-66-013-1930. Since the 1980's, Shelham (Sheldon & Hammond) have supplied the Australian Military Forces with this 3 blade stainless steel clasp knife.

The broad blade with its sheepfoot pattern, with a long flat edge that I've always been able to keep very sharp is paired with a hefty and deep biting can-opener / bottle opener. No can of beans, paint or Nuka Cola is safe.
The back plays host to the large marlin spike, perfect for working rope and knots, as well as punching holes in things, and acting as a leaver. Generally excellent as a rope and cable worker, I've abused this spike with other chores, and it has survived admirably.

Some surface pitting and a slight bend to the tip of the spike is the only evidence of its hard life. The shackle at the end has kept it dummy-corded to pants for longer than I care to remember, and the only other significant wear and tear evident is some slight bending to the shackle and some dents to the screw-driver end that sits between the blade and can-opener.

This is an exceptionally simple, hardy and useful tool, especially for anyone who deals with rope and cord on a regular basis.


  1. I as told a long time ago the spike was designed for cavalry to remove stones and crap from horses shoe. may not be true but it seems a remarkably versatile tool.

  2. Both names are correct. Referred to both as a "sappers knives" and also more generally as a "clasp knives". Sappers were engineers in the "Royal Australian Engineers" or RAE. Particularly useful for many things:
    ♦ handling explosives - punch a hole in plastic explosive before you insert the detonator
    ♦ building / dismantling bridges - never stick your finger in a hole because you might lost it - use the spike instead, military bridges are held together with steel pins
    ♦ opening cans (but normally the simple can opener that comes with every ration pack is preferred, but in the old days there was a 10 man ration pack that had a 'lot' of cans that needed to be opened - this was the preferred tool) when you had to open 20 or 30 cans
    ♦ cutting demolition cord (with the knife), rope etc

    Personally I never used it for knots and lashings but I could see that it could be useful for that purpose. I am sure that others did.

    On reflection, in my many years in the army I didn't use it much. Mine is still in almost mint condition after almost 30 years. Mine is dated 88.

    1. Thanks so much Andrew, that's a brilliant insight and reflects well what I know and have been told by other ground-pounders and swabbies alike.

    2. eBay has them from $40-$140, is that that you mean?


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