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Thread: Historical Knives

  1. #1

    Default Historical Knives

    I am just wondering how many of you have seen any Reproductions of ACTUAL historical knives. I know the Sgiann Dubh is one that is still being made. I read somewhere that a lot of the Reproductions used by re-enactors have no real basis historically. I do NOT know this to be true, which is why I am asking/posing this question.

    Partly my reason is that I would like to make some of the "Old" designs, using materials available today. Things like Stabilized wood for handles, Mosaic pins,and "Better quality" steel and adhesives. I think my next project is going to be this Bowie. It IS on display at the Alamo,and the design has Provenance. It is the Cephas Ham Bowie, that was presented to him by Rezin Bowie, Jim Bowie's brother. This is a link to the knife I am talking about. To some it may look like a slightly distorted butcher knife.
    http://www.tamu.edu/ccbn/dewitt/adp/...ephas_ham.html

    What I am thinking,is this. Today there are a LOT of "Survival Knives" being sold as such. Most look as if they are designed for fighting knives Primarily. However, many/most of us know that a knife would have to be used in a variety of uses in a true survival situation,Rarely for fighting. So I got to thinking, "Who used their knives for just that purpose". The only answer that I could come up with was Mountain Men,and Early Adventurers/Explorers.

    If anyone knows of any knives that meet my requirements of
    1) Provenance - It must be known for a fact to be carried by a particular individual(s) of historic importance (In this case Cephas Ham was, I believe one who fought at the Alamo, But Rezin Bowie was well known as a knife designer,as was his brother Jim)
    2) a clear photo of the knife, Preferably one displayed in a museum. Hopefully with something to use for "scale" of the actual knife's size.
    3) No Daggers, or other "Fighting knives", I'm not interested so much in the Martial aspect,as I am the multi use of a blades design. True soldiers have used bayonets to Baton wood,but their main function was for fighting.

    So far the only ones I am aware of are this, the Cephas Ham Bowie, and the Nessmuk. Any and all replies are appreciated!


  2. #2
    Spark Maker panch0's Avatar
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    Poco I would like to add a kukri to your list. I know it is a fighting knife, but it is used for chopping and is used by regular folks for everyday things in its country of origin. I know I have seen a pic of a british soldier using one. I know it doesn't fit all your criteria, but google isn't helping me here.

    Here is a piece from wikipedia:
    Despite use in the military, the kukri is most commonly used as a woodcutting and general purpose tool, and is a very common agricultural and household implement in Nepal. A kukri designed for general purpose is commonly 16 to 18 inches (around 40–45 cm) in overall length and weighs one to two pounds (around 450-900 grams). Bigger examples are impractical for everyday use and are rarely found except in collections or as ceremonial instruments. Smaller ones are of more limited utility, but very easy to carry.
    Last edited by panch0; 03-26-2010 at 12:26 AM.
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  3. #3
    reclinite automaton canid's Avatar
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    J Russell Company made butcher's knives which where in popular general purpose use during the fur trade era. this was the company that made the green river knives.
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    reclinite automaton canid's Avatar
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    i would add that Scottish knives have a long history of general purpose use, from warfare to kitchen work. many examples i have seen look also to be butcher's knives, such as the reproduction knives made by old dominion forge.
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  5. #5

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    Thank you Panch0 and Canid.

    The problem I am having with the "Reproductions" is that the smear I have heard on the basis of fact. One knife Maker's site I visited that did "Reproductions" had so many different Reproductions that really looked like "New" designs. I found it hard to believe that they were in fact true Reproductions, especially after hearing the "smear" on reproductions provenance. That is why I am having a hard time finding pictures of knives from museums. Most of the "Reproductions" I have seen from doing web searches have turned up things like swords,daggers, and such. Not really "Knives" that we would consider useful for outdoor use. Pics of said knives seem to be rather hard to come by!! Another set of knives I have found are these, which are attributed to Buffalo hunters. As well as some other, newer knives that have a "Rustic" look.

    It is not so much the "rustic look" that I am after, as much as real true working knives from the Mountain Men and Early American Explorers Era. They are harder to find than you might think. I would have thought that there would be Dozens, if not hundreds of such examples from Museums all over the web. Boy, was I wrong!! Most such searches turn up Knife Makers versions, Or "Display" Reproductions. Rarely is it an actual, true to life, museum quality knife!! This is the reason I posed this question!
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    missing in action trax's Avatar
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    http://www.skknives.com/furtrade/etched.html

    I just saw this site earlier poco, maybe check him out.
    some fella confronted me the other day and asked "What's your problem?" So I told him, "I don't have a problem I am a problem"

  7. #7
    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    This link may offer a few ideas as well. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Ca...torical_knives
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    Senior Member Camp10's Avatar
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    The research will be fun Poco! I played with this as well for a while. My avatar is of a Scagel style knife I made. He is probably more modern than you are looking for but his work is remarkable!

  9. #9

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    A Scagel Bowie? Yeah I saw that on Mike Carters website. Mike Carter is in Louisville,Ky. As near as I can tell he is a master! Seems to specialize in Bowies! Thanks everyone! I will be doing some research!! Anyone run across anything let me know!!

    I'm kinda surprised H63 or Beo didn't stop in with some ideas! Just Got my first 2 back from Heat Treat today!! I will post pics in the "Nessie Thread".

  10. #10
    Senior Member randyt's Avatar
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    if ya ever get down by knoxville if i remember right the smokey mountain knife works has oodles of old knives on display. a guy could get lots of ideas from it all.

  11. #11

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    You are correct Randy!! SMKW does have a knife museum, They even have a 3' slipjoint!! (that is NOT a typo, That's right they have a 3 foot slipjoint!!)

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    Senior Member hunter63's Avatar
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    Yo, I' here, been busy, I'm still working with my leather scraps.

    Anyway, I did post these while back, but these came from a friend in the Phoenix area museum.
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    Administrator Rick's Avatar
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    Oh, yeah. Those. Leather scales if I remember right. Nice.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Camp10's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pocomoonskyeyes View Post
    A Scagel Bowie? Yeah I saw that on Mike Carters website. Mike Carter is in Louisville,Ky. As near as I can tell he is a master! Seems to specialize in Bowies! Thanks everyone! I will be doing some research!! Anyone run across anything let me know!!

    I'm kinda surprised H63 or Beo didn't stop in with some ideas! Just Got my first 2 back from Heat Treat today!! I will post pics in the "Nessie Thread".
    I didnt know it had to be a bowie to fit the criteria. Rezin actually presented several knives to different people so there are many to choose from.

    Scagel built the knives that inspired much of the custom knifemakers that followed. His knives were the first of the great American knives IMO. Bo Randall started making knives after buying a scagel from a man using it to scrape barnicles off his boat (or something like that). Bob Loveless started making knives when he tried to buy a Randall and was told they were sold out.

    I dont know how far back into history..or how far forward you are looking to go but Scagel knives were carried on the first trip up Everest and several US explorations. Randall knives made it to the moon. Both were used by soldiers during WWII and in fact, it was the war that turned Bo Randall from a hobbiest to the company we know it now.

    To me, these two as well as guys like Rudy Ruana and Bill Moran are some fantastic makers who forged the history of American blades.

    Prior to Jim Bowie's famous knife fight, I think much of the knives carried in this country were either patch knives or skinners of some sort and made for their usefulness and not as a presentation pieces.

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Camp10 View Post
    I didnt know it had to be a bowie to fit the criteria. Rezin actually presented several knives to different people so there are many to choose from.

    Scagel built the knives that inspired much of the custom knifemakers that followed. His knives were the first of the great American knives IMO. Bo Randall started making knives after buying a scagel from a man using it to scrape barnicles off his boat (or something like that). Bob Loveless started making knives when he tried to buy a Randall and was told they were sold out.

    I dont know how far back into history..or how far forward you are looking to go but Scagel knives were carried on the first trip up Everest and several US explorations. Randall knives made it to the moon. Both were used by soldiers during WWII and in fact, it was the war that turned Bo Randall from a hobbiest to the company we know it now.

    To me, these two as well as guys like Rudy Ruana and Bill Moran are some fantastic makers who forged the history of American blades.

    Prior to Jim Bowie's famous knife fight, I think much of the knives carried in this country were either patch knives or skinners of some sort and made for their usefulness and not as a presentation pieces.
    No it doesn't have to be a Bowie, Matter of fact I would rather it wasn't a Bowie. There are hundreds of Bowie's out there. The only reason I like the Cephas Ham Bowie, is that it does not look like a "typical" Bowie. It looks like a mixture of Bowie, Butcher, and Nessmuk.
    What I am really looking for is more the types of knives that woodsmen, Explorers, Frontiersmen,and such would have carried. The Hudson Bay is one that comes to mind, as does the Nessmuk, various Patch knives and the like.

    Basically, Knives that would have been designed by people that lived in the woods for various lengths of time. Whose lives quite literally depended on their knives as much, if not more, than their firearms.

    I think that most modern "Survival Knives" have taken on too much of a Martial/military machismo type of design. Something that "Looks cool", but is not all that functional in woods use. Yes it will cut,and chop,and basic knife functions, But they are designed as (please pardon the expression) Mall-ninja accessories.

    I have become of the mind that, to make a knife that one's life could depend on, we have to look backwards to when they really did fill that purpose. Yes there are some good "Modern" Designs, Like the Alaskan Skinner so many knife companies are selling today. Good Knife, good design, Lot's of them floating around. I'm looking for the "others", the ones that aren't so widely known/used, but actually were used by Frontiersman,and Explorers.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Ole WV Coot's Avatar
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    Daniel Boone's knife is on display at the old state capitol museum in Frankfort, KY as are many neat items down to the self supporting stairway. Been a few years since I was there so check and see if it's still there.
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  17. #17

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    Dixie Gun Works sells a Daniel Boone repop knife.

    My Searles Bowie when to the Alamo, and is not exact but darn close to the one on display there.

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  18. #18
    Senior Member Ole WV Coot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tripwire View Post
    Dixie Gun Works sells a Daniel Boone repop knife.

    My Searles Bowie when to the Alamo, and is not exact but darn close to the one on display there.

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    I've seen it and others. Boone didn't own anything made like that. His knife is just a butcher knife, longer blade & wooden handles. His rifle is there also, the crudest rifle but all he could afford. He wasn't a man with money.
    Don't pick a fight with an old man. If he's too old
    to fight... he'll just kill you.

  19. #19

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    Two different topics Sir.

    Boone knife and Jim & Resin's first Bowie design called the Searles Boone because George Searles made the first two knives for the Bowie Brothers.

    The above pic is a copy of the Bowie design.

    Boone's knife he took off a dead Indian

    http://www.dixiegunworks.com/product...oducts_id=1478

    When I went to Dixie Gun Works to buy the Boone knife, the guy put the Searles bowie in my hand, and it followed me home.
    It will follow me to the grave, just like Jim Bowie's did.
    Last edited by Tripwire; 03-29-2010 at 09:45 PM.

  20. #20
    Senior Member randyt's Avatar
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    one of boone's knife had a handle that slipped over the pointed end and then he used the knife as a flesher.

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