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Mark Zalesky

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  1. Was just tipped off about this thread. If such an event were to happen I would be happy to support it in any way possible. Will attend if it's on a free weekend. Lots of great memories from the events at Ron's.
  2. Hi David, That Henry Clay letter and two others, one from Confederate General John Bell Hood and another by Samuel's son Edward (who was then in California) were, as I understand it, purchased from Bell descendants a number of years ago -- probably during the 1990s. The first two are of interest mostly because of who they were from and the last is in my opinion one of the most important known bowie knife documents. It discusses knives that Edward wanted sent to California as well as those being manufactured there at that time (1856 as I recall, rather early in the scheme of California kniv
  3. How's about if I let Alan bring just as many PHOTOS as he wants to? I should further suggest that Ron Claiborne hosts "Bowie's Hammer-in" in Knoxville each fall, and in addition to the usual events (like Alan's outstanding demos on tomahawk forging, Bell dirk forging, and engraving) there is usually some opportunity for the viewing of rusty blades. Mark Z
  4. That can probably be arranged if you find yourself in east Tennessee... Mark Z
  5. Maybe the different parts strung on the "tube" were fabricated in different ways -- who knows? One thing for sure, it's still a mystery at this point. I think somebody once suggested that an x-ray might reveal something of use, but I haven't looked into it. Anyone fairly close to Knoxville have access to x-ray equipment? As for the view that seems to support die stamping, remember that the knife you're looking at has been carried a considerable amount -- a lot of the checkering is even worn off the ivory, and besides that the tarnish can make things look different than they really are. It'
  6. Hi Greg, I've heard a lot of different theories on how the ferrules might have been assembled, but there's been no way to prove it as yet. My opinion is that the octagons are thin pieces of silver -- like dimes -- that were each filed to shape then tinned with solder, stacked, clamped and heated to solder together. I guess that it would have been easiest to drill & file the hole for the center tube last, when the stack was a solid unit. With a couple of different melting point solders, I think you could make it all work. (Easier said than done, right?!?) Note that the tubes are alw
  7. Ask and ye shall receive... according to my notes the blade thickness just in front of the forged bolster is 0.160 inches. The pommel and the rearward part of the ferrule are indeed hollow, made from sheet silver. Bell was a silversmith by trade so that sort of work must have come naturally for him. Alan's description of the tang peened over a washer (or whatever he called it) at the pommel is correct. Mark Z
  8. One of these days I'll get around to putting a handle on the Longmire-Bell dirk blade I won in Ron's iron in the hat a couple of years ago. And you'll learn why I'm a collector, not a knifemaker! Mark Z
  9. Nice work Jake, and I'm always glad to see someone else inspired by Samuel Bell's work. (Thanks to Alan for tipping me off about this thread... too many things going on, too little time.) I keep these things in a safe deposit box at the bank, and am not the sort of guy who runs around with a steel rule and micrometer so I don't have all the measurements and such on hand. But I'll be glad to help out if I can. The knife you've built seems largely inspired by the one in this thread: http://www.bladesmithsforum.com/index.php?showtopic=7089&view=&hl=samuel%20bell&fromsearch=1
  10. Very cool!! It certainly IS a Samuel Bell knife to my eyes. It's not one of the more ornate later knives (some of which were engraved by his grandson, for one) but it is definitely Bell. And I would further say, with some confidence, that this is most likely a Knoxville made knife. Attached is a photo of one I own, that I believe to be from the same time frame (let's guess 1820s-1840s, it's hard to pin them down). Note that the engraving on the pommel is almost identical. The different designs and features pop up again and again amongst Bell knives; I've often said that you can find al
  11. Hey Alan, I might just do that. Jim and I talked about it briefly some time back and I also think that it would be nice to expose the students there to the originals and some history. Plus, the school's not too far from Knoxville. While I'm at it, let me mention that I'll be giving a "reader's digest condensed" presentation on Samuel Bell at the Smoky Mountain Knife Club meeting in Alcoa, Tennessee, Monday, July 17th. The meeting starts at about 5:30, and I'll show slides and maybe a Bell product or two starting at maybe 6:45-7:00. Rather than attempt to provide all the "where & how to
  12. Many of the well known American bowie knife makers were surgical instrument makers by trade -- Henry Schively, Peter Rose, Alfred Dufilho and the Hassam Bros are good examples. In Knoxville, Bell did a little bit of everything to keep a roof over his head, but he was a silversmith by trade and not an instrument maker. There are no known Bell surgical instruments, the closest we get is a loose handle that was supposedly made for a dental instrument, and later converted for use with opera glasses by Sam's granddaughter. It's in a San Antonio museum now (not on display). I do think he sold dental
  13. I can show that he probably knew Sam Houston, and that he actually did work for Henry Clay and CSA General John Bell Hood. There are other possible connections to famous people as well. The "silver spurs" story can be traced back to about 1916, and seems to have originated here in Knoxville. It may or may not be true, but if so they are not in any of the likely museums. Spurs were not his regular production, he never advertised them and I very much doubt that he would ever have made plain ones. Again, most of Sam's production was high-grade work for the well to do, and the average soldier
  14. Hi Bryan (et al.), I suppose that I have about 3-4 lineal feet of research materials gathered on Sam, and I shouldn't say so here but my hope is that one day I'll find time to assemble a book on Sam and the other interesting personalities in the family (and they don't get any more interesting than GW Harris.) Harris is a fascinating subject, I've written a chapter on him for a yet-unpublished Georgia county history book. His book "Sut Lovengood's Yarns" is absolutely hilarious, if you're stubborn enough to familiarize yourself with the written form of the dialect (it is tough at first).
  15. Hi Alan and all, I try to stay off the forums as a general rule, too easy to get sucked into that world and just not enough free time to do it right! Samuel Bell came from Pittsburgh to Knoxville in 1819, and opened a shop with two partners by the end of that year. He left for San Antonio at the end of 1851, and died there in 1882. The information in the above posting is pretty much accurate. Sam is buried in San Antonio's City Cemetery #1, just off of Commerce St., next to several family members. (Believe it or not, his first Texas shop is still there too, on Commerce, north side, fir
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