Posts posted by Wild Rose
Chuck, thanks for the insight. i have fur trade cutlery sketch book, and those are some fine examples as well. What about stick tang/rat tail construction? Would the tangs be burned through?
I have seen your work and I am really impressed, both with your scholarship and your craftsmanship. Thanks again for the input.
Howdy Brice - I've enever had the chance to take one apart but drill first to get close then burn in, is a typical method of the period. Glad to be of help when I can.....
Can you suggest some of those books? What I've been able to find on the web is pretty sparse, and most of those have been on antique auction sites, so I'm not very confident in the accuracy of the descriptions.
Howdy Tom - here's a start.........some of these are out of print and thus Interlibrary Loan is a good option - some only have a few items but are never the less valuable.
"American Knives, The First History And Collector's Guide"
Harold L. Peterson
New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 1958
"The Knife In Homespun America And Related Items"
York, PA. Privately Printed 1984
"The Antique Bowie Knife Book"
Bill Adams, J.Bruce Voyles, & Jerry Moss
Conyers, GA. Museum Publishing. 1990
"Native American Weapons"
Colin F. Taylor
London, UK. Salamander Books Ltd. 2001
Norman, OK. Univ. of Oklahoma Press. 2001
New York. Random House. 1992
"Early Knives & Beaded Sheaths of the American Frontier" (one of the best)
"Plains Indian Knife Sheaths: Materials, Design & Construction"
"The Bowie Knife"
"Collector's Illustrated Encyclopedia of the American Revolution"
"Swords and Blades of the American Revolution"
George C Neuman
"The Book of Buckskinning vol 7"
on line sources for Indian sheaths:
I wrote a short tutorial on how to build a rawhide core with braintan cover here:
FWIW - Dog chews are made from cow rawhide and most resources sell cow rawhide which is much tougher to work with than deer, elk, or buffalo. IMO after you've worked with the latter you won't want to use cow, plus for those interested in the historical aspects then cow was seldom used on the frontier (except maybe Texas where there were lots of wild cattle).......Cow being heavier than deer or elk does make a good liner, but buffalo is even better.......
I've admired the old-time style raw hide sheaths made by folks like Daniel Winkler, and have been wanting to try my hand at this style of leatherwork. Can anyone point me in the right direction in terms of materials or technique? In particular, does anyone know what sort of raw hide is used for this stuff, and where can it be purchased?
Howdy David -
The best rawhide to use is deer or elk and it can be purchased at www.hideandfur.com or www.eidnesfurs.com - these are two sources I can heartily recommend. YOu will also need some bucksin for fringe and other things - you can buy that at either place as well. John Cohea wrote a basic tutorial http://knifedogs.com/showthread.php?t=1177 - the style is basically a veg/bark tan cover with a rawhide cover. As John will note you must work rawhide wet whihc makes things more "interesting" shall we say........
FWIW - It's Karen Shook who makes all the sheaths for Dan's knives and she developed this style over many, many years. While these type sheaths have the frontier "look", they are not based on any specific historical examples - this is NOT a put down, but for those interested in such things it is a point of distinction. If you're interested in making actual historically based pieces then it will take more research - lots of books to read!
The number one choice for Spanish Colonial grips here in the Southwest was - horn or bone ......these two materials far outweigh any other materials used, with horn being numero uno.
With that said I don't like working with most of the natural horn available today so prefer wood, antler (either stick or slabs), or bone. For woods I like mesquite (Texas, Southern NM, and Arizona are all supply sources for it) a lot, but even eastern woods such as the afore mentioned walnut as well as maple, oak - both white and red, Osage, and hickory show up on knives in the Northern NM area. These eastern woods were obtained both via trade (such places as Bent's Fort imported maple and walnut for the gunshop there for instance) and the other was from dismantled wagons brought in over the Santa Fe Trail - traders often brought them west and then returned via mule train with the gold received in payment.
Here are three period SW Spanish knives from a private museum in the Santa Fe area:
From the top down:
1) Cuchillo style - Antler grip
2) Belduque - dark horn
3) Belduque - bone - blade is 12" long approximate
Since you're interested in this type knife I'd suggest the book "Fur Trade Cutlery Sketchbook" which has several SW knives included.
My observations are strictly for the West Texas, New Mexico, and Southern Colorado area. While blades styles overlapped with the SE and California my studies are centered on this area - I live in Durango BTW.
It's simple and traditional - water and heat.........no need for flammable mixes or anything else..............using wax or resins is technically called Jacking and IMO the hardening was peripheral to the water proofing aspect.
The following method of a hardening leather is not my invention. The basic method has been in continuous use for several thousand years. I have studied the subject extensively (I started making SCA and sheaths in 1970 - I'm an old timer!) and the following method is based on what bonafide experts say. I have heard of some people dipping the leather in acetone instead of wetting it with water, but I don't like using that stuff unless absolutely necessary. NOTE: I have a liver disease (NASH-level 2) and the doctor's figure that it is mostly from having breathed and absorbed so many toxic fumes over the years and no I was never a heavy boozer but I am now forced to be a teetotaller. So be careful with that stuff!
The process was known as cuir boulli (boiled leather) in the Middle Ages, but they NEVER actually boiled the leather. (I've tried it - it will totally ruin your leather - TOO HOT - the leather will shrivel up into a tight ball). The process is still used commercially to make cigar cases and such - it was never a "lost" art.
1) "Case" your leather to moldability. The outside aka smooth side of the leather must have no dye or finish on it at this point (if you're doing a pouch type sheath it's OK to finish the inside first and then sew it). To case my leather I thoroughly dampen the sheath or whatever, put it in a plastic bag, and leave it over night in the refrigerator. You want it damp not soaking. It is properly "cased" or "sammed" when the color is almost the same color as a dry piece, but it will feel "cool" to the touch and act like semi-stiff putty. This is the same state you bring it to when tooling it.
2) Mold and bone it to shape if this is desired, but don't let it get too dried out. You can remoisten it by wrapping in lightly dampened towel and putting it back in the plastic bag for a while.
3) Here is the process that makes leather hard - semi-rapid dehydration from the damp state. Dry your item between 120-160 deg F. I use a thermostatically controlled food dehydrator for this but you can also do it by making a 2-3' square wooden box and setting a hot plate in it or set it up with a couple of light sockets with 100 watt bulbs. Use an oven thermometer and make a little sliding door so you can control the heat. A small fan to move the air around inside the box will help. Suspend the leather so the hot air can move around all sides. You need to experiment with temperature and the wetness of your leather until you get the hang of it. The thickness of your leather determines a lot as well - thinner leather dries faster and can wrinkle or shrivel very easily. I'd recommend 6/7oz vegtan for small sheaths and 8/9 oz for larger ones.
KEEP AN EYE ON IT! Too hot and the leather will either shrivel up or turn out so hard that it will crack. Too low and it won't get hard enough (you can always re-wet and re-dry). I've found best success at around 130-140F for good stiffeness without as much chance of wrikiling/cracking. You can also dip it into a pot of 160-180F water and then put it in your drying box. EXPERIMENT WITH SCRAP if you do this one. This will make it dry faster and harder. I don't find it necessary.
4) Leather dye will also stiffen leather to a degree as it dries it out chemically. If you're going to dye do it after the above process. I then use first a light coat or two of Lexol Conditioner and then a water resistant top coat of something like Fiebings Leather Balm or Tan Kote or even Watco Danish Oil. I don't recommend using the beeswax/oil bath as that amount of oil may actually soften it, but feel free to try. I have read of some fragmentary accounts of how they did use pure melted beeswax or a mixture of beeswax and pitch to waterproof it (Leather drinking Jacks and Bots were lined with brewer's pitch to make them watertight with cold liquids). With larger pieces such as breastplates they sometimes glued in fine woven linen or canvas linings.
I've made leather armour out of 12/14 oz using this method that will turn a sharp sword stroke when properly padded underneath.
One caveat: this is always a touch and go process - every hide is different even in the same weights.
For more info see here: http://www.personal....leather/hl.html
The Original & Sole Manufacturers of the DH Russell Canadian Belt Knife, Grohmann Belt Knives, Grohmann Kitchen Knives http://www.grohmannknives.com/
WAHKON BAY AQUAFORTIS 2 oz. $8.95. Continental U.S. ground shipping only. Gunbuilder and dealer quantities available. MICHAEL LEA AND DAUGHTER, 2109 Summit Street, Columbus OH 43201. Telephone 614-291-4757, email <firstname.lastname@example.org>. Visa/MC.
Nicely done! although I agree about the rondel "guard" shspe - here's an original with a metal "guard" that IMO would enhance the over all look:
<BR>name='Jeroen Zuiderwijk' date='02 October 2009 - 05:53 AM' timestamp='1254484412' post='139095']<BR>Nope, at least not unless you may make very thin plates out of it, then it might work. But I have no experience with that.<BR>
With all due respect yes you can in fact boil antler rounds and straighten them - those who have done it found that pre-drilling the tang hole at least part way and adding vinegar to the water aids in the straightening.
It must be done quickly - that is moving it from the boiling water to the clamps and it helps to have two people - one to hold the piece steady so it won't twist while the other tightens down the vise..
I know the process has been discussed on two other forums - Primal Fires and American Long Rifles so you might look there for more info.
Heating the antler in hot oil at 275-325°F may also be of help as the antler will stay hot longer.
How straight you get it will depend on how curved the piece is. In aall cases I've read about the straightening once done did not revert tto a curve.
Thanks for the info, gents. I'll see if I can get bone to turn as gray as antler: I just had a friend give me a gigantic cow's leg bone, so it's just sitting around, waiting for me to use.
Use Fiebings black leather dye (not the oil dye) - thin as needed with denatured alcohol - rub on - wipe off - leave set longer if need be. After the color is acceptable and dry apply a coat of wax to finish it up.
George Barnsley and Son is listed in the 1837 Sheffield directory as a file manufacture situated on Wheeldon Street, The 1849 listing records a move to Cornhill and the 1852 to Cornish Works, Cornish street they had by this time also increased their product range to include steel files, shoes and butchers knives.
They are again listed in 1944 as manufactures of files and blades shoe knives and leather workers tools. In the 1948 listing the business had become George Barnsley and Son Ltd
GEORGE BARNSLEY & SONS LTD.
47 MOWBRAY STREET
Tel 0114 272 6060
apparently the business closed for good in 2004, but they still can be contacted
Any shear steel would most likely have been made prior to WWI - based on the dates IMO Barnsley et al most likely purchased the steel from one of the big Sheffield producers of the period and then manufactured goods from it
The double shear I've had/seen tested over the last 40 years was generally in the .70 Carbon range - I've had good success heat treating it like 1065-1075 dependent on the piece......
Hope this helps......
No need for hot bleach - a nasty and unnecessary method.
While the following methods are still somewhat nasty - they are not near as bad as hot bleach, but still require safety precautions since you are using acids and other chemicals to speed up the normal aging process - done right it looks good, do it sloppy and it looks terrible.....
1) Apply a good cold blue such as Birchwood Casey's, Super Blue and follow up by soaking in laundry bleach for 2 minutes on up or several short soaks - a very quick and aggressive method so it is easy to go to far..........
2) Muriatic acid aka hydrochloric acid - use the standard and dilute by 1/2. Apply to the steel with a clean cloth - then store the piece in a sealed container with a cup of the acid in the container. A more time consuming method but it gives excellent results when done right.
3) Salt and peroxide as Chris noted
4) Commercial Browning solutions such LMF Browner - apply and leave on longer than normal
All of the above are oxidizers which in effect give rust a kick start and dependent on the method will also etch to various degrees.......
I'm a fair hand at aging - you can see my work at www.wrtcleather.comSorry for the rant, I'm still trying to convince the local Mountainmen that a $3000 dollar rifle paired with a $2 ******ese POS knife looks bad, and is NOT period, period!
With all due respect - that's not exactly correct that it's no period- rifles used by the mountain man would retail in the mountains at $50.00-150.00 plus while the most common knife sold and use was the cheap imported scalpers and butcher knives which normally retailed for 75 cents to a $1.50 depending on quality. The price differential between knives and rifles was always quite big though not quite as big as the one noted. A common mistake when reading the trade lists: they usually show the wholesale price and not the retail in most cases and retail was generally anywhere from 500-2,000% above wholesale.
While I'm no fan of the cheap imports from Pakistan or elsewhere, during the Mtn Man Period it was just such cheaply made types of knives (most from England - who imported knives and blades from all over the Empire including India and Pakistan.) that were the most common in the fur trade.
FWIW - I had metallurgical tests done on a dozen original common trade knives and have seen about a dozen more test results that were done by others and a good average for the blades was:
1) Plain steel - closest modern equivalent is the 10XX series. Carbon content varied from .45 to .80 with an average of around .60.
2) Hardness: typical of the time period the steels were normally much less hard than usually seen today. RC scales ran from 43 on the low end and 54 on the top end with an average of 51
3) Half tang construction with split hard wood handles and 2-6 iron pins in conjunction to cutler's resin for assembly.
As for aging - under the conditions the mountain men and other full-time outdoorsmen of the era used their gear, aging occurred at a much more accelerated rate then most of us are used to. When a plain steel knife blade for instance stays wet days on end rust and damage such as pitting can occur even when the knife is cared for as well as possible - that statement is based on my own experiences and those of others who have lived in nearly the same type of long term "primitive" conditions, where getting and keeping things dry is not always possible.
The gent wanted something that would fit late 1700's and early 1800's so..........
The hand forged 9 1/2" blade is patterned after an original knife excavated at Ft. Ticonderoga - its made from 1080 hi-carbon steel with file work on the spine. The handle is buffalo leg bone with a deer rawhide wrap and buffalo rawhide end wraps - the main wrap covers a spiraled piece of rawhide for a better grip.
The sheath has an elk rawhide cover over a bark tan core and a brain tan inner cuff at the top as far down as the grip goes . Decoration includes: the elk rawhide cover has been incised carved, there is a quilled and pound beaded braintan cuff, pound beads along the edge of the blade, and two dangles made from whiteheart glass beads, brass cones, and buffalo hair.
The knife balances where you're fore finger will set making it easy handling, but with enough blade weight to do light chopping and other camp shores......
The pouch is for me and is based on those in A. J. Miller's mountain man prints, the horn is an original (1791 and 1825 are scratched on it) - I did the rawhide repairs to make it my user - more on the pouch later since I'm still working on the accoutrements which will include the rawhide covered scent bottle and striker.........
Are you saying that through the process of forge welding cast iron and refining it by fording and welding that you are actually taking some of the carbon out of it and reverting it to steel? That is amazing!
Cast pigs of iron were at one time the "mother" source for making wrought iron, which was made from the high carbon pigs by heating and beating to cook off the carbon - the WI was then re-carburized to make steel aka blister steel which was then further refined as sheat steel (post circa 1650) or crucibal aka cast steel (post 1745). Turning wrought iron into blister steel was the main method in Europe for making steel from the late medieval era until the 1860's when the Bessemer process was developed....just a brief and simplified overview.......
I am currently using Atlanta Virtual and I am very happy there as well but you get less for your money there but if you are a user of the Knife network forum, the gentlemen that owns that site Alex Whetsell is the one that I deal with at Atlanta Virtual. I use them because they support the knife industry by giving us a place to gather although I do spend most of my time here at Don's , just a better class of people here.
Agreed - there MAY be better and there are some cheaper, but Alex supports us so I support him and he will bend over backwards to help when help is needed - they have recently upgraded their service........
There are several knives in the book that could be interpreted as "cowboy" Bowies, but are not posted as such. I too am looking for such a reference as you with specific mentions of cowboys, old west, photos, etc. Please holler at me if you find one.
Lin Rhea email
Based on 48+ years of seriously studying the old west, I would have to say that few cowboys carried belt knives of any kind let alone Bowies. Most carried and used pocket knives of various types (the Barlow was a favorite and later the two or three blade slip joint style which came to be known as the stockman). Despite the image that Hollywood so often portrays, most working cowhands did not go around heavily armed - some large ranches such as the XIT in Texas during the 1880's specifically banned hand guns and large knives along with several other things.
It will also depend though on when in the cowboy era one is researching/recreating. During the early years, i.e. late 1860's and early 1870's, belt knives were carried more often since most when men were still packing cap'n ball revolvers and single shot long arms and Indian troubles were more prevalent. By the mid to late 1870's, Bowies and other large belt knives were pretty passé - a major reason being that with the advent of the cartridge firearm, knives were seldom viewed as back up weapons, but rather as tools and for most of the knife work required by a cowboy a large knife wasn't needed and would more often than not get in the way (having been a working cow hand at one time I can attest to that).
There are a few pictures and a few examples of cowboy era Bowies around as well as pics of some cowboys wearing them, but more often it would be a lawman such as Texas Rangers or the outlaws they chased who carried a belt knife of any kind. FWIW - The most commonly carried/used belt knife of the western frontier era of the entire 1800's was the lowly butcher knife (i.e Russell Green River styles) and in later years the common skinner - their numbers far exceeded Bowies by a large margin.
A few books off the top of my head with originals resources - then compare to knves in the Bowie Knife Book:
Peacemakers by R. L . Wilson has a few cowboy era Bowies
Packing Iron by Rattenbury has some as well
Before Barbed Wire: L. A. Huffman, Photographer on Horseback by Brown & Felton
on line resources try: www.bbhc.org, the Texas Rangers Museum, and the Autry Western Center as well as some of the auction houses such as www.highnoon.com, Greg Martin, Butterfields, and Cowans
Based on the research I've done (both images and written documentation) I would say that the most "common" Bowie carried during the cowboy era and carried by gringo cowboys or lawmen would be something along the lines of these:
one of my versions including a period Mexican loop sheath
The following info refers mostly to the large commercial makers since that was the most widely available knives for working cowpokes, most of whom earned no more than $30-40.00 bucks a month and usually did not work all year round. There were few professional cutlers out west except for those around San Francisco. There is some documentation for blacksmith knives (mostly in the SW), but they were few and far between.
Blade length: 6-7" is most often mentioned or seen - I wouldn't go longer than 8"
Grips: sambar stag or ebony was most common on Sheffield made knives (even then still the largest manufacturers of knives). On American made knives, Stag, antler, or wood - mostly eastern woods such as walnut, hickory, or maple with some ebony on higher end pieces. Some higher end outfits like Tiffany of New York offered fancy cast Sterling silver handles - see Theodore Roosevelt's for instance. BTW - he owned two ranches in South Dakota in the 1880's and was in fact a working hand for a while.
Tangs: full tangs most common, but through stick tangs not unknown
Fittings: usually simple guards - Sheffield makers used nickel silver almost exclusively while American made knives used brass more often
All the info I've provided is based on the idea that one would be building a "Period Correct" replica of an original or variation there of.
FWIW - if you're looking to expand sales - the serious reenactor and in particular the high end historical collector market, (both of which I've been selling to since 1968) usually demands PC materials - stainless, etc. are big no no's. Cowboy Action Shooters are usually not as particular, but it's not the best market for custom knives - spending big bucks on using knives is not a major sales market- for a majority of the CASS knife buyers it's more about looking good and their guns which is where they spend most of the moola. A few good makers do sell to the market, but they've pretty well saturated it.
Addendum: Historically Mexican vaqueros were more likely to carry belt knives, including Belduques, Bowies and their SW kinfolk cuchillos. Belduques are similar to gaucho knives, though usually less ornate.
Hope this helps...........
Glad ya'll enjoyed the look see - this was a nice change from the bogger piece I so often do.
Karl - my well is plenty deep! mainly due to the fact the there are so many original pieces that are an inspiration to me...I seldom do exact replicas anymore (you really have to pull my leg!) since I now prefer to do my own designs, still based on the originals as to methods, materials, and styles but which I often mix and match somewhat (i'm of mixed blood heritage so I figure I'm allowed!!.....) I also get inspired by/borrow from originals that aren't sheaths - beadwork in particular..........
Some good resources to see originals online:
Plains Indian museum www.bbhc.org
that's just a start..I recently heard that the Smithsonian is going to be putting their collections on line!!!!!
and then there are inspiring contemporary makers (such as Alan Longmire, who isn't "allowed" to visit the BBHC site anymore because the last time he broke it! he he) - some of their finest work can be seen at:
Chris - Gib was prolific for sure. Off the top of my head I've got 10 or 11 blades to make up for sale: a mix of hawk heads - 2, warclub heads - 3, and knife blades - 6 or 7. I've got two pieces I'm working on right now: a pipehawk (a three way collaboration since I'm adding a bowl by Stuart Willis) and a cable Damascus knife.
That number doesn't include the 6 pieces I'm keeping for myself: a hawk and 5 knives - one of which I use as a shop knife. Mine also includes the only "shear steel" blade Gib made from original blister steel - some early 19th Century wagon springs I got from a friend and had Gib forge into a near "copy" of a 9" relic "riflemans" knife blade found at Ft Ticonderoga, NY
This one is going to a professor of art in Spain - Gib would be pleased!
As always it's even better in person - the subtle variations/nuances of the colors are much richer in person and of course there is the tactile senses, of touch and smell, which one cannot enjoy from a picture.
Here are the specifications:
Blade length: 5 9/16" - blade has a bit of filework on it
Blade steel: 5160
Overall length: 10"
Handle: mule deer leg bone with a buffalo rawhide and hemp thread wrap
Sheath: Bark tan cowhide liner with a carved deer rawhide cover
Decoration: Beaded brain tan buckskin cuff and beaded lower edge with brass tacks and nails. Glass beads, tin cone, and buffalo hair danglers. The belt loop is bark tan cowhide with a carved deer rawhide "fix'it" patch
I got one hanging on my wall - bought it in a hock shop in Seattle in 1973 - funny thing is it's my cats favorite past time - he like to lie there, get it to swinging and then just watch. Not all are dark though - I've seen more than a few over the years and they vary from medium dark to real dark
BTW - the guy who made the knives for the movie is Dennis Miles of Double Edge Forge - a fellow knifemaker/black smith who builds everything using period tools and methods only......he's got some funny stories about making those knives.........
Beautiful piece Jake - looking forward to the finished package!Where do you get liver of sulfer?
Sam - jeweler's supplies carry it - It's used for addding a patina to silver and copper based metals. A couple of on line sources are
The head for this one was hand-forged by Stuart Willis - www.swillisforge.com -
I've worked with some fine smiths over the years and I can unequivocably say that if you are looking for a tomawhawk/pipehawk Stuart does a FANTASTIC! job ..........
The rest is by me - an eastern axe goes west: a super fine curly maple handle, with brass fittings, a rawhide grip, antler end plug and mouthpiece, a bit of beadwork, and a horse tail hair "drop".......
check out the Accoutrements section at www.americanlongrifles.org - also search back through the archives section and if you like muzzleloaders - some of the finest contemporary builders visit there.. There is also a Horners guild - not sure of the URL - it should be listed on the CLA site - www.longrifle.ws
BTW - Alan was more fight han me regarding the temp of hot oil for horn, which FWIW is a completely different material than antler, and they DO NOT work alike. 225-250° F is a good place to start - at 6500 ft above sea level I have to work things quite bit hotter to get them to work......
You can buy the crystals here.....mix with distilled water........
You're welcome and I should have noted warming the piece to be darkened helps/speeds things up......
Need some sheath help..
in Hot Work
Posted · Edited by Wild Rose
Seal the inside before sewing it all together......glue the welt to one side, dye if you so choose the area of the blade, and then seal this area with something like Resolene or Tan Kote. Once you glue the front to the back that part will be sealed.
FWIW - I know of NO professional leather crafter (that includes such well known sheath makers as Sandy Morrisey and Paul Long who have made thousands of sheaths as well as other high quality leather goods) who would recommend the hot dip wax treatment, it's unnecessarily messy and dangerous and the chance of ruining the sheath is high.
If you want the look use Skidmore's or Montana Pitchblend - they will do the same thing without all the muss and fuss.