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Beavertail dagger questions


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I really love the look of the beavertail daggers that were carried by several of the Plains tribes. I'd like to try a replica of one, but I'm having a hard time figuring out how the tang was done. A few places I've read said that these were typically repurposed spear points, and had a stick tang. I can't seem to find any pictures of actual artifacts that show one way or the other. Do any of ya'll know where I can find concrete evidence one way or the other?

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i'm not 100% sure what you mean by beaver tail dagger, but if it's what i think it is it would probably use the ubiquitous dag as a basis, so a short stub tang and a pair of lugs so it can be bound in place. these were used as knives, spears, hawks, the blades of gunstock clubs etc, and were mostly made in sheffield as trade goods:

dag.jpg

 

Alan will be able to tell you more...

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Nope, you pretty much nailed it. Cheap, cut out of sheet iron, exported by the barrel, all to the (then) northwest.

 

Stick tang with those notches, some more pointy than others, NOT a repurposed spear point. Those darned English were also shipping over cast iron (!) hawk heads by the barrel at the same time, along with those made from thin sheet with a rolled and welded eye.

 

Since the trade gun was what was most wanted, that's where the quality went. The Hudson's Bay Company mark on a barrel or lock was so desired based on the early fur trade, the later natives wouldn't take a trade gun without it. So, the French and American companies just forged the mark. :lol:

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Hmmm.... not sure why the link isn't working. Yeah, that's the main page, John. Let me see if it works better doing it this way.

 

Edit: crap, nevermind. I guess that site doesn't allow hotlinks. Anyway, if you go to that mainpage and type "knife" in the search bar a few different ones will come up. The one I'm referring to is the Metis knife and sheath. It's pretty similar to the one Troy posted.

Edited by jonathan creason
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This photo of a Beavertail dagger looks like it is a full tang knife.

 

My link

 

What makes you say that? From that angle there's no indication what the tang might look like. It is a nice one, though!

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What makes you say that? From that angle there's no indication what the tang might look like. It is a nice one, though!

 

indeed from that photo i'd pretty much be prepared to bet it was a standard shaped dag blade/tang - if you look at where the edges meet the handle, you'll see a slight indentation, where the cutout for the lugs is. plus, given the grind extends all the way into the handle, it would be a nightmare to fit scales compared to a morticed tang.

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I strongly suspect that those with the pronounced ridgeline were just ground after being cut out. They did come from Sheffield, after all. No shortage of cutlery firms around there at that time. :)

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So, a customer has just asked me to put a handle on his reproduction of one of these critters, and I am curious about the methods that would have been used. I was originally going to use osage orange for the handle, but now I wonder if maple wouldn't be more appropriate? Would it just be two slabs that are carved out to fit the tang with holes drilled for rivets? Any suggestions would be useful.

Thanks,

Brice

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I haven't looked at many original ones, but I suspect they're mostly burned in and sealed with pitch. You can certainly mortice and rivet, but the rivets are usually in the notches since they couldn't easily drill holes in the tang.

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Thef ollowing are from teh Museum of the Fur Trade boo, Fur Trade Cutlery Sketchbook. ANYONE interested in period knives in America from the1600's to the 1800's IMO should have this book it's cheap (about $8.00) and is chock full of scale drawings taken from originals in the MOFT Collection - it can be purchased direct from the museum or from suppliers such as Track of the Wolf.

 

 

The eariliest "dag" blade was the Bayonet style, with the others following years later - these are all the commercially made styles of dags. There is also a good amount of blacksmith/gunsmith made dag blades (most mid-late 1800's) - the latter vary considerably in size, shape, type of tang, and handle material (one of the most common handle materials on the commercially made dags was water buffalo horn or ebonized wood.

dag-bayonet.jpg

 

dag-dague.jpg

 

dag-hbc.jpg

 

dag-amer.jpg

 

As for the centerline being forged or ground - could and porbably was a combo effort - most of the Sheffield blades were produced using dies and tilt hammers, then ground, etc. in order to minimize the use of steel.

 

 

Here are links to pics of some originals:

 

http://rockymtncollege.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=blades&action=display&thread=273

 

A repro - but with some very good images especially of the handle

http://www.bladeforums.com/forums/showthread.php/600822-Today-s-quiz-I-amp-H-SORBY-but-Whut-Izzit

 

http://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/i-h-sorby-dag-knife-h-peake-collection

 

Page 322...

http://books.google.com/books?id=E6NZd17WtWoC&pg=PA323&lpg=PA323&dq=sorby+dag&source=bl&ots=pG37smtobj&sig=NGKCi_f1LuG_gK6Pao44MQciXAY&hl=en&sa=X&ei=e01WT6LjOKioiQLsxd3hBw&ved=0CEAQ6AEwATgK#v=onepage&q=sorby%20dag&f=false

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Thanks very much to Alan and Chuck. that was exactly what I was hoping for. I had a copy of Fur trade Cutlery... and now I can't find it. Thanks again.

Brice

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The University of Colorado had several beavertail dags in their collection back in 1995 when I attended a seminar there on the fur trade. The Museum of the Fur Trade in Chadron Nebraska also has several specimens of beavertail dags that are full tang construction. Thus my assumption on a "full tang."My link Troy.

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  • 2 months later...

Can anyone provide me some information on this dag , it is 15.5 inch long 11.25 inch blade. I found this is a yardsale that was selling some pretty old musty things.

 

 

 

I would like to know any details and its value , can anyone help?

Edited by sleonard
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nice.... now I FINALLY know what to do with that 15,000 yr old bison bone I picked up at the Arkansas show. A wrought san mai beaver tail....

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