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Trouble With Histroically Inspired Bowie Construction


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Hello All,

 

I'm afraid that Mr. Mulkey has been a bad influence on me, and inspired me to start the long road of understanding the enigma generally referred to as the Bowie knife.

 

As it so happens, I also have a project for which making a historically inspired Bowie style knife would be a perfect option. I sketched up the knife below that is based on a pair of knives I saw in Flayderman's book. (Page 17 if you are playing along at home) I have a laddered billet all complete and started to work on the profile last night when I realized I have no idea how to assemble this one.

 

I assumed from the picture in the book that these were full-tang knives with stag scales. However, if that is the case, what is holding the guard in place? From the photos, it looks as if the handle tang is the same width as the ricasso.

 

How does one make a full tang knife with a bi-lateral guard? I know how to notch a guard for one with a single side, but that doesn't seem practical for a double sided guard.

 

Were the historical examples a frame construction? The only other idea I have is that there may be a very small step up in width from the tang to the ricasso. Then again, as I was typing this I thought that maybe they were simply pinned in place?

IMG_20160801_074715550.jpg

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A lot of historical Bowies were frame hilt jobs.

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:) Sorry if I caused you some new worry lines.

 

As Al has said, there were frame tang knives made back then. If fact it's the only way that I know to have a slotted guard and have the tang exposed on both sides. ( I would imagine that Wostenholm used the 4 obvious handle pins to attach the scales to the frame tang and escutcheon pins to attach everything to the integral tang.)

 

Many of the knives made in the 18th & 19th centuries were made by individuals and not in factories so there were often as many techniques as there were makers. I continue to run into things that have me scratching my head so don't feel alone. If I can be of any help with your project please let me know.

 

Gary

 

[Here's a teaser of my latest.] The blade here still needs H/T'ing and a Spanish notch cut in but it may give you an idea of my inspiration on this one as the style is very identifiable.

IMG_9577_opt_opt_zpst0jyyszd.jpg

Edited by Gary Mulkey
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Yep, that one's a frame. There are a couple of ricasso-less Woodhead bowies with the guard slid on from the front and pinned. I haven't been brave enough to try that one...

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Brian--If you're looking for more examples to help you then you could also look at photos of Joseph Rodger's knives as their styles are so similar that I believe that Wostenholm must have studied under Rodgers and probably used the same techniques.

 

Gary

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Yep, that one's a frame. There are a couple of ricasso-less Woodhead bowies with the guard slid on from the front and pinned. I haven't been brave enough to try that one...

 

I haven't done one either. I believe that I would probably try to pick Jim Batson's brain before I started one. He's the expert on Woodhead.

 

Gary

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James Batson published a sixteen page, soft-cover book called Coffin Handle Bowie Knives. Lot's of photos with construction details of the original knives as well as measured drawings and a materials list to make a reproduction. I bought a copy directly from him about five years ago.

 

J

 

JDWARE KNIVES

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Thanks for all the info folks. I'll dig into the other references you mentioned.

 

I came to blacksmithing by way of being a hobby machinist, so the frame setup doesn't bother me. I just wish I had thought ahead a bit so I wouldn't have spent the time I did making sure I had enough material for a full tang knife :)

 

Gary,I remember seeing a similar knife to your project while flipping through the book last night, but I am not learned enough yet to cite the example. ;)

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Wostenholm is my favorite. If I can ever finish this sword I am working on (and can't post pics due to designer and customer's preferences) I will be making one after that style (his style, I guess I should say).

 

Question - is it not possible to make it messer-like, and slide the guard on and wedge it up with the bolsters? You would have a little guard slot visible, and since I haven't ever seen one of these particular knives to see if there is any guard slot visible, I don't know the answer. But, it may be, "possible," to do it that way. So, was this common? It would be simpler, but maybe a style that people did not like. I am curious about this, too.

 

thanks for posting.

I am looking forward to this. I hope my question made sense.

Edited by Kevin (The Professor)
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rodgers2-gh03.jpg

 

 

rodgers2-gh04.jpg

Frame handle from Rodgers.

Edited by Kevin (The Professor)
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Thanks for all the info folks. I'll dig into the other references you mentioned.

 

I came to blacksmithing by way of being a hobby machinist, so the frame setup doesn't bother me. I just wish I had thought ahead a bit so I wouldn't have spent the time I did making sure I had enough material for a full tang knife :)

 

Gary,I remember seeing a similar knife to your project while flipping through the book last night, but I am not learned enough yet to cite the example. ;)

 

It's based on an Alfred Hunter. It's not designed to be an exact duplicate but the hilt is very close.

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  • 1 month later...
  • 2 months later...

I have too many projects going on at once right now, but I made a little time to work on this knife again. I got the guard formed out of nickle silver and the tabs on the frame filed to match. Here is a pic of the tabs as they just start to engage the holes in the guard:

 

IMG_20161120_185831923_zpselpez5ps.jpg

 

Here the frame is slid home right before everything was soldered in place:

 

IMG_20161120_190719707_zpsbn1ghugh.jpg

 

Here the stag scales are roughly shaped, and dry fit with some stainless pins. I am waiting for the epoxy to cure now...

 

IMG_20161120_210442651_zpsn0hixlit.jpg

 

I have some more shaping to do on the scales, but the rest needs to be done in place. This is my first time using stag handles. It responds to a rasp quite nicely. This is also my first frame job, but I kind of like how it is working out. I still blame Gary for all this ;)

Edited by Brian Dougherty
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Getting close. I messed up a bit with the stag scales. I misjudged how much of the bark I would have to remove to get them shaped, and ended up with a lot more white showing than I intended. I've heard of people dyeing the antler, but have also heard it is easily messed up. I'm considering trying a lite stain/dye to give the scales a more antique look.

IMG_20161126_200607819.jpg

Edited by Brian Dougherty
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staining antler is not that difficult. You may have to put a lot of layers on to get the darkness you want. However, no matter, great work on the frame handle. I am really inspired by the Wostenholm stuff. This piece you chose is great.

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I've used potassium permanganate mixed into a bit of water to darken antler before. I'd buy a bit off eBay and then do it on a test piece! It gives a beautiful brown color that looks nice and aged.

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Thanks guys. I have some spare antler to test with, so I may try the potassium permanganate. Didn't that stuff used to come in a snake bite kit? I'm trying to think of somewhere I can buy it locally today rather than order it.

 

The last time I actually had potassium permanganate, I got a little overzealous in a college chemistry class, and started a pretty significant fire.

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