Jump to content
IMPORTANT Registration rules Read more... ×
Iron John Logan

Introduction to Theatre of War Knives

Recommended Posts

   _DSC7799.jpg

   Through research I was doing for a custom project about two years ago (2016) I stumbled across the mention of a personal carry knife worn by a US Navy crewman at the Bikini Atoll Baker Test of the atomic bomb in 1946 - The mention called the crewman's knife a "World War II theatre knife". I did not know what that term was so I researched more, and a lot more... and got hooked.
  1) "Theatre", spelled as in "Theatre or War" not theater/ stage/ acting (not talking about thespians nor rubber blades) . These knives are a form of Trench Art made or modified by combatants or others within a Theatre of Operation during War. Most known for WWII (a couple theories why) but also show up for the American Civil War, Span-Am, WWI, WWII, Vietnam,  and Desert Storm. Also not totally an American thing (multiple theories why Americans seem to make the most of these), but also soldiers from Germany, Japan, Poland, and others have been linked to surviving examples.
   2) A form of Trench Art - Though can be both original "custom made" knives or modifications of existing / issued knives. (The above picture from the blog Blackfork, two customs and two modifications- http://blackforkblog.blogspot.com/2011/03/ww2-knives.html)
   3) They are so ugly they are absolutely beautiful.  Functional art. Materials at hand. An unknown knife art / popular culture art
 

A sample of a the theories:
 "Issued knives like the USN MK1 up to the M3 fighting knife during World War II had stacked leather handles, the weather of the tropic south pacific rotted the handles so they needed to be replaced"  - though other theatres during WWII also made these knives, maybe not as plentiful but they are there. It is also not only a WWII thing.. Other Wars show this practice.

  "It is a post WWII DIY craze of the 1950-60s"  - (see above) We have personal accounts of persons making and or buying/ trading these knives during WWII, plus all the examples from other conflicts, beginning in the 19th century into modern conflicts

  "Seabee's (Navy Construction Battalions during WWII) who did not have the opportunity for battlefield pick ups made these knives as trade for enemy items"  - Yes this did happen, but it does not cover the entire genre (see above)

  "Post war tourist trade item"  - see above

  "Materials for theatre knives are from downed aircraft"  -  Yes clear plastics and Aluminum is a common feature for WWII theatre knives, but it has to be remembered that those NEW materials for their age..


So basically a theatre Knife is anything made within theatre of War with a blade (there is enough on the subject I can not cover it all here. Google will continue for anyone interested). WWII versions are known for stacked plastics and metals handles, but there are others from other time periods and use other materials. Cast Aluminum handles, stacked handles in the style of Scagel, Randal, etc but in "theatre materials", "sweet heart" photographic handles, modified issued knives and bayonets, "Custom" weird blades, shell casing knives, aircraft knives, foreign natural materials, "sword knives", etc, etc, etc : "Theatre Knife"  



 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My first attempt as emulating the WWII Theatre Knife style. 6in fullered and ricassoed blade in the style of RH, PAL, Western and other beginning of the 20th century blades. Stacked handle of multiple plastics including Luceite (clear), Maricite (black), Aluminum and brass. hand sewn sheath in the style of USMC MK1 1940

15825930_10211479549414147_2473847921959495212_n.jpg

Edited by Iron John Logan
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A attempt at making a Hawaiian Seabee Knife. Blade based on the Naval Construction MK1 (1942) with stacked figured Koa wood and red Acrylic plastic, brass guard, Aluminum pommel. Sheath an exact copy of the super rare Seabee (NCB) MK2

IMG_4293.JPG

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

An attempt at a Korea war era Randal #2 (I had permission from Randal to make this copy)

IMG_3834.JPG

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A attempt at a Theatre M3 trench knife and 1942 paratrooper scabbard . 1095 steel parkerized blade, bakelite and clear acrylic handle

IMG_3289.JPG

Edited by Iron John Logan
photo did not load

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

SHARK - an inspired by Western Co MK1 "shark" knife of 1942. Forged 1095 hollow ground blade with duel tangs (two tangs) as in the patented Western style. Parkerized steel guard and pommel. Sweat heart style grip of hand painted shark mouth on aircraft aluminum under clear acrylic handles 

IMG_3378.JPG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

USN VAQ 130 Desert Storm knives. Knives made for the surviving members of the 1990 squadron. Overall design based on USN MK1 knives from WWII and Randal Bush master pattern. Blades are laminated steel forge welded from scrap tail hook of one of the planes, 15N20 and 1095. Handles are Mircarta, Turotuf, and "sweat heart" photos of the unit insignia and the plane the tail hook came from under clear acrylic.

IMG_5127-001.JPG

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Very cools knives! Both yours and the originals.

Thanks for a glimpse at this interesting bit of history. 

I had a chance once to see my grandmother's husband's knife from ww2, the story was that a local knifemaker made them for all the young men in their town before they left for europe. It was ground from a meat cleaver, down to a very large ka-bar shape. Fifty years after the war, it was still like a razor.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks justin! If you ever have the chance to take a photo of the knife you mention, I'd love to see it!

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you for posting the photos and information. Very interesting indeed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Very interesting, and thanks for sharing.

This reminds me of when I first started making knives.  My neighbor at the time was a Korean war Navy vet.  I used to sit on his porch in the evenings and talk with him for hours, so we knew each other pretty well.  When he found out I was trying to make knives he told me that he used to make them all the time on the ship.  I forget what he said he ground the blade from, but I remember he said he would buy soap dishes from the ship's store, and cut them into disks to make stacked handles.

He told me that he made quite a few to sell/trade for other things he wanted.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×