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Aiden CC

Sakha (Yakut) Knife

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These knives are usually referred to as "Yakut" knives, but it seems like the people prefer to call themselves "Sakha" or "Saha" (though I don't know much about the issue), so for recognition I'm using "Yakut" in the title, but will say "Sakha" from now on.

It's been very difficult to learn about these knives, and I've been trying my best to find pictures of originals, although they are buried in a sea of not-particularly-faithful modern versions. I had the best luck searching in Russian with the help of Google Translate and my girlfriend, who speaks Slovak/Czech and can sound out Cyrillic which has often been close enough for translating text which was in images/videos and/or hand written.

Anyways, what I made was primarily based on images I found of two knives:

example-1.jpgexample-2.jpg

example-3.jpg

Compared to modern knives in this style, these appear to be narrower, have wider handles, and have much cleaner fullers. In the first example, I have a hard time telling how the fuller was cleaned out. Maybe the corner of a grinding wheel/belt? Maybe a flap-disk or just a file/hand abrasives. At first I thought the second knife was left handed or had no groove, but now i think that it might have a shallow and highly polished fuller. Anyways, here's my version:

Yakut-1.jpgYakut-2.jpg

I was able to get a nice clear groove, but couldn't find a good way to polish it, so for this knife I left it black. Is that every seen on historic examples? I have had a hard time finding pictures of old Sakha knives, and if someone knows of any good sources of information, I would be very interested in finding out more. Blade is 138 mm (5.4in) long, 17mm (0.68 in) wide, and 3.4 mm (0.15 in) thick. The handle is 118 mm (4.65 in) long, 31 mm (1.25 in) wide, and 22 mm (0.86 in) thick.

Yakut-3.jpg

I like how the sheath turned out, but I don't think it is close to originals. I think I made the insert too large/square.

Yakut-5.jpg

This picture kind of shows the "egg" shape of the handle cross-section. 

Yakut-8.jpg

The wedged handle construction.

Yakut-9.jpg

This last pictures shows two earlier attempts. I wish the handle had come out a bit more like the one in the middle, I tried putting in a bit of a taper, but I think it ended up a little bit too small.

Any critiques are welcome, and my main questions are:

1) Is the overall profile (blade and handle) good, especially whether the handle is too narrow?

2) What is a good/accurate way to finish the inside of the fuller for future knives?

3) Is the blade too thin? It is rigid and doesn't have too acute of an edge, but still wondering.

4) How should the edge be aligned with the plane of symmetry of the handle? I gave mine a slight "angle of attack" (counter clockwise when looking down on the tip), to help it "bite" a bit more and not require as much wrist rotation.

4) Does anyone have recommendations for places to look for pictures/dimensions of and information about originals,? When replicating a style of knife, I usually like to have one to look at, hold, and measure, but I don't think that will be possible for this style.

Over all, I very much enjoyed learning about and making these knives, and hope I can learn more and maybe also inspire some people to try out making these themselves.

Thanks,

Aiden CC

 

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Aiden, several years ago on this forum there was a LOT of information on these.  Jake Pogrebinsky was instrumental in translating, and we had several Russians who had opinions as well.

As far as I remember, the fuller was never cleaned out, they left the scale and forging marks as they were. 

Good looking work, sir!

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Those are really nice!

I saw a video once, I think it was on this forum, were the smith heated the blade and gently curved it away from the fuller. He was then able to use a file to clean it before he heated it again and gently straightened it.

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On 1/22/2019 at 7:06 PM, Alan Longmire said:

Aiden, several years ago on this forum there was a LOT of information on these.  Jake Pogrebinsky was instrumental in translating, and we had several Russians who had opinions as well.

As far as I remember, the fuller was never cleaned out, they left the scale and forging marks as they were. 

Good looking work, sir!

Thanks! I'll take a look at older topics here, I actually first found about these knives from Jake when he brought them up in a thread of mine about wedged handle construction.

On 1/22/2019 at 7:21 PM, D. Giagni said:

Those are really nice!

I saw a video once, I think it was on this forum, were the smith heated the blade and gently curved it away from the fuller. He was then able to use a file to clean it before he heated it again and gently straightened it.

I'll have to try that, at least for projects with more narrow fullers. It seems like it would let you get more even sides and especially ends that just bending in a swedge block.

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Aiden,you're doing a good job of it all so far.

There's lots of information available,but a very great deal of it is utter nonsense(for a number of reasons not worth going into).

Here're some of the sources that i'd trust implicitly:

First,this Sakha maker,Alexey,his videos and instagram channel is the forefront of all that is honest and impartial in research on these knives:https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGFlPb7y_QYtNodXvvdCMlA

And below is a recently published book that serves`as a primary source for Alexey's work...(an excerpt from V. Jochelson's notes and below thyat the book based on V.J. and others' research),  

 

 http://digitallibrary.amnh.org/handle/2246/138

 

book.jpg

 

Again,i think that you're on a right track:You're a `wonderful artist,i really like your interpretation of all the puukot,so use that same sense on the Sakha knives,your artist's intuition is your best tool.

After a while you'll be able to tell those false notes in the general din...(and then you'll know what i mean about many ambient info sources;especially untrustworthy are the ones in Russian,btw).

Now more specifically...For once i disagree with Alan,and would say that historically the fuller was finished very smooth and even.As someone mentions`above-bend the hot forging and hot-file it smooth.

There's quite a confusion in historic artefact collections caused by the all-pervasive soviet dysfunction...But it's`actually worse even than that,as the entire culture of Sakha people was systematically being degraded by the Russians over nearly 5 centuries,so many of the objects produced a Very long time ago looking back from today were already affected by this negative influence,and are not representative of the real,traditional work.It was a long,rough Colonisation period...That continues today. 

Do try to at least get a look at the illustrations in that AMNH book,those are the best original examples that are known today.

Many of the questions you ask cannot be answered unambiguously,as there were several(many) different styles,shapes,sizes and purposes for these knives,as well as regional differences.

But,again, the cream of the available info is above,much of the rest of the job may be up to you and your intuition of an artist-knifemaker....

Respect,and the very best of luck...

(i'd not hesitate to write and ask Alexey any of the specific structural et c questions,he's nice guy and totally into sharing the techniques).

P.P.S."Sakha" is the name of the people in their language,which is also Sakha."Yakut" is a Russian perjorative term for those,but of such long duration that many have just given up and don't bother correcting. 

 

 

 

 

 

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P.S.

The word on a street also has it that this is a decent,informative study:Seroshevsky, V.L. Iakuty: Opyt etnographicheskogo issledovaniia [The Yakuts: Ethnographic Study Experience]. М., ROSPEN, 1993, 1, 713 p.

I'm not able to find a copy in English And the public domain,and am not sure if it'd be worth it buying one from Amazon or wherever.It does contain some information on knives.

Hey,just came across a scan of that monograph,but it's in  in Russian:http://elib.shpl.ru/nodes/8645#mode/grid/page/422/zoom/1

What pertinent info there is would lend itself well to an electronic translaton,i think. 

Edited by jake pogrebinsky

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Thanks for the correction, Jake!  I got that from a Russian, needless to say...:rolleyes:

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Russians have made Such a mess of practically Everything over there.....Lost and mixed up and misattributed artefacts,and wrote tons of utterly nonsensical books about how if it wasn't for Marx, and Lenin,the ancient Sakha would never have achieved such successes in metallurgy...

But worse yet,it is very common there to try to further demean the victims of their colonisation by representing them as Lesser,Dumber,more Primitive people,who're in dire need of help by their Big Brother...The official designation of the indigenous nations there is still the Lesser Peoples,today...:(

So,naturally they'll have Sakha make these nasty,uneven,oxydised fullers,part of the "primitive" bit...

In actuality it seems like Sakha were a part of the general Oriental metalworking tradition.One of their ancient epics,dating back to well over 1000 years,describes obtaining iron by a tatara-like means,and differentiating high/medium/low carbon material...(the highest-C going for the manufacture of the "tongue" part of the Vargan,(jew's harp),the tone of that traditional instrument an indicator of the purity of intent of the tatara-master:)

https://ich.unesco.org/en/RL/olonkho-yakut-heroic-epos-00145

(the link above is not to that one specific epic i mentioned,but to illustrate somewhat the breadth and complexity of a culture we're discussing...i'll try to find the text to that certain one,if i can,and if so will translate those verses`referring to metallurgy.....).

Edited by jake pogrebinsky
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20 hours ago, jake pogrebinsky said:

Aiden,you're doing a good job of it all so far.

There's lots of information available,but a very great deal of it is utter nonsense(for a number of reasons not worth going into).

Here're some of the sources that i'd trust implicitly:

First,this Sakha maker,Alexey,his videos and instagram channel is the forefront of all that is honest and impartial in research on these knives:https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGFlPb7y_QYtNodXvvdCMlA

And below is a recently published book that serves`as a primary source for Alexey's work...(an excerpt from V. Jochelson's notes and below thyat the book based on V.J. and others' research),  

 

 http://digitallibrary.amnh.org/handle/2246/138

 

book.jpg

 

Again,i think that you're on a right track:You're a `wonderful artist,i really like your interpretation of all the puukot,so use that same sense on the Sakha knives,your artist's intuition is your best tool.

After a while you'll be able to tell those false notes in the general din...(and then you'll know what i mean about many ambient info sources;especially untrustworthy are the ones in Russian,btw).

Now more specifically...For once i disagree with Alan,and would say that historically the fuller was finished very smooth and even.As someone mentions`above-bend the hot forging and hot-file it smooth.

There's quite a confusion in historic artefact collections caused by the all-pervasive soviet dysfunction...But it's`actually worse even than that,as the entire culture of Sakha people was systematically being degraded by the Russians over nearly 5 centuries,so many of the objects produced a Very long time ago looking back from today were already affected by this negative influence,and are not representative of the real,traditional work.It was a long,rough Colonisation period...That continues today. 

Do try to at least get a look at the illustrations in that AMNH book,those are the best original examples that are known today.

Many of the questions you ask cannot be answered unambiguously,as there were several(many) different styles,shapes,sizes and purposes for these knives,as well as regional differences.

But,again, the cream of the available info is above,much of the rest of the job may be up to you and your intuition of an artist-knifemaker....

Respect,and the very best of luck...

(i'd not hesitate to write and ask Alexey any of the specific structural etc questions,he's nice guy and totally into sharing the techniques).

P.P.S."Sakha" is the name of the people in their language,which is also Sakha."Yakut" is a Russian perjorative term for those,but of such long duration that many have just given up and don't bother correcting. 

Thank you for the information! I've spent some time looking for the "Material and Spiritual Culture" book (using both the English and Russian title), but haven't had any luck finding a physical or digital copy anywhere (looks like only 2500 were printed). The book you sent a link to had some good information and I found one picture of the knives in it. I also watched some of Alexey's videos,  and they are very helpful. It looks like for some of his knives he leaves scale inside the groove (though the inside is always smooth, either forged or filed)? I'll probably reach out to him to ask some questions. Is there a way/place that it is best to talk with him? 

I don't have a ton of time for knives right now, but I will probably do some drawings and maybe forge a few blades. I have been able to find some decent pictures on line, but haven't been able to find the original source of any of them:

example-8.jpg

I especially like the narrow knife in this one, and may try it.

 

example-7.jpg

I like the shapes of all the knives in this image, and will probably use them for inspiration at some point. These are such a unique type of knife, that I've really enjoyed, and it also seems like they are tied in to a sense of regional pride/cultural heritage. When replicating old knives I like to put a bit of my own style/skills into the final product, but I try to stay fairly faithful to the original form/function. 

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11 minutes ago, Aiden CC said:

I'll probably reach out to him to ask some questions. Is there a way/place that it is best to talk with him? 

Aiden,i think his Instagram channel may be a good venue,also i believe that he pays fairly close `attention to the comments under his videos,you may try some of the more recent ones.

14 minutes ago, Aiden CC said:

 I have been able to find some decent pictures on line, but haven't been able to find the original source of any of them:

Both of those photos are from a book about Sakha knives` published not too long ago there,in Sakha Republic.Typically for things published in RF it's a bit scattered,poorly organised/attributed.(i'll see if i can't find the rest of this book for you,it's not that many pages).

At the top of that first photo are knives from the collection of the so-called "Kunstkamera",Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography at St.Petersburg.Typically,they're not dated,or properly attributed,nor anything else that is normally done to artefacts.They appear to be the higher-status knives,belonging to wealthier traders or herders.The topmost one seems like a stray from an unrelated collection.

Those ones on the bottom,with wooden handles,are by a renown Sakha maker S.I. Gogolev-Ammyn'nikty Uus,from Taragoi,in Megino-Kangalasskiy Ulus(region).

That narrow knife represents a type of it's own,carried often along with the wider ones.It was used for drilling openings,as much construction was done using a mortice and tenon principle,when building travelling sleds,or traps,or other things,including the wooden  knife sheaves themselves...

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So, why did these knives have the large fuller in them? What were they used for? 

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I've known about "Yakut" knives thanks to somebody posting photos from a Kiev knives show few years ago on another forum, always found them fascinating.

Very interesting to get some of the history, and learn about a country and people I never knew existed.... Sakha Republic

@Conner Michaux if you asked me a week ago I'd regurgitate what I'd heard before, the fuller saves on steel.

Now I think the truth might be much more than that.

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My guess for the fuller is ease of sharpening. Japanese chisels are hollow on the back for that reason. It makes flattening a lot easier when you're only removing metal on the edges.

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