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Hey all,

      Have more recently been interested in knives of colonial-fur trade era knives. A couple books I have seen for sale are “Knives of Homespun America” and “ American Primitive knives of 1770-1870”

      Wondered if any of guys had read them? Preferences? Or other sources of information on early American knives would be great. 
     Thanks 

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The book of Firearms, Traps, and Tools of Mountain Men is a good read. It has pics of recovered pieces. As well it has a lot of info about the manifest's of traders that was taken west for the Rendezvous! I have another list given to me by Chuck Borrows in a conversation we had years ago before he passed. I will try to find that list! Google Chuck Borrows knife maker and it should bring up Wild Rose Trading Company. That was his! 

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Ok it wasn't as hard to find as I thought!!

 

American Primitive Knives: 1770-1870

 

Fur trade cutlery sketchbook

 

Making Native American Hunting, Fighting, and Survival Tools: The Complete Guide To Making And Using Traditional Tools

 

Knife Sheath Construction (3 DVD Set) with Paul Long

 

 

The last one is a good reference for sheath making, for that period! Also here is a web site for a man that does a lot from that same period!  http://www.wickellerbe.com/  For knowledge he is hard to beat! I probably have more but I will have to look for them! 

 

 

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11 hours ago, Aaron Gouge said:

Hey all,

      Have more recently been interested in knives of colonial-fur trade era knives. A couple books I have seen for sale are “Knives of Homespun America” and “ American Primitive knives of 1770-1870”

      Wondered if any of guys had read them? Preferences? Or other sources of information on early American knives would be great. 
     Thanks 

 

You're fixing to open a can of worms here... you might just want to step back real easy like B) Just kidding of course, but this is a very broad topic... very interesting, but can be very frustrating.

 

I have been pretty deep in the historic reenactment community in times past. The rule of the day is "primary documentation". This generally means that the recorded history, the archeology, and the material culture will agree on an objects use and existence in a particular time period. That said, we have to be real careful with a lot of the stuff that came out of the 70's and 80's. Inspired by Jeremiah Johnson and the American Bicentennial, a lot of folks got interested in keeping our history alive. This was a good thing, absolutely. However, there wasn't as much emphasis on historic accuracy as there was on what looked cool. Everybody initially wanted to be a mountain man. So, if you were portraying a trapper in the Rockies pre-Civil War, you might make it work. But for a Colonial period fort back east you'd be waaay out of place.

 

So you can apply this challenge to anything... clothes, shoes, guns, etc. But knives follow the same rules. If you are going to produce a knife suitable for 1770 and you offer a antler handled knife made form a file, the first question should be "where's our documented example?". Too often folks would get by with "well, if they'd have had it, they'd of used it", but that doesn't work if truth is important. I love making the historically inspired stuff. I just think it looks cool, but I never try to pass it off as artifact representative. In order to say that a specific knife is from a specific era requires a lot of homework. So definitely read Grant and some of the earlier stuff, but hold them accountable to the documentation.

 

One rule you find in early America is that he later the period, the cooler the knives are. If you were an English colonist in the French & Indian War period, you would probably be limited to some pretty boring imported trade knives from England. A hundred years later some of the Confederate soldiers are packing homemade D-guard bowies and Sheffield daggers. You also find that the English were at the top of the boring scale in the 18th Century. The French liked a little more bling, and the Spanish were way ahead. There's always exceptions, especially when you get into hunting swords and stuff like that. And what about Native American influence? Depends completely on where and when.

 

So, it ain't easy, but it's fun. Do your home work and definitely check out some of the contemporary makers the can make that stuff look real... Kyle Willyard, Joe DeLaRonde, Tim Ridge, Wick Ellerbe, etc. A lot of beautiful work out there.

 

 

 

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 If you were an English colonist in the French & Indian War period, you would probably be limited to some pretty boring imported trade knives from England

 

I know of two examples of knives from South African history being reproduced by makers, they always make me wish the knives where as cool as the story that goes with them! :lol:

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I will say this. The pieces that are true of the period for early American period, fur trade and western expansion are even different. And nothing like the film industry portrays them!! Contrary to popular opinion not everybody carried a Bowie!

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32 minutes ago, DanM said:

brass handled cartouche knives

 

Excellent examples!  These were French trade knives, found mostly in the old Northwest, what is now the upper midwestern US and central Canada.  Down here in the southeastern US you simply don't see them, except rarely in French -controlled areas like south Louisiana territory.  The French and their allied tribes were never able to threaten the English hold on the deerskin trade in the southeast, and the critters down here are no good for furs compared to the northern ones.

 

So, to add to the very true things Don said, pick your time AND your place you want to recreate.  The material culture will be VERY different from place to place, even at the same time period.  Pick a time within a ten-year period.  Pick a place within a 100-mile radius.  Then start studying to see who was there then and doing what.B)

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As always you guys are super helpful!! 
          C Craft I actually have one of the books ordered and another soon. The  two I am starting with we’re also recommended in another forum. 
          Don, thanks for your insightful reply. In my college years I did some Civil War reenacting. I am very familiar with the blah blah blah blah blah blah blah well it could’ve been. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah yeah but did you know….;-) at this point I don’t plan to do any reenacting. But I have connections to colonial era, mountain man and civil war  reenacting communities. I thought if I could produce a couple knives from each air I might open up my clientele. Also historically inspired blades are just awesome. 
         Dan that knife is very cool!! I’m interested to learn more about how to handle is made. 
     Alan I appreciate your input as well. I think that’s what makes it so challenging and appealing. 

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My wife's nurse came about the time I was posting the thing about the Hollywood making it look different than it truly was!

 

Wick Ellerbe would be quick to tell you that most of what Hollywood portrays was wrong! Such as there were few brass pins used during the fur era. However would say that as a knifemaker, I have to sometimes take artistic license much like an author take Grammatical license in a book! It spices up the book! The original knives of the period were pretty plain! Just like a dull book, a dull knife is hard to sell! Therefore sometimes I take artisan licensing with some of my knives!!  

 

His knives to me are like taking the time machine to that period and bringing one back to today! Now don't get me wrong he doesn't age his knives but his finish product looks like it would have new back then! Love that man's work!! Do yourself a favor and check out his web site! http://www.wickellerbe.com/ here it is but I can't make it a link as the forum won't let me!! So copy and paste to your search engine!! When I first started he was the go to man for me. No matter how dumb the question he would give me an answer and not make you feel dumb for asking it!! I like to say he is my adopted mentor. I adopted him!! :lol:

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I've had that same thought about picking a time and place to sell historically accurate reproductions to re-enactors, except with folding knives, for the period 1776-1800 in the central-eastern USA.  It quickly becomes evident that there is VERY little out there on the sort of folder people were carrying, assuming they had them at all.  For areas under English influence (which my area was,) you get little Sheffield-made pen knives with one to four oddly short blades for the handle length and a really high kick, rarely a penny knife or barrel knife (think Opinel, a springless folder that locks open by twisting a ferrule, common in New England from the 1690s to the 1780s but rare to the point of nonexistent south of New York) and the occasional Barlow.  Those things have been floating around the English-speaking world since about 1630. 

 

What you absolutely do not see for this place and time is any kind of friction folder, any antler-handled clasp knife, or any Navaja-style folders.  Also, no neck knives and no "blacksmith" knives. And those are what the re-enactors are carrying.   The fancy ones have these little steel-framed folders of Spanish origin that date to the 1740-1790 period.

 

For the American Civil War period folders in this same location, you  have more Barlows than you can shake an anvil at, and any of the gazillion different styles of Sheffield multiblade folders, some of which are being made in the USA by Sheffield emigrants in Pennsylvania and New York.

 

Now then, if you were a gentleman of Tampa, Florida in the 1776-1800 period, you'd be carrying one of those little steel-framed jobs or a Navaja, with or without the ratcheting mechanism.  In Quebec, an ancestor of the Opinel or Laguiole, and also the locking clasp knife style that later becomes the one emblematic of the Fur Trade in the northern Rockies. In Ontario, you'd have a Sheffield pen knife or a Barlow.  

 

Fixed blades are MUCH easier to deal with! :lol:

 

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4 hours ago, Aaron Gouge said:

As always you guys are super helpful!! 
          C Craft I actually have one of the books ordered and another soon. The  two I am starting with we’re also recommended in another forum. 
          Don, thanks for your insightful reply. In my college years I did some Civil War reenacting. I am very familiar with the blah blah blah blah blah blah blah well it could’ve been. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah yeah but did you know….;-) at this point I don’t plan to do any reenacting. But I have connections to colonial era, mountain man and civil war  reenacting communities. I thought if I could produce a couple knives from each air I might open up my clientele. Also historically inspired blades are just awesome. 
         Dan that knife is very cool!! I’m interested to learn more about how to handle is made. 
     Alan I appreciate your input as well. I think that’s what makes it so challenging and appealing. 

 

I glued the pattern onto brass sheet and pierced the piece with a jeweler's saw. A little file work to even things up and then was clamped into my mini unimat. The knife side was milled for the buffalo horn insert.

 

 

DSC00032.JPG

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On 10/7/2021 at 12:50 PM, C Craft said:

 

Wick Ellerbe would be quick to tell you that most of what Hollywood portrays was wrong! Such as there were few brass pins used during the fur era. However would say that as a knifemaker, I have to sometimes take artistic license much like an author take Grammatical license in a book! It spices up the book! The original knives of the period were pretty plain! Just like a dull book, a dull knife is hard to sell! Therefore sometimes I take artisan licensing with some of my knives!!  

That is what I have tried to do with this Hudson Bay Camp knife.I still have some hand sanding to do as well as seal the handle.  

922F7E20-7E69-4C19-999B-74BA743F4985.jpeg

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Think about this like we do architecture:

 

The ancient Greeks built some awesome buildings. This was Greek architecture.

The Victorians thought Greek architecture was really cool, so they incorporated some of the elements into theirs. This was Greek Revival architecture.

 

I think a lot of us could be classified Colonial Revivalists or Frontier Revivalists. We aren't reproducing artifacts, but the vibe is definitely there.

 

And it's fun.

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On 10/7/2021 at 6:18 PM, Alan Longmire said:

more Barlows than you can shake an anvil at

How big an anvil?

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