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samg 03-30-2015 08:04 AM

Early RMK stamp-number stamp Identification
Hello everyone
Name is Sam Granade. I have been involved with Randall knives for about 20 years.
My favorite era is WW2 and specifically Hunters.

A few years ago I began to follow the Heiser vs Johnson debate that dealt with trying to determine if there was a discernable difference between RMK stamped sheaths, and trying to determine who made them, Heiser or Johnson.

Jacks observations here really made a lot of sense to me. Very logical, well thought out observations. Then when the ebay sample sheaths appeared, I began digging on my own.

I have been in email communications with Ron Mathews for years because like him, I have a keen interest in early Hunters.
Ron has been a wealth of information for me, always going out of his way to encourage me and teach me, about these Hunters.
Ron, always making observations to me, pointed out that the number 3 stamp on his Heiser stamped Hunter sheaths were all flat across the top. That it differed from Johnson baby dot sheaths because the number 3 on them are rounded on the top.

So with this difference pointed out to me about the number style difference, I wanted to go deeper to see where it would lead. So I began to look at all the pictures of the back of sheaths that I could find, and kept track of them in a logical organized way. I kept the tally according to the orientation of the stamp on the sheath. Logical and easy.
When I exhausted my resources, I found a distinct, orderly pattern that to this point, I have found a few sheath models to be exceptions, because of fit/ aesthetics. More on that in a minute. There could be some abberations, some examples exist.That is the reason for this thread.

After exhausting my resources as of now, here are my observations:

Concerning observations of early RMK stamped sheaths in the approx years 1960-1982

1) West facing RMK stamped sheaths display old style serif number stamps as seen on Heiser sheaths with the Heiser logo stamp.**** See below.

2) Horizontal facing RMK stamped sheaths display old style serif number stamps as seen on Heiser sheaths with the Heiser logo stamp.**** See below.

3) East facing RMK stamped sheaths display new style non serif number stamps, as seen on Johnson baby dot sheaths.

***** Observed exceptions are:
1) sheaths that display stamps on the front of the sheath.
2) sheaths that because of short/squat belt loops as seen on JRB 12-11, appear to be turned horizontally as a result of fit or esthetics.
3) ocassional sheaths that display variations of the number stamps.
My observations have been very few of these number stamp variations.

If any of you have sheaths that definitely challenge these observations please post them. If you do not have any that challenge this observation, let us know that too.

I felt that Jack did a great job of research on the stamp orientation - snap location connection.
Perhaps this is one more step in being able to identify the difference between early RMK Heiser made and Johnson made sheaths.

Thanks for the opportunity to open this thread to discussion.

Sam Granade

Jacknola 03-31-2015 12:21 PM

Sam, this is great stuff and an example of what can be discovered by approaching a subject logically and systematically. This is a further build on the sensible division of the brown button sheaths into Heiser, Heiser-made-Randall (I rather like the designation " Heiser-Keyston Brothers-Lichtenberger-Ferguson Co." or "H-K-L") and Johnson.

In my opinion, the study of fonts on sheaths (and knife blades as well) has a lot more that can be done and Sam has shown this. There are other numbers whose fonts are probably different as well. But I think the basic thesis has been proved beyond reasonable doubt that the "west stamps" are Heiser (H-K-L)-made, "east stamps" are Johnson-made.

Sam, your hypothesis looks generally good, but I've found some exceptions. We should probably expect exceptions and acknowledge that they just raise some interesting questions, which have logical answers.

Exception to Sam's thesis: Some Heiser sheaths that are stamped "over/under," (model number on top of the Heiser logo, length number below Heiser logo), seem to have a rounded "3" font. Yet the flat-top "3" is indeed omni-present on the H-K-L sheaths, also predominant on other Heiser-logo sheaths of the late 1950s. Here are two examples of the Heiser stamp with rounded "3":

Late 1950?s model 3, Heiser sheath, rounded "3"

Gary Clinton group of knives? note third knife from left, Heiser-stamp with over/under numbers, rounded font on the ?3?.

Just for contrast, here is a Heiser with flat-topped "3"... this seems to me to be more common than the rounded 3 on Heiser stamped sheaths, and it transitions exactly into the numbers on all the horizontal and west-stamped H-K-L sheaths, and I post three of those so everyone knows what Sam is referring to

To see how exactly the fonts on the Heiser-stamped sheath above tracks the subsequent H-K-L fonts, here are three such. First is probably 1960 brown button.

Next is Gary Clinton's documented 8/1960 knife.

Finally is a brown button Thorpe sheath.

Following Sam's lead, I did a hasty look. I think Sam is right that Johnson's rounded font ?3? was consistently different from that on the H-K-L sheaths and most of the later Heiser-stamped sheaths. Most or all of those seem to have the flat-topped "3." I haven't found any Johnson sheaths with the flat-topped "3," all seem to have the curved 3 that seems larger than the above illustrated Heiser curvey 3.

So... what about those Heiser stamped curvey 3s? Parhaps they are an earlier '50s font version (?). Lots of interesting comparisons to do here. But even with a quick look, I found about a dozen seeminly later Heiser-stamped sheaths with the flat-topped 3.

In passing I'll repeat that in my opinion when Johnson first made sheaths using brown buttons, he did not stamp his sheaths with model and length numbers. He probably began adding model and length numbers shortly after the introduction of the baby-dot snaps.

There are a couple of other things about sheaths I'll mention for people to look into.

(1) There was one person making Johnson sheaths whose work featured a meticulous double line of stitching into the heart of the butterfly. This is beautiful work that was noticably different from most Johnson sheaths, and that signature stitching continued to be seen occasionally on sheaths into the mid-1970s. MOre typically, Johnson sheath stitching had a single line that continued deep into the butterfly, and usually the butterfly curves were less meticulous, and sometimes rather haphazard. I wonder if the double line sewing was done by Mr. Johnson (sr.) himself, or possibly his wife (?).

Example 1 - double line butterfly stitching, baby-dot, no model numbers.

More common Johnson "butterfly" stitching.

(2) Model "B" sheaths (Heiser, H-K-L, Johnson) and later Johnson-made riveted Model-"Cs" were stamped on the front of the sheath rather than the back. I've looked at this periodically and it seems that the stamp orientation H-K-L vs Johnson is reversed from that seen on rear-stamped sheaths... H-K-L stamp more usually orients toward the "east" and Johnson toward the "west." In comparison, the Heiser stamps on B sheaths seem to have been mostly oriented toward "east," but not always... there are more than a few Heiser stamps on "B" sheaths that are "west" oriented, and occasional H-K-L-Randall stamps are turned and oriented "east."

It is something to be aware of? and probably is related to the steps used to make the sheaths. I speculate that the move of the stamp to the front of the riveted Model C sheaths was caused by the rough-back construction of those Johnson sheaths?the logo stamp applied to the back of the rough-back pebbly surface was not reliably or deeply imprinted.

Sam, thanks for your efforts and cataloguing. I?m glad you posted here and hope you continue to look into this. It would be interesting to examine the fonts of other numbers, such as "1" and "7" etc. If we had a huge chronologic data base no telling what we could learn.


PS: On another forum, there was a rather disorganized attempt to differentiate Johnson vs Heiser vs H-K-L sheaths using some ad hoc, "trust me," hodge-podge of mixed metaphors. Those attempts were characterized by a lack of systemic or chronologic backup (but with some good reference data). In my opinion, the "methodology" used was not very good (OK, it was very bad) ... and some "factual" examples were erroneous, confusing, and/or had warped commentary and data falsehoods.

Unfortunately, some find it difficult to engage in a proper discussion, or accept anyone elses opinion that redefines the old unsupportable status quo, regardless of the weight of evidence. That is one reason I have given up posting there. The other reason is .... something else. Oh well...

Fortunately this site seems to be more open and less intrenched. Thanks to the mods...

samg 03-31-2015 04:16 PM

Thanks for your well thought out and presented observations.
In any endeavor of discovering the facts about anything, it has to be done in an unbiased way, so that no matter where the evidence leads, it is a place where it can be accepted, because of the evidence.
I do know that this early RMK sheath debate has been going on for a long while, and without the smoking gun evidence that Heiser had a stamp, then there are some who will not accept it, no matter how compelling the evidence. I understand that too, because the claim that Heiser did not possess a stamp, comes from the source, so I completely understand that position. But with the same source claiming that Johnson was not found till 1962, we have a conflict, obviously.

Speaking of smoking gun, when I got involved in this debate, I started doing my own sleuthing, and I have found a very interesting little bit of info that should perk everyone's ears up...unless this is general knowledge.
I have found a person who was among Heisers last employees when they closed in 1980. Hold on fellas....This person bought all of the stamps, dies, and equipment that Heiser owned going way back.
We had an interesting conversation about Randall knives, I told him what our investigation was about, and as he likes Randall's too, it piqued his interest.
I asked him if Heiser, and he prefers for himself the company to be referred to as Heiser, though it had been bought, it still retained Heiser in its name. Just his preference. I guess kind of like Daimler- Mercedes, I still refer to them as Mercedes. Just old school I guess. Plus with Heisers historical relavence to American History, I will refer to them as Heiser.
When I asked him if Heiser retained stamps that were used for other companies, or were they sent back to the other companies when that business relationship was ended, he said that he was not sure. He bought all this equipment and stamps and dies years ago, and there are many boxes that he has still in storage that he hasn't gotten into, but because of my inquiry, he said that he may look into it.
He was a saddle maker so he isn't too knowledable about the knife sheath stuff, but he does have some of those too. At this point he doesn't know if he has Randall sheath dies or not. I will check in with him from time to time, and he told me that if he found anything, he would call me.

Moving forward, if you will, I would like to try and establish some guidelines that I feel are unbiased, that can help us keep focused on the observations and not apply the term fact, till its debated and verified or debunked.
It will also prevent arguments. Stick with point-counterpoint. This research is not about ego, who is right or wrong, its about establishing a Randall history for these RMK sheaths. Not based on opinion, but on fact.

Here is my guideline. Feel free to add or alter, but its important to keep it simple and unbiased.

1) If an opinion can be backed with substantial evidence ( as done with the stamp orientation- number style stamp evidence) without substantial evidence that refutes it, it becomes fact until evidence to the contrary is uncovered.

2). If an opinion can be refuted by substantial evidence, it can't be held as fact, only opinion. I say this because no matter how much evidence is provided, ego may get into the way.

3) For an opinion to be held as fact, evidence must be presented that can be substantiated without significant opposing evidence.( Such as Heiser using serif number stamps, or Johnson using non serif number stamps.)

4) Observations that are used to distinguish the two sheath makers can't be considered fact if both makers display same characteristics .That stance only leads to personal argument, and it muddys the water.

This would eliminate claims of "vast experience" or"years of handling sheaths" from being able to be used as a crutch to fall back on.

This research should be done in the light of wanting to establish the truth, not to prove ones position.
Moving forward, I would greatly appreciate the contribution of everyone, so that if we can come to the point where the evidence trail, not the opinion trail, leads us closer to what really went on in those early RMK years. It may lead right back to the undetermined place, but a lot of groundwork or foundation has been laid. Let's walk on it and see where it leads.
And egos need to post here. No name calling, insinuations, etc. Stick to the points. If an observation is made, reply to that observation, keep it clean and concise. If someone tries to divert the conversation, hopefully a moderator will remove it.

Thanks again Jack for your response and body of work that you presented. I believe that my observation of number stamp styles just may be a link that joins it all together. But that is an opinion at this point, not a fact.
I started a thread on another forum that was basically 3 pages of my observations with the help of one insightful member that helped. But an open challenge to find evidence that debunked my observations. None so far, so you know how that is, no answer is a screaming answer. With all the talented collectors with the experience and pertinent sheaths, with no contradictory evidence to debunk it, I feel at this point that I am onto something. Time will tell. These number stamp observations have only been an observation, not positioned as truth. I have absolutely no ego or motives other than trying to logically get to the bottom of it.


Sam Granade

Moosehead 03-31-2015 04:54 PM

Hi Sam!

Welcome to the Knife Network!

I look forward to your participation and am sure you will find that folks here are friendly, open minded and respectful of freedom of expression.



samg 03-31-2015 05:15 PM

Thanks for the welcome David, I look forward to it. Hopefully it will bring out some participation. Its vital.


Jacknola 03-31-2015 07:45 PM

Sam that is a very solid treatise. I investigate significant accidents in the offshore oil industry for Uncle Sam. I also write up those investigation findings for the US Government. So, I understand levels of confidence in "findings." (Yes... I was involved in the Deepwater Horizon-Macondo investigation.)

We use a range of terms. Proved (90 percent sure), probable (60-90 percent surety), and possible (10-50 percent surety). The reason for this is that the truth often cannot be proved to a criminal legal requirement, "beyond reasonable doubt." But it CAN often be proved to a tort level of legality, which is "preponderance of evidence." Yet many of the root causes of an accident can only be determined from application of the principles of pre-determinism, and logic... i.e. "possible."

If one reviews our (Ron and me) development of this thesis in the "Magic Randall" line, you will see that we did not claim "fact" until there was only one reasonable conclusion. There has been no objective rebuttal of that conclusion, only further tightening of the logic and proof as others such as Gary Clinton provide the data from their extensive collections.

I am amazed at your Heiser contact and hope he has some Randall stamps. But even if he doesn't, in truth there is no record of Mr. Johnson being provided a Randall stamp either, yet he obviously had one. And, there is no record or even a reasonable way for the shop to have stamped those sheaths "Randall." But the real kicker is that there is zero evidence that a "Randall Stamp" on a sheath indicates it was made by Johnson. On the contrary, to believe that would require Johnson making LOTS of sheaths in 1960... which is ridiculous.

Thanks again for your input. And rest assured, I'm looking for truth and don't care who solves a mystery. Regards. Jack

samg 03-31-2015 10:00 PM

Jack, the range of terms you mention is very logical to me, without absolute proof. Though I have to admit, the ebay sample sheaths was pretty close to that absolute proof.
I really appreciate the work that you and Ron put into this stamp orientation, snap location observation. And while there is much to be said for handling sheaths to make observations, you don't have to have them in hand to see the stamps and numbers.
Its late here and I have work in the morning, but I will put together some ideas for you tomorrow.
I can't emphasize enough how important it is for everyone reading this thread, lend your voice and opinion, no matter what it is, and we will sift through it.
I think much has been done to establish a reasonable position that these early RMK stamped sheaths in horizontal and west facing orientation were made by Heiser. So let's explore the connection with the serif numbers and see if there is any conflicting evidence.
I Thank Ron Mathews for putting me on the trail of these number styles. Through his observations, I have learned to look closely at these sheaths.

Sam Granade

Jacknola 03-31-2015 10:16 PM

This is cool stuff. thank you for independently resurrecting this Sam.

Furthermore, about "stamps," just wait until people begin to DEEPLY and systematically overlay and compare the Randall-made blade stamps used in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s (though I've covered the basics there). I think some truths could come out that might blow certain people's minds.


samg 04-01-2015 06:28 AM

What is encouraging about it Jack, is that the findings were totally independent, from completely different sources, working on different characteristics, but they fit together like a glove!

*** We have definitely established this connection of:
Heiser RMK= West, Horizontal stamped sheaths
Johnson RMK= East stamped sheaths

***Let me make myself perfectly clear. I make no claims that these findings in this project are truth. It is too early. As in any honest investigation, the facts will tell us.

With the stamp orientation - number stamp style being established, how about we also explore the differences of the 2 sheath makers, based on viewing the sheaths themselves, without considering the stamps.

Let's consider these observations one by one.
It has been observed that Heiser and Johnson made sheaths can be descerned by certain characteristics.

1) Thickness of leather. Johnson it has been suggested, used thicker leather.
I put this theory to the test, and asked a saddle maker in Colorado about this, and his reply was that:

1) Bulls/cows from Florida come mainly from Bhrama stock, and
2) Bulls/cows from Colorado come mainly from European stock.
3) Bhrama/Florida cattle has thinner hide
4) European/ Colorado has thicker hide.

Also that leather shops purchase their hides from different places around the country.

So if Bhrama/Florida hide is thinner, how could Johnson made sheaths be consistently thicker than Heisers?
Let's start with this claim. What do you think?


Sam G

samg 04-01-2015 06:42 AM

Also, let's accumulate as many perceived differences in these sheaths that are attributed to a specific maker. Anything that may be relavent.
Thanks, Sam G

TAH 04-01-2015 08:21 AM

Hi Sam,

Not sure how much I can contribute, but count me in on being interested in this topic and open to observations, discussion and opposing evidence. You might want to post photos of old vs. new style numbers for clarification. The 3 and 7 are good examples. For the last few weeks, I have searched the internet for a photo of an East facing RMK stamp with old style, serif number stamps. To date, I haven't found anything. The only sheath that came close was posted on the other forum and the number was too distorted to accurately identify its style and its placement was unusual too. So until someone can post a photo of a sheath with an East facing RMK stamp with old style, serif numbers, your observation is still valid, IMO.

Sam, thanks for heading this up and in such a polite and professional manner. This is a fun project and I certainly hope many others will join in and report their findings.


samg 04-01-2015 09:08 AM

Thanks Tom, and thanks for your contribution.
I will do that picture soon as I figure out how on this forum:photo:

Looking forward to more of your unbiased observations that you presented on the other forum that led to a more concise updated observation.

At first, my observation was that I had not observed a west or horizontal facing sheath with non serif number stamps.

Tom then pointed out some 12-11 sheaths that Johnson made. The horizontal stamp orientation appears to be a result of the short/squat length of the belt loop. So done perhaps for aesthetics?
I use that logic because, to date, I have not observed another 12-11 JRB that has a vertical stamp. This I recognize as a Johnson primarily because of the number stamp style.

Does anyone have evidence to refute that?

Any questions about the different style number stamps?

If you will study the number stamps on the Heiser stamped sheaths, these numbers (with a few exceptions) display a serif, or a right angled accentuation on the end of the line of the number.

Johnson east facing, and baby dot sheaths display number stamps that do not have the serif.

I will say that I have seen NO VARIENTS on the Johnson sheaths.
This point alone is stunning to me that there has been NO EVIDENCE thus far to debunk it. Save 1 example of a 3-6 east facing that was provided that looked to me to be an after the fact applied possible serif style 3.

If there is a reasonable, logical explanation for the seemingly overwhelming evidence that points in a simple way that allows us simple distinction between the 2 sheath makers, an opposing opinion, let's hear it.
Not based on opinion, but on fact that can be verified.

It has already been established that it is reasonable to believe that Heiser had a stamp, it has been admitted to by a highly respected authority that Heiser did.
What is difficult is to try to rely on certain characteristics of a sheath that one may say was made by Johnson. This can ONLY be considered as evidence, if that same characteristic is not regularly observed in the known Heiser stamped sheaths.

So I ask you, are there any observations of characteristics that you only see in Johnson made baby dots, that are connected to the bb east facing sheaths that we think Johnson made, that are not evidenced in Heiser stamped sheaths, or west-horizontal stamped sheaths that evidence points to being made by Heiser?

If characteristics overlap and can be observed in both sheath makers work, how can it be used to distinguish? Using experience and handling thousands of sheaths as a reason,while that helps, it really doesn't have much to do with research results.
Remember, very wise, learned men gazed up at the stars for millennia thinking that the sun revolved around the earth, placing earth in the center of the universe. Galileo through research, proved that observation wrong.

Sam G

Jacknola 04-01-2015 09:13 AM


Originally Posted by samg (Post 478851)
Let's consider these observations one by one.
It has been observed that Heiser and Johnson made sheaths can be descerned by certain characteristics.

1) Thickness of leather. Johnson it has been suggested, used thicker leather.
I put this theory to the test, and asked a saddle maker in Colorado about this, and his reply was that:

1) Bulls/cows from Florida come mainly from Bhrama stock, and
2) Bulls/cows from Colorado come mainly from European stock.
3) Bhrama/Florida cattle has thinner hide
4) European/ Colorado has thicker hide.

Also that leather shops purchase their hides from different places around the country.

So if Bhrama/Florida hide is thinner, how could Johnson made sheaths be consistently thicker than Heisers?
Let's start with this claim. What do you think?


Sam G

Sam in my opinion this is an example of a diversion dead end. Someone thought they might have seen some characteristic and then stated something that everyone thought sounded profound and everyone repeated it to each other until it became accepted by all.

But, before we expend the effort to chase this rabbit, let's ask:

1. Where is the documentation of this thesis?

2. Where are all the pictures, lists of sheaths examined, micrometer measurements of the leather?

3. Who did this study and how did they conclude that raw leather hides provided to different manufacturers are of different thicknesses? I would think that a leather-hide order specifying... say ... 1/4-inch thick ... would be 1/4-inch thick in both Colorado and Florida. So... how did Heiser and Johnson order their raw materials?

4. Big question - if there was a "study," did it put the H-L-K Heiser-Randall sheaths into the "Johnson-made" or "Heiser-made" category?

5. What is the proven normal range of variables, thickness, etc., within a sheath manufacturer? We know from observation that stitching fine-ness, color of thread, etc. varies widely within both manufactures. So why do we expect measurable uniformity differences in the leather used for thousands of sheaths?

Before we expend any time on this I would like to see some documentated thesis. Does whoever postulated this know anything about leather, how it is acquired, treated, sold, and then cut for sheaths? In other words, lets let someone show that their is a measurable difference in the leather.

This applies to most of the other so-called identifying attributes were posted without any thesis... They just are in the catagory of "Randall-stamp = Johnson sheath" fable in my opinion.

We have quite a number of measurable characteristic differences. No need to pursue someone's imaginative posturings unless they do the spade work. Regards, Jack

samg 04-01-2015 09:39 AM

Jack, you are so dead on with those statements. Wow! I think we are on our way to some true tried and tested ways of coming to a logical conclusion.
This scientific method is so much better, because it embraces opposing positions and uses it to ferret out the facts, as closely as can be done.
For those who don't want to engage in this conversation because their mind is made up that, to keep it simple, all RMK stamped sheaths are Johnson evidence has come to light. If you care about this part of Randall history, and you want to shut Jack and myself up, then provide evidence that contradicts the RMK stamp orientation-- stamp number style that easily gives us the ability to separate the two sheath makers.
It really is that simple.
Jack and I are issuing a challenge to join this debate.
To me, the reason that it is important to distinguish the 2 makers is that Heiser had a long and storied historical contribution to our historical expansion west. If they made these sheaths, they deserve credit. It also would display another style custom sheath that Heiser made for Randall.
I have observed sheaths that Heiser sold other retailers that came out of Heisers own catalog, but to date, have not observed any Custom made sheaths made by Heiser outside of their catalog, for anyone other than Bo Randall. And this includes Bill Scagel! Pretty rare huh?

Again let your voices be heard on this subject. The more participation, the more will be accomplished.

Sam G

samg 04-01-2015 11:35 AM

Moving forward, I will keep a running tally of our observations, and how they are standing the test of scrutiny.

All of you, if you care about all aspects of Randall history, and are interested in accuracy, then please respond in this new thread that I am about to start.. Most Randall history is available, and with a lot of research done, and books written by many who care about these great knives, we have a lot of information to draw from. Not to mention your personal collections.

Jack, I am going to make a brief, concise list of observations that I have done research on, and begin a new thread, dedicated only to results, so people can check in and see how its going.

Please feel free to add or adjust as you see fit. By the 2nd or 3rd post, we should be on the way.


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