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Historical Inspiration This forum is dedicated to the discussion of historical knife design and its influence on modern custom knife work.

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  #1  
Old 09-04-2009, 01:32 PM
mcraigl mcraigl is offline
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civil war period correct knives

I have a customer who is a civil war re-enactor. He wants a "period-correct" knife. What is that? I know Bowies were in vogue at that time. Is there another style that would've been the iconic knife for a union or confederate soldier to carry? All the interent searches I've run mostly return bowies, and I'm wondering if I'm just going about my searches all wrong. Any help y'all could provide would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,
ML
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  #2  
Old 09-04-2009, 03:31 PM
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Alan L Alan L is offline
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Bowies in all shapes and sizes, little daggers, Barlow-type pocketknives, and so on are generally good for the period depending on handle material and construction. If he's a Cofederate re-enactor, a honkin' big D-guard bowie made from a file might be the thing. If he's Union, something a little smaller like a six-inch-blade Sheffield bowie might be in order.

What's his chosen persona? How "correct" does he want to be?
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Old 09-04-2009, 04:27 PM
Doug Lester Doug Lester is offline
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The olny thing that I see wrong with something like a big bowie, or any large knife for that matter, is that it didn't take an infantryman long to get tired of having the thing slap the side of his leg with every other step. Then they also tended to pare down what they carried and those large knives were a little on the heavy side as well as not being nearly as good a weapon as a bayonette on the end of a rifle/musket. I would clearify if he wants one of those pseudo fighting knives or if he wants a knife that was used around the camp. If the latter, I'd make him a simple straight backed utility type knife with a 4-5 inch blade, full tang and a simple unadorned slab handle. Remember that these people (reinactors) can be real picky about their, and other's, kits right down to the correctness of tobacco pouches, eye glasses, and buttons. I remember watching the extra features on the DVD of the movie "Gettysburg" and they mentioned that the reinactors were real quick to point it out if things were not true to the period.

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Last edited by Doug Lester; 09-04-2009 at 04:29 PM.
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Old 09-04-2009, 05:49 PM
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Alan L Alan L is offline
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Aw, Doug, that was gonna be my gotcha!

Yes, it's true, the big D-guard bowies have survived in such numbers because they were tossed after the first battle, if not the first few miles of marching. They're still kinda neat, though.
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Old 09-09-2009, 12:40 PM
mcraigl mcraigl is offline
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Thanks for those replies fellas. I've been away for a few days and am playing phone tag with the customer. Doug, the "leg slapping" and "weight" are what I think were giving me fits about bowies. When I'm on a long hike, the last thing I want on my hip is a big honkin' bowie. Once at the battle field I might not mind having it, but that's what the bayonette is for like you said. Would a simple carbon (10xx) steel be period correct?
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Old 09-09-2009, 07:00 PM
Doug Lester Doug Lester is offline
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10XX series steel would work well. It's probably as close to the alloys that were available in the mid 19th century as one can get.

Doug Lester


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Old 09-09-2009, 11:05 PM
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Don Halter Don Halter is offline
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This one got quite a few positive responses from the Civil War guys down here. It was made for the guy who runs the Texas 7th artillery. It was made based on some of the same comments in the posts here. He wanted a D-guard, but not a "big in-the-way-bladed knife". This one had a blade around 6" and a 5.5" handle. 5160 steel, 1050 steel guard that was etched and heat treated.





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Old 09-09-2009, 11:43 PM
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TexasJack TexasJack is offline
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Don, who did the etching/engraving on the guard?

BTW, a nice looking knife!


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Old 09-11-2009, 04:18 PM
mcraigl mcraigl is offline
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Dang, that's really nice. I'll include something along those lines in the possibilities. Thanks a ton for the picture.
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Old 09-13-2009, 12:16 AM
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Don Halter Don Halter is offline
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I did the etching on it. Just a sharpie pen and ferric chloride.

Anything along this size seems to go over pretty well at the Civil War events.


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  #11  
Old 09-14-2009, 02:14 PM
mcraigl mcraigl is offline
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I have a wrought iron chain link that would make a nice "D" guard. I may make something along those lines, just for the experience of doing it.
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  #12  
Old 09-16-2009, 08:37 AM
jevaccaro jevaccaro is offline
 
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I made this one for a little later period reenactor. It has a 6 inch blade, and would be good for a CW period as well. John

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  #13  
Old 09-16-2009, 05:32 PM
mcraigl mcraigl is offline
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Haven't done a coffin handle yet either. Thanks for the input.
ML
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