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Old 02-09-2019, 07:17 AM
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Evolution of the Randall Model 17 Astro

After seeing a modified Astro selling on eBay, I thought it time to post a thread on the evolution of the Astro.
Much has been said and written about the Astro over the years, including the Chapter in Bob Gaddis book dedicated to it.
My intent in this thread is to put in order the evolution of the Astro, from beginning to today. Hopefully the gaps that I leave will be filled by others who participate in this thread.

** Some of the dating is based in part on the sheath that appears with the knife, but the transition from long thin hilt to shorter/ thicker is seen in many Astros in small riveted sheaths by the late 60's early 70's. We also see the round butt in a sheath without rivets post 1972. So the transition from round butt to more blunt/square happened between 1972-1980. Then the raised/pronounce leading edge of the top clip appears sometime between 1980-85, as it appears this way, the modern look by 1985, in the 27th printing of the Randall catalog.

Bo pictured in 1984 with the Space knife made for and carried in space by Maj Gordon Cooper in May 1963. Maj Cooper presented his knife back to Bo as a gift for Bo's contribution to the Mercury Space Program in December 1963.

Maj Gordon Cooper's Astro before being fitted with Micarta scales

The Astros made for the 7 Mercury Astronauts

NASA also ordered a number of Astros to be used by the astronauts in training for the Mercury Space Program, and for others associated with the program. These knives were made from Solingen steel and engraved

Randall Made
Orlando Florida

Where the Randall logo stamp would normally be on Randall knives. These knives were made along with the personal knives that went to the 7 astronauts.

The personal knives were made for the purpose of accompanying the astronauts on their flights, but we know that Gus Grissom took his training knife with him on his flight. When his capsule splashed down in 1961 it sunk. The capsule was recovered in 1999, and Grissoms Astro was found in the capsule.

In 1963 the Randall catalog Sixteenth printing was released featuring The new Astro, initially sold without scales, with scales being an option.

An early Astro as shown in the Sixteenth printing 1963 Catalog without scales.

Here is another early Astro without scales made with Solingen steel from Pete Hamilton's book.

Then in the Seventeenth printing 1965 Catalog the Astro was offered standard with scales

An early Astro fitted with Brown Micarta scales, as offered in the 17th printing of the Randall catalog in 1965

To be continued.......

Last edited by samg; 02-13-2019 at 05:55 AM.
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Old 02-09-2019, 09:58 AM
Sligo Sligo is offline
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Evolved it has ! Very nice Sam !!
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Old 02-09-2019, 01:12 PM
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The Astro remained the same in the early to mid 1960's, being fitted with Brown Micarta scales, and I have read, Tenite, though I haven't seen one of those yet.

The Brown Micarta was depleted as a handle material in approx 1965, then we begin to see Black Micarta.
In approx 1966 the sheath changes with small throat rivets replacing the larger harness rivets. Note the hilt is still long and thin in the book photo illustrated below, and the curved top clip remains, the handle material is black Micarta. This Astro is probably closer to 1966-1967 production. The actual Astro in the photo is different. Note the same period sheath, but shorter thicker hilt. Same round butt. A bit later Astro than the book photo.

Another late 60's early 70's with an angled, straight top clip. Notice the thicker, shorter hilt by this time. It still has a rounded handle end. Riveted sheath.

After 1972 when sheath rivets stopped being used. Astro still has rounded handle end.

Also in the 22nd printing of the Randall catalog in 1972 we see the change to Stainless steel stock.

*It has been claimed that Randall made a number of unmarked stainless steel Astro blades before this time.

Here is a 1980 Astro. Note the blunt/square handle end. It appears the top clip has rounded a bit again, loosing the sharper angle from the spine onto the clip that we see from the late 60's to early 70's. Also the "S" stainless steel stamp indicating the change from carbon to stainless in 1971-1972 timeframe.

This Astro is as it appeared in the 1985 27th printing Randall catalog. Now it has the more pronounced top clip and more squared handle end that we see today.

Today's Astro. Note the pronounced, raised front edge of top clip on the spine. This feature has been present since approx 1981-83

The Randall catalog underwent a major format change in the 28th printing catalog of 1988 and we no longer see the Astro in the "World Famous Knives" section of the catalog that it occupied since 1961.

In all of the Randall catalogs from the 16th printing of 1963, thru the 27th printing in 1985, in the description of the model 17 Astro it states "we offer this model to collectors who wish to have a replica of the astronauts knife"

In the next catalog, the 28th printing of 1988, the replica language, as well as the "World Famous Knives" section was phased out, ending a 27 year run of special mention of the model 17 Astro.

Last edited by samg; 02-16-2019 at 12:20 PM.
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Old 02-10-2019, 10:47 AM
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It appears that the Astro adapted to the pronounced/raised leading edge top clip sometime between 1981-1985, perhaps Scott has some input to more closely date the evolution of the top clip to the modern look. I believe he started at Randall knives around 1983?
Thanks Scott.


Last edited by samg; 02-10-2019 at 06:26 PM.
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Old 02-10-2019, 07:24 PM
dirty water dirty water is offline
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Hello Sam, thanks for the visit and talk...this has been the only design that I've been familiar with on the 17 since I started, I have no idea when the change started...(or even why!, sorry)
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Old 02-11-2019, 09:02 AM
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Thanks Scott. It was a great visit. Always good to visit the shop and museum. Missed seeing you at the Gator show. I flew back to North Carolina on Saturday.
That's ok about the Astro. I think a 3 year window for design change is pretty close. If it's always had the raised top clip since you started at Randall in 1983, then it seems that evolutionary design change happened sometime between 1980-1983. Thanks for the contribution to the thread Scott.

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Old 03-05-2019, 09:52 AM
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There is discussion of the Astro in the other thread "Early Astro without scales" where it's being discussed whether there were any Orlando steel Astros made before 1963. I thought the discussion belongs more in this thread.

The claim by Jack, is that most if not all Astros made before 1963 are Solingen steel Astros. With the exception of the Astronauts personal knives of course that were made from 01 carbon tool steel with the Randall stamp.
The 60 NASA training knives with the Solingen etched RANDALL MADE ORLANDO FLORIDA stamp, 20 were ordered and made in 1960, and 40 more were made in 1962.
Other than the training knives, I have only observed a couple of Solingen Astros. One a experimental with a brass hilt, and another in Pete Hamilton's book. Also the experimentals in the Randall museum.

The earliest Astros are made with brown Micarta scales, which date them to approx 1965 and earlier. Others were made without scales as offered standard in 1963-64. I have seen many Orlando steel Astros in Brown Micarta with the early sloping, dulled top clip, and long, thin stainless hilt, rounded tang butt, correct replicas of the Original Astronaut knives.
As I have seen these brown Micarta Astros in lift the dot, double Brown button, and baby dot split back sheaths, unless specific provenance to indicate year of manufacture, these brown Micarta Astros were made between 1962-65.

Here is one with a lift a dot sheath from 1963. Sheath is earlier, but perhaps first in, last out?

Double brown button from 1963

Joe Dorsky has an early Astro that he was referring to in the other thread "Early Astro without scales" in double brown button sheath that he estimates was made in 1962.


What all of these Astros have in common is the sloping, dulled top clip, and long, thin stainless hilt, and rounded tang butt. Also Brown Micarta, with the exception of Joe's Scaleless Astro.

Jack did a great thread on the evolution of the Randall stamps, in the thread "dating old Randall blades by blade stamp". Observing Randall stamps on early examples, there are 2 different stamps that were used on the early- mid '60's Astros. Type 1&2. The earlier stamp (type 1 Jack's thread)was used on the bottom knife in the following photo. The vertical part of the letter F in FLA is directly under the right leg of M in Made
The top knife in the following photo has the later stamp (type 2 Jack's thread)where the vertical part of the letter F in FLA is more centered in the letter M in Made
At this time in the early to mid 1960's, both stamps were in use. I have seen the later stamp on knives from the late 50's.


An illustration of Jack's research into the 3 stamp types


I have not seen an early public Astro in the older brown linen Micarta that was used on the astronauts knives and NASA training knives, or in tenite as used on the mod 14 and 15. The tenite and earlier brown linen Micarta would be a sure way to distinguish the earliest Astros. The later brown canvas Micarta was exhausted by 1965. At that point, black Micarta began being used.

Here are a couple close-ups of the different brown Micarta used early on.
The earliest brown linen Micarta.


The later brown canvas Micarta. Note the wavy thread thru the canvas Micarta.


An update to this is an early brown linen Micarta Solingen Astro that is authenticated at one of the 60 NASA knives made perhaps in 1962. This is the only Solingen stamped Astro that I have seen in the earlier brown linen Micarta.


Last edited by samg; 06-14-2019 at 05:54 AM.
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Old 06-03-2019, 01:59 PM
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Here is an interesting early Astro that Bill brought to my attention.
Note the tall, thin stainless hilt.



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