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Author Topic: Questions on 18th century trade knives and scalpers.  (Read 5058 times)
Artificer
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« on: November 23, 2010, 04:13:51 PM »

The really nice knife Chuck recently showed on another thread brought these questions to mind.

I have been researching these knives lately and there are things about them I don't understand and would very much appreciate any information on them.  Im trying to concentrate on what would be authentic for the 1740s through 1750s period so as to make a correct knife for French and Indian War period. 

As I understand it, most were sent here without handles on them because the handles would have taken up too much room on the limited shipping space.  The handles were added here either by a retailer or the buyer.  Is that correct?

It seems they were sent with full tangs, half tangs and the long tail tangs like the one Chuck showed that was found in an excavation.  As I understand it, the type of tang was primarily to keep the cost down and make some of them cheaper?  I was wondering if it is known which style tang may have been more common for the F&I War period?

I have not been able to find out some things on the blade shapes.  Were they usually comparatively thin on the back something on the order of 1/8 or were they thicker there?  Were they commonly forged flat and then angled just toward the edge or were they tapered in a wedge shape from the back down to the edge?  What was the common width of and length of the blade? 

I would really appreciate any information anyone might have.  Thank you.
Gus
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B.Barker
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« Reply #1 on: November 24, 2010, 06:21:35 AM »

I seen an original collection once and it had over two dozen dug trade knife blades. All had the half tangs on them if I remember correctly, I would have to check my photo's. The thickness of the blades is less than 1/8" mor like 3/32" or less. They were very thin and I don't remember how they tapered either. I don't know where they were collected but I beleive most were British origin. I have tracinngs of three of them I beleive. The blades were around 7" long. I wish I had taken more photo's and better notes but I had one day to look through a huge collection. Artificer send me an email if you would like me to check my notes out beeter.
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LRB
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« Reply #2 on: November 24, 2010, 08:16:55 AM »

  You need to get in touch with Ken Hamilton. He has a collection of originals and probably is the foremost expert on the French trade knives. I have seen no conclusive evidence that any of these knives were shipped without handles. The French scalpers were 3/32" to 1/8" thick. Most were half tanged and tapered in both directions. The tangs were tapered to a near knife edge at the rear. The most common handles were of boxwood secured with two iron pin rivets of about 1/8" diameter.  These are listed on recipts and manifests as small, medium, and large, and extra large. No exact measurements listed.  Grips were seemingly made as a one size fits all, leaving a profound over lap underneath on the smaller than large blades, and the grip frontal areas extentended slightly into the blade area.  This gap was filled with cutlers rezin or left open. Most often these grips were of an overall octagon shape with wide center flats on the sides. Most French scalpers are of the dropped point design, while the English favored a raised point sweeping curve design, although the French and English often copied each others designs.  The English scalpers most often have three smaller pin rivets through the grip, of about 3/32" diameter, and most English blades were thinner than the French, being about 1/16" to 3/32" thick. As far as the acuall blade dimensions of the originals,  you would have to contact Ken. I am sure they all varied slightly, but stayed within general sizes, and patterns. These I have mentioned are the most common found, but there are many other types that were imported, and show up in digs.
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T.C.Albert
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« Reply #3 on: November 24, 2010, 09:07:32 AM »

here is a link that may also help to get you started some...
http://www.manuellisaparty.com/articles/butcher_knives.htm
TC
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jr
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« Reply #4 on: November 24, 2010, 10:06:49 AM »

I'm not positive ,but i think i remember reading on Kevin Gladysz's New France website a few years ago before he took it down, the simple one piece forged British butcher (so called scalper) trade knives were generally around 3/32" and the French (boucheron) about 5/32".
Something i saved from his site; "The "boucheron" knife exhibits a straight, slightly tapering blade back and a blade edge which tapers at the tip. The handle shaft is a projection of the blade back and has two pin holes for attatchment to the handle.The width of the tang seems to thin out near the butt which is typical of any blacksmith made knife unlike the much later stock steel blades which do not exhibit this feature.The blade is fairly thick and sturdy unlike the later British type blades that display thinner blades."
 From Barry Kent's book "Fort Pontchartrain At Detroit"; a quote about a guy named Bondaroy who observed work at the cutlery works in France in 1763.
"Bondaroy noted that the sheath and table knives which were manufactured without a bolster were produced from a single bar of steel. In contrast, versions with a bolster were created by inserting a strip of steel into a slit in one edge of a bar of iron. When the bar was heated and worked, the steel portion was formed into the cutting edge, while the iron portion was fashioned into the back of the blade, the bolster, and either a slender tang or a flat handle section. The bolster supported the blade and also provided ornamentation. Due to the amount of increased labor that was required in their production, bolster knives were generally more expensive than plain versions."
So, according to a man that actually watched them being made , some of the bolstered knives being made in 1763 in St. Etienne and Charbon, France were forged entirely of wrought iron with a blade insert of steel at for the cutting edge as the ONLY steel part of the knife.
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LRB
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« Reply #5 on: November 24, 2010, 02:03:52 PM »

  These are from digs. Note,  the french have a dropped point, not straight, and these were the most common Bocheron scalpers from France.  Photo's were supplied by Lucas Roy, AKA "Pichou". Also note, the second English from the top, as far as I know, was the most common English scalper design. 5/32" would be pretty thick for a trade scalper, but as you can see, there were slight variations in all. I have also included a photo from Lucas Roy of an original English blade along with one of his very accurate and fine copies of the English scalper. One common feature for the English was to drill the pin holes low on the tang. This allowed the pins to be centered on the grip which overlapped the bottom of the tangs.



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Artificer
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« Reply #6 on: November 24, 2010, 05:28:01 PM »

Wow, gents !!!
 
TC - I did find that website earlier, but appreciate you mentioning it all the same.

For everyone else, that really helps me a whole lot and I very, VERY much appreciate everyone chiming in.  I'm going to make hard copies of this to keep as reference.

Gus
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Artificer
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« Reply #7 on: November 24, 2010, 05:30:59 PM »

LRB,

Was cutler's resin made of pine pitch or similar to that? 

Gus
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LRB
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« Reply #8 on: November 24, 2010, 05:56:59 PM »

  Basicly pine rezin with brick dust mixed in. There are formulas with other ingredients, but just that will do. I seem to recall wood ash being mixed in,  but Chuck Burrows could give you a more accurate formula. One could mix brick dust in epoxy and have a more durable compound, and still have the same appearance, and apparently this was not always done anyway.  If you intend to make one, don't over do the final finish. They were ground pretty smooth to remove forge marks, and level the surface, but not highly polished. A 220 grit final sanding by hand would be very close to original finish. Sand cross wise, not longitudinal. That would reproduce a grindstone finish fairly close. There was not a lot of detailed work in these originals. Just enough to make them presentable, and shine for the buyers.
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Artificer
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« Reply #9 on: November 24, 2010, 11:23:52 PM »

Thank you, LRB.

The brick dust in epoxy sounds great.

That is an excellent suggestion about using 220 grit and sanding across the grain to simulate a stone wheel ground surface.  Off and on over the years I have searched for a stone wheel I could use at reenactments, but the few times I actually found a wheel in good enough shape, it was too expensive for me to justify buying it.  Hmmmm....... I do have some very old large sharpening stones I could use as well to do it.

Thanks again.
Gus
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Luke MacGillie
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« Reply #10 on: November 25, 2010, 01:36:22 PM »

Was not Pichu outed as simply a internet persona of knife maker Rich Worthington?

Not that I really care, just hate to see a nonperson being credited with doing research.

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LRB
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« Reply #11 on: November 25, 2010, 05:22:20 PM »

  I have not heard this, but would be interested in knowing what you have heard, and from where. Please PM me with the info if you will. If true, I would have to agree.
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T.C.Albert
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« Reply #12 on: November 25, 2010, 05:25:53 PM »

Luke...thats the first time I have ever heard that mentioned...I am of the belief that he is really Lucas Roy, and actually a college student that really is currently active in researching this field. Ive had personal correspondence with him on the topic of early knives recently, and he has helped me out with similar questions that I have had several times....that said, I could be totally mistaken about his identity as Ive not met him personally...but it would be surprising news to me.
Like Wick, Id be interested in a pm with details too...
TC
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LRB
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« Reply #13 on: November 25, 2010, 06:05:23 PM »

  So have I TC, and he has helped me with good solid info. If this guy is faking it, he's very good at it, but even stranger things happen in the cyber world.  I would also add, his knowledge in the area of trade goods, and 18th c. in general seems very advanced, and also holds up well even to beyond many others research. If he is really this Worthington fellow, then I have given him info that he really should not have had to ask for, unless Worthington is a base beginner in making knives. I seem to recall a post in which he said "we" make the most accurate English scalpers. Could be he is tied in with Worthington in an advisor or apprentice mode.
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Luke MacGillie
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« Reply #14 on: November 26, 2010, 07:33:16 AM »

A number of folks that Pikachu argued with over on FF started putting 2 and 2 together.  Its pretty easy to verify, just contact the school he supposedly graduated from, there is not now, nor was there ever a Lucas Roy who attended/graduated. 



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