Author Topic: Original Handmade Bowie Knife  (Read 4991 times)

Ruster

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Original Handmade Bowie Knife
« on: July 21, 2020, 11:28:50 PM »
This old Bowie Knife was handmade around 1840, probably by a blacksmith.  The blade has an interesting projection on the false edge, or swage.  This unusual feature is similar to that found on the Bart Moore knife, which the Moore family claims belonged to Jim Bowie.  The end of the blade, near the hilt, has a "Spanish Notch" (seen better in the second photo).  It's unclear the purpose of this item.  Some think it was used to catch an opponent's blade during a knife fight, while others thing it may have been used to clean animal tendons so they could be used as bindings.

Other items in the top photo include an original priming horn and a large tintype photo.  Inside the photo case is the following inscription: "From Your Darling Boy, August 9th 1865, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas."




« Last Edit: August 14, 2020, 08:30:59 PM by Ruster »

Offline snapper

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Re: Original Handmade Bowie Knife
« Reply #1 on: July 21, 2020, 11:44:59 PM »
I like it

Do you know any of its history?

Fleener
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Ruster

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Re: Original Handmade Bowie Knife
« Reply #2 on: July 22, 2020, 02:26:27 AM »
I don't know anything more about this knife.  It does not have the maker's name or his mark.
« Last Edit: July 22, 2020, 03:42:20 PM by Ruster »

Offline Dennis Glazener

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Re: Original Handmade Bowie Knife
« Reply #3 on: July 22, 2020, 03:04:13 PM »
No I did not ask you to remove the knife, only to edit out the revolver. I even offered to do the edit.
Dennis
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Online Hungry Horse

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Re: REVISED Original Handmade Bowie Knife
« Reply #4 on: July 22, 2020, 06:15:58 PM »
 I don’t know who Bart Moore is, but I did get a chance many years ago, to examine At length the knife attributed to him, when it was owned by Owen Lampman. I believe the knife is indeed the knife James Black made for Jim Bowie. This new knife has some features that are remarkably similar. The Bart Moore Bowie is not at all what would be considered a “Bowie” today. It is more like a medium sized hunting knife, but with some very interesting additions that make it a real fighting knife. The distinctive notch at the end of the false edge is one, the gap at the rear of the cutting edge is another, and the distinctive guard hooks still another, these features, combined with a copper inlay in the spine of the blade, all designed to catch an enemies knife, or short sword, in a fight.
 The big Bowie pictured has a couple of these same features, but is shaped like many later Bowie’s that resemble a cleaver with a point. Whoever made this knife either saw the original and copied some of its features, or knew James Black the maker.

 Hungry Horse

Offline JPK

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Re: REVISED Original Handmade Bowie Knife
« Reply #5 on: July 23, 2020, 12:59:34 AM »
Knives are not my first interest but this one has me wondering. Looking at some large old fighting knives in books they all seem to be well finished when made. This one appears to my untrained eye to have hammer marks on the blade and the guard has a lot of marks as well. Is this a common thing?
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Ruster

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Re: REVISED Original Handmade Bowie Knife
« Reply #6 on: July 23, 2020, 01:09:58 PM »
JPK:

Early Bowie-style knives were made in America by local blacksmiths and bladesmiths.  As the following article points out, they generally lacked the fit and finish of later bowies, many of which were mass-produced.  A large number of the more refined Bowie knives that you mentioned were made in Europe by established knife-making companies like Sheffield in England.  Most of these later knives were sold to those with the money to buy an expensive imported knife. Most American frontiersmen, hunters, and the common folk, generally used simpler handmade blades from domestic blacksmiths and bladesmiths.  The following information, by Phil Spangenberger, provides more information on this topic.

Rusty Edwards

Fighting Blades of the Frontier (Extracted Paragraphs)
by Phil Spangenberger, August 12, 2014

At first, these so-called bowies were hand forged by local blacksmiths supposedly copying the original. These were large knives, from around nine to 15 inches or more in length, with heavy blades that ranged from around one to two inches or more in width. Though ruggedly constructed, they lacked the fine finish of later mass-produced bowies. Further, they were fitted with a simple cross-type guard, often with S-curved quillons or with an iron or brass plate, to keep an opponent’s blade from sliding onto the hand of the wielder. Sometimes a fighting notch would be added to the choil, to catch the blade of an opponent. (Some researchers contend the notch has a more mundane role, of assisting in sharpening the blade.) Grips were usually wood, bone or stag.

Knife makers of Sheffield, in Yorkshire region of England, who had been conducting business in America as far back as our colonial period, almost immediately recognized the popularization of the bowie knife in the U.S. and were quick to produce bowies as early as the 1830s. This entry of the British cutlers brought about a secondary and much more ornate breed of bowies. While many of these import blades carried the classic lines of the large-bladed, clip-point American bowies, other styles were introduced, such as the spear point, with blades ranging from six to 15 inches or more in length. Bowies later evolved from a false edge on the clipped point with a sharp cutting border, as found on the early American knives, to a vestigial beveled clip with a dulled edge—although some knives still included the sharpened clipped point.

Other variations, too, were incorporated into these newer bowies. They sported fancier hilts fashioned with German silver, brass, coin and sterling silver mountings, and fitted with one- and two-piece grips made from exotic materials such as horn, ebony, ivory, Mother of Pearl, tortoise shell and German silver. Decorated blades became de rigueur, featuring stamped or etched motifs, animals, patriotic emblems and mottos—some designs were even accented in richly blued or gilt finishes. Fanciful slogans featured on some of these knives included “California Knife,” “Self Defender,” “I’m a Real Ripper,” “Hunter’s Companion,” “I Can Dig Gold from Quartz,” “Texas Ranger” and “Genuine Arkansas Toothpick.”

« Last Edit: July 23, 2020, 08:00:52 PM by Ruster »

Offline T.C.Albert

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Re: REVISED Original Handmade Bowie Knife
« Reply #7 on: July 23, 2020, 04:24:24 PM »
I’m curious about the James Black attribution to the Moore Bowie and if it still holds water?
Thanks
TC
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Offline WadePatton

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Re: REVISED Original Handmade Bowie Knife
« Reply #8 on: July 23, 2020, 05:32:10 PM »
I like the shape of that knife, the "pointed cleaver" with notches.  Thanks for sharing.

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Online Hungry Horse

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Re: REVISED Original Handmade Bowie Knife
« Reply #9 on: July 23, 2020, 07:41:12 PM »
TC that kind of depend on if you believe the Bart Moore knife is the actual knife made for Jim Bowie. The Bart Moore knife is marked with Jim Bowies name on one side of the blade. But, what they don’t mention is the makers acorn mark engraved on the opposite side of the blade has J. B. Engraved on it.

   Hungry Horse

Offline LRB

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Re: REVISED Original Handmade Bowie Knife
« Reply #10 on: August 09, 2020, 04:53:44 PM »
I’m curious about the James Black attribution to the Moore Bowie and if it still holds water?
Thanks
TC
    Last I read on the Moore knife, just a very few years ago, it was claimed to be proven a fake, but no details were given.

Offline LRB

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Re: Original Handmade Bowie Knife
« Reply #11 on: August 10, 2020, 10:55:05 PM »
  Without removing some steel, iron or grip material, there is no positive way of testing a knife for it's age. It is easier to prove a knife to be fake, than to prove it is not. Steel and iron can now be carbon dated if it is pre-Bessemer iron or steel, because of the use of charcoal for the smelting process. Accuracy is said to be + or - 30 years. I don't want to hurt any feelings, but I would be at 98% sure that big smith made knife is an absolute fake, based on the appearance of a total lack of any serious finishing, but yet the overall shaping, with the exception of that stupid reverse notch at the false edge, which would hinder penetration, is not that disagreeable in appearance or proportions. A first time beginning smith could do way better than that with the finish, even if simply hand filed and left. The hammer marks are too deep and noticeable to have not been deliberate applied, and the so called Spanish notching is too ridiculous to even consider being such. The reverse notch on the Moore knife also has always seemed suspicious to me. It would not slow penetration in flesh by much, but I believe winter clothing could slow it down. It serves no purpose other than to just look a little different. Just my opinion, and I leave it with a 2% chance of being wrong.

Ruster

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Re: Original Handmade Bowie Knife
« Reply #12 on: August 11, 2020, 12:01:28 AM »
Your ability to evaluate the knife without actually inspecting it is indeed remarkable.

Online Hungry Horse

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Re: Original Handmade Bowie Knife
« Reply #13 on: August 11, 2020, 04:57:57 PM »
 I think it should be understood that at the time this massive Bowie was produced, every large farm had a forge, and many other crafts depended on a small forge to make fittings, and bend, and form, iron to fit their needs. These craftsmen were not blacksmiths. This knife shows the marks of a heavy hammer, and little, or no, indication that an effort was made to clean up the work beyond what it took to file an edge on it. I would suspect this knife was made by someone other than a blacksmith. A blacksmiths work was his calling card, and rough crude work like this would not advertise his abilities well.

  Hungry Horse

Ruster

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Re: Original Handmade Bowie Knife
« Reply #14 on: August 11, 2020, 05:10:50 PM »
Reference post 16, above.  I'll have to contact Phil Spangenberger and tell him that he doesn't know what he's talking about.  I'm sure he'll appreciate the feedback.

Online Hungry Horse

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Re: Original Handmade Bowie Knife
« Reply #15 on: August 11, 2020, 08:07:14 PM »
Spell my name right.

  Hungry Horse

Offline jcmcclure

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Re: Original Handmade Bowie Knife
« Reply #16 on: August 12, 2020, 03:05:41 AM »
I've handled few originals...even a few "backwoods bowies".  Ill have to say Hungry Horse and LRB seem to have a well defined argument for these knives.

Offline Notchy Bob

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Re: Original Handmade Bowie Knife
« Reply #17 on: August 12, 2020, 06:03:27 AM »
Well, I read all of the posts above.  All opinions noted.

I really like the first knife in the original post.  It is similar in some respects to the "Southern Bear Knife" T.C. Albert submitted recently.  It is rustic, but I find that appealing, and I suppose not every country blacksmith was a true master of every aspect of his craft.

I'm not sure what to think about that little projection at the base of the false edge.  It looks as if it would limit penetration, but maybe that's the idea.

I had heard of the Moore Bowie, and had read some debate regarding its authenticity.  This is the first time I've seen a picture of it.  I'm not an expert, but it just doesn't look like a frontier Bowie knife.  There's something about it that's just too kitschy.

Thanks to the original poster for showing the interesting old knife and other accoutrements!

Notchy Bob
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Offline electricfactory

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Re: Original Handmade Bowie Knife
« Reply #18 on: August 13, 2020, 02:32:34 AM »
I'm surprised at the sheer massiveness of it. These guys were so slight in stature and bearing it always surprises me at the heft of their tools, particularly knives.

Online Hungry Horse

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Re: Original Handmade Bowie Knife
« Reply #19 on: August 13, 2020, 05:45:45 PM »
 There you go thinking again. But, you are correct. Just think about the mechanics of a knife fight. The most deadly thrust of a knife has to penetrate the most well protected part of the human body, which is the rib cage. Which means unless the knife is like a rapier, it will have to be rotated in the hand so the blade will pass between the ribs. A “S” shaped guard will hinder that move, as will a clip point that has excessive curve at the tip. The early long knives, and big daggers, like the Scottish dirt, and the infamous Arkansas toothpick, are not hindered by either of these features, they  are fighting knives. These big Utility Bowie’s were often used as an ax, and a froe, and a means of disjointing large game by hammering on the spine of the massive blade. They replaced the tomahawk in the latter part of the 19th century. Look at the spine of this very example its got a bit of a sway backed profile, and the edge of the spine  is bright. This indicates to me that the spine had been hammered, and then repaired.
 It seems unfathomable to me that an experienced knife fighter would even consider a knife of this design.

  Hungry Horse

Ruster

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Re: Original Handmade Bowie Knife
« Reply #20 on: August 14, 2020, 08:26:08 PM »
Here are a few other knives probably made during the same time period. Despite having hammer marks and other blemishes, thousands of these knives were carried by American frontiersman, hunters, trappers, soldiers, pioneers, and many others who needed a strong and reliable knife.









Offline Elnathan

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Re: Original Handmade Bowie Knife
« Reply #21 on: August 14, 2020, 10:20:13 PM »
Aren't cutler's rivets a post-Civil War thing?
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Offline Marcruger

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Re: Original Handmade Bowie Knife
« Reply #22 on: August 15, 2020, 03:15:09 AM »
Ruster, folks on this board are generally fine folks, and helpful.  They are also honest.  They'll tell you like they see it.  It is also hard to impress and awe folks who have been at this for many decades. 

Some of the folks here are the most experienced in the country at the longrifle culture.  Those screen names hide a huge load of experience.  An example is Mr. Ellerbe, who has a boat load (ship load) of knowledge about historic knives. 

Stick around, and keep some thick skin. 

Best wishes,   Marc

Offline smallpatch

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Re: Original Handmade Bowie Knife
« Reply #23 on: August 15, 2020, 04:46:07 AM »
Ruster,
If you’re looking for input on a knife you believe to be original, this is a good place to be.

However, insulting knowledgeable people that don’t agree with you is no way to get that input. 

After all, no one has anyway to know for sure, these are educated opinions.

Mr Ellerbe is one of the most knowledgeable!  He’d be one I’d listen to.
In His grip,

Dane

Offline LRB

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Re: Original Handmade Bowie Knife
« Reply #24 on: August 15, 2020, 08:04:09 PM »
Aren't cutler's rivets a post-Civil War thing?
Yes. I believe early to mid 1870's. Going by what Chuck Burrows once said.