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For those who like antique knives

Discussion in 'Blades' started by azprospector, Nov 19, 2010.

  1. azprospector

    azprospector Happy Desert Rat

    For those who are into antique knives. This knife was my grandfathers and has been passed down in our family. Family history says he made it around 1850. Just before they left Pennsylvania for the Kansas territory. He wore it all the time according to our family history. I don't know what all he used it for but it sure is big enough. Its 16 inches overall length, the blade is 11 1/2 inches, blade width is 1 5/8 inches and the blade is 3/8 inches thick. No one in the family knew why he carried such a big blade. I know there are no grizzlies in Kansas or farther back east. It's believed to be made from an old wagon spring.

    Haven't yet learned how to embed a picture but here is a link to it

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  2. chelloveck

    chelloveck Diabolus Causidicus

    An ounce of intimidation......

    Perhaps a mean looking big blade had a calming affect on any frisky hombres such as it didn't need to leave its sheath. An ounce of intimidation may be worth a pound of hacking, and cutting, and thrusting and blood letting.....just a thought.
  3. azprospector

    azprospector Happy Desert Rat

    One thing is for certain, you wouldn't have to cut someone to do real damage with this monster. It's heavy enough that all you need to do is hit them with it and you would give them a concussion. This thing weighs more than some of my pistols.
  4. Falcon15

    Falcon15 Falco Peregrinus

    Knives worn on a person during the 1800's were quite literally the "Leathermen" tools of their day. It was most likely used for everything from cutting twine to whittling a peg.
  5. chelloveck

    chelloveck Diabolus Causidicus

    The pioneer's leatherman

    You are most likely right, Falcon...the Kukri performs similar multi use functions....a Kukri, expertly wielded can decapitate a bullocks head at one stroke.
  6. cornmonkey

    cornmonkey Monkey+

    Grandpaw had a fine blade there, thanks for the look. Blades of that quality aren't around like before when everyone used and carried at least a pocket knife.
  7. azprospector

    azprospector Happy Desert Rat

    I've carried it a couple of times when I've been bear hunting and it has come in real handy. It's big enough that you don't have to carry an ax or hatchet. It'll cut through just about anything and the blade doesn't dull fast either. Only took a few minutes to butcher up the last bear using it. Shows the quality of the steel used in it. I'm going to take it along on my next years elk hunt also. Didn't get drawn this year.

    Large knives like this really were not that uncommon during the 1800's but this one is unusually large even by those standards. 8 inches were uncommon but a blade over 11 inches was pretty rare.
  8. Falcon15

    Falcon15 Falco Peregrinus

    Either your ancestor was a big man, or he had alot of big jobs. Most likely he was a big man and made it to fit his hand/needs.
  9. azprospector

    azprospector Happy Desert Rat

    Gramps stood around 6'6" and was around 260 lbs. Died from a stroke at the age of 87 chopping wood. Most of the little details we know about him from a more personal nature we learned from my Grandmothers diary. Lots of interesting information about what it was like to live back then.
  10. fish

    fish Monkey+

    very nice knife,but without that history it wouldnt be the same,thanks for sharing .
  11. azprospector

    azprospector Happy Desert Rat

    I'm a History Nut anyway and particularly AZ History. After all, I'm old enough to be classified as historic myself.
  12. Hispeedal2

    Hispeedal2 Nay Sayer

    That explains the size... your grandpaps was a mountain of man.

    Very cool story. The knife is in great condition to be that old. Keep her oiled and safe. There are few things worth running into a burning house for.... my favorite dog, a bottle of whiskey, and I'd say that knife should be on the list. ;)
  13. azprospector

    azprospector Happy Desert Rat

    There is something rather unique about this particular knife in that it has never rusted. At least while I have had it. Being a bit of a history nut, I did some research into the processes used for treating steel during the 1800's. All our family hails from Germany and there was a process brought over from the old country that was used to treat steel to protect it.

    Basically and without going into elaborate details, if someone wanted to keep a piece of steel from rusting, the process entailed an alternating process of literally cooking the piece of steel submerged in oil (I don't know what kind of oil) in a furnace of 300 to 400 degrees for 24 hours and a quick cooling in cool oil. This process was repeated for up to 7 days. If I knew what type of oil they were using, I would have a better idea of what possible chemical process was taking place with the steel.

    I guess you couldn't really consider this a "Bluing" process since there wasn't any real electo-chemical activity taking place, but this process was used extensively by many a Pennsylvania Dutch farmer, in other words Germans, during the 1800's. I've read articles about the same process being used by early German gun makers.

    Since the process is an elaborate and time consuming one, it was only used for equipment and other items that would generally be exposed to the weather or weren't able to be regularly maintained.

    I've tried some experiments myself using everything from 30 weight motor oil to high grade machine oils but I've only had limited success. I still believe most of the magic in this process revolves around the oil used.
  14. 2RK

    2RK Monkey+

    The proses is to the best of my knowledge called seasoning. Its akin to the seasoning of cast iron skillets. Its often said of a rifle bore that its well seasoned, or that the shooter is well seasoned, I was led to believe that the term had nothing to do with seasons or seasoning in the cooking sense but was the result of shooting many fat covered wads through the boar of a rifle both improving the steel in the bore , giving the shooter experience shooting the rifle. As I said I can quote my source so it could all be BS but the idea seemed solid to me.

    Petroleum based oils are not as effective or desirable actual rendered animal fat or tallow.

    I have used this posses in the past but never for the length of time specified.

    My recipe is , Etch the steel , you want it very porous even a bit rusty. You need the surface grit to help hold the tallow and actually become part of the metal. A strong etch in urine fallowed by exposure to some moisture. On forged steel this part is not necessary as the scale on a freshly forged piece of steel dose the same thing.

    Tallow rendered from a ground hog (Its what i had the ability to make ), Scrape the fat from the skin of the animal and boil it in water for a bit. Pour the pot of fat with the chunks through a porous cloth such as cheese cloth and squeeze the tar out of it in to a jar. Back in the day only animal fats were avalible on a widely distributed level.

    Now coat the metal without removing the surface rust and bake until the tallow is baked dry. I stay below 400 deg as 400 or higher tempers the steel below my desired hardness.

    Now repeat until the tallow is gone or you have a nice seasoned coating.

    Thats a very nice knife , keep it well as its worth more to you then it will be to anyone else, but its worth allot of money.
  15. azprospector

    azprospector Happy Desert Rat

    Thanks for the info 2RK. The process I described also leaves another unique feature to the metal. When you normally sharpen a blade, you notice the sharpened edge has that bright shinny look. Not with this knife. The steel appears to be a dark charcoal color throughout the piece. After sharpening, the edge still looks the same color as the rest of the knife. The knife also takes an extremely sharp edge and hold that edge very well.
  16. Falcon15

    Falcon15 Falco Peregrinus

    After doing some research through some books and the web, I have been able to make some determinations. First things first, you stated that the knife was made from a wagon spring. This was a very common practice. Wagon springs are high carbon, oil quenched steel.

    Normally a knife or tool made from high carbon oil quenched wagon springs would go through a heating and reheating process to remove the original temper prior to forging it into a new item. Soaking it in oil as you heat, cool and reheat would impregnate the blade with oil, making the blade virtually rust-proof. However, it should be noted that this process was not described in detail, just outlined.

    Strangely enough the process also reads like some sort of heat treatment (annealing, normalizing, tempering, and hardening steel - three different processes that are something my company has to do with many of our parts, plates etc. based on requirements). The odd thing that is the low temperatures. Most carbon steel has to be heated to just above it's critical temperature then cooled. The low temps you are stating (400 degrees) are enough to open the metal's structure, like seasoning cast iron, for example, but not enough to fundamentally change it. Even copper, which can be annealed, has an annealing temperature of 700 - 900 degrees. Harder metals, like high carbon steel, have higher temperatures that need to be reached to heat treat them properly.

    This has me intrigued, I am going to ask around about the process. I still have some contacts in the metal industry that might know about this.
  17. azprospector

    azprospector Happy Desert Rat

    Thanks Falcon15. The more I look into this thing, the more curious I get. I'm a member of the Arizona Historical Society and plan on visiting a couple of the Society Archives and Museums (there are several around the state) while I'm in the valley for the holidays. I'm going to see if there is any information pertaining to this specific subject. If I come up with anything, I'll post it here. I would really like to see if it's possible to duplicate this process. I make reproduction Green River knives and give them out as gifts and being able to duplicate this process for them would really be nice.
  18. 2RK

    2RK Monkey+

    So its not seasoned but actually impregnated in the steel? Im very interested now I may fire up the forge and try this If I can get a decent recipe?

    Its hard for me to understand how this would actually work, To heat treat simple carbon steel I bring the steel up to 1500deg and hold for 7 minutes and then temper at 400deg. So that being my final heating stage would burn off any oil in the blade. I also cant see how the steel would actually capture the oil and not cause the steel to develop flaws even if i could get the oil to survive the heat of the forge.

    Please post up anything you find as now my mind is on a mission to understand.
  19. azprospector

    azprospector Happy Desert Rat

    I've been playing around with this for a number of years and have not been able to reproduce the effect I see in the steel of this knife. I believe the problem lies in not knowing exactly what type of oil was used at that time period and I've almost come to the conclusion that possibly something else was added to the oil itself. I haven't a clue as to what that would be nor does any the entries in my grandmothers diary give me even the slightest clue. Like you, I can't understand nor do I have the expertise to know, what kind of chemical process could take place between the oil and the steel that creates this effect. So far I haven't found any real detailed outside documentation about this process.

    The only other thing I can think of is that something was done to the steel itself before the oil treatment. The diary doesn't say that anything unique was done to it. The diary just says that my grandfather used an old piece of wagon spring that was laying around in the barn, to make the knife.

    This may be one of those Historical Secrets that we never figure out but I have to believe there has got to be more information about this process somewhere.
  20. ghrit

    ghrit Ambulatory anachronism Administrator Founding Member

    Frankly, I suspect that the oil (or other volatile additive) has nothing to do with it. More likely is an unknown alloying agent, or a heat treatment, or most likely, both.
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