The view out of the front of an LCT as it drops its precious load of men at Omaha Beach on D-Day. For many young men this was their last view of life. This Memorial Day please remember those who have served, fought and died for the freedoms we so precariously hold onto right now.
It seems like every so often I have someone compelled to email me to "straighten me out" about some error in my thinking. Happened again about a week ago. I was excited to see I had an email from a friend and fellow collector. It came from this website contact page. As I opened it and started to read I was really disappointed. Obviously the man did not know who he was addressing, that we had communicated for years, and that I had bought some pretty expensive knives from him. The beauty and the curse of such communications is the anonymity it provides. You can be blunt, rude, chastising, just as easy as you can be friendly. I would rate this recent email as blunt. If you have read anything I have written you know my dislike of experts. You also know I have stated that every time I think I know the answer to a question on F-S knives another anomaly comes out of the woodwork. Here is the ricasso of a knife purchased from a seller in Australia.
His email to me started out like many others: "Since you seem to be an expert", or "you ought to know better", or how about...."I cannot believe you really think these knives are legitimate", etc, etc. Then follows: "I hate to be the one to tell you that your (Pick anyone of my bayonet conversions) is a fake but someone has to tell you the difference between reality and your fantasy world". I suppose I should feel honored that such friendly advice is offered so freely. It is so rewarding to have someone advise me that the $2,500 knife he is talking about is a fake. Of course this news is always followed by their validation of: "I have been collecting these knives for 30 or 40 years." This is one way of saying: "Therefore I know better than you." I bought my first F-S in 1978 and you know what, I am still finding unique knives and prototypes, which according to these other people, are simply more fakes.
Smooth Handled Fatman knife. Never existed according to the experts.
When asked how many of these fakes have they personally inspected the answer is usually none, or I get no reply. How do you know they are fakes?? No answer or because so and so said they are. This is similar to the expert's comments on what Shanghai daggers are legitimate, or not. How many have they handled? NONE. I have actually handled FIVE and I have even been permitted to take them apart. So I know how they are constructed, how they were converted from 1888 and 1903 bayonets. SO please do not tell me they cannot be made or that the bayonets cannot be converted. The ones I actually handled were made during the 1930s when Fairbairn, Sykes, Yeaton, Moore, etc. were stationed in Shanghai at the SMP. These are bonafide Shanghai daggers. Knives this rare sell for thousands of dollars. Take the price of a mint First Pattern, multiply it times 5, and you have an idea of how expensive they are. According to Wm.. Cassidy less than a dozen of the hi-grade daggers were made.
So I too have some small background in rare commando knives and WW-II conversions but I am not an expert and I am not going to email other people to straighten them out. I am happy to report the last person to contact me, and I, have restored a cordial relationship. The world of people sharing interest in these knives is small enough as it is. Even if you are an expert, it doesn't hurt to contact someone passively to share your knowledge. Make sure you are 100% right before you drop what you feel is a righteousness bomb on them. Now if they are obviously pedaling fakes for profit that is a different story altogether. Life is stressful enough, try to be kind. Stay safe and healthy during these days of lunacy. (And if your are interested I have a box of fakes to sell you!) JUST KIDDING.
A trinity of legitimate Yeaton Shanghai Daggers. The one on the right is soon to be mine by a trade.
I get a lot of emails asking what a knife is worth, in all sort of conditions from excavated to near pristine. The other week on Ebay I bought a fairly scarce Wilkinson Sword Co. Second Pattern "Button Hilt." I got it really cheap because some flaming moron used and electric grinder to try to sharpen it.Unfortunately this is not my first blog on a good knife nearly ruined.
First let me explain the F-S was never intended to be used like a Japanese Chef's knife. It will not slice paper-thin pieces of fish or vegetables. It was made to kill people! So the blade geometry is rather poor for holding razor sharp edges. The steep bevels that make it rugged also preclude it from taking a fine edge. It also means the blade does not, I REPEAT DOES NOT fit in the knife grinder on the back of your wife's damned electric can opener! If you even approach an electric grinder with an original WW-II F-S I hope the skies open up and a bolt of lightning flies up your... well I think you get the message. Here is the condition the blade was in, on both sides, when I bought it. I used to build custom rifles and my teacher told me "you never get rid of all of the scratches. You just try to make them as small as possible and all going in the same direction."
Some purists will probably feint when I start talking about abrasives and elbow grease to clean up the blade. This is when you have to decide when to, and when not to, try restorations. I suggest you buy a really ratty 3rd pattern for a few bucks and practice what I am going to show you. The supplies you will need are inexpensive and easily acquired. They are an assortment of wet/dry abrasives, a flat piece of thin wood, and a lubricant. I started on this knife with a 220 grit paper. Where you starts is determined by how deep the marks are. I finished off with old worn-out 400 grit paper. I used a tongue depressor for my "backer," and WD40 for my lubricant. (I took the following photos after I had already finished polishing the blade.)
Using the wooden backer is essential to keeping the blade's bevels flat, and the median ridge (line down the center of the blade) crisp and straight. You must also hold the abrasive flat on the blade and not rock it back and forth or you will round off the centerline, ruining the original factory profile. Use plenty of lubricant so the abrasive cuts better and lasts longer. As it wears down grab a new piece. I suggest running the abrasive paper at a 45 degree angle down the blade so that you are running across the ugly grind marks. Work each flat until you need to switch to a finer grade/grit paper. When in doubt start with a fine paper. If it is too fine it will not harm anything, just make the work go slower. If it is going way too slow, change to something more aggressive, then work back to finer paper as you progress. Here is my progress after about 1/2 hour with 220 grit paper. A lot of the grinder marks are still visible.
Next I switched to some fresh 400 grit for about another 20 minutes and then to some worn down 400 grit. All the time I kept the blade wet with WD40. Luckily the moron with the grinder mostly stayed away from the etched logos.
I should warn you that as you are removing the scratches you are also sharpening the blade. So be very careful or you may end up with a nasty cut. If the idiot who owned the knife before me had resorted to this method, instead of a grinder, he would have ended up with a very sharp knife without causing any damage. Here is where i finally decided to stop. I could have gone finer but remember we are trying to restore it to a near "original polish" not some mirror polish. Later, if you decide to, you can always go a little further. I decided I could live with this finish compared to how it looked on arrival.
Just be sure to practice on an old beater of a knife and if it doesn't seem to work out for you then do not ruin a better knife hoping you will perfect your skill. Leave that to the morons.
A NOTE: Do not try this technique on a truly relic condition knife because it will only ruin any value it had. For example this knife unearthed at the beaches of Dieppe.
My good friend in New Zealand asked me when i was going to do a new posting. I'm not sure what to write about. I am open to questions, suggestions, and your ideas. Not too long ago I let the Bowie bug bite me and I bought a second Larry Harley Battle Bowie. It is unique in that it is single edged as opposed to his more common double-edged version. I love Bowies and Harley's were some of the best, even though the design is not traditional. Some folks get all spastic when they see the handle with its heavily finger-grooved scales. No you cannot do florets or spinning pinwheels with one, like you might with a kerambit, but your opponent is not going to easily knock it out of your grip either. The single edged version is nice although less dramatic looking. The sheath is a little odd, perhaps setup for lacing to a backpack or some other gear. Type Bowie knife into ebay and see how many pieces of junk show up. I've tried "forged Bowie." mostly junk from Pakistan pops up. Tried "custom Bowie," and i got a lot of fantasy junk. Finding a good Bowie is difficult, not because there aren't plenty, just that too many ignorant sellers attach "Bowie" trying to attract more buyers. As much as I love Fairbairn-Sykes knives, the great hidden heresy is my love of Bowies. A Bowie with a 9 inch or longer clip point blade is an ideal fighting knife if properly balanced. Personally I find a ten inch blade works best for my hand size and build. Anything longer than 12 inches becomes unwieldy for me. So for now this is my posting and I'll get better photos of the pair of Harley Bowie I own in a day or two. Here are some photos of the new one from the sale. The grid is one inch squares.
Larry Harley Bowies became famous back during the Vietnam War era as gutsy Special Forces guys booked guided pig hunts using their knives to kill the hogs in a test their manhood.
I cannot believe I almost forgot it is Pearl Harbor Day! I have not had the TV on all day but they are probably still talking about fake news and impeachment. This is a tragic day even all of these years later when you consider how many thousands of men died needlessly because of the war brought on by the German, Italian and Japanese forces. We are living in days of insanity again and you have to wonder if there is a cure for whatever is wrong with people who are so laden with hate and anger.
Let us spare some time and prayer for those who have died in wars and those maniacs who are trying to start the next one here and abroad. God bless our servicemen, honor them wherever they are around the globe. Keep them safe and bring them home soon.
Finally I am getting a breather. The semester has ended and the 2020 one doesn't start until late in January. In the meantime I have a lot of writing to do as well as editing. The covert knife book is getting so nice I am going nuts wanting it to be finished. I am in contact with a potential publisher in England.
I have recently added about a half dozen new clandestine knives to my collection and hope to squeeze them into the book as well. Had it not been for this delay i might have forgotten to include the two small daggers that belonged to Peter and Prudence Mason. I had specifically asked for photos of them from the museum in England where they are on loan. It would have been a shame to miss putting them in the book. That is part of the problem, sometimes an overload of material is available and only me to sort it out. Then there are other places where the information just doesn't exist or is too deeply buried. If I lived in England this would be a lot easier to ferret out. One of my sources in England has died and the other has serious cancer and also fallen quiet.
Here is one of those recent additions. It is a Military Mission dagger with very dense ebony scale handles attached with brass pins. The ricasso is stamped "1" and "1941" in a crooked line of numbers. The blued blade has been carefully sharpened to a keen edge. The sheath is interesting in having a standard F-S type chape on a leather sheath with the center seam running down the front. This is the second knife in our collection with the 1941 date.
Just this morning I finished all of the paperwork for the college student grading so now its on to work revising my gas engine textbook and getting an ISBN number for it to please the college book store. Yes also to work on the covert daggers book. We're hoping the IT dept where my daughter works can salvage the stuff stored on her hard drive. Keep your fingers crossed. I'll post again before too long. Have a great weekend.
Yes I know I am about a day late on this one! I've been busy trust me. I am reading at least four books, working on the Covert Daggers book, doing a major revision of my Gas Engine book for the college, creating a new curriculum for the Spring 2020 semester, preparing for the students finals next week. Sometimes I don't even feel like booting up the computer. On the good news side the first pattern I have been paying on was finally paid off and arrived. It is a real beauty. Then we had a setback on my book when my daughter's computer crashed. Its not unrecoverable but we lost a lot of recent work she had done on it. So in a week my load will lighten up and I'll try to write a more valuable blog. So thanks for your patience and stop back next week.
This Veterans Day take time to reflect on the sacrifices made by men and women across the world who have served in the cause of freedom. Not only our own service men and women but those of our allies and all who gave time and lives to protect our liberty. It has become cliche', but freedom is not free. There are those in our own government and neighborhoods, who would deny us our Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms. May our enemies, foreign and domestic, be rooted out and eradicated, so that liberty washes once again across our land. God Bless America.
Next time you see a veteran thank him for his service and mean it. Remember that they have been away from their families so that you can be at home safely with yours.
People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf. George Orwell
Thank God these "Rough Men" are ours. God bless them.
It seems impossible to me that some greedy sellers are asking upwards of $300 - 400 for plain jane 3rd pattern knives. Even more incredible is some people are paying those prices. Now I expect the values of knives I bought 20 years ago to rise but seriously! I'd call it price gouging. Remember folks the combined manufacturer output of WW-II 3rd pattern knives was nearly a quarter million. Most of those made since the war have ranged in quality from Wilkinson's excellent war-time models to the absolutely awful ones out of Pakistan and China. Some post war years (and into the Korean war era) saw the production of a few well made knives. But, even the last production out of Wilkinson Sword was very marginal, with non-traditional shaped handles (said to me made in China) and blades buffed out like tableware or letter openers.
Beware, because many sellers are describing their knives (3rd pattern) as Wilkinson commando knives when there is no justification. They could be made by one of a dozen makers of varying quality. If it doesn't say "Wilkinson", it most likely is NOT a Wilkinson. If it has a coarsely ground blade and thin, flimsy guard you can be sure it is not a Wilkinson. Personally I would prefer a raggedy second pattern dagger any day to a pristine 3rd pattern. Its all a matter of preference but just don't get taken by some unscrupulous dealer on the famous auction site and pay twice what a knife is worth. Then there are out-and-out fakes like this one. I bought it just to get it off the market.
I can hardly believe it. Saturday one of my oldest friends passed away. This is really getting to be a bad habit. He was my life-long mentor, spiritual guide, a father figure, my abbot and friend. I had known him 60 years. He was the bagpiper at our wedding in 1970 and at my father's funeral. He married my daughter and her husband. I spent decades under his tutelage. He was 87 years old. Most of his life he taught high school Arts and Humanities and he was an accomplished artist, wood carver, and author. The ancient Scottish Highland traditions ran through his veins. He spoke several languages including Gaelic and was a true Renaissance man. I shall miss him. I hope he is in the Highlands playing his pipes and walking the moors. The photo is one I took this spring in Glen Finnan.
You can find out more about me on the "Stories" pages. My hobbies have included training in Japanese martial arts, Kenjutsu, many forms of knife fighting, long range rifles and tactical firearms. I have written several self published books on muzzle-loading firearms, knife-fighting and gas engines and compressors. I am working diligently on my 400+ page F-S book.