Hunters and their knives are a legendary combination and one in which history and legends have been forged upon.
Throughout time, ever since man first donned a loin cloth or fig leaf and picked up a rock or stick to dispatch some unsuspecting ungulate he has needed a blade to skin, gut, cut up and eat said delicious protein pellet. I would only imagine the first cutting tools were quite literally stumbled upon when someone cut their foot on a razor sharp shard of Flint and had an epiphany and decided slicing skin and meat was much more advantageous than gnawing and clawing it apart.
Soon someone was probably using a rock to smash open a bone or a some other task and it chipped off a sliver of massively sharp stone and a light bulb went off and BOOM! The first blade was made. Soon it became a task of some or all members of the clan or tribe to hit one rock with another and form a more useful tool. This continued as mankind grew and discovered the use of fire to form metals and those metals into tools. Those first tools were knives. Knives for survival and for protection.
The hunters of these tribes found special uses for their knives. Skinning and butchering were but the beginning. Soon blades were strapped to spear shafts to replace the sharpened wood and create a very effective killing tool. Then smaller versions were placed on arrow shafts and the world opened anew to these tribes. The blade was the beginning of the big changes in mankind and our interactions and survival techniques. Those changes rippled down throughout history. Some of the greatest people in history were who they were in part do to a blade in some part.
David Crockett (Davy) one of American folklores biggest names used a knife to great effectiveness when as a young man he killed a bear in the dark, armed only with what was described as a “butchers knife”. Then at his crescendo it is reported that while one of the last men standing at the Alamo and out of ammunition surrounded by the enemy on all sides he used his rifle as a club and when that broke he killed sixteen enemy soldiers with his Knife..
During that same time period James Bowie (Jim) had an encounter with hostile forces where his “butchers knife” was used during the battle and caused an injury to his own hand prompting him to design and have forged probably one of the most iconic blades in American and Texas history. The BOWIE knife soon became the most desired style of blade for woodsmen, frontiersmen, soldiers and hunters. Its heavy blade was almost indestructible and the hand guard design kept the users fingers from sliding down the blade and injured.
Knives have historically been more tool than weapon but effective as both. Today we have tens of thousands of blades and blade designs and an equal number of blade makers. My next few articles will cover a few of our local blade Smiths and some of the better commercial blades available. Nothing is more infuriating than having to sharpen a knife dozens of times while skinning a deer or elk due to poor metal or inferior techniques.
Story by Jeff Stewart