Vince Evans Ballock Dagger
A hands-on review by Chad Arnow
The ballock dagger was a simple yet effective weapon which was popular for civilian and military use alike. These daggers were in use throughout Europe for more than three centuries, from the early 14th through the 17th century. Often hilted simply of wood, they were named for the phallic shape of the hilt. The cylindrical grip sat atop two round bulges, a combination whose symbolism was made more evident by the common practice of men wearing them in front, with the hilt standing straight up. The wooden grips were often supplemented by metal plates at one or both ends for reinforcement.
The blades varied greatly in form, though their main purpose was usually to thrust. Single- and double-edged examples predominate though examples have been found with three and four sides.
I've always wanted to add a well-made ballock dagger to my collection (a statement which is sure to cause raised eyebrows among followers of Freud). There are only a few ballock daggers on the production market, and most aren't particularly well-made or attractive.
My previous experience with Vince Evans made me confident that he could do justice to the form. I conversed with him via email and at the 2004 Atlanta Blade Show, sending him links to ballock daggers on the Web that I liked. I debated asking for a copy of a particular dagger, but decided in the end to let him do what he does best: draw inspiration from historic examples but still make something entirely unique. My main requirement was that it would be historically plausible in terms of form and materials.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Vince Evans of Hawaii
The grip of this dagger is a great size for my large hands. The swelling of the grip between the haunches and the pommel cap makes it comfortable to hold whether held with the point down in the ice pick grip or point up. The haunches would help to keep the hand from sliding down onto the blade. I normally don't test cut with my daggers, since I use pool noodles for test cutting. I thought the weight (or lack thereof) of the daggers would cause a strike to have too little bite to do anything more than slap the pool noodle around. Boy was I wrong. This dagger made quick work of pool noodles. The blade is quite thick (it's made from 1/2 inch stock), but the hollow grinding keeps the weight down and helps the cutting edge do its work.
This dagger is everything I've come to expect from Vince. The fit is exact and tight. The wooden grip, of stabilized burled black ash Vince bought at the Atlanta show, has a beautiful grain and is nicely carved.
The fittings are German silver and are just as nicely done as the rest of the dagger. Vince sent me in-progress pics, but the pics failed to fully show what is now one of my favorite parts of the dagger: the pommel cap. The pommel cap has a beautiful star pattern engraved into it. The bolster between haunches and blade is also nicely done.
The blade was another surprise. I didn't expect it to be so thick, nor did I expect the hollow-grinding on all three faces. These features are historic, though, and I couldn't be more pleased with the result. Vince manages to make forged blades that lack the waviness seen on some machine-ground blades. The hollow-grinding is well-executed, even on the spine of the blade itself.
A nitpicker might notice that the spine of the blade doesn't quite evenly taper to the point; one side tapers just a bit differently. This doesn't bother me at all; the edge and point are perfectly lined up and centered. The fact that it could be so close to even when made by hand (while hollow-grinding 3 sides evenly and managing the rates of both the hollow-grind and distal taper) is a testament to Vince's skill.
This is not the first ballock dagger I've owned, but it will be the last; I can't imagine anything would be able to top this one for me. It is wonderfully historic but still totally unique. Vince Evans is great to work with and his prices are fantastic for the quality of the work he produces
About the Author
Chad Arnow is a classical musician from the greater Cincinnati area and has had an interest in military history for many years. Though his collecting tends to focus on European weapons and armour of the High Middle Ages, he enjoys swords, knives and armour from many eras.
Photographer: Chad Arnow