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GG Osborne





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PostPosted: Thu 17 Jun, 2010 8:02 am    Post subject: "Kidney" daggers - how were they carried?         Reply with quote

I am first of all assuming that the term "kidney" dagger refers to how it was carried, i.e. to one side of the back over the location of the kidneys, as opposed to how they were used!

My question for all of you is this: "How were they carried?" I am assuming a scabbard or sheath but normally, daggers have the means of suspension in line with the scabbard or sheath, usually at the open end. To carry a kidney dagger, the belt loop must have been sewed to the scabbard or sheath paralley with the sheath or, to achieve the characteristic slant one sees illustrated, at a slight cant to either right or left depending on the carry side.

I suppose another - and certainly in theory, more practicar solution would have been a frog mounted to the belt to that the scabbard could have been removed while sitting a la a rapier or some dirks.

Does anyone have an example of an original suspension method or a theory?

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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Thu 17 Jun, 2010 8:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

"Kidney" is the pointlessly polite modern (19th c.) term, and almost a euphemism. "Ballock" is the more historically correct term, referring to the lobes' overt and intentional resemblance to testicles. In some cases the entire hilt is anatomically specific. As you might expect, these daggers were often worn front and center as a pretty strong fashion/social statement. Otherwise, they are most likely to be found on the right side. There's not a loop in the form of modern sheath knives. Often, they were suspended from the belt by a narrow thong of leather laced through holes at the back of the sheath. Artwork often shows them worn beneath the purse, with the grip pointing up between the suspensory tabs of the purse.

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Brawn Barber




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PostPosted: Thu 17 Jun, 2010 8:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The "Main Gauche" frog was typically attached horizontally at the back, from the belt. I believe this is the type of suspension you're referring to. If you google it, you'll likely see what I mean. Maybe this helps.
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Thu 17 Jun, 2010 9:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just to be sure we're not confusing terms here, as Sean points out, the so-called "kidney dagger" is referring to a ballock dagger, not a so-called "main gauche" or a parrying dagger of any kind. More specifically, the term "kidney dagger" is not a reference in any way to the position on which the body the dagger is carried but instead is a Victorian-era term that attempts to avoid the ballock dagger terminology and its scandalous (on my) name.
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GG Osborne





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PostPosted: Thu 17 Jun, 2010 11:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Okay, now that we have the nepherological question of "ballock" versus "kidney" issued answered. Let me restate the question. There are many late 16c. and early 17c illustrations showing parrying daggers carried at the small of the back, on the belt either on the right or left side.

How were they suspended? The illustrations generally show them carried almost horizontally. How was the achieved? Couldn't be with thongs at the opening...must be something along the shealth itself. Was a from used so you could remove the dagger when sitting a la a rapier? Seems practical enough. Ideas?

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Chris Last




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PostPosted: Thu 17 Jun, 2010 11:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

From my personal experience it works perfectly fine to just tie the dagger scabbard into the sword belt at the small of the back. This seems to be in agreement with 16th century art that shows a dagger and sword worn together. Gordon Frye pointed this out to me and it works well.


For my rondel type dagger, I have the sheath set in between the two loops of my belt purse. It sits nice and flush against the hip and leg. I'll see if I can dig up pictures.

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Leo Todeschini
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PostPosted: Thu 17 Jun, 2010 11:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The top mount on Main Gauche scabbards often had a loop of metal soldered/brazed on the back through which the belt passes and this loop is often set at an angle, helping to hold the dagger at roughly the desired angle. If the belt is drawn in tightly the dagger will be held in position quite well due to the often voluminous clothing that was around that area.

Roughly the time the Main Gauche comes in conincides with the start of a change from dangling knives/daggers from thongs or chanins to some form of more secure and stable carry, such as a frog.

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Brawn Barber




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PostPosted: Thu 17 Jun, 2010 1:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks, Tod...
I guess that's how interpreted the question to start with
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