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Jeffrey Faulk




Location: Georgia
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PostPosted: Tue 24 Jan, 2017 8:25 am    Post subject: Highland Dirk Questions         Reply with quote

Greetings all,

I have been reading Gabaldon's Outlander books due to some lucky finds at the Goodwill store. For obvious reasons, they have stirred a certain interest in Scottish things on my part... I already had a broadsword hanging on the wall and it was a moment's effort to acquire a dirk blade. But now that I have a blade, it requires a handle put on and some clothing beside.

That said: What size would a dirk handle be? Should it fill the whole hand, or should it be rather short so that your index and thumb are about the very top of the handle while the butt (rondel?) fills the heel of your hand?

And how would the scabbard typically be made? Heavy leather or wood core? Any decoration? Tooling, incised lines, punching? How was it suspended?

If any dates are looked for, consider early to mid 1700s, nothing too fancy.

Thanks all!
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Mark Moore




Location: East backwoods-assed Texas
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PostPosted: Tue 24 Jan, 2017 12:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What kind of blade do you have? Living in Georgia, and saying you got it quickly, I made a presumption that it may be a Windlass-made Atlanta Cutlery blade? That style of blade ought to be sufficient for your time period, and into later periods as well. Anything earlier would be the more wedge-shaped blade style. As far as handles go, I would just look at different handles and decide on a design I like and go from there. Happy But that's just me. If I assumed too much about your blade, I apologize. Happy ......McM
''Life is like a box of chocolates...'' --- F. Gump
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Jeffrey Faulk




Location: Georgia
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PostPosted: Tue 24 Jan, 2017 1:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mark Moore wrote:
What kind of blade do you have? Living in Georgia, and saying you got it quickly, I made a presumption that it may be a Windlass-made Atlanta Cutlery blade? That style of blade ought to be sufficient for your time period, and into later periods as well. Anything earlier would be the more wedge-shaped blade style. As far as handles go, I would just look at different handles and decide on a design I like and go from there. Happy But that's just me. If I assumed too much about your blade, I apologize. Happy ......McM


Not Atlanta Cutlery... but I'm pretty sure the blade comes from a very similar supplier. I got it from Track of the Wolf.

Here:

https://www.trackofthewolf.com/Categories/PartDetail.aspx/454/1/BLADE-DIRK-S

The main difference between that and ACC/MR/Windlass' version is that mine has a small fuller along the back and Windlass' has no fuller but has some jimping. Otherwise the profile and size are very similar. If they aren't made in the same forge, they're at least made in the same country, as mine has a very clear 'INDIA' imprinted on the tang.

I would've preferred a more triangular blade, but it's hard to find bare blades with that profile... double edged, sure, but not backed. There's the Hanwei early dirk, but it's a LOT more pricey!
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Mark Moore




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PostPosted: Tue 24 Jan, 2017 2:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think I like yours better than the ACC blade. You can always put on jimping later if you want. I think you could probably make pretty much anything your heart desires with that. I may get one myself. Big Grin Thanks for the link!........McM
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Lin Robinson




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PostPosted: Tue 24 Jan, 2017 3:08 pm    Post subject: Re: Highland Dirk Questions         Reply with quote

Jeffrey Faulk wrote:
Greetings all,

I have been reading Gabaldon's Outlander books due to some lucky finds at the Goodwill store. For obvious reasons, they have stirred a certain interest in Scottish things on my part... I already had a broadsword hanging on the wall and it was a moment's effort to acquire a dirk blade. But now that I have a blade, it requires a handle put on and some clothing beside.

That said: What size would a dirk handle be? Should it fill the whole hand, or should it be rather short so that your index and thumb are about the very top of the handle while the butt (rondel?) fills the heel of your hand?

And how would the scabbard typically be made? Heavy leather or wood core? Any decoration? Tooling, incised lines, punching? How was it suspended?

If any dates are looked for, consider early to mid 1700s, nothing too fancy.

Thanks all!


OK...

First of all, don't get your history from novels. I have not read Gabaldon's book but did see a bit of the series and did not like it very much as history. Not bad as entertainment.

I am familiar with the blades sold by TOW. I have one that is about 25 years old, which is made differently from their current product, which I also have in my shop, waiting for grips - if I ever get around to it. The blade on the one they sell now is clunky IMHO, lacking the fairly graceful taper of the first one I bought. The fuller on the back edge is appropriate but not as nice as those on original dirks. My original TOW dirk does not have a fuller on the back but there is a large fuller running down the middle of the blade and this made it resemble a broken sword blade re-purposed as a dirk. I installed the brass pommel cap and front guard which was available then and a walnut handle which is not carved. The blade is thick and difficult to sharpen as will be the current configuration they are selling but I managed to get a little bit of edge on it.

I made a couple of leather sheaths for the dirk which is more appropriate than a wood core sheath, at least for a pre-Culloden dirk. In later years wood core sheaths were the standard for Highland Regiment officers' dirks. Tooling the leather is certainly appropriate. Plain sheaths or sheaths with metal fittings also appropriate. A simple loop is the easiest way to suspend the sheath from the belt

The grip on early dirks was fairly small, in relation to modern hands any way. The longer tang on the TOW dirk blade will allow for a longer grip if you want and it is easier to handle the longer grip, of course. Many handles were elaborately carved. Vince Evans' products are fine examples and there are many pics of his dirks on the Internet.

TOW makes a decent product but Atlanta Cutlery's blades are lighter and have jimping on the backs. The are also easy to sharpen. I have traded with TOW for 32 years, mostly for guns and related items and blades are not really their thing but the dirk blade can still be made into a decent knife.

Lin Robinson

"The best thing in life is to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women." Conan the Barbarian, 1982


Last edited by Lin Robinson on Tue 24 Jan, 2017 4:39 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Dan D'Silva





Joined: 28 Apr 2007

Posts: 107

PostPosted: Tue 24 Jan, 2017 3:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've got a Windlass blade and one from Crazy Crow which looks extremely similar to the Track of the Wolf one and is likely from the same maker -- similar or identical profile, slightly off-center tang with a narrow threaded end, even the same INDIA stamping. The Windlass is nice but I think it clearly resembles a modern regimental-style blade, even though it's not etched. The Crazy Crow and TotW blades are more like 18th-century ones, albeit somewhat less acute than most from the time, and the Crazy Crow at least is rather bulkier and heavier than the Windlass.

For the sheath: I've seen photos of several examples from the late 17th to early 18th centuries with what appear to be leather sheaths, which are presumably back-seamed, are tooled and feature a brass chape with scalloped top edge and ball finial (a small lamp finial will do for that, though it's probably not strictly necessary). This one could be a good idea for simple tooling; admittedly the leather might be new, because it's in awfully good shape, but it's claimed to be original.

At a guess, I'd say that wood scabbards with thin leather facings probably also existed; after all, not even all cowhide is heavy enough for large all-leather sheaths, let alone calf, deer, goat, sheep... but I can't think of examples off the top of my head.

Attached is a pic from IIRC an old build-along album by Vince Evans which I can't seem to locate on the Web anymore; hopefully this can give you some idea about proper hilt sizing, though someone else more knowledgeable than myself would be able to explain it better.



 Attachment: 63.73 KB
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Christopher Gregg




Location: Louisville, KY
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PostPosted: Tue 24 Jan, 2017 4:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here's some dirks copied from the National Museum of Scotland. They should give you some idea of the styles of the era.


 Attachment: 113.03 KB
GlennDirks03.JPG


Christopher Gregg

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Jeffrey Faulk




Location: Georgia
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Posts: 578

PostPosted: Tue 24 Jan, 2017 5:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lin-- no worries about historicity, I'm not looking for that from a series of fiction novels! Mainly they've served as inspiration. My grandmother's family are Wallaces, and I don't know if they're Scottish Wallaces, but you never know Wink so it's a bit of a family joke that we'll set Scotland free someday... anyway, yeah, the dirk blade is a bit thick. Not really an issue for me as I don't intend to chop anybody up with it. I plan to draw-file the blade along the edge to thin the primary bevel down, though. It'll take awhile, but I have time.

Are metal chapes strictly necessary? I was visualizing sort of a very practical, peasant-style plain wood grip and plain leather scabbard.

Would the scabbards have any sort of riser? And I don't think anybody has said how the dirk would be suspended?

Last question-- what's the general diameter of the 'roundel' on top? I'm not sure I have any wood thick enough to make a roundel much bigger than an inch and a half around...

Thanks everybody thus far!
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Mark Moore




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PostPosted: Tue 24 Jan, 2017 5:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would think that if you want to go with a very stark, utilitarian dirk then a plain leather sheath would be fine. Maybe a little simple line tooling. I would also think a chape would look nice, but it might detract from the overall 'plain Jane' look you're going after. The pommel end wouldn't necessarily have to be made from the same piece of wood as the grip. Find another piece of wood big enough that you can get the size pommel you want. I've made dirk-style knives in three pieces...guard, grip, and pommel all separate. On one I made, I used a light hickory for the grip and black walnut for the pommel and guard. Turned out looking a bit like a Gladius, but the guy I made it for loved it. Big Grin Doing it that way makes it pretty easy to fit the pieces on the tang. But, once again....that's just me. Happy ..........McM
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Tue 24 Jan, 2017 6:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Christopher Gregg wrote:
Here's some dirks copied from the National Museum of Scotland. They should give you some idea of the styles of the era.


Who made those two dirks? I've not seen them before.

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Christopher Gregg




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PostPosted: Wed 25 Jan, 2017 3:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nathan Robinson wrote:
Christopher Gregg wrote:
Here's some dirks copied from the National Museum of Scotland. They should give you some idea of the styles of the era.


Who made those two dirks? I've not seen them before.


Nathan, these were made by Glenn McClain of Morgantown, Indiana. He has been a knifemaker since the 1960's. Here are a few more of his Scottish knives that I own.



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Christopher Gregg

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Lin Robinson




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PostPosted: Wed 25 Jan, 2017 8:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nathan Robinson wrote:
Christopher Gregg wrote:
Here's some dirks copied from the National Museum of Scotland. They should give you some idea of the styles of the era.


Who made those two dirks? I've not seen them before.


Nathan...

IMHO, Glenn is the best dirk maker in the US with Vince Evans a very close second. Glenn's dirks are slightly more authentic that Vince's and I am certainly not knocking Vince. As you know, I have one of his dirks and don't have one of McClain's!

Lin

Lin Robinson

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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Wed 25 Jan, 2017 10:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Christopher Gregg wrote:
Nathan Robinson wrote:
Christopher Gregg wrote:
Here's some dirks copied from the National Museum of Scotland. They should give you some idea of the styles of the era.


Who made those two dirks? I've not seen them before.


Nathan, these were made by Glenn McClain of Morgantown, Indiana. He has been a knifemaker since the 1960's. Here are a few more of his Scottish knives that I own.


Thanks, much. I couldn't identify them from the photo.

~~~~~~~

Here are the three dirks that are still in my collection now:

A Vince Evans Scotish dirk with a spine
Vince Evans Early 18th Century Jacobite Dirk
I heart my new Vince Evans Scottish dirk

And more photos in this photo album.

Measurements are included so one could figure out the grip length if interested. I've found most makers make the hilts/grips of dirks far too long compared to the antique samples I've seen. Dirk hilts are generally surprisingly petite.

If I were making a dirk for myself that wasn't based on specific antique, I'd measure the width of my palm and make the entire hilt slightly shorter than that length; from the haunches all the way to the edge of the end-cap. People often don't understand that the entire hilt from haunches to end-cap is the gripping surface.

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Jeffrey Faulk




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PostPosted: Wed 25 Jan, 2017 12:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nathan Robinson wrote:

A Vince Evans Scotish dirk with a spine


This is more or less the 'look' I am heading towards, right here, if anybody wants reference Happy

Nathan, is this sheath only plain leather? And is the rear seam raised or flat? If you don't mind me asking Happy

This is also the first I have seen a suspension on that wasn't some variety of belt frog. Is that simply a looped strap with the ends stitched to the sheath?

Quote:
Measurements are included so one could figure out the grip length if interested. I've found most makers make the hilts/grips of dirks far too long compared to the antique samples I've seen. Dirk hilts are generally surprisingly petite.

If I were making a dirk for myself that wasn't based on specific antique, I'd measure the width of my palm and make the entire hilt slightly shorter than that length; from the haunches all the way to the edge of the end-cap. People often don't understand that the entire hilt from haunches to end-cap is the gripping surface.


Indeed. Like I commented elsewhere, they remind me quite a bit of Bronze Age swords in that regard. The only part I can't find anything on is the diameter of the roundel, but I suppose I'll just have to make that proportionate to the length of the hilt. About, what, say half the length of the bit below the roundel all the way to the 'mouth'? (So if a hilt was about four inches long, and three-quarters of an inch of that was roundel, leaving three and a quarter inches, the roundel is a bit more than an inch and a half wide?)
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Wed 25 Jan, 2017 12:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jeffrey Faulk wrote:
Nathan, is this sheath only plain leather? And is the rear seam raised or flat? If you don't mind me asking Happy


Yes, it's just leather and looks essentially like this.


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Jeffrey Faulk




Location: Georgia
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PostPosted: Wed 25 Jan, 2017 12:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nathan Robinson wrote:
Jeffrey Faulk wrote:
Nathan, is this sheath only plain leather? And is the rear seam raised or flat? If you don't mind me asking Happy


Yes, it's just leather and looks essentially like this.

[img]snip]


Wonderful! That is *extremely* helpful. Thanks!
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