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Jacknola 04-24-2014 10:22 PM

Moose here are the pics of your fine knife... they deserve to be seen, something to look at while I process the data coming into my home E-mail

jeepster 04-26-2014 02:59 AM

Holy cow that is a beauty. Great knife Moose!

Jacknola 04-26-2014 08:58 PM

For the record here, this is a post from RMK shop steward.

"I started in 1983, at that time, we used the flat hexagon nuts that we attached to a long screw and rounded off the points to make the round nuts to be used on the coolie caps. They were not countersunk at all. We left a flat or "shelf" if you will,on the end of the coolie caps which we then used a flat adjustable wrench to tighten them down as the caps were epoxied on. I was taught this by Jimmy Garrett, who was a member of the original shop off of Lake Ivanhoe.

"Although exposed nuts were available on request all others were already countersunk. In the late 80's to early 90's we went to a strictly countersunk nut on all knives, (including the coolie caps) on all handles except the leathers. A pure cosmetic decision, although the epoxies that seeped through the countersunk ends surely helped to secure the buttcaps when we would grind off the exposed hexagon nuts, leaving the crest of the nuts to hold together the handles.

"Personally, I own what Tom Clinton revealed to me was his "first" Faisal-like set purchased in 1971. They have flanged butts, but still exhibit the hexagon nuts with apparent brazed solder lines under the nuts to aid in holding the handles together. (I will try and post a pic of the end caps later).

"I stopped by to see Jed Peckham who retired from Randall's this past December after 40+ years and he identified what I thought was a line of solder underneath the hex nut as a washer..."we never put a solder on under the nuts" he said... And to clarify, we completely rounded off the hex nuts to make them fit the rounded coolie caps."

Jacknola 04-26-2014 09:02 PM

Originally it appears the coolie caps had a "S" shaped profile, hand-made, delicate, not necessarily slick, secured with a hex nut. They were notably different than the next phase of coolie caps. Here is an example of what I mean by "S" shaped profile.

And here is another data point? an ark-toothpick supposedly from 1959. Well it could be, definitely 1959-63. It has the early profile and look of the early coolie caps, and it has the hex tang nut. Notice the tear drop shape of the flutes... very attractive.

From studying photos, it seems like sometime mid- 60s, the shop started rounding off the tang nuts for decoration. I haven?t found any examples prior to about 1966. And the caps themselves became more sophisticated, more like a solid pyramidal cone rather than with the previous double-radius profile. See difference in these pictures

This rounding the nut became the default after it was introduced, presumably about -'66-'68 or so, though you could still get the hex nut if you wanted it. If I understand correctly, the nuts were rounded off using a lathe before being installed. They were rounded completely and installed on top of the coolie cap, and tightened on the threaded tang. They were not brazed or soldered to the cap. So... how were they tightened?

When I first noticed the rounded nuts, I thought that surely they were brazed to the cap and the whole cap tightened, probably by using a special socket wrench. I could see that there was a problem if they were installed and then rounded... far too labor intensive and subject to serious handle-spoiling errors when being filed down. But that is now moot.

Perhaps the round nuts were just tightened finger-tight and the epoxy held it all in place or something, along with a tap of the hammer on the tang to lock the nut. I can see why leather handles need the nut... so as to be able to tighten as the leather contracted with use.

So now from the data here, it seems pretty likely there were three separate phases for the coolie caps.

1. contoured cap with hex tang nut;
2. pyramid cap with rounded tang nut;
3. Hidden or reversed shaped tang nut. (I understand the hidden, recessed, reverse tang nut is a way to secure the handle primarily, not necessarily the pommel. It can be totally invisible beneath the pommel, level with the pommel, or even left extended and shaped.. The pommel can be epoxied if it is above the nut)

We have also seen some terrific "tweeners" and historically significant knives such as Gary Clinton's aluminum coolie that looks to be a failed attempt by the shop to round off the tang nut after it was installed, and Gary Clinton's early bowie with the mysterious method of attaching the coolie cap, and James' very early bowie which connects the earliest coolies to the most common method used until about 1966-8 (?) or so.

Thanks for everyone's help... hopefully more on the way. I hope everyone posts their coolie cap pictures. That is a nice option.

Jacknola 04-27-2014 11:46 AM

Here is an imaginative coolie cap on a more recent Thorp Bowie.

And here is another data point? an ark-toothpick supposedly from 1959. Well it could be, definitely 1959-63. It has the early profile and look of the early coolie caps, and it has the hex tang nut. This is more evidence of consistent early profile. Notice the tear-drop shape of the flutes...

No round tang nuts have surfaced yet that are earlier than about 66-68. However, while the shop may have started making coolie caps in 1953-54, they likely got the idea from somewhere... possibly from an example knife not RMK. We will probably never know the source of the concept. Knowing coolie caps were being used in 1953-54 is good enough, unless there is an even earlier RMK, the one True-Source of all coolie caps.

I surely would welcome examples from any age. Love the look.

Rereading the posts from the shop steward of RMK, perhaps there was a way to round those nuts in-situ after they had been torqued down on the cap. I'm going to try again to simulate this and will post pictures of the process.

Moosehead 04-27-2014 05:01 PM

Hi Jack!

I just spotted this on eBay today and thought you would be interested.

It's an early authorized RMK dealer, Doug Kennefick Special. Here is a small "Sasquatch" with an Ironwood handle and a scalloped collar and coolie cap. It has a tight stitched Johnson roughback sheath.

I'm not sure when Doug first came out with his two Sasquatch designs, but this must be a very early one.

I hope this helps with your research into the mysteries of the cool coolie caps.



Jacknola 04-27-2014 10:46 PM

Great find David. Beautiful...We'll look into those knives and their time line.

Here is another post by the RMK shop steward that fully defines how the rounded nuts were made, and adds some additional info.

". Ok, let's try this again...we placed about a dozen hex nuts on a rod and spun them manually on the Bader sanders, freely spun them till the corners were gone. They were round before they were installed and peened over...we then tightened them up with an adjustable pair of pliers and we just stayed off of them until final polishing.

"Here's the pics of our set from Tom Clinton, Tom said these were purchased around 1971..."

"... [note] the buttcap with the washer that Jed told me was used...I believe this does throw a wrench in Jack's timetable of the hex nuts because of Tom's statement that these were built for him in 1971...sorry...but maybe Tom was mistaken..."

Good lesson here.... be careful when declaring you are positive how the shop did this or that.

Jacknola 04-27-2014 10:48 PM

I thank the RMK steward for a wonderfully clear and full description of the process. I can sleep tonight! Actually, you confirmed the direction my thoughts were wandering ? that it doesn?t take much torque to set the nuts. And when you said you tapped the tang to set the nut with a peen ... well, back in the '60s that's what we did to the bolts on my old Triumph and BSA motorcycles to keep them from vibrating loose!

I?m tickled to have this answer. Now, a thought for everyone ? someone at the Randall shop in the mid-'60s thought up the idea of putting the round nuts on coolie caps and then came up with the method of rounding the nut and installing it. Pretty creative. Incidentally, I've never seen a round tang nut on anything other than a coolie cap.

Also, thanks to Scott for the pictures of the Bowie hex tang nuts. They didn?t negate my time line at all, probably added some additional confirmation. All brass pommels (other than coolie cap) were secured with a brass hex nut (note that the size, shape, varied), never a round one. The change from the outside tang nut to inverted/ hidden/ recessed tang nut occurred sometime late 1970-end 1971 or so. I?ve looked at dozens of pictures and the evidence seems to support that time period for the change in brass pommels. The last knives to switch to the hidden tang nut may have been Bowies.

Here are two knives I own. The bear bowie is documented delivered November, 1970. The model 2 is undocumented, but I have reason to believe it was delivered early-mid 1972. These knives bracket the change from outside tang nut to inverted, hidden, recessed tang nut.

I haven?t closely examined aluminum pommel knives to see when they switched to the recessed tang nut, but I wouldn?t be surprised if it were about the same date. Side note: Sheldon mentioned 1971 as being the approximate date of transition from outside tang nut to recessed tang nut in his book, unfortunately without a footnote. However, I queried him about his dates and he said he did not rely on the catalogs, but used documented knives for his dates.

Anyway? I'm really pleased about this line and tickled pink that Scott has cleared up my obsession. Thanks all. Hope others continue to post coolie capped knives, especially older ones, because nothing is ever settled. For me, it is good to have gotten an answer because now I don?t have to recruit my very old friends and try to get information the old fashioned way? vee haf our little vays ... heh heh heh...

Jacknola 04-27-2014 10:52 PM

I had just lain down on a midnight dreary when suddenly there came a tapping, As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. And it got better. In my inbox was a mother lode from Gary Clinton. Five knives and now we have data that goes far beyond mere coolie caps, hex or round nuts, and start date of recessed tangs. It now includes historical Bowies. Gary's comments precede each set of pictures.

Gary: "These photos show very early bowies. I don't have sheaths but estimate the knives to be mid to late 50's. Hard to see in the photo's but the first bowie has the leather washers at the hilt and butt as the very early ones did."

Gary: "The second bowie also intrigued me for the thickness of the leather washers." (My note: the size of the leather washers seems similar to the thickness on James' Bowie. I've heard they are a marker for the first year of production of Bowies - but that is hearsay).

Hi Jack,

Gary: "This is that Stockman sheath model 1. We know the Stockman is 1961-62."

Gary: "...and a little bear with antique gold micarta." (My note: We would speculate this knife being post 1966 or so if the progression postulated in this line is correct... and what a beautiful handle.)

Gary: "Just had to throw a wrench in the gears. One of the things I like most about Randalls is there is always and oddball. Crazy piece."

I'm officially speechless. More more encore.

Jacknola 04-30-2014 07:50 PM

In another discussion, these type "flanged butt caps" were discussed.

I made the following statement about them...


The bear bowie is incredible, but that is not a coolie cap. Actually that style pommel pre-dated the introduction of the coolie cap.
Let me correct myself. The statement probably isn't true. Gaddis writes: (p.158);

"The first Randall Made Thorp Bowie left the Orlando shop in April 1956 and went by special delivery mail to the Iraqi embassy...part of a two-knife set, the Bowie and Arkansas Toothpick, ordered in December 1955 for King Faisal II of Iraq." .. Later discussing this set he writes: ?Prominent in this sketch (of the Thorpe Bowie in the Faisal set) are the forward curved double hilt and the new style of scalloped butt cap. Randall added these features only after making this first Thorp Bowie for King Faisal II; the butt cap style was later called a "flanged butt cap.?

In this line, we have a two or three regular heavy Bowies likely dated before the King Faisal set. But the introduction of the "flanged butt cap" in 1956 raises an interesting question. The earliest "heavy" Bowie, was first ordered January 28, 1953. Gaddis says:... "It is with the next order, noted in the records two days later (i.e. January 30, 1953)... reads 1 Bowie, 11 x 2 3/8 x 2 1/2 brass strip & Butt cap.'" Since the "flanged butt cap? didn't appear until 1956, it seems plausible that the "brass butt cap" on this 2nd Bowie ever ordered could have been a ?coolie cap. ?

Keep in mind that in that first year, 1953, about 160 Bowie knives were ordered? a truly amazing number.

Looking closely at pictures of the Faisal set, I cannot see any pins in the ivory handles, but they do have fairly thick looking presumably leather spacers. But not as thick as the spacers on James' and Gary Clinton's knives.

Examining pictures of other, later mid-50s Bowies without the leather spacers in Hunt?s book, some of the older stag and ivory handled knives had pins, if the handle was without a pommel. But the early Bowies with a pommel did not seem to have pinned handles though a number of them were paired with Moore sheath. Perhaps the pins were deliberately not used with the ivory handles that were cushioned with the thick spacers as another attempt to prevent cracking? But that is deductive and speculative.

Jacknola 05-05-2014 11:04 AM


Originally Posted by Jacknola (Post 471378)
Looking closely at pictures of the Faisal set, I cannot see any pins in the ivory handles, but they do have fairly thick looking presumably leather spacers. But not as thick as the spacers on James' and Gary Clinton's knives.

Examining pictures of other, later mid-50s Bowies without the leather spacers in Hunt?s book, some of the older stag and ivory handled knives had pins, if the handle was without a pommel. But the early Bowies with a pommel did not seem to have pinned handles though a number of them were paired with Moore sheath. Perhaps the pins were deliberately not used with the ivory handles that were cushioned with the thick spacers as another attempt to prevent cracking? But that is deductive and speculative.

RE: Pinned handles on 1950s RMKs. Above I noted the above fact after examining pictures of early Bowie knives and after a post avering that the early Bowies had pinned handles.

Looking closely at Randalls in general, I cannot find any pinned handles on any RMK that also included a pommel or butt cap. During the brown-button sheath era, use of pins to fix the handle seems to have been confined to those non-leather materials without a pommel ... regardless of type of knife.

Is this true? Perhaps this is well known... but I just noticed it.

Add edit: Ron "BoBlade" has confirmed this was the policy of the shop... if pommel held the handle, pin was not necessary. However many customers didn't care for the look of wood, stag or ivory with a pommel, hence the pins. Good info, thanks Ron.

Jacknola 05-20-2014 07:06 PM

I'm going to transfer some post that were germane to this line,. Then I'll split off an interesting side line that developed discussing Delrin handles into its own line, hoping that people will start posting their Delrin.


It seems that Bo felt that any non leather handle fixed with a butt cap (First offered in 1948) or a pommel did not require the additional security of a pin during the 'pinning years". See also page 120 of Gadis' book: "While it (Duralumin butt cap) was definitely stronger than the pin and pitch used at the time to hold stag or ivory handles to the tangs, most customers just didn't like the look of it". To my knowledge, no one has ever seen a stag or ivory handle with a butt cap or a pommel that had an OEM pin in it.

Ron Mathews
RKS No. 4223

Jacknola 05-20-2014 09:30 PM

Searching the net, I found this advertisement for a knife that was sold. This is not a coolie capped knife... but it is 1961 and importantly, it apparently has a recessed tang nut (unfortunately no picture of the butt).

If I have interpreted his term "recessed tang fitting" correctly as referring to a recessed tang nut, this moves the start of the sometimes use of reversed-hidden-recessed tangs back to early '60s which could impact how we view the progression of coolie capped knives and their tang nuts. The dealer is well known, I've bought from him and trust his judgment. I've abbreviated his text.

Special Order Randall Bowie Knife
Custom Made - Model #12 Grind
8" Tool Steel Blade
Forward Curving Double Brass Guard
Scalloped Brass Collar
Beautifully Aged Ivory Handle - Commando
Escutcheon Plate w/Original Owner's Name
Scalloped Brass Butt Cap w/Very Rare Recessed Tang Fitting
Rare Jim Stockman Sheath w/ Brown Buttons
Two Tone Combination Crystolon Sharpening Stone
(Made in U.S. of A. w/Blue Print)

"My summary: a vintage 1961 special order Randall Bowie with ivory commando handle and brown button Jim Stockman sheath for consideration. This knife comes with a letter of provenance from the original owner detailing approximate date of order and delivery. The owner requested a scaled down (presumably model 12) blade of 8" and the Randall shop obliged. (they still allowed custom orders back in the early 60's) The handle was taken from specs in the catalog -- the Jim Stockman sheath then made for the knife.

"The letter from the original owner as follows:
'Concerning Randal Knife that I sold in April, 2007. I special order this item from Randal Knives in Orlando, Florida, around April or May of 1961. I was stationed at Marine Barracks, Jacksonville Naval Station. The handle was taken from Randal's catalog and I scaled the blade & mailed order to Orlando. Upon receipt I mailed the knife home. I was discharged Sept, 1961, so received before that date. The knife, sheath and stone are exactly as I received them from Randal. The ivory handle cracked many yrs. later. The above description and time frame is as accurate as I can recall.
H.D. Tindall'"

"The brass hilt is forward curving with a scalloped brass collar between it and the commando handle. The handle is ivory and has aged quite nicely. The brass butt cap is scalloped and over an inch long. Most notable is the recessed tang fitting -- this is the first Randall knife of any kind that I've seen finished in such a manner. The rare, custom brown button sheath was made by Jim Stockman."

Jacknola 05-20-2014 09:39 PM

Rocky, your Sun Valley knife is a rarity to me. I looked it up in Gaddis. The design was proposed in 1957 but apparently the first knife wasn?t made until the end of 1960. And apparently there were only a few made until the design morphed into the bear Bowie in 1963. Of course that is actually a "flanged butt cap," not a "coolie cap." As we have noted, the first such cap reportedly (by Gaddis) adorned the famous King Faisal set shipped in early 1956.

However, that presumably recessed tang nut on that Sun Valley was some truly new information. It has me looking at every early ?60s knife with a brass pommel hoping to find more. Significantly, now two RMKs in the 1959-1961 span with a recessed-hidden-inverted tang nut using the slotted "nut," yours and (possibly) the one sold by SteveZ. That makes your knife one of two to date, which qualifies it as being ... er ... pretty unusual.

The use of this system in late '50s is a seemingly new fact to my knowledge only previously mentioned by Steve Z in the ad for that Bowie. And we have a new mystery ... why was this system tried and then put on the shelf for another 10-12 years (if it was)? It will be interesting to see just how extensive the use of this slotted recessed tang nut was in RMKs in the late 50s, early 60s. Amazing the tributary information that surfaces.

Another point, this one about recessed tang nuts with those slotted ends. They were not new when Mr. Randall experimented with them first in '59-'61. They were used on WWII British commando knives, on Swedish knives, etc...all showing that slotted end.

Jacknola 05-24-2014 11:07 PM

In Washington DC for Memorial Day with some Vietnam comrades... We went to the National Rifle Association museum. .. what an incredible experience. What does that have to do with coolie caps, etc.? well, though you would like to see the aluminum bowie knife made for a movie...

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