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Old 02-12-2017, 09:03 AM
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Andrew Garrett Andrew Garrett is offline
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Bowie Project

September 19th will be the 190th anniversary of the Vidalia Sandbar Fight which made Jim Bowie and his legendary knife a part of American pioneer lore.

What that original knife looked like and who made it is subject to heated debate. Likewise, the knives subsequently carried by Bowie for the next 9 years until his death at the Alamo are similarly mysterious. What little is known is well documented and for you to read and make your own judgments. Bowie himself was known to be a bit theatrical and enjoyed his fame and attention. Would this have affected the knife he carried once he became a living legend?

I propose that we as knifemakers attempt to interpret a bowie that may have been made between 1827 and 1836. Think of yourself as one of the countless smiths of the period who were cashing in on the fame of Bowie and his knife. Try to use materials available at the time. Imagine that you are trying to sell your wares to adventurers moving through on their way to the untamed West or coming to Texas to support the fight for independence. Let these romantic notions guide your work.

Unlike a KITH where we would then exchange our knives, I propose that we keep them. Use this piece as a display on your show tables. Let it be that blade that makes people stop and ask questions. Put its image on your website and tell the story of how and why you made it. Perhaps it will serve to show your clients that you have a reverence for the history of custom knifemaking and for what is perhaps the most influential knife in the history of this trade. Let this blade be an homage to all those that came before you.

I know that many of us have made bowies before. However, with the period correct nature of this project (to the degree that you can achieve in your shop) this one should stand alone.

Post your pictures here by September 19th and I will assemble a gallery thread with each knife's particulars and motivating factors.

What say you?


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Last edited by Andrew Garrett; 02-12-2017 at 09:05 AM.
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Old 02-15-2017, 04:03 PM
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Andrew Garrett Andrew Garrett is offline
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This has been a fun research project!

The design of the original 1830s bowies says a lot about how they were intended to be used. Martial arts was not so advanced back in the early 19th century. Kali and Tantojitsu had yet to make their way to the continent in any notable way. Knife fighting was rather primitive so it would seem.

Unlike most modern bowies (which often have a down-turned handle), most bowies of the era have a handle slightly angled upward from the spine. 'Bowie #1' is a great example. This knife was also rather positively traced to James Black, a man believed by most to have made knives for Bowie himself.

I extrapolate that this handle angle facilitated the preferred fighting technique, which I gather was a combination of grabbing your opponent by the mutton-chops (or perhaps the shirt/coat) with one hand while delivering upward jabs into the abdomen with your bowie in a fist grip.
The curved clip-point would have been very effective of getting between ribs and spreading them out of the way to get at the soft stuff underneath.
Thus, the more reach you could achieve through a combination of a long arm holding your opponent at bay and a long knife to poke holes in him, was a simple and winning recipe. It's no wonder bowies got as long as they did.

When I consider the way they boxed back in the day, this makes sense to me. It is, however, only my opinion.

I'm going to have fun with this! Pictures soon.


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Old 03-06-2017, 03:42 PM
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My design for this project is complete.
21.5" OAL / 16" blade
I'm choosing 1075.


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