Tuesday, August 3, 2021

2021 CLA Live Auction: Frontiersman’s Knife by Heinz Ahlers


This knife is meant to be an example of frontier blacksmithing and the waste not, want not frontier philosophy.  The knife’s original career path was as a Nicholson Black Diamond file. This was a 1950’s era Black Diamond made from Bethlehem steel with a carbon content of over 1.25%. Nicholoson stopped using that alloy over 50 years ago although they kept the Black Diamond name. This file was too worn for any further sharpening and was repurposed into a knife blade. Joe Seabolt taught me how to carefully work, temper and anneal steel with a carbon content that proud. The style has a continental blade profile and a full tang. Both the tang and blade have a slight taper. The four-and-a-half-inch blade and nine-inch overall length make a handy knife with good balance. The blade is tempered to spring hardness to avoid brittleness. It is hand filed and hand stoned to shape.  The blade has a bit of file work on the spine to set it off.

The scales are of Circassian Walnut donated by Ron Scott.  A knife like this could have come out a Montreal smithy or perhaps St Louis or Fort de Chartres, the blade made from a file and the handle scales from a broken gunstock.  Its file origins still show around the hilt of the blade and the French influenced handle is held with three copper rivets.  The handle is shaped with planes and scrapers.

The knife has a frontier style sheath with an edge seam instead of a center seam. The sheath is constructed of bark tanned deer hide sewn with heavy waxed linen cord. It has a rawhide liner sewn with copper wire.  There is a buckskin thong for securing the sheath when it is thrust through the belt or a sash.

Photography by David Wright

Text by Heinz Ahlers

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