Lewis & Clark’s Becker BK2

Discussion in 'Edged Tools' started by Enzo, Aug 13, 2019.

  1. Enzo

    Enzo Supporter Supporter

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    I visited the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh today, and there were a lot of interesting things to look at. Learned quite a bit, and had a good time.

    Among some of the things that stuck out to me was a historical reproduction of a knife that was taken on the Lewis & Clark Expedition of 1804.

    I’ve been under the impression that outdoors knives of the time were similar to butchers knives, with a thin stock. I thought super-thick knives were strictly from the modern era. Apparently I was wrong.

    2B52EDB9-FE58-4CF1-A0F3-FA375630EB13.jpeg
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    The knife rivals the BK2 in terms of thickness!
     
  2. MAD Punty

    MAD Punty Supporter Supporter

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    That impression comes from Nessmuck. Very interesting, and thanks for sharing.

    I noticed they had a good 90 degree spine on them for striking their ferro rods, too.:22:

    EDIT: Hard to tell from the picture, but that knife looks like it could be over 7 inches long, too. That's a chunk of steel, for sure.
     
  3. Enzo

    Enzo Supporter Supporter

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    It looked about 8 inches on the blade, with about 7 inches of cutting edge. Definitely a beastly knife.
     
  4. backlasher

    backlasher Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    There's a book, Undaunted Courage, about their expedition. I get the impression that there were a lot of large knives in use in the west. Thanks for the pictures.
     
  5. Ronc

    Ronc Scout

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    When you go to most any museum that displays artifacts (original or reproduction) of edged tools from our past, you will find a LOT of big knives. There were many more what we would call "large knives" than small ones. The "myth" that an experienced woodsman would only carry a "small knife" is very much a. modern outlook.
    Just my $0.02 worth!
    Ron

    FWIW: Captain Clark is one of my ancestors
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2019
  6. VtBlackDog

    VtBlackDog Guide Bushclass I

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    Cool, thanks ferr post'n
     
  7. x39

    x39 Hyperborean Supporter

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    I'm currently reading that, very well written and interesting. I'd recommend it to anyone interested in the subject. As to the knife in the OP, I wonder how far the tang goes into that piece of stag?
     
  8. Ronc

    Ronc Scout

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    x39, if its like a number of originals I have seen, probably about 1/2 to 2/3 of the way. It does have a pin to help secure it. My Dad used to set up at the NMLRA shoots in Friendship , IN. Between him and his friends & associates, I was able to see quite a few original Longhunter's knives.

    Regards,
    Ron
     
  9. Primordial

    Primordial MOA #40 Supporter

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    We have to remember that back then if you were a woodsman, you just didn't go out to woods and cook some bacon over a fire and share your newly scrimshawed powder horn on Instagram. You were many times in hostile lands and had one good shot with your rifle (maybe two) before the enemy was on you so having a stout knife with a long blade that could penetrate through a human thorax was beneficial.
     
  10. Ronc

    Ronc Scout

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    Absolutely! I'm in the process of making a Rifleman's knife..so this post is a good coincidence! My blade is not quite as refined as the one in the museum, but the intent is the same.

    Ron

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2019
  11. x39

    x39 Hyperborean Supporter

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  12. Jonah L. Archer

    Jonah L. Archer ~Roughian #21~ ~ MOA #62 ~ Supporter Bushclass II

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    Not to mention grizzly and mountain lions...
     
  13. Enzo

    Enzo Supporter Supporter

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    A knife is useless against a grizzly. In fact the expedition came across a grizzly, and it took 10 shots and still kept charging. The men jumped into the Mississippi River and another man was able to shoot the grizzly when it jumped in after them. A shot to the brain is what finally took out the grizzly. The previous shots had done a lot of damage, including shattering the shoulder, but hadn’t even slowed the grizzly.

    These were high-caliber muskets. I can’t imagine a man with a knife having even a slight chance against that beast.
     
  14. Jonah L. Archer

    Jonah L. Archer ~Roughian #21~ ~ MOA #62 ~ Supporter Bushclass II

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    I don't disagree with you, but if I'm the guy getting ready to become a steamy pile of bear poop, a slight chance is better than no chance at all! :18:

    I wasn't trying to say that a knife is good grizzly defense, but a stout knife would make a much better "last ditch" weapon than a thin bladed one. My point was that there were many reasons to have that stout, "last ditch" weapon during that time...
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2019
  15. Enzo

    Enzo Supporter Supporter

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    Agreed.
     
  16. Bridgetdaddy

    Bridgetdaddy Supporter Supporter

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    Looks great. Pls post the finished knife too.
     
  17. Paul Foreman

    Paul Foreman Supporter Supporter

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    much appreciate the post ...
     
  18. Enzo

    Enzo Supporter Supporter

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    These are completely unrelated to my original post, but I figured some of you might appreciate them nonetheless.

    While at the museum I spied an Old Hickory on display, alongside its ancient ancestor, which has been sharpened nearly to oblivion.

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    0C91010D-7B81-4F8A-8FF6-7E1C8C0E4C44.jpeg

    And I saw this Native American tribal chief wearing a neck knife. I know a lot of folks here like to wear those, so I took a pic.

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  19. Sacramento Johnson

    Sacramento Johnson Supporter Supporter

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    Howdy!
    Eastern woodlands Indians used neck knives and sheaths like the above. They weren't common on Western plains Indians from what I've read.

    As for thin blades vs thick, if you look at the commercially made Hudson Bay Camp knife (probably available 1840s and later; can't say if they were earlier), you will find it to be a very thick chunk of metal. Thin butcher style blades were extremely common from the late 1700s until the end of the 1800s as factory made knives, but in a book on 'homespun' knives of the same era, super thin slicing blades weren't the only things out there; quite a few looked to be pretty stout and formidable. (Also look at what we now call 'bowie knives'; the idea of a big fighting knife existed long before ol' Jim came along as well, and could be quite massive! Check out Flayderman's colorful book on them.)

    I think the thing people forget nowadays is that those woodsmen and pioneers didn't go out into the wilds with just one blade. They probably carried a pocket knife, belt knife or bag knife, hand axe or hawk all on their person. Large axes and saws and butchering knives were on their pack animals or in their wagons.
     
  20. GreyOne

    GreyOne Elder Lifetime Supporter

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    The Hudson Bay knife, Arkansas toothpick, riflemans knife, etc. were all large and stout knives. Southern culture included killing bears with knives hunted with dogs. When the bear was brought to bay the 3 or more hunters surrounded it and as it faced one, another hunter would stab from the side. As the bear whirled to face that threat, another would have a chance to strike.
    Many anecdotal accounts of single hunters killing black bears with a knife.
    The bear hunting was continued even into the 1870s .
    Big knives can do most anything small knives can if the user is skilled. The smaller knife cannot do some things the large one does. Today, most of us can get everything done with smaller blades, but it is worth learning the skills to use a large blade, at least for me.
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2019
  21. Ronc

    Ronc Scout

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    I will post pics of the finished knife. That is one great museum! Would love to go there sometime!
    Howdy Sacramento! Agree with all you said! And I know you have a few repros of said items yourself!

    Regards,
    Ron
     
  22. MAD Punty

    MAD Punty Supporter Supporter

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    Unless it was a Kabar.....

    The originator of the KA-BAR trademark, the Union Cutlery Co. of Olean, New York, began using the name on its knives and advertising in 1923,[4] having received a letter from a fur trapper who had used the knife to kill a wounded bear which attacked him when his rifle jammed.[5] According to company records, the letter was only partially legible; "ka bar" could be read, as fragments of the phrase "kill a bear".[5][6][7][8][9][10] In 1923, the company adopted the name Ka-Bar from the "bear story" as its trademark.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ka-Bar#cite_note-How_KA-BAR_Got_Its_Name-5
     
  23. Damian1690

    Damian1690 Scout

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    Thank you for posting. Hope all the thick blade haters will learn a thing or two. If you don’t mind, I’d like to save the pictures to my phone so I have readily available evidence lol.
     
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  24. halo2

    halo2 Curmudgeon in Training Supporter

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    Looks like a really neat museum. Thanks!
     
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  25. garry3

    garry3 Scout

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  26. Enzo

    Enzo Supporter Supporter

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    I’ve got no clue where the original is, but this one was made by Village Restoration & Consulting, Inc. and if anyone is real curious they could email them to see if they would give out information.
     
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  27. Enzo

    Enzo Supporter Supporter

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    If only thick blade haters could go argue with Lewis & Clark. I wonder who would win that argument :33:
     
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  28. pab1

    pab1 Supporter Supporter Bushclass III Bushclass I Bushclass II

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    @Jonah L. Archer is right. While far from ideal for grizzly protection, a knife is better than nothing.

    Here are a few examples:

    I remember reading an article about Gene Moe when this happened.
    https://shouldersofgiants.com/2016/07/24/ultimate-bear-story/

    Not a knife but Ed Wiseman killed the last known grizzly in Colorado by stabbing it several times with an arrow.
    https://denver.cbslocal.com/2012/05/23/man-recounts-a-fight-for-life-with-colorados-last-grizzly/

    Although this bear wasn't killed, stabbing it with a small knife appears to have ended the attack.
    https://www.rcinet.ca/en/2019/08/02/b-c-cyclist-fights-off-grizzly-bear-with-camping-knife/

    This bear was already wounded when it attacked but it was killed with a knife.
    https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/11/01/fraser-graham-kills-grizzly-bear-knife_n_4194910.html
     
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  29. pab1

    pab1 Supporter Supporter Bushclass III Bushclass I Bushclass II

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    I've had that encounter on my mind since you brought it up. One of my favorite quotes from the expedition journals was when, after several grizzly encounters, Lewis wrote “I find that the curiosity of our party is pretty well satisfied with respect to this animal.” This thread also got me to drag out my BK2s!

    It also reminded me of an incident the late Larry Kelly wrote of. In the book Hunting for Handgunners Kelly recounted a brown bear hunt in Alaska. On that hunt he cleanly killed a large brown bear, which skinned out just under 10 feet, with one shot from a .44 magnum.

    The next day Kelly and his guide were charged by a brown bear and had to shoot it in self defense. That bear was much smaller but took 16 rounds between a .375 H&H, .44 mag and .375JDJ before it went down. When they skinned it turned out to be 7.25 feet and was loaded with holes.

    I always find it interesting how differently animals can react when shot. I'm sure some of the shots were not in the vitals due to the conditions. But even the bear mentioned on the L&C Expedition had several shots through the vitals “we Shot ten Balls into him before we killed him, & 5 of those Balls through his lights.” They are amazing animals!
     
  30. Enzo

    Enzo Supporter Supporter

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    I love that quote. Saw it in the museum and thought it was pretty funny.

    And indeed they are impressive creatures. Very awe-inspiring.
     
  31. riokid87

    riokid87 Scout Banned

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    shouldersofgiants.com/2016/07/24/ultimate-bear-story/
     
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  32. Kirk Lunsford

    Kirk Lunsford Tracker

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    I believe in that era, it was quite a feat and treasure to have a blacksmith's old worn-out file given to them as a knife.
     
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  33. Sharpthings

    Sharpthings Supporter Supporter

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    Many thanks for posting OP!
     
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  34. mcblade

    mcblade Hobbyist Hobbyist Supporter

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    In reading a lot about the times of Lewis and Clark and other outdoorsmen , such as trappers. You will read that Grizzly bears of that era were a lot bigger than they are now. If you weren't carrying a knife of considerable length you didn't have much of a chance of survival.
     
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  35. Oldyeller

    Oldyeller Tracker

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    They were using pure lead balls, which is alot softer then modern ammo or a knife.Wild Bill shot a cinnamon bear in the head and the ball bounced off it's skull, it just pissed the bear off and it attacked him, he killed it with his knife.
     
  36. JasonJ

    JasonJ Supporter Supporter

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    I really like the size, shape and style of that reproduction L&C knife.

    But then I've got a thing for longhunter knives.

    That one, given its thickness and robustness is almost certainly for fighting and killing if need be.

    We got to remember that these guys would individually carry a knife such as this, a small patch knife and occasionally one or two others as well. The Voyageurs would frequently have three knives on their person on their travels.

    Dollars to donuts in a big party and expedition such as Lewis and Clark, they'd have about 50 more packed away somewhere.
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2019
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  37. GreyOne

    GreyOne Elder Lifetime Supporter

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    Grizzly bears are tough, but the black bear was well respected as a dangerous critter to encounter.
    As with any dangerous animal a single well placed as shot can be effective IF the animal is not already excited and adrenaline charged. Once they become excited or angry, they can run or attack for several seconds even after the heart has been shot out.
    Basic question is, when you empty your gun at a charging bear or other dangerous game, hitting it several times, and it is still coming, what do you prefer to have- a Mora or a BK 7?

    Men who faced that situation could give a clear answer. HYOH, but don't presume your choice is right for everyone.
     
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  38. PMSteve

    PMSteve Old Timey Outdoorsman Supporter

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    I love the photo of the knife in the first post. Good job!

    Lewis and Clark also carried a .50 caliber air rifle for the purpose of harvesting game. These were quite popular for frontiersmen who were worried about running out of gunpowder on long expeditions. Lead balls could stand up to water immersion but gunpowder could not.

    Steve
     
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  39. Stophel

    Stophel Scout

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    When I read the title of this thread, I was expecting to see this thing:

    [​IMG]

    Both knives are basically what a modern knifesmith thinks an 1800 period knife was like.... without actually looking at any original knives of the period.

    Museums are NOT always the historical authorities that so many want to think they are. You should never take anything a museum states as being historical gospel, especially when they don't back it up UP FRONT with an actual, dateable, documentable archaeological artifact.
     
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  40. Medicine maker

    Medicine maker Guide

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