The "Ask Nathan a question" thread

TheTennesseeD

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Nov 23, 2008
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143
Nathan,
Have you ever considered doing a take on a bowie type design? If you appreciate that design, just curious what are some examples of outstanding makers/models you admire?
Best,
~D
 

SwarthyGnome

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Nov 1, 2018
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357
Nathan,
Have you ever considered doing a take on a bowie type design? If you appreciate that design, just curious what are some examples of outstanding makers/models you admire?
Best,
~D
A Bowie is an anachronism. An ill defined concept of a knife without real engineering or optimization. First of all, what is a bowie? The ABS style bowie looks and feels impressive at a knife show and feels "light and lively" due to a low moment of inertia from distal taper and a stick tang and feels like a "fighter" when you pick it up and wave it around. I'm probably going to ruffle some feathers here, but in my opinion some of these don't really work that great as knives, and I'll tell you why. It isn't relevant in a modern context (it's not very good as a modern fighter) and it isn't useful or historically accurate in a classical context (that ain't a bowie). It isn't a good stabber, and it isn't a good chopper (the point and the balance are wrong) and as a fighter many of them would perform poorly in real combat.

A classic fighter would be more of a stabbing weapon. These don't feel "light and lively". They have a higher moment of inertia from a reinforced point, a pommel and even weighted quillons and were more about straight line stabbing, resisting deflection and defeating various forms of armor or heavy clothing. They weren't light and they weren't lively and didn't strike you as weightless when you picked them up, they had stout points, weighted pommels and were made to kill, not wave around. Often they were a defensive left hand weapon of opportunity while the right hand held something with reach.

A modern fighter also has a reinforced point and is also a secondary weapon. The demands of modern combat dictate something that can pry in addition to stab, and the primary weapon is a firearm. Again they're stout and one of these modern bowies would loose their dainty little point pretty quick. Modern knife fighting principals where no one has a sword (this is the 21st century, no one has a sword) more resembles a fist fight with grappling than fencing. While a modern fighter still needs to work in a fencing grip with the blade held in the hand at an angle to project reach in line with the arm (not 90 degrees to the arm like most of these bowies are designed to be held, what are they stabbing their own face?) modern fighters also need to work in a reverse grip with the edge out and shielding the arm. When an opponent catches or dodges a punch they get the blade. Stabbing with a blade held in this grip (a motion like an ice pick) requires a handle shape and length where the thumb can go over the end of the grip to prevent the hand from sliding over the blade. The placement of any guards, ramps and grip swells need to align with a hand in this position. A modern "bowie" fails miserably here.

Then there is the historical aspect. Even though a bowie knife is not optimized as a fighter compared to an engineered weapon, there is the nostalgic value. Except there isn't, that's false nostalgia, the real actual bowie knife was more of a big kitchen knife.

So, lets see: yes it is a knife and can be used as one, but compared to modern engineered alternatives it's not good at stabbing, chopping, cutting and fighting and the clip point is a hindrance skinning large game and it isn't historically meaningful, but it's pretty good at a snap cut, it looks cool and it feels "light and lively" in the hand at knife shows. I'm sorry, I don't mean to disparage those who make or collect these kinds of knives, but they're not very good in my opinion and there is no way I'm ever going to produce them.

~ I am not Nathan.
 

Richard338

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May 3, 2005
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2,085
~ I am not Nathan.
Nathan's comments on the Bowie are interesting. I appreciate his dispassionate analytical approach to what he does and agree that CPK shouldn't do a Bowie. I can have a shelf full of cool knives, but reaching for one to cut something, it will often be a CPK. On the other hand something like a Bagwell cable damascus Bowie (complete with debatable steel and unscientific heat treat) can speak to you, or at least to me, in a different way. It's best to have both!
 

Brummie

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Jan 13, 2007
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Agreed. I agree with his approach for CPK, I just get excited about a wide variety of less functional styles also.
And I also have a number of "traditional" bowies in my collection. I think the main point with bowies is that they're dueling knives, but dueling with a knife is pretty stupid. Knives are only primary weapons where concealment and stealth are paramount, which is the opposite of dueling. Before firearms, they'd be combined with a primary weapon as a main gauche, or to dispatch an already incapacitated armored opponent.
I think the enduring appeal of bowies in actual use is for folks who like to carry a big knife in the field and are willing to sacrifice a bit of utility for pointy-ness, in case of that 1-in-1,000,000 circumstance where they're attacked by something on 2 or 4 legs, but don't have a more suitable tool to repel it.
Anyway, we're probably getting off topic.
 

Nathan the Machinist

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I read some older threads about WIP on Shiv.
I want to ask if you are still machining the whole knife from a bar of steel, or did you switch to laser/water jet for cutting a blank and then machining?

Also, would you put a pink G10 on your personal knife?

no I do not use laser or water jet. I have experimented with that in the past but it is not a good process for me.

I have the steel made. It comes to me as raw plate. I process it here. My process has evolved some over time, naturally, but we started out as a machine shop before moving into knife production so we have a pretty good range of capabilities in-house. Our process has changed quite a bit since that WIP thread, but it is overall pretty close to how we do things here.

No, I probably would not use pink on my personal knife. Personally I tend to lean towards understated, not flashy. My personal Shiv has plain natural micarta. Micarta.

G10 isn't terrible, but it's heavy and despite being harder than micarta it doesn't wear as well.
 
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fonedork

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xxwarderxx

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What is a trench sword?

I’ve googled and can only come up with trench daggers, and each seems to have different characteristics.

Are there any defining characteristics you could mention? And is there a rough length in mind?

I have no idea what it is or will look like, yet I already know I need it. o_O
 

Grenock

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Apr 7, 2016
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1,171
Hey Nathan, whatre the chances of doing the integral dagger for the general population here? Pre order? Now that you have the KOD piece under your belt...?
Some things are better if they remain elusive, Dan. The chase of the almost unattainable is the thrill. If there were a hundred of them out there, they would not be as special.
 
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