Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Crooked Knife

Crooked knife made from a file like the one
shown beside it
I recently completed a set of reproductions based on artifacts from Newfoundland and Labrador for the Newfoundland and Labrador Archaeological Society.  The NLAS is making an exhibit in a suitcase that contains reproductions and activities that can travel around and be used in places like schools to help interpret the Province's archaeological past.  One of the tools in the kit is a crooked knife.  The crooked knife is an historic tool that is still used today by Innu and Mi'kmaq in the Province.  The reproduction that I made is generic enough that it might be at home on the Island or in Labrador, although I primarily used Innu tools as references. My main source was this one in the collections of the Canadian Museum of History.  

The file fits into a slot cut into the side of the handle
Crooked knives were made from re-purposed iron, especially iron files.  I used a file to make this one.  I broke an inch or so off of the end of the file, so that I'd have a 4-5" long blade.  I sharpened it along one edge (and then dulled it again to make it safe to handle).  A bit of heat and a hammer and anvil is enough to curve the tip.  These are a type of draw knife and the crook in the handle is there to support your thumb as you draw the blade towards you.  

A matching wood plug fits into the socket
The tang of the file/knife blade is fit into the wood handle by gouging out an open socket on one side of the handle.  The way the blade is fit into the handle seems to be one of the slight variations in design between the knives made on the Island of Newfoundland and those made in Labrador.   On the Island, the Mi'kmaq would fit the blade in a slot in the middle of the handle or the back edge rather than an open faced socket, like this one, which is modeled after an Innu example.  A matching wooden plug is carved to close the socket and everything is then lashed securely in place.  I used a cotton thread for this lashing.  I've seen reference to rawhide being used here, but I haven't really come across any good ethnographic examples with rawhide.  Rawhide makes good lashing, but on a handle like this, I could imagine the sweat from someone's hand making the binding rubbery and loose on a hot summer's day.  I think something that doesn't expand of loosen with moisture would be more desirable.



The assembled knife, ready for lashing

Finished.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

2 comments:

  1. I have heard that tarred bank line was used for wrapping crooked knife handles in historic times. I can see your point regarding rawhide loosening up with prolonged use in a sweaty hand. Maybe that's why they used bank line... for the waterproofing. Most of the bank line (or seine line) that you see advertised these says is tarred nylon, but tarred hemp is more traditional and may be available from some sources.

    Brent

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