(cont. from Damascus Bowies category page)
The Bowie knife is named after its owner who made the Bowie knife famous: Jim Bowie. Most think of a Bowie as a knife with a long blade. Variations of Bowies exist with a 4″ blade. These were a favorite knife of the river boat gambler. This knife was often referred to as a “Vest Pocket” Bowie. Bowie blades can reach up to 14″; however, the sweet spot for Bowie blade length is 9″ – 11″. Jim Bowie’s knife had a 9.25″ blade.
The Damascus Bowie is reintroduced.
Many objects of legend and lore will fade after 189 years, but not the Bowie knife. Thanks in no small part to the American Bladesmith Society (ABS) and the men and women who form this organization. The forged knife has been kept alive around the world. Bill Moran, the patriarch of the ABS, is credited with the rediscovery of creating Damascus.
Damascus is basically the combining of two or more steels. In the case of most forged Damascus blades today, those steels are a basic carbon steel such as 1084 that is combined with 15N20. The nickel in 15N20 steel resists the acid etch and stays shiny. It is the combination of the etched and shiny that give Damascus its distinctive look.
The majority of forged blades are flat ground. Simply put, this means the blade tapers all the way from the spine to the edge from both sides. Doing so makes this a more difficult grind as the maker has to remove a lot of metal. The advantage gained is a lighter blade that maintains its integrity.
Another technique utilized with forged blades is differential heat treatment. Basically, this creates a harder edge and a softer spine. The blade will generally have a temper line showing the difference between the harder and softer parts of the blade.
The carbon steels that are used are too numerous to mention them all here. The primary ones used with forged Bowie blades are; 0-1, W-2, 1075, 1084, 1095, 5160 and 52100.
There are three basic types of handles. First, the hidden tang; which is exactly what it sounds like. A hole is drilled and shaped through the center of the handle material to make room for the tang. Epoxy is often used as the adhesive to keep the tang and handle material together.
Depending on the material and maker, the handle may or may not have a pin through the handle. This type of knife handle will also lend itself to the take down handle. The handle is built in a similar fashion, but to a higher degree of fit as no glue is used to secure the tang and handle material. The handle is held together with a type of nut or finial that screws onto the tang providing the necessary pressure to keep the handle secured. Generally, a tool is provided to remove the device that is holding the knife together.
Second is the mortise tang. The tang will be shorter and the handle material will be spit. The inside of the handle material will have a slot cut evenly on both sides. This will allow the tang to be sandwiched in between both pieces of handle material. This technique will almost always have a combination of epoxy and some type of pin through the handle. An advantage of this type of handle is the reduction of weight. This can really help with a hunter/skinner, as well as, aid in the balance of the knife.
Third is the frame handle. Basically, the tang is slotted into a frame and handle material is added to each side. When completed it gives the illusion that the knife has a full tang. Generally, constructed with both hidden and pins that show. This is the most complex method of the three. Expect to pay more for this type of handle.
While all Damascus is forged, how it comes to be on a knife can differ. Makers who forge their knives generally will make their own Damascus. While many makers who utilize the stock removal method, will purchase their Damascus from a third party who specialize in making Damascus.
Bowies created by the stock removal method primarily differ from forged Bowies in two main ways:
1) Steel: Basically, stainless steel is used as opposed to carbon steel.
2) Handle: Generally, either a full tang or hidden tang construction.
Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or (706) 650-0252.