Of blade shapes and field craft

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Elleth
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Of blade shapes and field craft

Postby Elleth » Sun Jan 13, 2019 7:51 pm

It's that time again.

We processed four sheep this morning, and I just finished skinning the last of them out.
This time I used the small seax that Ursus gifted me for Yule some years back:

merf-ursus-seax.jpg
merf-ursus-seax.jpg (73.2 KiB) Viewed 193 times


While I've of course used it for all manner of little tasks over the years, this was the first time I really used it hard, skinning out four fair sized animals over the course of a morning with several sharpening stops.
And I was impressed!

What particularly struck me - and a thing I'd never thought too much about - was how much better control I had with the dropped mostly-"broken-back" point than I did with a more standard knife shape, where the tip is inline with back of the blade. The best analogy I can think of is - you know how riding in an old '70's car, you saw this giant hood out front? And then in a post-90's minivan, the hood just drops away so sharply that it's like it isn't even there? This had a similar feeling: I knew there wasn't blade mass hanging out in front of what I could see.

It seems a small thing, but over the course of hours it was a really noticeable difference.
Once I hit that membrane layer, it was surprisingly easy work to just snik-snik-snik down the hide.


Which leads me to wonder:

I've heard speculation that the bow endured in scandi countries longer than on the contienent because the hunting tradition never died out among the peasantry: the nobility didn't (as I understand) claim that right as an exclusive priviliege.

Now I'm wondering if perhaps the dropped-tip seax died out in part because fewer people were processing animals as a matter of course? And/or that greater material wealth meant the ability to have a dedicated tool for the job rather than one blade for most everything?

Anyhow - I'm curious to hear the thoughts of those who've done significant meat and/or wood processing with both types of blade. Am I completely off base? Or is there something here?


edit - I'd never really liked the seax proper as a Middle-earth / Dunedain thing: it seemed too Nordic to fit.
And yet... I gotta admit it works in exactly the environment the Rangers live in. So.... maybe?
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Kortoso
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Re: Of blade shapes and field craft

Postby Kortoso » Fri Jan 18, 2019 4:53 am

Now I haven't done nearly as much butchery as yourself, and I can't clearly recall which blades I've used, except the sharpest one I can find!
But I'm wondering if that historical blade most similar in form to the saex - the Bowie knife - may have survived so long on the frontier for exactly this reason?
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Elleth
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Re: Of blade shapes and field craft

Postby Elleth » Sat Jan 19, 2019 4:26 pm

Hunh... maybe so!

My mental association with the Bowie blade is that wicked concave tip at the end, which I'd think in skinning would constantly risk poking the hide.
... I'd bet it's great for boning out meat though!

I suppose there's tons of designs that fall under the broad term "bowie" so I'd not at all be surprised if some of the worked quite well for skinning. I've a vague memory there was also a deeply curved, rather blunt knife the buckskinners used for...well, skinning bucks. :)

Not my period though, so I've no idea how well those work. Pretty well, I assume.
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Odigan
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Re: Of blade shapes and field craft

Postby Odigan » Sun Jan 20, 2019 2:49 am

Elleth wrote:I suppose there's tons of designs that fall under the broad term "bowie" so I'd not at all be surprised if some of the worked quite well for skinning. I've a vague memory there was also a deeply curved, rather blunt knife the buckskinners used for...well, skinning bucks. :)


The Bowie knife gets a lot of notoriety, but you're right in that it's an overly broad term, and that for the most part it wasn't even used much at all! This other style of knife you mention was the real workhorse and what was mostly carried by frontiersmen. These were basically just re-purposed kitchen and butchers knives, the most famous being in the style of the "Green River" knife. These do typically have an upswept cutting edge and a relatively thin section.

What is commonly labelled a "seax" today is almost always quite far from historical forms. If there's anything the bowie and seax share in common it is that they've both been re-imagined by modern eyes and makers into something that they never were, based on superficial visual elements. There is much more to the seax blade than the "broken back," and rarely is this executed in the way that it was in originals. I won't say that other ways make it "wrong," but it makes them "seax-like" knives, and I think it's important to understand that, just as it is to realize that what is sold now as a "bowie" is far from what one would find in a mountain man's sash.

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