Bowie Knife - (Weapon) Glossary of Antique Terms B

Bowie Knife - (Weapon) The original Bowie knife was like a butcher knife in profile, with a thin blade but no silver mounts. Early examples had a thick, heavy butcher-knife-like blade, with a straight back (top) and no clip point or hand guard. The blade varied in length from 8½ to 12½ inches and was sharpened on the true edge. Wooden handles were attached with silver pins and washers. Knives of the 1830s were one-piece ebony, checkered, and decorated with small silver nails. Blacksmiths fashioned most of the subsequent Bowie knives and added rudimentary cross guards to keep the hand from sliding onto the blade. Eventually, they lengthened the guards as protection from an opponent's blade, but the owner often found the extended guards clumsy and cut them off. The clip point, a curve on the top of the blade back of the point, became popular. The clip was often sharpened so that a backstroke would inflict a serious wound. Spear-point Bowie blades also were forged, dagger-shaped, with both edges sharpened. Blacksmith-made Bowies were generally plain and unsigned, had iron or brass mountings, and hardwood, bone, or horn handles. The knife was both a hunting knife and a tool. With it, one could clear a path, hack a sapling, dig a hole, or butcher game. Today the knife design is a blade with a concave arch (clip point) cut into the end of the blade, and a cross-guard to protect the hand.


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