For the second time in my 20 years of work as a fishing guide, a client tipped me with a knife. Allen Elishewitz gave me a Hogue X5 when I took his wife and him fishing a couple of years ago. This time a client gave me an arguably even cooler piece – a Wilkinson Sword Company Model D RAF Survival Knife.
The company was founded by Henry Nock in the year 1772. Although accounts of his background are sketchy, it is thought that Henry Nock learnt his craft as a gun maker in Birmingham and came to London to seek his fortune. He made his name quickly, with a series of brilliant innovations that transformed the design and performance of sporting and military firearms, such as the ‘screwless’ lock.
When the British Government placed an order for 10,000 flintlock muskets and bayonets – then by far the largest contract ever – Wilkinson Sword became universally known as the supreme gun maker of the age.
In 1804, James Nock was appointed Gun Maker to George III, thus beginning a relationship between Wilkinson Sword and the British monarchy, which has lasted to the present day. On his death, that same year, Nock passed on the business to his apprentice and son-in-law, James Wilkinson, who had worked for the last ten years as Nock’s foreman and general manager.
Wilkinson ceased operations in 2005, though parts of the company live on in various forms including Schick Razor Blades.
My client wasn’t an RAF pilot, but he was a Ranger in the British Army. He didn’t like the knife issued to him, and had a Supply Sgt. friend scrounge this one for him. I am touched beyond measure that he would give it to me.
The knife is a beast. It is a full 1/4′ thick. It is like a Kephart knife meets Bowie. That is because it was designed to be a weapon as well as a tool like the Bowie. Like the Kephart, it has a full convex grind, which is favored for its durability as well as a drop point profile (actually like the original Bowies)
Also like the Kephart, the Model D is a utility first blade. It isn’t much to look at, though the patina on mine is both beautiful and even. It isn’t a knife that I will carry, but it is in the kind of condition that it wouldn’t be blasphemy to make a tent stake and test out its chopping ability. After all, even Ethan Becker made a single tent stake with his original Kephart.
In the end, every time I see this knife I will think of 2 beautiful spring days spent with a wonderful guy on the streams of the Smoky Mountains. It is one of those “instant treasures” that I will hold onto and pass down.