Kids, history, knives, and froes

While I have never taken part in historical reenactment myself, I really enjoy attending living-history events. This morning my wife and I took Things 1&2 to the historic James White Fort, the birthplace of Knoxville, which was just a short walk from the Saturday farmer’s market downtown. They were having a reenactment event, and it soon became apparent that I had my topic for tonight’s post. It was a period knife and tool bonanza.


Thing 2 handles his first quill pen.

Even more importantly from this parent’s perspective, the reenactors were all extremely enthusiastic about letting children participate. While my daughter is on a huge art kick right now, and gravitated towards trying her hand at peg-loom weaving, Thing 2 was taken under the wing of a woodworker, who taught him how to use two classic and time-tested hand tools- a froe, and a draw-knife.


An 18th-century toolbox

My son is a tool, truck, and train obsessed 5 year old. He set aside his typical shyness when offered an opportunity to help the costumed craftsman. In fact, he leapt at the chance. The man had been in the process of making a stool, and was ready to split some staves to shave down for legs. He handed my son a wooden mallet and positioned the froe. Thing 2 reared back and slammed the mallet onto the froe’s spine. It dug into the wood deeply.


My son beating a froe.

After several more blows, the man took the mallet, and showed my son where to grab the froe’s handle. He pulled the wood while my son levered the handle. The stave split cleanly from the board and my son’s face transformed from concentration to elation. I gave him a quick high-five before the two repeated the process 3 more times.


Thing 2 using a shaving horse and draw knife.

From there he led Thing 2 to the shaving horse where he locked in a stave and brought out a draw-knife. He positioned my son’s hands properly on the handles and instructed him on how to use the knife. Again the mix of concentration and excitement was tangible.

The last thing the craftsman demonstrated was starting a fire with flint and steel. It occurred to me that I have only ever shown Thing 2 how to do this with a lighter or a ferro-rod. Not that the latter is a vastly different method, however seeing the period tools in action hopefully lights a figurative spark in my son, and mornings like this kindle the same love of history in him that I have long enjoyed.


French style? Trade knife.

Along those lines, the geek in me also had a wonderful morning just talking to reenactors and looking at all of the knives. The gentleman carrying the above knife referred to it as a trade knife, and I am not going to argue with someone who has researched their kit. In my experience trade knives tend to have a bit more meat on them, though this would also allow them to be modified to a specific end use, and this might be the case here.


Patch Knife

I saw some other cool period knives as well, like the patch cutting knife in these two pictures. A quick google search yields many shapes for this knife, but this is a common one. The most important thing about the knife is it must be easy to grab in the heat of reload, and a small neck-knife fits the bill perfectly.


the original neck knife

There was also a “buffalo skinner” whose dramatic sweep reminded me of a small Nessmuk.


All in all a fantastic morning with the family. It combined my love of history and love of knives, and presented them to my children in a way that quite literally brings them to life.


  1. Jon M. says:

    This is really neat. The first neck knife is fascinating! Looks like a lot of fun 🙂

  2. There are some who posit that the ur-Nessmuk was just a modified buffalo skinner like the one pictured above.

    Very cool photos!

  3. Paul L. Quandt says:

    New to your blog; I shall return. ( No I’m not that Mac ).

    Paul L. Quandt

  4. Daniel J. Benoit says:

    Oh what great times we had watching/bringing our Children to events. The one that I can remember as being the largest. Was a little ways north and slightly west—–( I THINK ) of Toronto Canada. Has been so very long ago for me being treated for a certain amount of events that led to A B C —

    Ok Nuff of Dat rot.

    Now this permenantly set up on the mix of white and red skin people. Was very large, containing, DOCS Office, homes, holding pens for those staying fo a while.—————- and all of those also. Not only educational for the children as well. Pretty sure my third and last child was born and with us, us living in Oshawa Ontario CA!

    Everything from what they ate on these fur trading travels through large streams and not so large streams. Some kind of “round in shape, then maybe some on the large sizes like an orange, being the largest!!! Then having to portage a short piece of land !! then some being l o n g e r pieces of earth !
    All they had to eat on some large vorures then some not so long.

    The one blog of a UK man having his
    ” I assume ileagle knife ” between or up as all presumed !! All that said up the wazu would be ( SLIGHTLY ) along that uh hm “arrangement” .

    The voyurs headed to the doc to get out this ( ball of,, shortening, nuts, dried fruit and who knows what else.

    Well the Doc had a “medical” instrument that looked like a bellow for faning a flame only smaller in size containing “quoting” them here” was filled with warm soapy water. Then they would insert into said orriffic and squeeze. Now just imaging. Most were extremely thankful for that Doctor.

    OK as stated before the meds I take not only takes away my focus of “said topic” which I can only say I saw plenty of.

    Always ( liked ) back then! But not like now when I do not have many of, ” that I now have tucked away ” that some of which were fairly large, but not to much so ” Some, made from some kind of small facility of sorts, then I think I have some that were made “in person” by my grandfather.

    Maybe my fondness of quality runs deep in my blood. I can surely tell you my love of quality comes from my grandfather. He always drove a Buick, which back then no imports,, and he self proclaimed was the best. Then when he would buy a hose, paint, tools,
    well he in a slightly higher proclaim “THIS IS SEARS BEST.”
    Then he wore a Rolex watch, “the exact same Rolex watch till his stay here living he was laid to rest.

    But I skipped one thing, he had a gold ring, desiend himself, then made to his specs.

    That Rolex was still running, with a few trips to the watch repairman. It was rectangle in shape with a ( B ) for Brasseaux, my mothers maidens last name. Yes he loved quality. Which to this day I buy the absolutely best I can afford. Have been studying, researching steel types, and I am a lefty which throws a loop in the search.

    For what I can afford, it’s a toss up from a zero tolerance with frame lock, has to have a sharpened edge of a minimum 3″ … The flat ground which the knife has to be also. Sorry I can not remember the name. Has a frame lock stop which protects the lock from over extension when I move the clip, which this knife has the ability. AHHH tip up left at $144.? price. Stainless frame means to heavy.

    That is why I am heavily looking the lighter MINI RSK, Ritter Surivor Knife.
    But the large one is only ten$ up from the mini. Large one would be a little large for my main EDC. The small one while wishing the sharpened end was three inches, but the small difference of
    2.88″ to three”. I believe I can live with.

    OK I will shut my thumb !! For those that enjoyed, and even those that did not enjoy,, I appreciate all who read.

    Will “no promises” will fill you in on what I finaly. I do not believe that
    M390 has not been out long enough for my saticefaction, to know if a .10 thickness that comes to a thin flat grind will not chip when hardend to,, I believe he claims at least 60/61 if not more.

    BTW. 3 Children with four grands now !!!!!!!!!!!

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Kids, history, knives, and froes

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