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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.