1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Bowie knife help!

Discussion in 'Non-Firearm Weapons' started by Cooldill, Jul 19, 2014.

  1. Cooldill

    Cooldill Well-Known Member

    Well, there has come a time in my life that I've decided that I need a Bowie knife!

    However, there are so many makes and models out there I have no possible idea where to begin. Let me say first I want one for historical purposes, second as a utility knife in the field for tasks like cutting cord wood and sticks etc. Also, God forbid, as a possible defensive knife if it really comes to that.

    I'm looking for a historical style Bowie, something along the lines that Davy Crocket would carry or something carried by a bushwacker in the Civil War or something. No modern "tactical" :)barf:) knives that are called Bowies for what ever reason. I'm not wanting to spend over $250 dollars, but might budge a little on the price if it's well worth it. I would prefer American made but that's not necessary as long as it's quality regardless.

    So, what do you all recommend for a historically accurate Bowie knife that is capable of the mentioned tasks and is not much over $250 in price?

    Thank you so much for your help, I'm not really a "knife guy" and that's why I'm asking this question. I've wanted a Bowie ever since I was a kid though, and I think now is as good a time as any to get one.

    Thanks! :)
  2. ugaarguy

    ugaarguy Moderator Staff Member

    With that budget you could have Sam Cade make you one. His use of simple carbon steel heat treated by heating in the forge and quenching in oil is about as historically accurate as you're going to get on the method of manufacture. Having an individual craftsman like Sam make you a knife is also following in the historical aspect of having the knife made by the local blacksmith. Sam's well versed on the history of large fixed blade knives too, so I'm sure he could make a proper Bowie to your liking.
  3. Gordon

    Gordon Well-Known Member

    yes that !
  4. Sam Cade

    Sam Cade Member

    Nine times out of ten something similar to a boning or butcher knife would be in their belts.

    Well..."historically accurate" and "bowie knife" aren't phrases that get along very well since knife folk have been arguing for nearly a century about what constitutes a "bowie" knife. ;)

    That said:

    The Svord Von Tempsky Bowie fits the ideal that most folks have of what a bowie knife should be, has a historical precedent and is under $200 with a good sheath. The ergonomics are non-existant. Grip retention is very low and the monster guard is constantly in the way.

    The real question is this "What does Cooldill think a Bowie Knife is?"
  5. hso

    hso Moderator Staff Member

    Sadly, as Sam pointed out, that's a terribly misunderstood term since what most folks think of when "bowie" is used is nothing like the various historically accurate bowie knives.

    It would be MUCH better if you posted pics of what you think you want so people would know what style of bowie fit what was in mind and then some help pointing you in the right direction could be given.

    BTW, Davy Crockett probably wouldn't have carried a Bowie on a bet since he would have had a good hunting knife and even then the Bowie had become first and foremost a fighter. That makes historical bowies ill suited to camp use (another misunderstanding common due to the use of the term "bowie" as a marketing instead of historical description).

    Here's a short reasonably accurate description of the fight that made Jim Bowie famous. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandbar_Fight

    Wiki has an adequately accurate piece on the history of the Bowie knife, but it should probably be modified with this information http://home.windstream.net/cobym/56/jim.htm. Note that the knife Jim Bowie used in the Sandbar Fight was described as a large butcher knife and historians of these knives consider it most likely to have been a modified butcher pattern of the time for breaking cattle and hogs down instead of the large broad bladed Bowie made famous in the movie "The Iron Mistress". Supposedly Jim Bowie's brother Rezin had a hunting knife made for Jim Bowie and it was that knife that Jime Bowie used in the Sandbar Fight. Think something more like this Old Hickory than the fancier Bowies.

    Below are some "historically accurate bowie knives". Note the strong resemblance of the first two to what would be a period butcher knife (only dressed up).

    You'll get a lot of good info from Flayderman's site http://www.antiquebowieknife.com/
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2014
  6. dprice3844444

    dprice3844444 member

  7. scramasax

    scramasax Well-Known Member

    Gary Wheeler in Clarksville, TN

    He makes excellent knives both period and modern. Good man and great value. He and Kim Breed work together.


  8. Sam Cade

    Sam Cade Member

    I think Mr.Wheeler's big knives might be outside of the OPs price range now.
  9. Sam Cade

    Sam Cade Member

    Now that I think about it, other than the (easily removed) plastic scales, a BK9 wouldn't look a bit out of place tucked into the sash of a 19th century American man of action.


    Pictured with a Greco bowie and a MONSTER Crow Bowie from HI that blurs the line between knife and sword.

    So, dig this:


    So...Bowie typology is a very nebulous thing.

    Will this be a bowie after I clip the point? I honestly don't know. :confused:

    Attached Files:

  10. JShirley

    JShirley Administrator Staff Member

    A butcher knife with a bit of a guard would be my ideal of a "bowie".
  11. Sam Cade

    Sam Cade Member

    That is pretty close to what a lot of the "trade" knives were.


    Attached Files:

  12. AJumbo

    AJumbo Well-Known Member

    Lifted directly from Carl P. Russell's "Firearms, Traps and Tools of the Mountain Men," a comment of two of my own added because I just couldn't help myself, and with full credit given to the author:

    "In the autumn of 1836, after the fall of the Alamo and and after the early orders for bowie knives had reached England, Hiram Cutler [great name for a knifemaker, huh?] of Sheffield sent to Ramsay Crooks of the American Fur Company a sketch of a "Texian knife tha would probably suit Indians." Crooks replied: "We have the drawing of the Texian Knife for which we thank you. The article is not wanted yet in our region." [Green river skinners and butcher knives, however, were in great demand, and I've seen the term "butcher knife" used over and over in Fur Trade-era writings.] There is small evidence that the true bowie knife ever found favor in the northern Plains and the Rockies until after the day of the mountain man; it did come into limited use among trappers and traders in the Southwest and among emigrants in the North before the close of the 1840's."

    I love the look of that Svord bowie, but can see where it would be awful to actually use; additionally, it really doesn't resemble many of the examples from Russell's book. I built a pair of bowies from German-made "Natchez" blades bought from Dixie Gun Works, and won one of them back in a shotgun competition. They have full-tang "coffin" handles, and I put some thought into shaping the scales to make them as usable as I could, but...... well, I've never found anything I could do with that bowie that I couldn't do with my Green River knives. People just love the look and the romance of a bowie, and don't think about having to lug that half-pound of steel around all day.

    Granted, no single source should be considered the last word on anything, but in the context of the Fur Trade era, Russell's work has held up admirably since its publication in 1967.He also reports that demand for bowies surged again during the War Between the States, then fell off again. Maybe the thought of carrying a huge, heavy, dedicated fighting knife paled once it became unnecessary.....
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2014
  13. AJumbo

    AJumbo Well-Known Member

    At Sam......... both the Caiphas Ham bowie and the unfinished blade in your hand strongly resemble a knife reportedly made and carried by mountain man Jim Baker, per Russell.
  14. hso

    hso Moderator Staff Member

    I agree that if you took a grinder to the thumb ramp and the nubbin on the BKs and stripped the coating and slabbed on a set of walnut grips it would be a credible "bowie".

    That's not even an expensive way to go to get something that would be a working credible "bowie".

    WRT Civil War Bowies, most were dumped after several days of marching as the troops discovered that lugging anything around more than 3 or 4 days that wasn't needed during that time made a miserable time even more miserable. Lots of romanticism around Jim Bowie and "bowie" knives.
  15. AJumbo

    AJumbo Well-Known Member

    Hso- if one were to make it more of a spear point, it would bear more than a passing resemblance to the Rio Grande Camp Knife, reportedly the arm used by John Wilkes Booth to stab Lincoln's bodyguard, and wielded by him when he took that ill-advised "stage dive."
  16. AJumbo

    AJumbo Well-Known Member


    The second knife down here is my Natchez bowie, 12" overall with a 7" blade. Probably more functional than a lot of bowies, but I've never used it. The next three blades are Green River blades that have been on a lot of camping trips and hunts. The skinner with the antler handle has unzipped three elk in one day before it needed the edge touched up. The little feller at top is another German kit knife that has nothing to do with this thread. I apologize for the cruddy cellphone pics.
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2014
  17. TennJed

    TennJed Well-Known Member

    Great thread, very interesting stuff
  18. Piraticalbob

    Piraticalbob Well-Known Member


    Like the Hyde Tools 14" butcher knife, John?
  19. Sam Cade

    Sam Cade Member

    It is supposedly based on a historical pattern ca. 1863, though from the other side of the planet

  20. Sam Cade

    Sam Cade Member

Share This Page