What should be the proper definition of "Bowie" ?

Discussion in 'Custom & Handmade Knives' started by shqxk, Mar 30, 2020.

  1. Ebbtide

    Ebbtide

    Aug 20, 1999
    IIRC that was an Yankee newspaper writer that said that.... :)
     
  2. Man with no name

    Man with no name

    Jun 24, 2015
    Arkansas culturalist and researcher Russell T. Johnson describes the James Black knife in the following manner and at the same time captures the quintessence of the Bowie Knife: "It must be long enough to use as a sword, sharp enough to use as a razor, wide enough to use as a paddle, and heavy enough to use as a hatchet."
     
  3. Man with no name

    Man with no name

    Jun 24, 2015
    Bowie Knife

    The term “Bowie knife” is vague, over broad, and does not refer to a well-defined category. An examination of sample definitions shows little consistency and a lack of specificity.
    It is the position of AKTI that statutory restrictions based on the possession or carrying of “Bowie knife” are defective under the US Constitution.

    Comments on Bowie Knives

    “Bowie” knives are the subject of statutory restrictions in several states, none offer a definition as to what constitutes a “Bowie” knife. See State Knife Laws.

    The notoriety of the Bowie knife derives from a duel conducted in 1827 on a sandbar in the Mississippi River. Duels were often arranged to occur on islands where there may be jurisdictional issues and a reduced likelihood of prosecution of the participants under the various anti-dueling laws enacted in the early 1800s.

    James Bowie was among the participants supporting one of the two duelists. The actual duel concluded without either duelist being injured, but perhaps given the attendant emotional charge, a fight erupted among the supporting participants. Two people were killed and two more, including Bowie were injured. Bowie’s injuries included two or three bullet wounds and several edged weapon wounds from which he unexpectedly recovered.

    The incident was widely reported. It may be that Bowie’s resilience rather than his knife was the remarkable aspect. In any event, the term Bowie knife entered the lexicon and generally referred to large knives that were carried as weapons and were suitable for dueling. Legislative magical thinking lead to Bowie knife prohibitions as a way to stop the practice of dueling. A typical example is an 1837 legislative enactment in Tennessee which provided, “Any person who carries under his cloths, or concealed about his person, a Bowie Knife, Arkansas Toothpick, or other weapon of like form, shape, or size, is guilty of a misdemeanor. . .”. (Section 6630 of Shannon’s Code)
     
  4. Kevin Jones

    Kevin Jones

    Oct 28, 2006
    But then where did researcher Russell T. Johnson get the quote from? Perhaps we will never know it's original source even with the help of the internet. ;)
     
    Man with no name likes this.
  5. brownshoe

    brownshoe I support this site with my MIND

    Sep 6, 2002
    Why believe a "culturist"? That word has a variety of meanings. Sounds like a yankee to me :)
     
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  6. Ebbtide

    Ebbtide

    Aug 20, 1999
    I'm pretty sure I got that Yankee newspaperman thing from Flayderman's book.
    Which I have since pulled all but 2 of my bookmarks out....
    I gave it a spot read around the remaining bookmarks but didn't find the reference.
     
  7. Man with no name

    Man with no name

    Jun 24, 2015
    David Bowie was born David Robert Jones. He played with several name changes, in part to avoid association with Davy Jones of The Monkeys. In 1966, he settled on Bowie. As he explained to Rolling Stone, the name came from the Bowie knife. “I was into a kind of heavy philosophy thing when I was 16 years old, and I wanted a truism about cutting through the lies and all that.” In any case, to Bowie—David—the Bowie was “The ultimate American knife. It is the medium for a conglomerate of statements and illusions.”
     
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  8. deadzonepatrol

    deadzonepatrol

    55
    Apr 11, 2019
    Very interesting .... Although a great many bowie knives were imported into America from Britain, bowie knives never had a good reputation over there, across the old pond. Most accounts seemed to be along the lines of Charles Dickens, in books such as Martin Chuzzlewit, depicting ignorant, savage Americans with huge bowie knives. It's so ironic that David Bowie would name himself after the knife made for savage unschooled and rough Americans. But then again he was counterculture and against the grain in every way.
     
  9. Man with no name

    Man with no name

    Jun 24, 2015
    “All good things are wild and free.”
    Henry David Thoreau
     
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  10. JParanee

    JParanee Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 23, 2006
    I’ll play

    I think the classic definition of the Bowie Knife is akin to a large Butchers knife

    Now my definition of a Bowie knife is the same definition that was taught to me by whom I believe to be the modern day king of the Fighting Bowie

    Bill Bagwell

    His definition and mine is that its a knife with an over 8 inch blade preferable over 9

    The knife exhibits radical distal taper and a sharpened clip

    To me if a knife does not exhibit these traits I’m not interested in owning it unless its some type of historical piece

    I have been around a ton of Bowies and it always amazed me the difference in feel many of these knives have and how the above attributes contribute to a knife
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2020
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  11. deadzonepatrol

    deadzonepatrol

    55
    Apr 11, 2019
    Yeah, good custom bowies are amazing, great balance and feel.
     
  12. milesofalaska

    milesofalaska Gold Member Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Gold Member

    415
    Dec 4, 2010
    I agree here. I'd add, it depends on who you talk to, sell or show to. I do not do knife shows, usually not selling to collectors. My 40 year market has been tourists. If I call a bowie, "A large knife a mountain man might carry, bigger than a skinner, heavier than a kitchen," I doubt a customer would not buy it saying, "That's not a bowie!" Or I'd reply "Pardon me, what do you call it? I'll call it that too if you buy it." Likewise if a customer sees any knife at all on my table and says, "Nice Bowie!" I will keep a straight face and ask, "Will that be cash?" I have had some incredibly odd sales in my life, so not much surprises me. However if a customer does not understand what the knife can be used for, and I feel it will not hold up, or do the job I 'care,' and give my opinion. May not part with it if I think you will not be happy.
     
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  13. milesofalaska

    milesofalaska Gold Member Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Gold Member

    415
    Dec 4, 2010
    Yea.... if I was selling cars.... and a customer looked at my VW bug saying "Nice Rolls! How much?" Would I lose a sale by arguing? is it an ethical issue? If I sold it at the honest VW price? If I advertised it as a rolls? Hmmm. My customers would chuckle at my sales gimic. Few would go ballistic on me, call me a liar. Hav e me arrested. If I sell at the low price am I ripping anyone off? 'Bowie' is like a classification .... to big for a skinner, to small to be a sword... sort of a heavy tool for hacking chopping, but skinning maybe, an all around camp tool, if you had just one tool, not a machete, I could see referring to it as a bowie. But maybe 'bowie style.' If I had to sum it up in one word in an add or had it listed with Arizona knives, like that. I am interested in how others feel, concerning the ethics, or how you'd handle offering some big knife you made. What has worked for you???? What would a typical customer expect? I make knives. I do not always call them anything till i tis time to sell them. I admit I once sold a knife here on the forum I designed and made and called it a 'dirk' and had some makers go ballistic on me. "That's not a dirk you idiot!" Well it was sort of a dagger looking thing I could picture with a kilt. The person who bought it was very pleased. Why would anyone else get in my face? I'm still puzzled. I sell magic dreams and stories. Is a zombie killer for real? I'd be embarrassed as heck telling anyone it's made to kill zombies, with a straight face. I didn't quench it in water blessed by the pope, nor use real coffin wood in the handle. Oh, that's a vampire knife.
     
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  14. brownshoe

    brownshoe I support this site with my MIND

    Sep 6, 2002
    Some people believe that language must be precise for communication to be accurate. They fail to realize that words change over time, change with ethnic group and change from region to region. In general, most laws mean a dirk is a thin blade for stabbing, was yours? :)
     
  15. milesofalaska

    milesofalaska Gold Member Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Gold Member

    415
    Dec 4, 2010
    I agree with you and I define 'dirk' as you describe. I do understand and accept I need to be aware who- what group I address so-as not to offend people nor lose communication and thus a sale. I know how to create a good knife, am not stupid, but live remote in Alaska, do not do knife shows, not communicate a lot with those who do. My main outlet is the tourist industry. Sometimes a custom knows more than I do about somethign specific. I made it, may not know what to call it! I do try to learn what a majority might call my custom designed finished product. Amaker posted on the Forum here and called his prodcut a 'mini bowie.' I would have called it a drop point hunter or skinner. I feel we all come here to the forum to her waht others have to say, how many my agree withus, or how mny may not and learn from this.
     
  16. RogerP

    RogerP

    Feb 28, 2002
    Those claiming to have a single, universally-accepted definition of the Bowie knife all have one thing in common: they are wrong. Because there isn't a single, universally-accepted definition.

    The single most reliable account of the knife actually USED as a fighting knife by the man himself, comes from his brother, Rezin, who presented him with a large butcher's knife as a sidearm. Nothing dramatic in the design, and a factor which underscores that the ferocity and heroism resided within the man, not the knife.

    Those wanting to understand the history of the knife would be well served by investing in Flayderman's book.

    The contemporary concept of the Bowie is not a single agreed-upon design but a genre defined by diversity in style, dimension and material. That's the reality. There is no single arbiter of what is and what is not a Bowie knife.

    As for the folksy paddle tale - I will just say that the only knife I have ever seen that resembles a paddle is the Smatchet - which few would describe as a Bowie.
     
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  17. Man with no name

    Man with no name

    Jun 24, 2015
    Mark Lanegan - The Beast In Me (Full Song) - YouTube
    Agreed! If Jim Bowie had used a butter knife the outcome at the sandbar would remain the same! It was his fighting spirit that enabled him to survive.
     

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