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Old 10th June 2018, 10:02 PM   #16
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Join Date: Dec 2004
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Originally Posted by F. de Luzon
Hello Spunjer,

Thank you for your insights. The whitish metal on the hilt of the dagger in post #6 seems to be of the same material as that in post #8. I haven't seen the dagger (#6) in person because it is still en route to Manila. But based on the photograph, the whitish lines and dots do look like aluminum. The similarities in the hilt and scabbard suggest that these daggers were made by the same craftsman, as said by Ian.

I am certain that the dagger with the soldier's head pommel was manufactured in Santa, Ilocos Sur. If these were made by the same craftsman, then the other one is from the same place. The question is whether or not these daggers are from the era of the Philippine Revolution/Philippine American War (1896-1902). Some would assume that it can't because of the presence of aluminum.

I've seen here and elsewhere the view that Philippine weapons (krisses, bolos, etc) with aluminum fittings are of post World War II manufacture because aluminum was salvaged from downed fighter planes. I do not agree with this broad generalization.

Aluminum (aluminio) was imported to the Philippines since the late nineteenth century. Later, the American Governor General would even set duties on aluminum. Here's a page from the Executive Orders and Proclamations of the Governor General in 1905 setting the duties on aluminum kitchen utensils, etc. See #71 .. aluminio.... (;q1=aluminio).

Therefore, while some weapons were fitted with aluminum after the war, there were others that may have already had them even before. All I am saying is that these daggers cannot be assumed to be post war just because of the presence of aluminum.

Anyway, I'm just sharing my thoughts and I would appreciate any added insights.

Kind regards,

Hi Fernando:

Thanks for bringing up again the interesting topic of aluminum (aluminium) metal on Filipino knives.

The history of extracting aluminum metal from bauxite ore really starts in the first half of the 19th C. Early extraction methods using chemical processes produced very limited quantities of aluminum of relatively poor quality, and so rare was the metal in the mid-19th C that its price was greater than gold. With development of an electrolytic process in the late 1800s, the volume and purity of aluminum metal increased and the price came down considerably, such that by the 1890s it was starting to be used in commercial products and jewellery. Aluminum cutlery was introduced by the 1920s, but at that time aluminum metal products were still somewhat of a novelty.

The military importance of aluminum in aircraft construction was appreciated during WWI and greatly increased during the construction of high performance aircraft in the 1920s and 1930s. By the time WWII started, aluminum had been adopted widely in the manufacture of military aircraft.

Your thesis that aluminum could have been used in decorating Filipino knives in the early 20th C before WWII is certainly plausible. US production of aluminum led the world for much of that period, which corresponded to the time the US controlled the Philippines. It seems likely that aluminum metal would have been present in the Philippines in some quantity pre-WWII, especially on military bases in Luzon. To the best of my knowledge, however, there has been no bauxite mining or aluminum production in the Philippines, and inspection of current Philippine Government web sites reveals no mention of bauxite extraction of aluminum refining. It appears that aluminum in the Philippines is derived solely from outside the country.

Which brings us to the question of when Filipino knives with aluminum decoration may have been made. The substantial majority of Filipino knives with aluminum decoration are those that have cast aluminum hilts. These were produced in fairly large quantities judging from the frequency with which they appear in online auctions (notably eBay). It is my opinion (and perhaps the subject of an entirely different thread) that these knives are of Ilokano design and construction, mostly made in the vicinity of the old Clark Air Force Base in Pampanga. These knives vary in quality, and some have dates that encompass the period 19451947. Such dates may be more commemorative rather than the date of manufacture (1945, liberation from Japanese occupation; 1947, independence from US rule), so it is possible that they were still being made in the 1950s or later. The amount of aluminum used in these knives suggests a significant supply of the metal, and downed airplanes are the most likely source. From these observations has arisen the idea that the substantial majority of Filipino knives with aluminum decoration are of post-WWII manufacture.

To address your point about pre-WWII use of aluminum, I see no reason why small amounts of aluminum would not have been used for decorative purposes in the 1920s and 1930s, or possibly earlier. It would be nice to find some provenanced pieces to support that idea.

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