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Old 1st October 2017, 01:24 PM   #1
colin henshaw
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Default Somali dagger - advice sought on repair

Wondering if anyone on the forum can advise on this - I have a Somali dagger as per images, which is in good condition except for an unsightly small gap where the horn and ivory sections should meet flush on the hilt. Perhaps caused by corrosion of the iron tang ?

I am considering disassembling the hilt and cementing the parts back together so the sections meet, however am anxious to avoid any damage to the ivory, patina or elsewhere. Has anyone experience of this sort of issue ? Its the sort of minor job I can imagine easily going wrong if not handled correctly.

There may have been a thin brass or zinc "washer" between the two sections originally ? Looks like there is some sort of fibre or cloth wrapped around the tang beneath the stacked sections.

If anyone has attempted this sort of work and can advise, it would be appreciated, thanks.
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Old 1st October 2017, 02:29 PM   #2
Tim Simmons
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Does not look like it has ever been apart. I wonder if this gap was originally filled with a putty or resin substance. Quite possible a wrap of thread or cord with some kind of adhesive / resin pushed in to make flush on the grip. Some of the close up pictures hint at something resin like in the very thing sections?
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Old 1st October 2017, 04:50 PM   #3
Bob A
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Possibly a disc of leather?

At any rate, I agree that disassembly would not be indicated. Nice dagger.
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Old 1st October 2017, 05:58 PM   #4
Robert
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Colin, By looking closely at your photos I believe that the gap now present is most likely a combination of age shrinkage in the horn and ivory that has allowed the original adhesive/resin that was used to fill between the individual pieces to loosen and fall out. If I were to do the repair on this piece I would use cutlers resin mixed to the correct color to match that used between the brass and horn pieces to fill the gap. It is easy enough to make, color and apply and will hold for years if you clean the dirk and other contaminates out of the space to be filled before its being applied. There are many recipes on how to make the resin online and powdered pigment used for coloring it is also easily found as well. If you do a search the recipe that I use is posted here on the forum. This should be a fairly easy enough repair, so if you decide to do it yourself please remember to wrap the ivory and horn with painters tape (leaving only the area to be filled exposed) before applying the resin. This will help when smoothing the resin before it cools and will also help keep any from getting on the surface of the ivory which could cause some lose of patina when removed. Congratulations on your good fortune in acquiring this very nice dagger.

Best,
Robert
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Old 3rd October 2017, 11:48 AM   #5
colin henshaw
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Thanks to Tim and Bob A for their input on this subject. Certainly some sort or resin/mastic has been used between the various sandwich elements of the hilt, also where the silver finial meets the ivory.
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Old 3rd October 2017, 11:59 AM   #6
colin henshaw
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert
Colin, By looking closely at your photos I believe that the gap now present is most likely a combination of age shrinkage in the horn and ivory that has allowed the original adhesive/resin that was used to fill between the individual pieces to loosen and fall out. If I were to do the repair on this piece I would use cutlers resin mixed to the correct color to match that used between the brass and horn pieces to fill the gap. It is easy enough to make, color and apply and will hold for years if you clean the dirk and other contaminates out of the space to be filled before its being applied. There are many recipes on how to make the resin online and powdered pigment used for coloring it is also easily found as well. If you do a search the recipe that I use is posted here on the forum. This should be a fairly easy enough repair, so if you decide to do it yourself please remember to wrap the ivory and horn with painters tape (leaving only the area to be filled exposed) before applying the resin. This will help when smoothing the resin before it cools and will also help keep any from getting on the surface of the ivory which could cause some lose of patina when removed. Congratulations on your good fortune in acquiring this very nice dagger.

Best,
Robert


Robert, thanks for your very informative response. Certainly, filling the gap with a mastic of some sort is an option. Its quite a large gap however, and it seems the resin originally used between the various hilt elements was only a very thin layer, as a type of glue.

Dis-assembling the hilt would be problematic, and would create other issues, such as breaking the mastic seal where the silver and ivory meet, as well as leaving some of the tang protruding. H'mm, maybe best to leave it as it is for the time being ? ...

Regards
Colin
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Old 3rd October 2017, 02:08 PM   #7
kronckew
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i had exactly the same problem once, a gap of about 1/16 in.

i considered epoxying in a thin wood spacer, or plastic, or brass, or winding it with thread and resin then finishing the lumps. finally found this acrylic 'epoxy' putty that comes in colors. you knead it between your fingers to mix the two parts then push it into the gap (i used a thin wood coffee stirrer to push it all the way down to the tang & build it to the surface), wet you finger to wipe the edge smooth and flat (best bit - it cleans up with water until it hardens) and you are done. a few hrs. later it's hard as a rock. or horn. fills insect damage in wood or horn too. no sticky overruns, no taping, no hand tools , no heavy sanding/polishing, very little mess. it just works. if you need it a bit less viscous, a couple drops of water mixed in softens it a bit more. but don't overdo it. too a few hours and it's permanent. the box colours do not correspond to the putty colour, read the labelled colour text. the red box is 'yellow grey', the blue is 'silver grey', the terracotta, white and black are those colours tho. .

i'd try black - the white might be too white to match the ivory.
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Old 3rd October 2017, 02:55 PM   #8
Will M
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The gap is not large at all and expected using these kinds of materials.
I would leave it as is, collectors expect to see this in antiques such as these. Remove or hide the tell tale signs of authentic age and you devalue the piece.
I would not want a collector piece with modern putty in it.
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Old 3rd October 2017, 06:02 PM   #9
Martin Lubojacky
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I donīt think the gap was coused by shrinking, the horn section may be too short for such relatively big gap (just opinion, maybe wrong ...). Sometimes, when the gap is coused by shrinking, the parts of handle are movable (but not always because of corrosion or old glue etc.). If the parts here, in this case, are movable, I would consider to remove (only !) the pommel and to push the parts (carefully by tapping) back together. Nevertheless I think that something is missing there. Myabe it was some filler. But I would also consider to put there either brass part or new black horn part (divided into two pieces, without dismanteling the handle - to put it from the sides, after than to fit and sink it and to polish it- but carefully; this is nevertheless lengthy and fiddly job).
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Old 3rd October 2017, 07:22 PM   #10
Will M
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Enlarged photos give a false impression of the size of the gap.
I would think 1/16" or less which is easily explained by shrinkage of natural materials, besides nothing else fell out or was removed and why would it be, all parts encircle the tang and are held tight to each other?
Disassembly does break parts and you then have more issues to deal with.
As they say: "If it ain't broken don't fix it "
Just my opinion.
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