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Old 3rd February 2007, 05:27 PM   #1
katana
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Default African Tribal Arm dagger .... possibly WW2 ?

Hi all,
bought this very cheaply...believing it to be 'tourist grade'. On receiving it, the very rusty blade was indeed thin (approx. 2mm) yet seemed highly tempered (with very little flex, with fairly sharp edges.)
Some wire wool and a little effort revealed a guality steel blade with the number '4' stamped on it (both sides of the blade and in the same place).
The blade under magnification shows file marks to shape the blade and possibily laminations in the metal structure.
The handle seems to be composed of horn or similar material, it feels 'plasticky' and is warm to the touch but the 'hot pin' test does not give that burnt plastic smell The creamy white 'rings' are some sort of hard plastic which has become age hardened and seems quite old. The 'pommel' is missing I have no idea whether the original was shaped like a Baja hilt or had the more familiar 'disc'.

The construction overall is 'good or better' quality. Where the blade came from...I have no idea.....but I am getting the notion that perhaps this was manufactured WW2 era. Perhaps a modified military blade. I don't think this was made from a machete because the blade is to thin (the stamped '4' either side suggests this was the original thickness)

If anyone has any ideas...or similar examples I would be grateful for your input.
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Last edited by katana : 3rd February 2007 at 05:41 PM.
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Old 3rd February 2007, 10:21 PM   #2
Emanuel
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Hi David,
This arm dagger is very similar to my newest one. It also has what looks to be a four close to the ghard/hilt...but could also be pitting from inclusions. The scabbard on mine is near identical to yours. What are the dimensions? Mine has a 6"blade with a 3 3/4" handle. The blade seems to be of fair-good quality...it has some flex but it is strong...I'd have no problem stabbing, cutting and causing mayhem with it. Mine looks like it has been cut from a piece of steel and then ground and chiseled to a distal taper. These could very well have been machete blades to begin with...the Martindale variety used for the modern seme aren't much thicker.
Are you sure the white disks are plastic and not bone or ivory?

Best regards,
Emanuel
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Last edited by Manolo : 3rd February 2007 at 10:29 PM. Reason: pics
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Old 4th February 2007, 01:29 AM   #3
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Hi Emanuel,

thanks for the reply. The dimensions are very similar blade nearly 6 1/2" and handle without 'pommel' nearly 3 3/4". The blade is definately functional and the blade edges retained alot of sharpness even though they have not been 'dressed' for quite awhile. With a little 'honing' this blade would be a very sharp indeed.

As to the creamy white 'plastic'.....I think you are right.....after cleaning some more....I think they could be bone. Under a magnifying glass....looking down at the surface of the 'top ring', you can see areas of circular 'structures'. ( Similar to what you would see if you tied a number of bamboo canes in a bundle....and looked at them from one of the two ends.)

Actually....for some reason...I keep picking it up and handling it......even though it was cheap......it has something
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Old 4th February 2007, 03:40 PM   #4
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I know what you mean, David...It's a funky little knife to hold. Perfect proportions I think, it just feels good to handle them. I also suspect they are quite devastating in experienced hands.
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Old 4th February 2007, 04:32 PM   #5
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Hi Emanuel,
I have a number of arm daggers some of which are late 19c / early 20c. (but no real 'status' quality).
Now that the 'plastic' issue is sorted..... I am not certain as to age....had it been the 'aged' plastic I originally thought... then WW2 seemed reasonable ( I have seen a number of WW2 artefacts with plastic parts that have the similarly aged look and colouration.)
If the blade is from a machete ( AFAIK a number of Masai Seme have Victorian/ Edwardian machete blades ) it could be dated early 20c or even earlier ( the bone is quite old and degraded.) Also bearing in mind that it was 'hand filed' to shape.
I am not certain...but the 'style' of the stamped '4' seems 'old fashioned' but cannot find any other examples (of this type set, to prove/disprove this)
I do feel that the sheath, although it fits the blade perfectly, is a later replacement, the arm loop seems older....so perhaps reused on a newer sheath.

One thing I am not certain about is whether the lower end of the sheath is strapped / tied to the arm (in conjunction with the 'loop' ) to stop the knife/ sheath moving around, similar to a 'diver's knife'......but attached to the arm.

I too like these knives.......I think Lew does aswell
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Old 4th February 2007, 07:11 PM   #6
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Hi, Katana. Here is one of my daggers that seems to be identical (almost) to yours. Mine is ebony and ivory (?? perhaps bone?) The pommel/disk should be fairly easy to machine out of fossil ivory (lots of that around) Mine is 6.5mm thick and 46mm in diameter. I'll try to get a picture of the top showing concentrical rings cut with a lathe. I think these daggers pre-date WWII. Maybe 1930's?
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