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Old 18th March 2005, 06:33 PM   #1
Conogre
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Default Questions About a Curious Kukri

Not long ago I was able to pick up a little kukri at a ridiculously low price, thanks to a heads up from a fellow forum member (thanks again, Tom!) and the more I look at it the more curious it appears.
I have NO expertese with these at all, probably because of my heavy exposure to the tourist pieces encountered by the hundreds in SE Asia in the late 1960's, a case of familiarity breeding contempt, or at least indifference, thus losing all "exotic" appeal.
This little knife, however, has piqued my curiosity all over again and since I know that there are a couple of experts here I thought I'd ask a few questions and hope for some enlightenment.
I believe it's what they call the "hanshee" style (?) with the relatively thin, willowy blade as opposed to the heavier stereotype that commonly comes to mind, running 16" OA and with a 12 1/2" blade.
The overall feel of the knife and scabbard both, to me, is that it's got some age to it and that it's a user knife all the way, yet there are several points that seem to contradict this, such as no fuller in the blade and an unusual pattern where a fuller would normally be expected.
The sheath is a dark brown lightly tooled leather with buttons, the two mini-sheaths or pockets expected for the two side knives (only one is present, thick, completely squared off on the sides..a sharpener or striker?) and a third pocket with a flap that folds over it (for a whetstone?).
The handle is plain hardwood with a pattern very much like the one incised in the blade spine about midway in a band around the hilt, with no exposed tang showing at all and likewise, with no metal "buttplate" as I've seen on many.
There doesn't appear to have ever been a "toe" on the scabbard, with a small portion rounded and worn away, aparently from normal use.
The blade is in fair shape with moderate pitting at the tip and a couple of small nicks, but I get the impression that the knife was well used but also very well cared for during and after its normal "life".
I'm sure that I skipped over may pertinent points, but, as I said, I've never paid particualr attention to kukris in general...what really suprises me is that I'm usually attracted to large, cleaver-type knives and swords and this kukri seems to be smaller and lighter than many to most yet feels perfect in the hand, as if it's trying to "talk to me" if you know what I mean (and NO, not verbally!! **grin**)
Anything that you can tell me about this little piece would be truly appreciated.
Mike
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Old 18th March 2005, 06:55 PM   #2
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Hi Mike .The kukri you have is I think pre ww2 and from Nepal.Here are two ,one pre war from Nepal and the other with the straps Indian for ww2 use,Tim
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Old 18th March 2005, 10:42 PM   #3
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The treatment of the grooveless area near the spine may be similar, but I don't see what else? THe blade shape is quite different, as is the bolster, which on Conogre's appears to be made of iron(?) and to serve as a functional ferule.
The small "blade" sounds like a fire striker.
Interestingly, what I've heard is tjhat the flat pointy knife-blade-shaped pockets twice as wide as the two normal side-blade pockets, on the backs of some sheaths is a wallet for spices, drugs, etc. Tobacco is usually cited.
The decorative lines, which may be referential to panel welded steel, appear to be chiseled, rather than etched, etc., and look to have been thru at least one fairly serious after market polishing, or perhaps a series of routine ones.
BTW, gald you like it
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Old 18th March 2005, 10:54 PM   #4
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Hello Tom, it is more that the leather work is the same.The older Nepal leather seems thinner and in a way harder and has the same tooling.The Indian one has a thicker more soft leather.This example has got damp in the past possibly in the Burma campain.Tim
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Old 18th March 2005, 11:03 PM   #5
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P.S. the decoration is inlaid brass and the pocket at the back does hold a flap for tinder or drugs or what you fancy.It is late now I will post pics tomorrow.Also the ring in the handle.Tim
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Old 19th March 2005, 02:14 AM   #6
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Thanks for all of the information so far....the design in the blade near the spine is indeed chiseled and from the looks of it was very clean and deep originally, making me suspect that it may be much older than I at first thought as it takes a LOT of cleaning to wear away that much steel.
It's amazing how one piece can sometimes re-open old eyes and make one (me, in this case) re-assess an entire class of weapons with much more respect.
Over the years the kukri is one of the few bladed weapons that comes to mind with nearly as much lore and fable surrounding it as the Moro Sanduko Barung.
Mike
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Old 19th March 2005, 11:52 AM   #7
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Nice khukuri Mike. Hopefully John Powell will be along soon, as he is the premier khuk expert. It looks similar to the sirupati, a lighter khukuri. I have one similar to yours. Inside the pocket with a flap may be a removeable pouch. It was used to carry tinder and a flint for starting a fire. The blunt chakma was used to steel the edge of the blade, and also for striking the flint to make a fire. At least this is my understanding.
For some interesting reading, check out the khukuri faq here http://www.himalayan-imports.com/faq/

Here's a pic of mine. It has an interesting all iron chakma.



Edited: I don't think it's a hanshee, as those are most characterised by more curve, and a long narrow curved handle, like the top two here:
(picture belongs to John Powell)
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Old 19th March 2005, 02:29 PM   #8
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bang! There it is. Note the ferule, too.
The thing about using the chakma to burnish the edge of the sword is that it would have to be at least as hard as that edge, and preferably considerably harder; but is this the case? Kukuris I've sharpened were edge-hardened, and sometimes with a pretty darn hard edge. In any event, I really like the one-piece one; neat
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Old 19th March 2005, 03:22 PM   #9
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More pictures.The flash tends to show things so clean.The Nepalese? one is much finer, [IMG]http://[/IMG] lighter and sewn with gut.The military issue one is quite different to handle.Tim P.S the Nepalese blade has concave sides.
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Old 19th March 2005, 06:02 PM   #10
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Thanks again all, and I think you're probably correct about the sirupati vs hanshee as well, Steve.
The only bad thing about the search engine is that you frequently have to remember the terms to bring up much about it...thus I've started making sure the titles in any posts I make will come up under a basic search **so much for cute or witty!**.
I'll definitely check out that thread as well as several others, and thanks there as well.....I presume the untanged and peened hilt is just local custom or a particular smith (term?) as I understand that they were and still are made at a village level over a wide range.
The little "knife" that's present with mine is VERY hard, Tom, and definitely never intended to be sharpened so is definitely serviceable as a striker and possibly as a honer as well.
Those are some beautiful pieces that you have there....I've got to do a better search in the archives as I remember some excellent and rather extensive photos several years ago, both on kukris and koras.
Mike
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Old 19th March 2005, 06:27 PM   #11
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Since the terms "falcata" and "kopis" so commonly come up in connection with the kukri, here's a couple of photos of contemporary weapons grade reproductions of each.
As you can see the smiths have taken liberties with both, the falcata being scabbarded very much like a kukri and the kopis being made with a steel blade, where so far as I know, all of the originals were bronze and, unless I'm mistaken, Egyptian?
Both were hand forged in India.
Mike
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Old 19th March 2005, 07:56 PM   #12
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Actually, aside from the side knife, which I don't know about, that sheath is a pretty good looking repro of ancient Itallian sheaths.
Interesting interpretation of an Egypto/Palestinian kopsh.
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Old 19th March 2005, 08:21 PM   #13
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The kopis, I believe, is based primarily upon ancient artwork, with very few surviving into the present, if any at all.
In this particular piece, it's so blade heavy that it's almost painful to the wrist to try and wield it with one hand, much like most of the "ceremonial kukris" that I've seen, to the point that I've only encountered one with a hilt large enough for a two-handed grip and yet still thin and balanced enough to be utilized with one hand if need be.
This particular kopis, to me, is only practical if it's primarily wielded much like a great sword, with one hand on the hilt and the other on the ricasso, in which case it has some very real and interesting possibilities but ends up being used very differently than you would expect out of necessity.
It's my understanding that an original out of bronze may have been even heavier, thus would likely have been deeply fullered, the reason for the attached side pieces, purely ornamental on one made of steel and serving no purpose except to add weight.
The falcata, on the other hand, has a really good "feel" to it and I can see where it may have given the Romans some real pause when wielded by an enemy, primarily in the hands of the Spanish, if I understand correctly.
Mike
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Old 19th March 2005, 10:22 PM   #14
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Generally reproductions of kopsh are overly large. Yours in particular appears to be on the wide side. There are surviving examples, and I have seen photographs of at least two, in books.
The falcatta/copis/machaira was a pretty widespread sword; used by Celts, Latins, and steppes tribes; pretty much throughout a broad band norh of the Med. I am personally attracted to the idea that it is originally a Caucasian or Central Asian sword derived of sickles, and not especially closely related to kopsh, despite the sharing of name, which seems derived of the fighting broadaxe of the Eastern Mediterranean region.

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Old 19th March 2005, 11:06 PM   #15
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Thats a nice, what appears to be post 1945 sirupate from eastern Nepal Conegre. {The sword forum article has some good photos of comparison of blade shapes...{ http://swordforum.com/articles/ams/tradkukri.php } But says western Nepal, for sirupate origins. which is is tottaly innacurate as are many other statements in that article.

Sirupate are from eastern Nepal, made by the Limbu tribe mainly.

Nepal was closed to most westerners till the 60s & traditional crafts lasted a long time.

Heres a similar one at Tora kukri forum from early ww2 , hence the shorter bolster. { http://www.toratoratora.co.uk/forum...sp?TID=357&PN=1 }

A search there should provide you with lots of info.

Yours appears somewhat tired, unfortuanatly, {IMHO} as the Ninhonto enthusiasts would say judging from the amount of stamped ingraving actualy left visible, buy always nice to find an authentic used Nepali village kuk. Unless it was stamped in a very faint manner?

There are some great ones turn up. Hope you find some others you like.

Intrestingly similar to the falcata/kopis many kukri reproductions such as those made by Himalayen imports without any distal taper are massivly over heavy compared to balenced original , antique & military models.

regards,
Spiral

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Old 20th March 2005, 12:03 PM   #16
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Hello Mike,

Thats a nice old Sirupate from Eastern Nepal and definatley not of the Hanshee type.
Probably the reason why the Kopis (first came about around 500BC and was made of iron) is often associated with the kukri, is that the there is a theory that when Alexander the Great defeated the the Indians in Punjab (then Northern India) at the battle of Hydaspes in 326 BC, the Indians took the design from the Kopis that many of the Macedonian/Greek cavalry and Hoplites used in that period.
Also many mercenarie troops for the Greeks used the Kopis as well, such as the Dii tribesman (modern Bulgaria) and the Etruscians (N.Italy, whose alphabet is based on the Greek alphabet, due to the heavy Greek colanisation of that area). Another possible name for the Kopis that you might hear of is the Machaira, which in Greek refers to Knife types where as the the word Kopis (pronounced Gopis) refers to clever type weapons and is a more acurate termonolgy.
Spiral that is a nice Villager from Nepal and very well made with a good weight
I completly agree with your comments about getting correctley made Modern kukri from Nepal, unlike the ones below which are pretty much spot on;



As you say, most of the suppliers have incorrect weight proportions to the Kukri, suffer from cho creep and as you say have very thick spines without the any of the tapering ETC which would give the kukri the correct balance and so on

Cheers Simon

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Old 20th March 2005, 12:19 PM   #17
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As mentioned, this piece has has considerable after-market polishing, which, in conjunction with the comparitively pristine look of the bolster/ferule suggests this may not be the original hilt, or at least that it may have been dehilted for polishing; the currently established surface seems to go right in to the handle. however, it is not possible for a kukuri to become "tired" in its surface in the same manner as a Japanese sword, as it does not have the distinct skin layer whose removal, along with grain opening from too much etching, constitutes tiredness.
The decoration was not stamped. It was hand chiselled/graven stroke by stroke. You can see the cuts start and end.
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Old 20th March 2005, 12:24 PM   #18
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Beautiful pieces Simon. I particularly like the tin chirra.

Steve
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Old 20th March 2005, 12:31 PM   #19
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Hello Steve,

Thanks The Tin Chirra is my favoured Martial Blade, very nice to handle and the MKI (Bottom) is one of my favoured users.

Cheers Simon
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Old 20th March 2005, 12:34 PM   #20
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BTW, an interesting idea of certainty regarding the term machaira seems to have entered the market place of ideas and I'm curious to know how; in my youth I remember reading in the official type histories (for what they're worth) that, as with many ancient weapon terms, it was not known precisely what object machaira referred to, but only that it was a cutting hilt weapon (ie. sword); some said it had no thrusting point, though this seems to be a commonly developed falsehood about swords primarily for cutting (ex nihon-to) double edged leaf swords were considered to be in the running..... Perhaps this was one of the many errors of isolationistic N American Nationalist science; I don't know; certainly most of the work comming out of the steppes was sneered away and ignored as supposedly politically driven "Communist science" in USA until quite recently. I'm also curious as to whether the term was used to refer to tools (knives) in the ancient days, or only to weapons; I've only encountered it (anciently) as a weapon term, but then I've only encountered it when reading about weapons.
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Old 20th March 2005, 12:38 PM   #21
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Hello Tom,

From what I can gather, it may well be that the word Machaira is another word adopted in Italy etc for the Kopis, possibly due to the Greek conalisation of N.Italy.

Cheers Simon
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Old 20th March 2005, 01:39 PM   #22
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Interesting veiws Tom, but heres some points I would like to raise for your perusal.

As to whether the term tired are appropriate, I understand your reservations but actualy the open grain found within some Japanese swords is normaly just how they were made, Etching of a japanese sword would be an act of pure vandalism . They are polished on fine stones not chemicaly etched.

As with all polishing it can reveal previously hidden blade flaws.

Kukri are tempered along the blade edge by pouring water on the hot blade.
This does actualy make a harder skin where the water is poured.
This can be worn, sharpend, or polished {read sanded!} off to revel the unhardend steel.

Hence my use of the term tired.

Many 1950sapparently "village sirupates" have actuly started out with fairly deep blades & have been used/sharpend untill they have the sirupate shape, this can usualy been noticed by the deeper belly that the scabard has, compared to the worn blade.

These worn out kukri are then often sold to western dealers as authentic antique kukri. {bieng English , I regard antiques as a minimum of 100 years old myself.}

I agree Stamped may not have been the best word, but some where between stamped & chiseled would perhaps be most descriptive, looking at the marks made? Engraved perhaps?

Thanks Simon, I am chuffed with this one. It is realy good to see your range developing in the way they have.

cheers,
Spiral
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Old 20th March 2005, 01:54 PM   #23
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Hello Spiral,

Intersting points, of course tired in the Japanese sword sense, would apply to laminated kukri.
What you say about users being sold as antiques does not surprise me at all, its not uncommon in the collection trade
Thanks about your comments on the Tora range, comming from one of the top kukri buffs such as yourself, I consider a high compliment indeed

Cheers Simon
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Old 20th March 2005, 03:58 PM   #24
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I had a big reply, too, and the computer got rid of it.....
One of the final stages in traditional Japanese sword polishing is a light acid etch. This should be done each time a sword is polished/sharpened, as it is the usual traditional manner (Japanese swords are nowhere near as homogenous as people think though). I've seen this done on television by the man who is (or was at the time; he was not young and may be dead) the cutler laureate or whatever over there, and have read of it many times. Certainly a sensitive eye can see a hardening line or lamination between fairly different alloys in polished steel(though many cannot see these things, even while they are being pointed out and are clearly visible to me), but the level of analysis traditional in Japan requires the light etch.
I find the poured on hardening method interesting; I hadn't known that, and it would seem it would produce more of a skin affect than an imersion quench, due to breifness of exposure? How much water do they pour over it. Would it be on only one side though, or how do they work that?
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Old 20th March 2005, 04:35 PM   #25
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The khukuris I've etched have a similar hardening line on both sides, so I guess that they pour water on both sides.

Steve
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Old 20th March 2005, 04:37 PM   #26
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Hello Tom,

I know two people that are sword polishers, one is English, the other a well known top Japanese sword polisher (Togishi) and neither of them use etching as part of any stage in polishing a Japanese Sword.
However the process of Nugui is done in the last three stages of the polishing, to both polish the hada and to give the metal darker texture (this is not done on the kissaki), it is not a form of etching.
The Togishi will then do hadori to bring out the hamon in a whiteish colour after the Nugui process, it is done slightley differently in sashikomi.
The next two phases are kissaki no narume (polishing the point) and migaki (burnishing).
I have known collecters to do a light etching on a poorly polished sword to see what is in the blade.

A couple of my swords with the final effect below;





Cheers Simon

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Old 20th March 2005, 04:55 PM   #27
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Nice pic Steve
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Old 20th March 2005, 04:57 PM   #28
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Great photo Steve! Thanks.

Tom, I understand that some Kami poor the water down the very edge of the blade as it points towards the ground, thus quenching both sides of the edge at the same time.

It is normaly just the belly thats hardend, the tip, spine & waist area are left softer. It is critical that the waist is left soft, as otherwise the blade is left with the potential to snape under stress.

I had never heard of Japanese etching of blades. Fascinating. Thankyou.

You do have some lovely swords Simon.

regards,
Spiral
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Old 20th March 2005, 05:39 PM   #29
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Cheers Spiral
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Old 20th March 2005, 07:34 PM   #30
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Interesting. Perhaps the man I saw was doing an unusual process for some reason, or perhaps in original manufacture it might be done prior to final polishing, to see what's going on? It was long ago, so I'm not sure....Then, as I have no idea what these Japanese words mean, further thought or comment are impossible.....my knowledge of Japanese swords is limitted to a few examples in poor condition (from which however I learned much), books, and television....most older "Western" sources are obviously off-the-wall (light slashing swords; give me a break!), and most sources are almost proprietarily secretive about polishing processes; and also I'm fairly disinterested in polishing processes; I'm more concerned with structural process; it's in my nature somehow; but it's been a while, too, since I've read anything new on the subject, and I think quite a bit more has been published in English in the last decade or two.....

Kukuris I've sharpened are soft in the tip, too, which I always thought interesting, and had attributed (wrongly) to the straightness of a partial imersion quench. So that's quite intentional.....

Conogre; I found a couple photos of old kopsh; not Egyptian though; one Palestinian, one Assyrian. When I have some money I'll send you copies to check out, as I think you might like them. Both have tang-band/I-beam type handle design. One has and I-beam type "shaft", the other a flat-looking one with grooves down both edges. The blade itself on the Palestinian (Gezer) one has two wide grooves and looks fairly light. That on the Assyrian one looks to have a wedge type section, with a narrow groove at the spine (a continuation of the one on the shaft portion); it looks somewhat heavier, but not dauntingly so. They need to put measurements in these sword books.

Movies often make swords too big; with reproducers it can go either way; some full size swords like salwar yatagan and kris sundang are regularly made now with blades around 18", which would have formerly been distinctly on the small side......

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