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Old 28th April 2024, 07:21 PM   #1
Lee
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Default Scottish Sgian Dubh?

Not only a little too big to be the small knife carried in a dirk's scabbard but also having its own hardened leather sheath makes me suspect this is a sgian dubh. Unfortunately, the cap of the hilt is no longer present. The images do not emphasize that there is a significant sharpened back edge.
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Old 28th April 2024, 11:07 PM   #2
David R
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Having proper interlace work rather than basket weave carving makes me think earlier than later, and it may never have had a cap on the grip. Nice one!
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Old 28th April 2024, 11:13 PM   #3
M ELEY
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Wow! Absolutely an amazing piece, Lee! I agree with David that she looks very old. Love the knotwork carving on these. The circle patterns on the leather remind me of some of the designs seen on leather targs as well. Where did you find it?
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Old 29th April 2024, 09:35 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David R View Post
Having proper interlace work rather than basket weave carving makes me think earlier than later, and it may never have had a cap on the grip. Nice one!
This was my first impression also,

is there decoration on the "Butt" of the handle?
Absolutely lovely item congratulations
Regards
Ken
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Old 29th April 2024, 12:51 PM   #5
Lee
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Thank you Gentlemen!

I acquired this knife about two decades ago at the London Park Lane Arms Fair from a then regularly participating dealer.

I will prepare an image of the butt end of the hilt, but it will be a few days before this will be possible. There is a small, central hole that I interpreted as being for fixing a cap and less finish to the surrounding flat wood there.
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Old 29th April 2024, 03:59 PM   #6
Jim McDougall
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What an exciting Scottish knife!!! and as often the case with these Scottish weapons, a conundrum as far as classification. I would say it is distinctly 18th century, but hard to define without close examination forensically.

The Sgain Dudh (various spellings) has a history worthy of its interesting name which means loosely dark knife (Gaelic). There seems to be no consensus on the meaning however....some say the dark wood used for the hilt, some the darkened blade or the fact that 'dubh' has meaning as 'dark for black, hidden, unknown connotations.

It seems these small knives were of course initially associated with the three inch blade types that were worn in the right stocking of the Highlander.
According to the authority on Scottish arms James D. Forman "The Scottish Dirk". 'Historical Arms Series #26, 1991), there is little record of these as far as use or history until after 1820s. In this time the 'Celtic excitement' created by the great Sir Walter Scott as he influenced then King George IV, began the popularization of Scottish garb and regalia.

The 'skean dubh' itself has little known history except via that of the Scottish dirk. The earliest recording is with the romanticized (as always with Scottish themes via Sir Walter Scott) in letters by Captain Burt ("Letters from a Gentleman in the North of Scotland" 1737) in which he refers to a 'skeen ochles', referring to the arm pit dagger or 'Oxter dagger, lowland term for arm pit). ...presuming this to be the ancestry of these clandestine knives.

Aside from this the first note of the skean dubh is in a painting of Col. Alastair MacDonald of Glengarry painted before 1812 (by Reaburn titled "The MacNab).

The most logical origin according to Forman is that these small knives came from the deer hunting tradition in Scotland, and the knives used by the servants in field dressing the game, thus 'gralloch'(=hunting) knives. Knives in this capacity were in pairs usually, often thrust into the stocking.

The masters apparently took this gesture into account in of course the hubris aligned with the hunt, and copied into their attire.

The Celtic interlace on this example typically suggests earlier make as later the shallow basket weave designs prevailed. Also, the interlace corresponds to the more decorative dirks. The larger size (most skean dubhs have 3" blades) suggests this may be skean dubh, but seems to be between firm classification. Whatever the case, in Scotland these edged weapons were for practical use, not so much for pretentious wear.

This is a classic example!!!!!

Calls for a bit of Drambuie!!!!
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Old 11th June 2024, 04:22 PM   #7
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Default Better late than never

Here is an image of the end of the hilt:
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Old 11th June 2024, 07:30 PM   #8
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This is a nice old early or even slightly pre-Victorian sgian dubh! The carving on the hilt looks late 18c-early 19c. Scabbard work looks almost late 18c.

I see your point on the end having some kind of end cap. Brass maybe?

I love this!
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