Monday, June 6, 2011

Caiaphas Ham Bowie knife reproduction

I just completed this knife for a customer and it's ready for knifemaker Luke Swenson to make a sheath for it. This is a reproduction of the Caiaphas Ham knife that hangs on the wall of the Long Barracks at the Alamo, just a couple of miles or so from my shop. Ham was a friend of the Bowie brothers, and was given this knife by the knife nut of the family, Jim's brother Rezin. No one knows for certain what the knife used by Jim Bowie in the Sandbar Fight looked like, but the description given (guardless butcher knife made from an old file, overall length no more than 12 inches) seems to match fairly dead-on with the Ham Bowie, leading me to speculate that there is a slim chance that the Ham Bowie and the Sandbar Fight Bowie may well be one and the same. I don't know if anyone else holds this theory, though.

The customer wanted the knife not only for its historical interest, but because he recognized the value of its shape in processing out game.

There is a good picture of the original on page 79 of the June 2011 issue of Blade magazine, showing both a profile view and a good view of the spine, showing how it is pinched in and how the tang tapers. I had it open while working on the knife in order to get as close to the original's shape as I could. I also had a picture that the customer sent me and some basic dimensions graciously provided by one of the Alamo's upper curators.

This reproduction is forged from 5160 spring steel, filed by hand, differentially hardened in vegetable oil, and given multiple tempering cycles. The handle slabs are mesquite, with brass pins offset like the original. This was actually the first slab handle I have done! The blade shaves hair quite nicely.

Although I tried to get as close to the original as I reasonably could, I'm sure Luke will be making a much better sheath than the original. :)

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