Posted by Administrator on 12/31/2014
Today I wanted to talk a bit about using original vintage pocket knives in the field while reenacting versus a reproduction. As I read the various reenacting forums online, I will frequently see a post regarding “where can I find a period correct pocket knife?” Almost always someone will chime in and respond to check ebay or antique stores for originals or something of that sort. While you can indeed find 19th century vintage knives out there, I’d like to give my take on the subject. First, you run the chance of losing it and adding another relic to the battlefield, and second, you run the risk of breaking and ruining a nice piece of history that cannot be replaced, they only made so many and when they're gone... they're gone. But the most important reason that I believe that you are better off to buy yourself a quality correctly made reproduction is this... I will use the same logic that I used back when I was operating Orchard Hill Sutlery.
I would often get calls from customers who had purchased one of my canteens that I used to sell, asking me “how can I get the jean cloth cover to fade so that it looks like the one I saw in the visitors center?” My usual response was simple, I would politely say just leave it be and in about 150 years it will do it all on its own. My point being this, why would you want to reenact and portray a soldier carrying a 150 year old canteen?
A soldier in the Civil War would be carrying a new canteen, or one a few months old at best, so why would you want it to look like the one that you saw in the visitors center? The one in the visitors center took 150 years to look that way. I apply the same philosophy to pocket knives, why would you want to carry an aged 150+ year old relic as a soldier in the 1860's? A soldier during the war would most likely not be carrying and using a 150 year old knife!
Yes, if you carried an original, the pattern would definitely be correct, and it would no doubt be of period construction and materials, but it would not have the new appearance that the knife would have had back then when it was made. I think that it makes much more sense to find an accurate quality made reproduction that will better represent the age that the item would be during the time period that we reenact.
My advice...buy a quality reproduction to reenact with, and put the original in your collection, enjoy it, and preserve it.