Curved Knives

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Abstract

IT may interest your correspondent, Dr. Otis T. Mason, to know that the curved “drawing-knife” described by him has representatives in Western (British) India. The Kolis (fishing races) of the Bombay coast wore lately, and some still wear, knives made by local blacksmiths, of which the blade, 2 to 3 inches long, was shaped and edged like that of an English gardener's knife. There was no hilt, but a tang curved reversely to the blade, ending in a little curl. The whole figure was that of a manuscript capital S, with the lower curve heavily drawn and a fine finish at the top. Through the curl was passed a soft lanyard, and the whole worn round the neck, the knife hanging like a locket a little below the collar-bone. The way in which a man, holding the thin tang between the thumb and forefinger, or between two finger-knuckles, would cut anything, from a cable to a fish's head, was the more wonderful, as he would often prefer bringing his breast near the object to unslinging his knife. These knives are now passing out of use, displaced by old English and German clasp-knife blades, still without the hilts. The form must be very ancient, as bronze knives or razors of much the same shape are figured in most books about the European Bronze Age, and in Du Chaillu's “Viking Age.” I am inclined to suspect a flint origin for this form of tool. Flint flakes in Western India, from Sind to the Konkan, often show a curved inner edge with traces of use. And if any one tries to cut wood with a hiltless flake of the sort, he will find the inner edge the most efficient. The Indian farrier's “drawing-knife” is shaped like a sickle, squarely truncated to avoid the chance of injuring the horse's foot (just as the English farrier's knife is turned to one side for the same reason). Its hilt is a mere roll of coarse tape, but the grip of the hand is often that shown in Dr. Otis Mason's illustration.

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