Thursday, 1 August 2013

Thoughts on the so-called Patch Knife.

I have often wondered if there ever was such a knife as the Patch Knife in the 18th century. I carry three knives for practicle reasons, the hunting knife at my belt, the legging knife in my right legging, and a clasp knife in my waistcoat pocket. I would not want to carry a fourth knife, and I have always used my ready to hand hunting knife for cutting patch material.
Having said that, I have not carried a flintlock rifle for years, and only use my fusil. Patch material was not used with smoothbores in the 18th century, in fact even early rifles did not use patch material. Some people suggest that the clasp knife was used to cut the patch material, but to my mind the whole process of getting this knife out, then opening the blade, cutting the material, closing the blade and putting it away again just simply takes too long when taking a second shot or more.

I welcome any constructive comments or information on this subject.

Dutch 1604.
 Trade butcher knives commonly used as hunting knives in the 18th century.

A more up-market hunting knife (Metmuseum).

18th century hunting knife.

French trade knives.


Gorges Smythe said...

Like you, I've seen no historical evidence of the use of patch knives. I think it's just a modern contrivance. I believe I have heard some mention of "bullet boards," but not until the fur trade era. And, of course, there were paper cartridges.

Buzz Mooney said...

The very existence of patchboxes, on some rifles, suggests that patches were frequently, if not usually, pre-cut. I've seen no indication that hunters used paper cartridges, but I can well imagine precut patches, or even pre-wrapped balls, in greased patches. The buckskinning convention of tying a rag and a loading block to a pouch strap that also carries a powder measure, patchknife and a short-start, all strikes me as both a re-enactorism, and an extremely awkward, fumbly way to manage loading. Despite my previous statement, I carry my charges in paper cartridges, and, when I can find a place to get in some regular practice, I plan to experiment with pre-cut and pre-greased patches, as well.