Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A knife question for my readers


As part of a forthcoming book, I'm trying to describe a knife that will play an important role in proceedings.  It needs to be distinctive and easily recognizable, so I'd originally planned to have its blade in a sort of karambit style, with its tip curving down rather than up.  There are many such blades in numerous cultures.  For those who may not know what I'm talking about, here are a few examples.

Milwaukee Fastback hawk bill folding utility knife:



Cold Steel Tiger Claw folding karambit knife:



Gurkha Aeof Kukri fixed blade knife from Nepal:



The problem is that I'm writing a description, rather than showing a picture.  Words aren't as clear as images to someone unfamiliar with what I'm talking about.  What's more, the book will be read by people in various countries and parts of the world.  I might understand the term 'karambit', but someone who isn't interested in knives, or hasn't been exposed to a 'knife culture', won't.  In the same way, terms such as 'jambiya' or 'khanjar' (both of them curved daggers) are not familiar to many in the USA.

Therefore, my question is this.  Is there a 'standard' or 'universal' name that anyone, from anywhere in the world, who's somewhat knowledgeable about knives, would instantly recognize as meaning a knife with a downward-curving point?  Is there a name for such blades that transcends a particular culture and is commonly understood around the globe?

There may not be a universal descriptor, of course.  In that case, I'll have to change my approach and use a more conventional knife that doesn't appear too exotic, and therefore doesn't need a lengthy description.  However, I'd like to make the knife a prominent feature of the book, so I'll be grateful if any of you can help me out here.  Thanks in advance.

Peter

39 comments:

Keyser Soze said...

"shaped like an eagle's talon, with a razor sharp inside edge"

hightecrbel said...

I've always heard it referred to as a hawk's bill or talon blade

Joe Allen said...

I've heard them referred to as "hawksbill" blades, which is pretty evocative.

But, I think Keyser Soze has the right idea - a good prosaic description, perhaps accompanied by some exposition on how the character came by the blade, would do better than an obscure knife smith term-of-art.

Even if there were a foreign blade style that described it - it might seem somewhat anachronistic in context.

Joe Mama said...

My initial thoughts were of the Gurkha "machete".

Size makes a difference. Around here, the smaller "hawkbill" knives are known generically as "linoleum knives"
https://www.google.com/search?q=linoleum+knife&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjx0YrtzfnPAhWE7oMKHStHA5EQ_AUICSgC

Biblically, the term "pruning hook" has widespread acceptance.
https://www.google.com/search?q=linoleum+knife&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjx0YrtzfnPAhWE7oMKHStHA5EQ_AUICSgC#tbm=isch&q=pruning+hook

Anybody who was alive before 1990 (the dissolution of the USSR)knows what a sickle looks like.
https://www.google.com/search?q=linoleum+knife&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjx0YrtzfnPAhWE7oMKHStHA5EQ_AUICSgC#tbm=isch&q=sickle

Good luck, sir

matthew poltrino said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
matthew poltrino said...

"... a blade shaped like a minature boomerang with its inside honed to a razor edge. It was made for grabbing, slicing and not coming back when thrown... Hopefully."

First post felled by typos.

Bob said...

Pruning knife, as used by gardeners; linoleum knife, as used by builders. Tiger's Claw is instantly descriptive.

Reverend Ken said...

Just call it a Gurkha knife and most will get it.

Rick T said...

Hook-bladed knife might fit, but I like Bob's two offers above also.

lpdbw said...

I grew up calling that shape carpet knives.

Dan Lane said...

Pruning knife. I've an old one from my great grandfather somewhere a bit over a hundred years old, originally made from half a drawknife. Still sharp enough to shave with, if you're fool enough to try. Far heavier duty than it needs to be for just a pruning knife, but I'd imagine it would be a "use what you've got" thing. The backwoods of Appalachia weren't exactly the back-of-beyond, but poor is universal in its ingenuity.

Lori Gattuso said...

Kukri blade is what the Gurkhas call it, I believe.

Miguel GFZ said...

"The blade was shaped like the claw of some prehistoric predator."

Who has not seen Jurassic Park?

selkiemaine said...

The only terms that I think non-knife-folks would instinctively recognize are "claw" or "hook". And, of the two, I prefer "claw".

I think that terms like "Kukri" and "Karambit" are going to go over most peoples' heads, because I know a several knife-loving folks who were completely stumped when I showed them a Karambit a couple of years ago. I think that we tend to forget just how small our "enthusiast" milieu can be when it comes to knowledge of foreign blade types.

Anonymous said...

Instead of a universally known name, it could be a custom blade made by or for the character. Use a name given it by the the maker. If it is to have a major role in the story, give it a description worthy of that status.

Michael

Anonymous said...

I have always heard them described as a 'hawks bill' knife.
~ rdc

TheAxe said...

I'm not really a knife person. If I were reading a book and saw "pruning knife" I wouldn't have any idea what blade shape that would be. If I saw "hawk bill" or "talon", I'd have an idea.

Unknown said...

Hooked blade.
Hawksbill also works, but isn't quite as intuitive.

David W. said...

Hooked blade is what I always called that style. They work good on goat hooves.

NobodyExpects said...

There is also this thing:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corvo_(knife)

Went mainstream-ish in the War of the Pacific, so that its a bit late for your timeline, however.

Glen said...

Include in cover art, or chapter headings

JFM said...

"Like the fang of a saber tooth tiger, with the inner curve sharpened" that's pretty evocative.

David aka True Blue Sam said...

I've always heard them called linoleum knives, but who lays linoleum nowadays. Case calls them roofing/carpet/linoleum knives, but hawk's bill is descriptive.

riverrider said...

BARLOW!! i think even the goat herders in marakesh know what a BARLOW is.

B said...

Hook knife or carpet knife.

Dirk said...

I'm not a big knife enthusiast, but I sure didn't know what a Barlow is.. and doing a google search on images didn't yield anything that looked like what Peter is trying to do.

Agreed with those who suggest "talon" or "claw" or "hawks bill", and also, if it's possible to get a nice rendering of it on the cover somehow, that'd be very helpful.

WL Emery said...

I have a version of this in the garage somewhere. I was told it was an electrician's knife.

Sport Pilot said...

As many others have already stated that particular blade style has always been referred to as a "hawkbill knife". It's been around for along time, far longer then the Spyderco's and like brands. http://lansky.com/index.php/blog/knife-blade-profiles-and-uses#.WBIWuoWcFjo
I've also heard them referred to as a pruning knife in some cases. As the Lansky link indicates the blade design affords protection from stabbing oneself and helps minimize accidental cuts due to increased control of he cutting blade. So for period correct story purposes calling it a hawkbill knife is self explanatory.

Anonymous said...

Any chance you could get the knife on the cover of the book, so readers have an image to look at?

Weredragon

JK Brown said...

Apparently, the ancient name is kopis. It is much like a hefty scythe blade or a sickle and just like a corn knife. Unfortunately, I doubt any of those names are universal. I would expect an agricultural name might be more universal, but then in this modern world of power farm equipment most people would have lost that name as well.

Here is Lindybeige discussing the kopis. His description of it's functionality might give you ideas for a good description.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=keq-HGNX37E&index=63&list=PLCA860ECD7F894424&ab_channel=Lindybeige

raven said...

Bram Stoker armed Jonathan Harker with a Kukri and Quincy Morris with a Bowie- might see what he had to say about them. The knives played a dramatic final part.

Anonymous said...

sickle blade

Uncle Lar said...

Hawk bill, carpet, linoleum knives are all tools in the Karambit style, with a hooked point and concave curved sickle edge.
The Ghurka Kukri also has that inward curve, but includes a convex belly and a point sufficiently in line with the axis to allow for thrusts.
Point being, staging an attack with a karambit one would want to perform a raking or slicing cut. With a Kukri you have the option of either thrusting or slicing and with a full size kukri given the weight distribution you essentially have an axe like weapon at hand for effective chopping.

el diablo loco poco said...

Keyser Soze got it. Just call it a bear claw. Side scales on the handle made from the thigh bone of the bear what caught him out. :)

Anonymous said...

Cat's claw. Curved and sharp.

Will said...

Eventual LT Faith Marie Smith, USMC, gets a lot of use of her kukri blade in John Ringo's zombie series, Black Tide Rising. Hand removal seems to be the favored use, overall.

0007 said...

If you look at some of the old halberd pole-arms you will see a large version of what you are talking about. In fact IIRC they were referred to as "hook-bill".
And somewhere I have an old African knife-thing(my daughter used to collect sharp-pointy-things)I bought that looks like a small sickle with a couple of blades tacked on the outside of the curve.

Tim Newman said...

Some folks call it a sling-blade. :)

TRX said...

I have a folding one. It was sold as a "linoleum knife."

I've also seen them described as "stockman's knives." Googling the term just turns up conventional three-blade folders. The stockman's knives I'm thinking of were used for gelding cattle, etc.