He is a short but stout barrel-chested brute of a man. He is tough as iron, supple as a willow switch, strong as an ox and, like springs on the traps he carries, he is always ready to leap into action to face the myriad of challenges he may find in the wilderness. Yet he is always ready with a laugh and a song, and his eyes glint when he has the opportunity to partake of the alcohol he carries for trade. He paddles his ‘bateau’ along the rivers of the North American continent which are the highways of his day, spreading his culture but also blending it with those of the indigenous tribes he meets along the way. He is a Frenchman, one of the earliest of the intrepid breed of explorers. He is a Voyageur.
He carries with him everything he needs to make a life in the woods. His kit includes a smoothbore, an axe and hawk, and as important as anything else, a knife. He carries several of these. Often there is a small knife hanging around his neck for minor chores, and another in one of his knee garters for emergencies. His everyday working knife, though, is worn in his belt sash, or ‘ceinture’, and he relies on it for everything else. It will cut carrots and caribou or leather and lynx with equal ease. It isn’t huge as Hollywood would have us believe… perhaps with a 6” long but thin and flexible blade with a handle usually made of plain wood or bone. This is the same kind of knife he carries to the Indian tribes to trade for furs, but his knife has known adventures that we today can only dream of!
Knives used in America from the 1600’s up until the mid-1850’s tended to be flat ground, and our knives follow that tradition. Hollow ground blades can produce a wickedly sharp edge, but they can much more easily chip or crack and, thus, they demand a much higher level of maintenance. Our knives actually incorporate what’s known today as a compound bevel. The blades are flat ground leaving an edge that is about 25-40 microns thick. Then an additional edge bevel is added which allows our blades to be razor sharp but much stronger than a straight flat ground blade.
Our Voyageur knife is 10 1/4” in length with a 6” blade, and at its widest point it is an inch and a quarter in width. It measures 1/8” in thickness along the spine and is made of 1095 carbon steel. It is edge-hardened and tempered to approximately 59-60 on the Rockwell scale.
Whichever handle material you choose, this knife will evoke the spirit of those hardy and boisterous paddlers of long ago. In your hand, the knife will beg to be used and, as you do, the Voyageur within you will be tempted to shout, “Sacre Bleu, mon ami, de river is calling my name!”
- Knife material: 1095 high carbon steel
- Handle material: Polished bone
- Blade length: 6″
- Handle length: 4 1/4″
- Blade width: 1 1/4″