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Forging a Native American Crook Knife — the Mocotaugan

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This tutorial from Walter Sorrells talks about the mocotaugan – this is a knife historically associated with the Native Americans of the northeastern forests of the Americas, or what is now eastern Canada and the northeastern United States.

Before he goes further, Walter mentions that he does not have any particular expertise in this area, and this is actually a knife he only recently found out about through a viewer. The term crook knife or crooked knife is often applied to the mocotaugan. Some people are under the misapprehension that the blades often had a crook in them, but in reality, it’s actually the handle itself that is crooked.

Basically, this is a woodworking tool that would have been used to do all the tasks that a European woodworker would probably have accomplished with a knife, froe or chisels, maybe even a lathe. It’s a unique and simple tool that would have been used with the pole stroke, with the finger or thumb running down the side.

This is a special project for Walter, and he did the whole thing by hand so he could somehow get into the spirit of the people who made these knives 300-400 years ago. He says he used hand tools and tried to adapt the natural shape of the wood to his hand.

He then goes through the process of making the knife, with some notes. Back in the day, the knives would have been made by Europeans and sold as trade goods or would have been salvaged from European knives and re-made. Records show mocotaugans being shipped from England as early as the 1600s.

Walter works on the steel first, forming the blade. Then he makes the handle, using dogwood, which would have been found in American forests before. He says his guess is that the original blades would have been snugged into the handles using pitch. The final product is a mocotaugan that is functional, aesthetically pleasing and true enough to the original knives that early Americans would have used.

 

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