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Thread: My Grandfather's Barlow Knife

  1. #1
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    Default My Grandfather's Barlow Knife

    So, I'm rummaging around in one of my carving tool drawers and come across this old, battered single-blade knife that belonged to my grandfather, Nick. The bolster is stamped "Barlow" on both sides. That name rings a bell, so I googled and came up with some background. A website says they were decent steel, with no fancy finish so they would be affordable. Website points out that Mark Twain mentions Barlow knives in both Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer, solid creds for entrenchment in American folklore, eh? I'm going to sharpen the knife and keep it with my everyday carving knife kit instead of collecting dust in a drawer. Website went on to say that in one of the books (above) Twain wrote that Huck was walking through town somewhere along the river and came across a group of men seated in front of a general store carving with their Barlows. Maybe I shouldn't sharpen it, as the blade now has a dark patina resulting from rust. What say you knife aficionados? I have other hand tools from my grandfather around that I use frequently.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: My Grandfather's Barlow Knife

    Honor your grandfather and our culture: Sharpen and use it.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: My Grandfather's Barlow Knife

    And give us photo.
    I googled Barlow, not cheap knives.
    Last edited by goodbasil; 11-18-2022 at 02:36 PM.
    basil

  4. #4
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    Default Re: My Grandfather's Barlow Knife

    Although this Guy Clark song (this is a partial lyric) is about a Randall Knife the sentiment speaks to this thread and the revered, Barlow Knife. I have my Father's and my Mother's old knives and treasure them with the same reverence.
    MY father would most certainly have wanted me to keep it sharpened so I have. I did compromise on retaining some "patina" while making the edge nice and shiny.
    Lyrics:

    My father was a good man
    A lawyer by his trade
    And only once did I ever see
    Him misuse the blade
    It almost cut his thumb off
    When he took it for a tool
    The knife was made for darker things


    And you could not bend the rules

    He let me take it camping once
    On a Boy Scout jamboree
    And I broke a half an inch off
    Trying to stick it in a tree
    I hid it from him for a while
    But the knife and he were one
    He put it in his bottom drawer
    Without a hard word one

    There it slept and there it stayed
    For twenty some odd years
    Sort of like Excalibur
    Except waiting for a tear

    My father died when I was forty
    And I couldn't find a way to cry
    Not because I didn't love him
    Not because he didn't try
    I'd cried for every lesser thing
    Whiskey, pain and beauty
    But he deserved a better tear
    And I was not quite ready

    So we took his ashed out to sea
    And poured 'em off the stern
    And threw the roses in the wake
    Of everything we'd learned
    When we got back to the house
    They asked me what I wanted
    Not the lawbooks not the watch
    I need the things he's haunted

    My hand burned for the Randall knife
    There in the bottom drawer
    And I found a tear for my father's life
    And all that it stood for
    Last edited by Dinghy Pipedreams; 11-18-2022 at 03:17 PM.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: My Grandfather's Barlow Knife

    I have pocket knives that belonged to both of my grandfathers. I carry them for family events or important occasions, not every day. I'd hate to lose one of them.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: My Grandfather's Barlow Knife

    " When I was a little boy,
    I wanted a Barlow knife.
    Now all I want is Shady Grove
    to say she'll be my wife."
    Doc Watson



    https://youtu.be/b-kaG1NuLZM

  7. #7
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    Default Re: My Grandfather's Barlow Knife

    USE it! That's what they were made for. I have an old Case that was my dad's that I've used in the shop for...well...just about everything. I won't wear it out in my lifetime and I doubt my daughter will in hers, either. But she'll use it and eventually pass it on to the next bearer; hopefully along with a bit of its history.
    20221118_141709[1].jpg

  8. #8
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    Default Re: My Grandfather's Barlow Knife

    Clean it, sharpen it and use it. Don’t worry about losing the “patina" if that means riding it of rust, that’s really not the sort of “patina” worth preserving.
    Larks

    “It’s impossible”, said pride.
    “It’s risky”, said experience.
    “It’s pointless”, said reason.
    “Give it a try”, whispered the heart.

    LPBC Beneficiary

    "Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great!"

  9. #9
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    Default Re: My Grandfather's Barlow Knife

    I spent one whole summer trying save enough money for a Barlow pocket knife. $18.00 was ton of money at the time..I think I was 12 or 13.

    Still have it.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: My Grandfather's Barlow Knife

    jus doan take it out on de bote
    wish I had my Poppys knife

  11. #11
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    Default Re: My Grandfather's Barlow Knife

    #1) Dark patina and active rust are as different as night and day. The former protects the metal from deterioration, and scraping, buffing out, that is, removing it, will deprive the metal of the "armor" that has taken time protect it. Wanting the knife to look shiny and clean, by removing patina, re-exposes the metal.

    Red, active rust is a different animal. It should be stopped. Try D-40, and gentle removal afterwards with such as a razor blade, working slowly and carefully.

    #2) "BARLOW" is a generic style, or type of knife, and many good ones have (or had) issued from Solingen, Sheffield, and American manufactories over nearly two centuries. The bolster at the top of the knife, where the blade or blades are pinned usually announces that it is a Barlow with a deep stamp. Not that it matters, if for sentimental reasons you value the knife anyway, but the brand of the knife, that is the factory that made it or the distributor involved, should be stamped on the tang of the blade. For a collector, that can mean much as to desirability. But as said, that should be of secondary interest if one is restoring an heirloom.

    3) Barlow knives were ruggedly made, distinctive with their longer than normal top bolsters, and usually unadorned by such as heraldic shields that in many other traditional knife styles were embedded in the handle covers. Barlow handle covers were likely to be unembellished sawn-cut bone.

    Now you have a great daily reminder of your grandfather. Do use and enjoy carrying it.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: My Grandfather's Barlow Knife

    The patina on mine is DEFINATELY not active rust. The bolsters are stamped "BARLOW", but not centered as appearing on new knives offered on Amazon, being offset toward the lower edge with something else (illegible) stamped above. I'll have Gayle's nephew assist with posting a pic later today. The knife has been opened so many times that the blade swings slightly beyond straight when open. At this point the long straight edge is sharper than the curved edge at the tip, indicating a lack of attention. My knives will always be sharp enough to shave with, curved edge or straight.

    Quote Originally Posted by stumpstalker View Post
    #1) Dark patina and active rust are as different as night and day. The former protects the metal from deterioration, and scraping, buffing out, that is, removing it, will deprive the metal of the "armor" that has taken time protect it. Wanting the knife to look shiny and clean, by removing patina, re-exposes the metal.

    Red, active rust is a different animal. It should be stopped. Try D-40, and gentle removal afterwards with such as a razor blade, working slowly and carefully.

    #2) "BARLOW" is a generic style, or type of knife, and many good ones have (or had) issued from Solingen, Sheffield, and American manufactories over nearly two centuries. The bolster at the top of the knife, where the blade or blades are pinned usually announces that it is a Barlow with a deep stamp. Not that it matters, if for sentimental reasons you value the knife anyway, but the brand of the knife, that is the factory that made it or the distributor involved, should be stamped on the tang of the blade. For a collector, that can mean much as to desirability. But as said, that should be of secondary interest if one is restoring an heirloom.

    3) Barlow knives were ruggedly made, distinctive with their longer than normal top bolsters, and usually unadorned by such as heraldic shields that in many other traditional knife styles were embedded in the handle covers. Barlow handle covers were likely to be unembellished sawn-cut bone.

    Now you have a great daily reminder of your grandfather. Do use and enjoy carrying it.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: My Grandfather's Barlow Knife

    barlow_knife.jpgNote that the rivet heads do not match. The white handles are some sort of flat white plastic 1/8" thick, perhaps Acrylic sign material cut to shape by hand with edges beveled with a hand file, just the sort of rough repair my grandfather might have done. The blade is 5" long.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: My Grandfather's Barlow Knife

    Looks like a very competent, practical repair, with the synthetic handle covers replacing what may have been the original ones of not-so-impact-resistant bone.

    Being a 5-inch (closed), as opposed to a standard (circa 3-3/8ths-inch) Barlow, makes the knife what collectors call a grand-daddy Barlow. There you go: You now are the steward of your grand-father's grand-daddy Barlow.

    Can you discern anything deep stamped on the blade tang? The name of the manufacturer, importer, or wholesaler, and possibly a location is usually identified there.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: My Grandfather's Barlow Knife

    Blade shows a large capital "A" followed by a sort of stylized large "O" possibly followed by something very small. Under the AO it is stamped with a small "TUB_ _" with the _ _ letters being illegible. Under that is stamped "Cutlery". And finally, under that, it's stamped "Sheffield". Thanks for the background, stumpstalker.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: My Grandfather's Barlow Knife

    Handle covers may be Casein, a milk derivative sometimes substituted for ivory.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: My Grandfather's Barlow Knife

    ^^^ I don't believe so, skuthorp. The polished finish and uniform 1/8" thickness look just like Acrylic sheet commonly used for signs and opaque glazing. One rived cracked off a bit of the material and Acrylic is known to be brittle. The repair might have been done by my father using material not available to my grandfather. (Don't know when plastics like acrylic sheet became common)

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