Ancient Copper Filet Knife

A few years ago, I was looking for authenic Roman coins on ebay, and stumbled across a series of auctions purported to be from a museum overflow sale in Germany.  For those that don’t know, what you see out on display in a museum is often a fraction of what is stored and catalogued behind the scenes, and for every pristine artifact in a glass case, there are five in a drawer that didn’t get the starting position that season.  According to the Ebay seller, this museum had an abundance of poor quality roman artifacts, and was auctioning them to raise money.

I bought an interestingly shaped knife blade covered in a thick green patina, and listed as Balkan in origin, and from somewhere around the 2000 B.C. range.  Of course, I couldn’t verify any of this, but I bought it anyway.

I got it home and displayed it as it was, patina and all.  I posted photos of the blade on some various historical and metallurgical websites, and was told the same thing repeatedly: “It looks fairly authentic… don’t mess with it. Put it somewhere safe and don’t touch it.”

The thing is, wastelanders, I’m not very good at just DISPLAYING something that doesn’t give back to me in any way.  If I were a 4000 year old man, naked, and covered in a thick patina, I would want someone to love me and return me to my youthful state.  So, to the ire of nearly everyone else I spoke to, I decided to restore the knife.

I ground off the patina to find a BEAUTIFUL hand-hammered copper blade.  The hammer marks and irregular lines were art to me, and the copper shined as brightly as ever. The spine was significantly thicker than the edge – a necessity with such a soft metal, but the cutting edge was surprisingly thin and sharp.  The blade had about an inch and a half of tang, so I set it tightly into a shed antler handle I’d already made.  The ornament on the back is a fossilized cave bear claw.

When I look at the completed project, I think the knife is happier this way.  He’s back in fighting form and wearing the appropriate garb.  Leaving this knife in a state of useless disrepair only to appreciate its age would’ve been silly.  People have told me I ruined its value – what value? It had very little to no monetary value, but it’s value to me as a project, and now as a functional display item and conversation piece is immeasurable!

It is currently on display in my older brother’s man cave, which is far more fun than any museum I’ve ever been to.

Your homework assignment, wastelanders, is to rescue something from an antique shop and restore it to its former glory. Preferably something dangerous.

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3 Responses to Ancient Copper Filet Knife

  1. Eric the Red says:

    Jeez, I wish my town had an antique shop. The closest I have is a thrift store full of old ladies and smelly stuffed animals. Aw nertz.

  2. Norski says:

    Nicely done. I a have similar blade from the Balkans, 1600 BC. I was either going to use Olive Wood, native to the area, or a deer stag tip for the handle/shields. The blade has a very short tang. What did you wind your stag handle with? gut? I thought of using a homemade copper fasteners/pins or wind it with hammered copper at the base. I also have considered winding with thin strips of animal hide..not sure if I can get it tight enough without damaging the blade. How long was your tang? Is it tight? Thanks

    • Eric says:

      Hey Norski! I sawed a slit into the base of the antler exactly the width of the blades tang – and yes, the tang was only an inch long. I then used two-part epoxy to fix the blade in place. I wrapped it with artificial sinew. It probably wouldn’t be strong enough for field tasks, but then, neither would the copper edge. I was told it was a filet knife, and it can most certainly perform that task 🙂

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