This page is for general discussion, notes on fakes, items of interest and other areas of interest to Military and Antique knives.
REPRODUCTION OR FAKE, A PERSONAL VIEW
A dialogue that established itself elsewhere on the web and which had its origins in a posting on a knife forum regarding the authenticity of a certain knife made me consider what are the subtle difference between a reproduction and a fake.
We know that there are genuine makers of good reproductions FS knives and they honestly sell their wares as that. They mark them in such a way as to indicate that they are the makers and they are reproductions. But what if a less than honest seller, or even one who doesn’t know any better tries to sell such a knife with a description that says it is a WW2 knife. Well in my view this doesn’t make the actual knife a fake. It either means the seller is less than honest or is unaware of the true nature of the item.
Next we have the out and out fake. These are pieces that are manufactured from the out set as items designed to fool the unwary. They may have markings that try to replicate marks found on genuine pieces, and /or misleading descriptions such as WW2 pattern. Add to this mix are items such as commercial post war knives with spurious markings. These marks attempting to give the piece the semblance of being an official issue knife. So whilst the knife itself is not a fake such marks could have effectively turned it into one.
Then we have the fantasy pieces. Knives that are not based on any original pattern but come with false provenance or stories in order to try and make the potential buyer think it is something it is not. A well known example of a fantasy knife is the so called SS pantograph dagger.
Now we have an area that is equally as difficult and that is knives made from a mix of different parts. This may for example compose of a genuine blade mixed with the grip from another knife, or a WW2 grip with a post war blade. The combinations are almost endless. But what does this make the piece. Of course the description that accompanies the knife is important but at best such knives can only be considered to be a marriage of different parts, and at worse they are deceptions. This mix of parts was especially prevalent amongst some NAZI daggers where parts from original pieces and parts from copies were mixed.
There is not a great deal of written material about fakes or counterfeits knives. What there is generally consist of a single chapter. There is a book called Counterfeiting Antique Cutlery which deals primarily with Antique pocket knives, though it does have a chapter on Bowies.
Although not fully applicable to knives there is also a book called “How Do You Know It's Old” that deals with antiques in general and how to detect fakes. This provides an interesting insight into the world of fake antiques and the signs to look for.
CHECK YOUR FACTS!
It sometimes truely amazes me how people writing things claiming them to be true when they have not checked their facts. This became apparent when I read something about our good olde friend John Paisley. The writer on a certain website claimed that the strange trade mark, similar to a flower, found on thumb knives allegedly made by Paisley was the clan emblem. Well any check on the internet would show that this was not the case. Although there are a couple of different Paisley Clan crest none of the has a flower type emblem.
THE MYTH OF THE X DAGGERS
The following illustrations are of so called X Daggers - are these really prototypes as claimed by some? (Photos from my book The Fairbairn Sykes Fighting Knife)
What follows is the other side of the story.
You will find on some websites appertaining to F-S knives photos and descriptions of knives deemed to be X Daggers. The daggers are a combination shortened bayonet (1903 or 1888) blades and F-S 2nd pattern style grips.
The owners of these knives and websites will have you believe that these knives represent prototypes and were commissioned by Fairbairn or that they were used/made at Camp X. They also say that those of us who declare these knives to be fakes do so because we do not own any, have never handled one personally. Whilst this last point may well be true you do not necessarily have to own or handle a fake knife to know one when you see it.
I will however put this to one side and look at the real story of these X Daggers. The story and a lot of the evidence is one which the believers wish to ignore.
The source of the knives is important in this story. These knives first started to appear in the writings of Windrum and to a lesser extent Thompson. This was around the early to mid 1990’s and in both cases there was a thread that ran through both author’s stories and that was the main source of these knives. Many, if not all, having come from one man located in Canada who seemed to have a remarkable ability to turn up other so called prototypes along with knives made by the likes of Bruce Hand, and John Paisley these both being makers about which there is absolutely no evidence to support their existence.
Next lets look at the supposed timeline of the knives which are supposed to be prototypes. Well Fairbairn and Sykes arrived back in the UK from Shanghai in May 1940 and were commissioned with a seniority of July 1940. The first contracts with Wilkinson for the F-S knife was placed in early Dec 1940. Thus this gives us 4/5 months in which these so called prototypes were produced.
However if you look at the available images of these so called X daggers you will note that many of these knives have grips that have come from 2nd pattern knives, knives not produced until late 1941. Others have grips in the style of the 2nd pattern but no two are alike. One website shows around 12 different X daggers, one must ask if these are prototypes why do they have different features, though the differences are such that they do not represent any obvious attempt to design a better knife. You could expect to see a few changes on say one or two examples of real prototypes but not on 12.
Next we have the markings found on some. These range from engraved WSC marks to single number codes. The engraved WSC mark supposedly to represent Wilkinson Sword Co, have been done with a pantograph engraving machine and not stamped a you would expect to find on a 1940’s era knife. Also the use of this mark does not align with its use by Wilkinson and which only appeared on bayonets. The single number stamp are supposed to be makers codes, a theory put by Windrum, however there is no evidence of the use of such codes by the British.
The believers in these knives have also implied that the detractors have said it is impossible to make a knife in this way. Not so. What has been questioned is the practicality in terms of time and effort of doing so. Whilst some individual may well have a go at doing so, on production basis it would make no sense. The guards of a 1888 or 1903 bayonet would need to be removed, the tang that is left would be useless because of the rivet holes, so these would need to be infilled and a new tang shaped to fit a 2nd pattern style grip, or a new stick style tang welded on.
The believers say ah yes but Fairbairn made his Shanghai knives from bayonet blade. That is true but they have totally missed the point of John Fairbairn’s statement that the made them from the tops of bayonet blades. What he actually meant was that they were made from the tips of bayonet blades. This is clearly the case when a dis-assembled genuine Shanghai knife is examined.
Going back slightly in the story, in terms of the source of these knives, it is remarkable that if the are prototypes conceived by Fairbairn why have the vast majority, if not all, been sourced from the North American market. A few examples have turned up from elsewhere in the world, but at least one that was in the Windrum collection ended up in Europe, and then in the UK. Thus the fact that a piece may have been bought from England or say Australia does not guarantee its origins as a Fairbairn prototype.
In summary we have knives:
Whose antecedents seem to lay in the Shanghai knives but which do not comply with the same construction.
Which have markings e.g. WSC which are incorrect for the period.
Whose appearance in print did not occur until the 1990’s and then with only two author’s who offer no evidence to support their conclusions.
Which in the vast majority of cases only come out of North America and not from their country of supposed origin.
Which have the anomaly of having 2nd pattern grips on some examples of so called prototypes, a grip that was not introduced until late 1941.
So do any readers out there still believe these knives are real?
WARNING - UPDATE
A number of dubious SOE/MI9 items have recently appeared in auction, and a number of these have the hallmarks of being from the same source that is selling similar items on eBay.co.uk
Genuine SOE/MI9 items are scare/rare and thus attract the attention of fakers. So please be cautious when thinking of buying any of these items.
And just to illustrate the point a gigli saw that is readily available today was sold as a rare SOE garrotte and sold for the rediculous sum of £3200. You can buy one for just a few pounds!
Just to add to this item a number of fountain pens with blades and reputed to be SOE have turned up on the market recently mainly being sold through a number of auction houses. These are all highly suspect. Some have blades made from what appear to be sack/sail needles. In nearly 45 years of collecting I have only ever seen one which I would accept as genuine, yet within the last year around 5 examples have turned up. This is too good to be true. LET THE BUYER BEWARE
The extent to which the scattering of fake SOE type items is happening is appearent by the fact that similar items are turning up in auctions as far afield as the Channel Islands.
Buy as an invetsment or because you like the item?
One collector I know once said to me he was buying knves as an investment. I pointed out to him he should buy because he liked the item because collecting values can rise and fall in a moment. The antique Bowie Knife market is a case in question. When some of the large collections were sold in the 1990's some world record prices were achieved, but the financial crash hit the market with prices and values falling. Though there are signs that values are picking up again. However other factors can influence values, changes in the law that make things illegal will impact on values. Changes to collecting interest and demographics are examples. In respect of the later just look at the age profile of people you see at Militaria Fairs, you rarely see anyone in their 20's.
CANADIAN ENGINEERING TRAINING CENTRE (CETC) KNIFE
Four examples of these knives are known to date, but more could be out there. Three are known to be numbered i.e. 24, 33, and 43. Three of the knives have engraved blades. The CETC was set up in 1942 and closed in 1945. They were made in the CETC workshop and presented to members of staff. If anyone knows of other examples please let me know.
MORE ON FAKES
Somewhat following on from the X dagger piece above my good friend Roy Shadbolt recently sent an email to his customers regarding fakes. This was a very timely warning as I myself had recently been asked to appraise some items in a collection belonging to a new collector, unfortunately the collection contained a few fake items. I have used some of Roy’s email in the piece below and although his warning was particularly aimed at F-S knives the general sentiment applies to many military knives.
It may (or may not) surprise collectors to hear that people like myself and Roy regularly receive communications from collectors asking my advice about an F-S knife they have just purchased, where either the knife or it's markings don't conform to anything they can find on websites or in books. Excited that they may have discovered something new (and potentially valuable), their hopes are more than often dashed when I have to inform them that the knife and/or markings are completely fake.
We have also been very shocked and frankly annoyed that such knives are still appearing on so called 'experts' (people who should know better) and dealers websites. With some of these knives purporting to be something quite exceptional, terms like 'X Dagger', 'Pre Production' or 'Agents' (aka miniature) F-S knives often begin used. Please know that all these are fake, as such knives never existed and despite being erroneously published in a few early books on this topic, such stories and myths have long been debunked by in depth research. Education will always protect our hobby whereas ignorance will erode it.
It is easy as a novice collector to be drawn in by “its in the book” or the excitement of a possible rare find, (I know I have been there) but knowledge is the best defence against wasting your money. By all means learn from books but also be prepared to question what you read. In one early book on F-S knives the author stated he had identified various makers from some single digit code numbers stamped on the knives. When I asked how he had identified these makers and their numbers he could provide no explanation. Basically the knives were all fake and the numbering a figment of the fakers imagination.
There will always be collectors who have a total unwillingness to learn, who will buy such knives and who completely ignore the evidence put in front of them. There is no helping such people but if you are in any doubt or just need assistance make sure you obtain a second opinion. I don't pretend to be the final word on such topics but along with some very good friends, combined we have a wealth of experience that we are willing to share.
Let us keep this passion positive, enjoyable and free from such rubbish and continue to grow our collections with honest knives that will bring us years of enjoyment. There are still new discoveries out there and some wonderful knives to add to our collections, we don't need to add fraudulent knives to our collection, despite how tempting it may sometimes be.