Lot's of different pics of this sign.

Lot's of different pics of this sign.
"I don't make hell for nobody. I'm only the instrument of a laughing providence. Sometimes I don't like it myself, but I couldn't help it if I was born smart."

1st Sgt. Milton Anthony Warden.
"From here to Eternity"

Paul Valery

"You are in love with intelligence, until it frightens you. For your ideas are terrifying and your hearts are faint. Your acts of pity and cruelty are absurd, committed with no calm, as if they were irresistible. Finally, you fear blood more and more. Blood and time."

The Wisdom of the Ages

"When a young man, I read somewhere the following: God the Almighty said, 'All that is too complex is unnecessary, and it is simple that is needed',"

Mikhail Kalashnikov
"Here lies the bravest soldier I've seen since my mirror got grease on it."

Zapp Brannigan

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Nichol's Knives

God. Gone too long. The curse of being lazy. I'm also going to blame the Willamette Valley's prosperous grass-seed industry. The ryegrass is pollinating so, for the past few weeks, my nose has been strictly decorative and my eye sockets have felt as if they should have tiny boy scouts sitting around, them toasting marshmallows (the wife didn't get that joke).

The subject of today's mindless prattling is the man pictured above. Floyd Nichols was a metal sculptor in David City Nebraska prior to the second world war. He speciallized in the small western-themed bronzes you can see on the shelf above him. I suspect they were less kitchey back in the thirties.
At the beginning of America's involvement he, along with many known and anonymous knifemakers, blacksmiths and home handymen, responded to the call from San Francisco's "Save a Life With a Knife!" committee. Along with his fellow Nebraskan, Frank Richtig and Bo Randall he produced some of the most drop-dead gorgeous knives of the war.

He developed a style unlike anyone else's as you can see. A cast brass pommel in a sort of "swan's neck" profile and a steel cross-guard with the intervening space being taken up with tightly-wrapped brass or steel brazing rod. His blades tended to be swept-point Bowies of a shape that other folks have called "Persian". Whatever.
His sheaths were beautiful as well, being made for him by Alfred Cornish, an Omaha saddle maker. He signed his work with the name "Nichols", and simply stamped each letter individually - I love that - into the brass and would occasionally braze a nickel onto the pommel (see bottom photo).
He may not have built the most functional blades although they
would certainly cut and/or stick. I've always wondered about the lanyards hang from kind of random places, but so what? They're pretty ("Very pretty, Colonel. Very pretty indeed. But can they fight?" I think that's a Donald Sutherland line from "The Dirty Dozen") Got to rent that again since that quote goes through my head every time I see a knife I think of as "pretty".
Okay, I've prattled to the end of my tether. I'm going to toss out a few Nichols knife photos and another shop pic. And, what a shop. I could fit three of mine in there.
The final picture is one I found on a "Memories of Nebraska" website, labeled "Dale Nichol's Knife". I know that Dale was his Dad's name, so I assume he made it for Pop in 1947. An appropriate note, I think, to end with on Dad's Day (My day! WooHoo!).


Craig said...

My dad had one of the Nichols knives with him over in Italy in the Air Force (B-24 Liberator). I always wondered how he got it. I posted your note on http://www.keefner.com/susan

Craig Keefner

Anonymous said...

Floyd Nichols made the Nichols knives. His brother was the famous artist Dale Nichols. They were made in David City, Nebraska and were issued to every Butler County resident that was drafted in WWII. Each was personalized and some of the earlier ones had an actual nickel in the handle. I am extremely interested in a knife that has appeared on the web that is stamped "Jesse B Smith". It was in the ownership of a John Gibson who emailed me that he no longer owns the knife. That knife belonged to the father of a dear friend. I would like to know if it is for sale.

Anonymous said...

Glad to have found you site. My dad had the knife made by Nichols and sheath made by a man named Alfred Cornish. He carried it as a B-17 pilot on bombing missions over Germany. His plane was hit by ack-ack fire and he crash landed in Poland. To make a long story short; he used the knife to cut wood to make fires while he and his crew where in a Polish trains boxcar on their way to Odessa and then back to England. Glad to have the history. Rob K., MI/Special Forces, Viet Nam-1968-69.

Anonymous said...

My dad was given a Nichols knife just before leaving for WW II. He was an officer in the U.S. Navy Armed Guard. When I once asked him if he ever had to use it, he said just once, when the ship's cook baked him a birthday cake. He used the knife to slice the cake so he could share it with his gun crews.

Unknown said...

Glad to have found this blog entry..very informative. My father-in-law gave me the handle of a Nichols knife with the Nickel in the end that he found in the early 60s in the middle of a pasture in Louisiana. The blade was missing (looks to have rusted off).

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