Big Bertha

Big Bertha
Circa 1940, on the streets of Rochester New York, Bertha does her work.
"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, August 03, 2008

Deadly Weapons

Captivated as ever by my own brilliance, as demonstrated by my knuckleduster/framing-hammer comparison of a week ago, I'm going off on a wee tangent.
Pictured above, another of my little vignettes, the ones that graphically illustrate why digital camera sales should be more closely monitored.
Shown are three of the worst, "the worst of the worst" as they say.
First, the hammer on top: The classic, Vaughn 999, developed in 1918 and considered to be the "first framing hammer" if there is any such thing.
Technically, mine happens to be a decking hammer - or a siding hammer, as it's got a smooth face.
Below, the gothed-out "California Framer", a fearsome tool known as "The Death Stick".
I admit I was skeptical of the aforementioned "new design" of the venerable rock-on-a-stick when it floated up from California a few decades ago.
I was however impressed as hell with the Death Sick when it first showed up.
I thought it was a brilliant piece of marketing - and I should know. I've been called a marketing genius. Hi, Jack - to be selling a hammer like a skateboard.
I thought "This is a company that understands the difference between the demographics of finish carpenters and framers." those were my exact words.
Actually, the DS is a seriously nice hammer to use. I take back all my early scorn at the California Framer design.
We just won't discuss the titanium ones.
Finally, the third of the "impact weapons" pictured above, the knuckleduster, what we're really talking about.
Next up: The oldest of the many knuckles pictured in the file section of the Yahoo group, brassknucklecollectorclub.
I doubt you'll find a larger collection of photos on line.
The knucks pictured are believed to be in excess of 200 years old and come from China. It's a spiky version of what I'm going to call, for lack of a better term "The Screaming Monkey" design. That term, by the way was stolen from a 1981 article of knuckle-collecting. It can be read here.
The eyes of the monkey are formed by the two, inboard finger loops while the outer loops comprise the ears.
Personally, I think the spikes are sort of gratuitous, and messy, and likely (it would seem to me) to "stick" it you happened to hit bone. Definitely scarier though. You pull this puppy out and those teenagers are just going to be done keying your car.
This so-called SMD seems to have been a popular one.
Pictured next, a historical progression, from the Chinese one at top through two later examples, one of them crudely made of iron and the last, more refined, in brass.
A commonality among these older ones is the uniform size of finger holes.
It makes them impossible to put on wrong as the index finger and the pinkie occupy identical holes.
The trade off is that a compromise has to be made.
If the holes are too large it may shift around in the hand.
Too small you could break your fingers.
Pictured next, three SM and a T-handle, all in cast iron.
Notice as well that the T-handle knucks have the finger loops in nearly a straight line.
This strikes me as archaic. I don't know why.
It also looks to be less than optimal re comfort although, it's actually not that bad.
I've made some that were similar, with the holes in a line and, although less comfortable than others, certainly not unworkable.
Although I haven't punched a tree with them.
Perhaps I should.
The upper right set of knucks is also unique among the four in that it does have graduated finger loops.
Curiouser and curiouser.
Finger sizes throughout the ages and our accommodation to same. Something to be pondered, if there's no wet paint nearby.
On that note, I'll close with this shot of two "theater made", lead knucks from the War of Northern Aggression.
The upper was dug while the lower is in original condition down to the leather pad.
Apparently the lads would melt bullets and cast them in crude sand molds.
Store-bought knucks show up in Civil War contexts as well.
Regarding finger size, the coin is included for scale and is, I believe, a Morgan silver dollar.
To bring us back to the beginning, click here for my guru, Phil (Home Gunsmith - see links) Luty's take on the "Offensive Weapon" issue.

1 comment:

Culpeper said...

Nice hammer. But biggest lose in this class was the hammer my grandfather used to to box up a wounded eagle to be shipped via railroad for rehabilitation. That would have been during the 1930s. I lost it in the 1980s. Post Hurricane Alicia and the Galveston County Sheriff Dept. to make a long story short.

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