As most students of woodcraft already know, pioneer camping writers George W. Sears (Nessmuk) and Horace Kephart have reached something close to sainthood status with modern knife users. Their field guides made it abundantly clear they had no time for large blades or anything that resembled a “Billy the Kid Bowie Knife.” Nessmuk bequeathed to us a relatively crude drawing of a strange humpbacked skinning knife he thought worked well, but no real information on the blade. Its actual dimensions and maker remain a mystery to this day. We are luckier with the “Kephart knife,” as we know it was produced by an early Pennsylvania cutlery company called Colclesser. The 4.5-inch, spear-point blade seems to have simply been a version of a standard 19th century hunting pattern with a self-guard handle.
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Both writers were “Easterners.” Nessmuk penned his famous Woodcraft guide in 1884 based on his camping trips to the Adirondack area of New York State. Kephart, who published Camping and Woodcraft in 1906, was a great lover of the Smokey Mountains. While either region may have seemed like pretty wild areas to someone fresh from the city, both locales had been explored, logged, hunted and homesteaded for a couple of hundred years by then. But then there is Coquina’s (G.O. Shields) wilderness guide published in 1889 entitled Camping and Camp Outfits: A manual of instruction for young and old sportsmen.
Probably few outside advanced Marble’s knife collectors have even heard of this writer today. For a very brief period around 1905, Marble’s offered a combination kit consisting of a small butcher’s skinning knife, a sharpening steel and a 5-inch “Ideal” hunting knife in a handy leather sheath as its “Coquina Outfit.”
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