Many years ago I used to visit one of those antique shops where the goods were piled high, and hunting through the stock was half the fun. Then the shop disappeared and I thought that the business had closed; but last week I discovered that it had simply relocated and, after a break of 16 years, I took a fresh look at the stock. There were several kukris, two of which were worth closer scrutiny.
The first of those two, which I bought on the spot, was an old, good-looking kukri with a short wooden handle and a nicely-shaped blade with a patina of age. The other was a very attractive, bone-handled, single-fullered kukri of the type made around Darjeeling in the 1940s, which I plan will end up in my collection as well (Update: it did!).
I don’t have large hands so the small (4″) handle of the first kukri is no problem, and makes for a very comfortable grip; it also moves the point of balance further forward along the 13.5″ blade, making for a stronger chopping action. Despite its age the partial-tang handle is rock solid; I can’t identify the type of wood used – it’s usually Indian rosewood, sandalwood or similar. This kukri is very similar to the British military Mk.1 kukri, but without the full-length tang and recessed, threaded nut – or, indeed, any other exposed metal – at the butt.
The blade has the smoothly humped profile of late nineteenth/early twentieth century kukris, with no sign of the ‘dogleg’ that appeared after WW1. I won’t be doing any sharpening, but the blade has an edge that I wouldn’t want to grab carelessly, and looks as though it would sharpen up nicely. There was little active rust and it went without a fight. Sadly, there is no sheath.
The kaudi (‘blood notch’) is nicely shaped and well executed, but the kukri’s most distinctive feature is the incised ‘crescent’ which mirror’s the kaudi’s outline. The steel bolster is very well made, with no gap between bolster and blade or bolster and handle.
The two features which for me, however, show the quality of this kukri are, firstly the consistency of the surface as the blade tapers from bolster to tip. There is just the odd wrinkle, detectable with the fingertips but invisible to the eye, which confirms that this is handmade, but beautifully so.
The second feature is the fullers; on other kukris I own, the fullers range from basic (roughly forged and little or no attempt at polishing) to medium quality (forged in a straight line or decent curve and some attempt at polishing), but none approach the level of attention which has been given to the fullers on this kukri. Cleanly forged and smoothly finished, they are a literal reflection of the workmanship of the kami (kukrimaker) who crafted the blade, and I use the word ‘crafted’ advisedly.
These crescent-stamped kukris are generally considered to be:
- either Nepalese Army issue; or,
- British Indian Army Gurkha officers’ or NCOs’ private purchase items.
The consensus of opinion is that this particular kukri probably dates from somewhere between 1890 and 1900 and certainly no later than WW1.
From its standard of manufacture and handling, this is a kukri intended for serious use. It’s the highest quality of all the kukris I own, and unsurprisingly it’s my new favourite!
As ever, much useful information was obtained from the friendly denizens of International Kukri Research & Historical Society.
Update (Jan 2014): Comment on this kukri from the Curator of the Gurkha Museum, Winchester: “It is an excellent kukri although showing signs of age through pitting. The crescent normally indicates that it is the issue of the Nepalese Army. In both WW1 and WW2 there was a significant Nepalese contingent fighting on the side of the Allies.”
A. Belly: 6.2cm depth
B. Blade: 34.7cm length
C. Drop 8.2cm
D. Overall: 44.5cm length
E. Handle: 10.5cm length
F. Spine: 10.5mm thickness at bolster
G. Spine: 7.5mmthickness at belly
W. Weight: 1lb 5oz 609g
Balance: 5″ 12.5cm ahead of bolster