Last weeks European Quillon Dagger class at the SOFA ABS school in Troy, OH

Kevin R. Cashen

Super Moderator
Last week I taught a specialized European Quillon Dagger class at the SOFA ABS school in Troy Ohio. The weather was great, especially compared to what I left in Michigan. This class focuses on the dagger as an actual historical artifact with emphasis on classic function and design, a total departure from the concept of a fantasy or pure art piece, so that the resulting dagger is even more beautiful and elegant as form follows function. We had four students in the class, which makes the class flow very smoothly with more one-on-one time with students, and at the end of the week we had some of the best examples of historically accurate quillon daggers from such a class.

The week started with a solid block of classroom time to study the history of the dagger and its use in actual combat of the period. Dozens of images of real daggers were viewed and discussed to understand the common concepts of their form. Concepts of classic design were covered for students to not only make better daggers but give them useful tools in designing all of their knives.

The next two days were spent on learning forging techniques that will allow them to maintain a proper cross section for a classic dagger. This is the part where even master bladesmiths are brought back to apprentice like basics when many knifemaker techniques must be abandoned as they learn that this is not a double-edged knife, it is a dagger.

Grinding brought on new challenges as they work with maintaining four flat grinds that are often less than ½” wide, and are compound, changing their angle as they go, to maintain a reinforced tip. All this is done while maintaining a dead straight center-line and edges, which are taken to zero with little or no secondary bevel, at angles that most knifemakers are not used to. I was very pleased with how the students in this class nailed it with precise and even plunges with no blowouts, which are extremely problematic on a dagger.

Heat treatment included many methods and tips on keeping a blade, which can distort on many axis, as straight as possible. Uneven forging or grinding can take a dagger into a simple warp, a corkscrew, or even the dreaded saber bend. Along with these techniques the student learns the differences in approaches to heat treatment for the different properties required in a dagger rather than a knife.

The learning curve is such that in five days the students normally are able to produce a dagger blade ready to be hilted and finished, which can take weeks unto itself. But in the last two days these steps are demonstrated and explained to prepare the students. The quilloned guard creation and fitment is explained. Layout and fluting of handles, creating and inlaying twisted wires for the ABS requirements, as well as historical wrapping.

Pommel design and attachment finishes up the blade itself, but in this class the students excelled so well that I spent the last hours of the week demonstrating scabbard making. Precision scraping and fitting to the blade, leather wrapping and embellishment, and finally fine metal work for the chape and throat.

All and all it was a great class and I want to thank the great students for its success and the great Mexican food we had each day, with a final night heartburn reprieve with sushi and nigori sake!

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Justin Presson

Well-Known Member
Very cool! I have yet to try a dagger. I bet the students got some great knowledge they will be able to use forever.