This is cross-posted, with minor editing, from Team. Hope you find it interesting. The original post is here: Who can shed some light on my Dad's WWII Navy knife?
My father was a very young, very junior (Lt. jg) officer in the Navy at the beginning of World War II. My Dad was assigned to NATS (the Naval Air Transport Service) as a maintenance officer at Pearl Harbor, and primarily dealt with PBYs, PB2Ys, R4Ds, R5Ds, and other multi-engined aircraft which flew over the Pacific.
At the end of the war, he was given a hand-made sheath knife made by a couple of the men who worked for him in the shops at Pearl. Many years later, my Dad told me that the knife was fabricated from worn or damaged materials which were discarded during the war years. Supposedly, the goatskin sheath was made from a ripped G-1 flight jacket, the steel blade is from a landing gear 'oleo' strut (or actuating linkage?), and the aluminum pommel is from a chunk of a Pratt & Whitney R-1830 piston. I'm trying to determine if this is just a good yarn, or really factual.
What I do know is that every part of this knife is hand-fabricated: the blade is steel, the pommel is aluminum, the handle is carved from one solid chunk of micarta, and the sheath is hand-cut, hand-sewn and hand-riveted leather. I recently rediscovered the knife at the bottom of a box of photographs and other memorabilia. I think it's in incredible shape, considering it sat in the bottom of a desk drawer for the last 66 years.
Is there any NON-DESTRUCTIVE way to determine if the blade and pommel metal alloys are really from the aircraft parts the story says they are? I don't really care –– the knife is priceless to me. But it would be very cool indeed to verify the tale as true.
Minor update: I'm cleaning the verdigris off the the sheath rivets with olive oil (old trick - the oleic acid in olive oil is a mild but effective cleaner for metal corrosion, when applied in a thick film and left to sit for a while). The green goo is coming off nicely, and showing the brass rivets with tiny little aluminum washers. The interesting development is that I spread some olive oil on the blade, and the 'black resin' at the junction of the blade and guard started sloughing off, revealing a ground and polished weld. The guard is steel after all, and the weld itself is a faint straw color, like some kind of nickel-bronze alloy. The blade really picked up a shine, and just from appearances seems to be some kind of high chromium content stainless. I'll post a couple follow-up pics tomorrow when it's all cleaned up.
Update : I found a very nice surprise in a another box of my Dad's memorabilia last night. He still had the piston from which the knife pommel was cut! It had been sliced horizontally through the centerline of the pin boss (perhaps so it could be put upside-down on a desk and used for an ashtray). A note with the piston indicates it was removed from a Pratt & Whitney R1830-92 radial engine, installed on the port wing of a PBY-6A 'Black Cat'. Evidently the engine was replaced after water injestion during an extremely rough landing in heavy seas.
Took a picture of the piston and the knife this morning as the sun was coming up. Included are a couple of .45ACP cartridges for scale. BTW, you can see how nicely the olive-oil treatment cleaned up the sheath rivets and the silver-brazed joint where the blade meets the guard.
That is absolutely beautiful.
That is beyond fantastic, a real treasure for sure.
Incredible piece of history. I envy you!
Wow, that is amazing and it just oozes history. It is a great connection to the past and you almost feel like you are there when you look at it the knife and piston.
Very nice looking knife, the history makes it even nicer.
Beautiful knife, great story. You have a great heirloom there. Best of luck certifying the story, hopefully it's found to be true!