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~ Introduction ~

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~ Variations Of The Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife ~



The Wooden Gripped Pattern

The Wooden Griped F-S Fighting Knife has always been one of those variations that has interested me, I can’t quite put my finger on it, after all they are usually quite economy made and the lightweight adversely affects the balance, but...I can’t help but like them.  There are a number of subtle variations and some knives more rightly fall into their own ‘non’ wooden hilt category, the wooden gripped Australian Army Stiletto for example.  But for our purpose here it’s easy to place the standard ‘Woodie’ into two groups...the Fat and Slim gripped versions.  We will take a closer look at these specific knives and their differences a little later. 

The Third Pattern F-SThird_Pattern_-_Variations_Of_The_Fairbairn-Sykes_Fighting_Knife.html
Variations Of The F-S KnifeVariations_Of_The_Fairbairn-Sykes_Fighting_Knife.html
The Ribbed & Beaded F-SRibbed_%26_Beaded_Pattern_-_Variations_Of_The_Fairbairn-Sykes_Fighting_Knife.html
The Wooden Gripped F-S

Over the years there has been a number of claims regarding the issue and use of these Wooden Gripped F-S knives none of which seem to be accompanied by any evidence and for the most part seem little more than speculation and conjecture.  However occasionally some details and facts have surfaced that now give us a much clearer picture of the origin and use of these interesting F-S variations.  What follows is certainly not definitive but when pulling all the known details together a clearer picture does emerge.

This rare photograph shows an R.A.F fighter pilot at a forward airbase in Normandy, France shortly after the D-Day landing of June 6th 1944.  Attached to the upper left of his ‘Mae-West’ is one of the ‘fat’ Wooden Gripped F-S knives. 

It’s tempting to refer to these ‘Wooden’ variations as ‘R.A.F’ F-S knives, as most of the evidence surfaced thus fare clearly point to use by R.A.F pilots and flight crews.  Over the years I have come across a number of these knives with provenance to fighter pilots in both European and South East Asia theaters of operation.  But perhaps the most compelling evidence is the period photograph (at left) which shows an R.A.F fighter pilot at a forward airbase in Normandy, France shortly after the D-Day landing of June 6th 1944.  Attached to the upper left of his ‘Mae-West’ is one of the ‘fat’ Wooden Gripped F-S knives. 

In a conversation with Robert Wilkinson-Latham he related an interesting first hand account by a war-time pilot who commented that, “these knives were kept in a cardboard box in the corner of the ops room to just help oneself”.

~ The Wilkinson Connection ~

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While searching the Wilkinson historic archives Robert Wilkinson-Latham made an interesting discovery that has shed new light on these Wooden Gripped F-S Knives and provides an intriguing connection to Wilkinsons.  The adjacent document from the Civilian Repair Organization R.A.F. and dated 28th October 1943 refers to Wilkinson supplying 1,000 Fighting Knife blades (only).  The document goes on to request confirmation of delivery (of the blades) to Harris Lebus who will provide grips and assemble items (knives).  Lebus was a furniture manufacturer based in the East End of London and therefore was likely making the ‘wooden’ grips.  It is reasonable to assume that other makers or both blades and grips were involved too.  This at least in part explains why we have both a Fat and Slim grippe version amongst other things.

~ The Sheffield Connection ~

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As mentioned in the above paragraph it would seem logical that other suppliers of blades, grips and final assembly were sought.  The knife below certainly holds to this theory.  The grip is embossed with the trademark of William Rogers Sheffield England.  A well known cutlery maker who produced many standard pattern post war F-S knives and likely also produced war time examples too.  As a cutler it is unlikely that Rogers produced wooden grips to be sent to another maker, a more logical scenario is that they outsources the grips, made the other components and on assembly stamped the grip with there trade mark.  Note also on this example that the pommel nut is of the more tradition style as apposed to the flush type that is most often encountered.

An interesting fat Wooden Gripped F-S with rare makers mark to William Rodgers of Sheffield.  Not also the style of the pommel nut, which although different from the previous examples, appears identical to the one in the photograph above.

~ The Wooden Gripped F-S - The Reasoning & Variations Of Design ~

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This Wooden Gripped variation of this F-S Knife seems to follow the late-war Third Pattern in style, in other words it has concentric rings turned into the grip to provide a rudimentary ‘grip’.  This is the same for both Fat and Slim hilted versions.  Along with other evidence (photograph & document above) it would be safe to assume that these variations date from October 1943 onwards (the inception of the Third Pattern).  Over the years there has been many theories as to the reasoning and logic of producing an F-S with a wooden grip.  After all one of the main design features of the original F-S was that the weight be hilt heavy and these wood gripped versions certainly alter that dynamic.  However now that a connection to the R.A.F. air crews has been confidently established the logic becomes quite apparent.  ‘Weight’ (or lack of) was of paramount importance to all fighting aircraft, every ounce saved was more ammunition or more fuel, both of which would potentially impact a pilots survivability.  A ‘fighting knife’ would be a piece of kit that would only be used in an emergency after bailing out or crashing and therefor was not a necessary item for normal operations.  As such making the item as light as possible would seem a logical decision.

~ The ‘Fat’ Wooden Gripped F-S & Its Variations ~

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The grips on these knives are normally of an oval cross-section (although ‘round’ examples have occasionally been noted), to provide purchase ‘eight’ concentric rings are deeply cut into the mid section.  The material appears to be oak finished in a light coat of varnish, which leaves the overall finish light in color (some black painted example have also been noted which may not be original).  The blades, although well made, normally conform to the late war machine-ground type. 

The crossguard material can be either steel or alloy.  The pommel nuts are most often seen sunk into the grip and left flush but other examples with the normal ‘button’ type nut are also noted.  Normally there are no makers marks, although the example previously shown by William Rogers is a rare exception.  The correct scabbard for these knives are the standard Sheffield made ‘hunting knife’ style.  Light in color and stamped on the front of the belt loops Made in Sheffield England.  The blades can be either blued or polished, both are correct.  The crossguard if made of steel it is usually blued and if made from alloy often left unfinished.  To date I have not noted any official ownership or inspection marks on these variations and would be interested to hear from any collectors who have an example with such a mark.

A typical example of the fat Wooden Gripped F-S, complete with correct sheath.  Many of these seem to have seen hard use, so quite rare to see one in such lovely condition as this examples.

The pommel nut seen here (left) is sunk into the grip, this seems to be quite normal for this pattern, although the more traditional exposed ‘button’ style has also been noted.  Neither the ferrule or crossguard (upper right) thus far have ever been seen with MoS inspection marks.

~ The ‘Slim’ Wooden Gripped F-S & Its Variations ~

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There are many different and subtle variations in the shape of the turned wooden grips, likely indicating that a number of different supplies were involved.  Usually the grips are painted or in some cases stained black and most have a ‘caped’ pommel which has the tang passing through and then is peened over.  Although some example do have the usual nut.  The scabbards normally found with these ‘slim’ style of Wooden Gripped F-S are the standard late-war example most often seen with Third Pattern F-S Knives of which many subtle differences are noted.  As per the fat gripped knives these slim grips are normally not marked.  I have to date not seen a makers mark of any kind on any examples.  However an example is known that bears not only the Australian ownership mark (D⩚D) but curiously also the ‘I’ for indian ownership!  I would be interested to hear from anyone who has original examples bearing any official markings.

An exceptional and totally unused example of the ‘slim’ style of Wooden Gripped F-S Fighting Knife.  Examples like this are certainly not the norm as most ‘Woodies’ have not fared well over the years.  Note the standard late-war F-S scabbard.

The grips on these versions more normally represent the standard Third Pattern F-S Knife.  Round in profile and relatively slim they are a reasonable representation of the original cast alloy standard pattern.  In fact a few example have been noted that have been very near precise copies which when painted black are not easily distinguishable (from the cast alloy grips).  Like the previous (Fat) version the blades are of late war pattern and are normally blued.  The crossguard is usually of steel which is also blued but often has parallel sides with rounded ends unlike the usual ‘lozenge’ shaped F-S guard. 

This unusual example with its brightly blued blade and 15 ribs to the grip has the crossguard marked with the Australian ‘and’ Indian ownership marks.  The reason for this is not known but the marks appear original.

The Cast Hilt F-SCast_Hilt_Pattern_-_Variations_Of_The_Fairbairn-Sykes_Fighting_Knife.html
The Indian F-SIndian_Pattern_-_Variations_Of_The_Fairbairn-Sykes_Fighting_Knife.html
The Australian F-SAustralian_F-S_Pattern_-_Variations_Of_The_Fairbairn-Sykes_Fighting_Knife.html
The J. Clarke F-SJ._Clark_%26_Son_-_Variations_Of_The_Fairbairn-Sykes_Fighting_Knife.html
The American F-SAmerican_-_Variations_Of_The_Fairbairn-Sykes_Fighting_Knife.html
The A.A.S - A Guest ArticleThe_Australian_Army_Stiletto_by_Michael_Lobb.html
The Steel Hilt F-SSteel_HIlt_-_Variations_Of_The_Fairbairn-Sykes_Fighting_Knife.html
The Fat Gripped F-SFat_Gripped_-_Variations_Of_The_Fairbairn-Sykes_Fighting_Knife.html
The Ribbed & Roped F-SRibbed_%26_Roped_-_Variations_Of_The_Fairbairn-Sykes_Fighting_Knife.html
The Second Pattern F-SSecond_Pattern_-_Variations_Of_The_Fairbairn-Sykes_Fighting_Knife.html
The Wooden Gripped F-S