Custom Knives from Scottish Highlands

Skye Knives, Glendale, Isle of Skye, IV55 8WY.

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Galleries ~ Highland Dirks and Celtic Daggers

As well as traditional Highland Dirks, I've become interested in melding modern ideas with their historical roots. The dirks on this page have a variety of inspirations (Celtic, Viking, Victorian) but are all unique designs tailored to each owner. In the more recent pieces, you can see my particular interest in different materials and combinations for developing the dirk form...

Celtic-Viking Dirk, Bone, Blued Steel, Wooden Sheath
Celtic-Viking Dirk. Click for larger image.
Handle, Bone, Handcarved Knotwork and Fileworked Blued Steel
Detail of Celtic-Viking Dirk handle
Bone Dagger, Handcarved Knotwork  Mounts and Sheath

Bone Dagger. Click for larger image

Antler Dirk, Wood and Leather Sheath, By-knife and -fork
Antler-Handled Dirk Set. This dirk is a unique design for me, incorporating a stag's antler crown, with wooded haunches, and a carved sheath with frogging to hold the by-knife and fork. It was a real challenge, but I'm extremely pleased with how it evolved.
La Tene Dirk, Blued Steel, Copper and Silver, Pictish Spirals, Celtic Knotwork
La Tene Dirk. A 9½ inch double-edged blade of O1 high-carbon tool-steel, with a faceted grind, finished with a mirror polish and heat-blued. 4 ½ inch handle turned from 6000 year old bog oak, handcarved with Pictish spirals and Celtic knots. Sterling silver and copper mounts, including sculpted guard and disc pommel, sculpted and engraved multi-layer blade collar. Handcarved and stained open knotwork sheath of black walnut, lined with velvert, allowing the blade to show through the interstices, with a sterling silver collar and stitched leather throat and belt loop.
Basketweave Working Dirk
Parallel Working Dirk I made this to the owner's particular specifications and unusual 'straightline' design (compare traditional designs) with vertically mounted by-knife and fork (see Works in Progress). The handle, by-knife and fork handles and sheath are all hand-carved from a single piece of London plane in separate but interlocking basketweave patterns, then stained and lacquered. The handle has a silver Burnett rose on a blued steel background, and thin copper fittings. The reverse is carved with a single knot to provide extra grip. This Dirk has a 10 inch single-edged blade of O1 high carbon tool-steel, clay tempered for a hard edge and springy spine, with fullers and a hand rubbed finish which has been etched, patinated, and honed to a razor edge.

HIGHLAND DIRKS - The early Highland dirk developed directly from the medieval Ballock Knife, the civilian dagger used throughout Western Europe in the Middle Ages. Dirk handles were shorter than those of the ballock knives; the lobes were reduced in size to form haunches and the smooth haft deeply carved to enhance the grip. Richard James, in 1617, describes Highlanders as wearing "a long kinde of dagger, broad in ye back and sharpe at ye pointe, which they call a darcke."

In the West Highlands, traditional Celtic knotwork carving was applied to dirk handles, initially as bands on the haft, but later, from the 1700's, spreading over the entire handle. After the '45, the carrying of a dirk became a crime punishable by death, and it was not until the Victorian era that the dirk came back into favor. By this period, dirks were divided between being either tools of the regiments, standardised and militarised, or a fashion accessories, gaudy and impractical; either way far removed from their Highland ancestry. Today, it is easy to find dirks in the Victorian vein, but I strive to uphold the traditional Highland dirk in form and spirit. The results of this endeavor are shown below. Although I enjoy the challenge of making dirks, I rarely get time to make a dirk for sale: if you want one, please enquire about a commission. The dirks above are valued between £1000 and £2500.

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