Custom Knives from Scottish Highlands

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

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Galleries ~ Sgian Dubhs

The traditional Scottish Highland Dress knife, worn in the sock, with the kilt. My Sgian Dubhs range from simple to ornate: the linked pages below showcase three main styles: my clan crest sgians; traditional and antler handled sgians; and my older work. You're welcome to reference my older sgian dubhs in commissions, but please note that I'm no longer working in stainless steel.) Scroll down for a brief history of the Highland Sgian Dubh.

Clan Crest Sgian Dubhs
Traditional Sgian Dubhs
Older Sgians

Handmade Leather Sporran for Sale: £55

Resist-dyed, hand-tooled Celtic knotwork patterns, suede lined, steel D-rings for own sporran-chain (belt-hangers available on request). More details...

Handmade Leather Sporran

The sgian dubh was originally the everyday working knife of the Scottish Highlanders: it had a short blade and a plain handle of wood, horn, bone, antler or even kelp. This knife was often carried under the arm, and known as a sgian occles, or sgian achlais, an 'armpit knife'. It is from this form of concealment that the sgian dubh probably got its name, 'black knife', with black here meaning 'underhand' rather than its colour. The tradition of placing it in the stocking came from the ideas of Highland hospitality: when visiting another household, it was customary to relinquish one's weapons, but no Highlander would give up his sgian dubh, and so it was instead taken from its place of concealment and placed in the hose as a signal of honest intent.

Sgian dubhs began to be decorated with Celtic knotwork shortly after this became common for the larger Highland dirks. However, they only became a dress item after the reign of George IV: the modern form of the sgian dubh as a part of Highland dress owes more to the Victorians (and in particular the tartan propaganda of Sir Walter Scott) than it does to the early Highlanders. Nevertheless, they are an essential part of male formal dress in the Scottish Highlands today, and many of my pieces are sold locally. I cater to both history and tradition, combining traditional materials and styles with respect for Celtic artistry, to produce knotwork dress sgian dubhs of the highest standard. (Clan crests of engraved sterling silver can be included on handle or sheath by request.) I also like to experiment with more extreme forms: from the basic, to the jewelled, or more modern. Recently, I'm working more with antler for the handles. As I beome more and more interested in forging, I'm no longer working with stainless steel: all my new sgians have forged blades. My sgians are generally worth between £250 and £900: a more ornate sgian can be worth up to £1100.

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