By N. DAVID LEIFER, Captain, USAF Ret., SSA, DHS, ICE Ret.
WWII M3 & M1918 MARK 1 TRENCH KNIFE REPLICAS FOR REENACTORS:
Normally, I would be composing a diatribe (that's writing folks) about the metamorphosis of steel, some exotic metal or a rare substance from which to create a profound piece of cutlery. However, this just ain't that time and I'm not that good...yet!
While (I was) researching my M3 Trench Knife book, I came upon two (2) rather remarkable items fabricated by a very remarkable guy. They are WW2 M3 and WW1 M1918 MARK 1 Trench Knife replicas. These are 'full scale model' rubber duplicates for re-enactors, enthusiasts and trophies. They are exquisitely manufactured by the talented Mr. Rob Green of Columbus, Ohio. Rob is a member of a re-enactors group that for the past twenty years, has mimicked the combat actions of the vaunted World War Two, 101st Airborne Division's 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR). As keen historical hobbyists, Rob has been participating in living displays of this theatrical art form over four (4) years.
Rob and many of his friends had acquired original iterations of both M3 Trench Knives and M1918 Mark 1 Trench Knives for use as "Airborne Troops" with which to display as issued TOE (that's Table of Organization and Equipment to you non GI readers...in other words, what gear is issued to what troops) and to use in theatrical scenarios. These knives as well as the rest of the re-enactors's accoutrements aren't cheap...even by surplus vendor standards! Re-enactors strive for the maximum depiction of authenticity, in how they appear to the public, and in how their performance and displays are presented.
This a costly hobby in terms of historical displays, but also in terms of the parts that the re-enactors play. They're usually un-funded and get paid by applause! Furthermore, re-enactor groups want the viewing public to look upon the participants (and rightfully so) as members of an organically patriotic living history troop. They strive to honor the memories of the survivors and the fallen members for whom they have appointed themselves as trustees for future generations!
When I queried Rob about why he had an interest in his props, he replied that "I (first) developed my knives about a year ago, as a result of seeing one of the guys in my unit almost lose his father's real M3 knife which he had during the war. We stopped the reenactment, the GIs and the Germans helped look until it was recovered. Another reason was that guys in the unit told me of 'night battles' that took place in the reenacting world. New to reenacting I was interested. When (he was) told, all you can use are pistols and rubber entrenching tools from "Saving Private Ryan", I thought that I would do something to change that..."
Technically speaking Rob told me that in terms of his manufacturing process, "Initially it took 2-3 days to make the mold, one day to figure out gating and the angle at which the mold best fills, then several more days to come up with a suitable resin...that is an ongoing process. It takes 15-20 minutes to set up and pour the mold, but I leave the knife in the mold for 12 to 24 hours, to ensure a full cure. Then it is removed & trimmed, ready for packaging & shipping. I am not really set up for large scale manufacture, but maybe someday."
Presently, Rob's products are colored black? He replied about the coloration as follows: "They are black mainly because the actual M3 was a dark color. Also, the resin I use is an odd color, it looks better black. Someday I'd like to produce a knife that has a black blade and a brown leather-like handle, but that is a ways off."
I asked Rob about his color scheme recommendations to his clients. Rob stated that "I'm not entirely sure if this applies to me, but the knives I've sold so far have not been an issue. Most re-enactors (that) I've encountered are grudgingly all right with the concept of a 10 foot reenactment (view point). This means if your kit looks good at 10 feet, you are OK! Now this only applies while in the field, not during a living history display, the requirements are much more exacting there."
Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world. To protect the re-enactors' investments, hold down costs and maintain a good safety margin (especially when depicting 'hand to hand' combat), Rob decided to explore the area of making inexpensive reproductions. In this way, he could preclude someone's $300.00+ Trench Knife from becoming a combat "souvenir," getting broken, deteriorating or accidentally getting plunged into a re-enactor while the theatrics were being vigorously conducted. As an aside, since these are non-knife knives, they could happily circumvent some 'liberal' anti-edged weapon ordinance in an unfriendly territory! Hey, it's still legal to desecrate the U.S. Flag...I won't give you my bitch, 'er rhetoric about that...and I'm a Democrat yet!
For all of is thirty years of age and experience, Rob is an eminently qualified model maker by profession, He works for an industrial design firm. Rob went to school for 3-D illustration (sculpting & mold making, basically) and wound up doing this. To quote Rob, "I am not technically trained as a pattern maker, but the job is similar." In the simplest on layman's terms, without having Rob taking umbrage, he could be considered as "computer age tool and dye maker!" Hey, I can barely figure out how to use my word processing software! The guy's good, nuff said!
Briefly, I broached safety and health concerns and Rob claimed that "As far as the mold goes, it is silicone trapped in a wooden form. The cast parts are not reinforced, because the resin I use is rigid enough to fit into a scabbard (either the leather or fiber), which was one of my main requirements for this project. While they are rigid, there is ample flex in the knives. The M3's blade is thicker than the 1918's, so it stands up better. But one needs to take care if getting into a fake knife battle, it could cut skin, or worse, rip an expensive piece of clothing (bit of a joke)." As such, Rob also stated that "The material can irritate the skin (rare, similar to latex allergies) in raw form, before it is mixed and cured. It has been my experience that the resin is inert once it has fully cured. I have experienced no adverse effects from the cured resin, nor have I heard any stories of others having an adverse reaction."
In terms of durability of these replica knives, I inquired about the life span considering the nature of the chemical composition used for the knives? Rob answered with "I've had a pre-production sample for two years, it’s the one I carry, it shows no signs of degradation like latex would...the resin does not give the material a limited life span. So to answer, I am not aware of a life span on these knives, the resin is UV stable and is rather tough."
Detailed descriptions: The M3 Trench Knife Replicas: They are all silicone rubber, black in color, US M3 CAMILLUS ‘guard marked’ items. At the guard, you can see the very fine seam where the halves of the mold came together. To restate Rob's eBay narrative, this item is a "WWII M3 rubber replica...M3 combat knife. It was cast from an actual M3 knife, ordinance marks and all other identifiers in place. The rubber is durable, flexible, and the edges are not sharp. It is a good alternative to carrying your expensive original into the field, or a cool display piece. The knife was cast in a silicone mold so it holds all of the detail of the original. The knife is cast all black, but you can paint the handle brown for increased authenticity." This replica will easily fit into the M6 Leather Scabbard of which plenty of 'replicas' are available to keep down costs. This knife will further 'adapt' to any of the M8 Scabbard series with no difficulty.
The M1918 Mark 1 Trench Knife Replicas: Rob makes a pretty fair rendition of the M1918 Mark 1. Again from Rob's eBay narrative, as follows, it is "Good for both World Wars. The 1918 Trench Knife rubber replica...was cast from an actual knife, the date (M1918) on the handle is clear and easy to read. The rubber is durable, flexible, and the edges are not sharp. The knife was cast in a silicone mold so it holds all of the detail of the original. The knife is cast entirely black. It is a good alternative to carrying your expensive original into the field, or an excellent display piece. As with the original trench knife, the handle must be modified (trimmed with a model makers knife or razor) before it will fit into a sheath"...again the M6 and/or M8 Scabbard series!
Now for the cash and carry venue, I asked Rob about what he charges for his items and if he gives group rates? Presently, Rob's pricing them at "$30.00 per knife...I do offer group rates, but that is on a case by case basis, so far." Thirty Bucks is a really reasonable outlay for a decent "full scale" replacement. I don't know if there is a big replica environment around except for miniatures. I, for one, do not want to sacrifice any of my toys to the elements...or rip offs!
I can say with certainly, that Rob's replicas will make excellent place holders for collectors to protect their investments (of the original items), unique gifts as mementos and letter openers and as mounted trophies or displays.
In my discussions with Rob, he may make other replica's in the future...Hm, if you are on a fixed income like me, wouldn't you love to possess a replica M. H. Cole, Fairbairn-Sykes Model 1 or an ANZAC Knuckle Knife or so-called Ranger Bowie, etc. ...now that's dreaming! To presently acquire examples of one or both of these fine items, e-mail Rob at email@example.com
or write Rob at:
ROB GREEN REENACTORS’ KNIVES
P.O. Box 06020K
Click on thumbnails for full size photos
Having communicated with Capt. Leifer over the years and Rob just recently we can assure you both men are great people, thanks guys for contributing to Knife Knotes and the world of military knife collecting in general!
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