Note: Blaydz Purveyors is pleased to represent Bladesmith Bill Bagwell. We can fill small orders from reasonable stock on hand, shortening the usual order time to only a few months. We can also facilitate custom orders, moving your spot up a few spaces! If you would like to know more, please contact us.
We first met Bill (electronically) by sheer dumb luck after a two year search which began after reading his book, Bowies, Big Knives, and the Best of Battle Blades, which changed our view of Bowies and made us a believer. By his own choice, Bill is hard to find online. He has no website and does not like anyone to be free with contact info, however, someone made the fortunate error of putting his phone number up, very briefly, and Steve caught it.
He was friendly and folksy, with just a wee bit more of the backwoods than is characteristic of his thinking. After a while, and with no real hope of a positive reply, we asked him if we might represent him. He said that, as his last dealer died in 1979, that it might be ok. Nothing exclusive, mind you, but somewhat regularly. We immediately ordered a matched set of Hell’s Belles and, essentially, said we’d take whatever he wanted to send.
Bagwells have always been knives for use, not appearance, and he had little wish to be ‘artsy,’ but he did want to spread his wings a bit more. He has always made knives that a warrior would have at his side, and will still interrupt his other work to build a blade for someone going into harm’s way. I merely suggested that now he might start thinking about weapons that a king might bring to battle. He told me that he had recently gotten a call from France from someone who had seen, at a museum, the actual sword of Charlemagne because it appeared that the Damascus of his sword appeared identical to Satan’s Lace and he was more than pleased to think that he had something that might be similar to that made by the best of the ancient armorers.
Speaking of Damascus, I have the answer to a question I saw argued on Bladeforums. That is, what is the advantage, in cutting, of Damascus over carbon steel. Bill answered it. He told me that he put two of his knives under a microscope and found that with carbon steel “the blades have teeth. With (Satan’s Lace) the teeth have teeth.”
His historical interests, while broad, do focus on early 19th Century Americana, and he had been thinking about the quasi-legal practice of the duel.He had never made a dueling set, in part, I think,because it would be quite an investment in time and thus far, his customer base is largely comprised of people who need only one knife,custom tailored to their physical attributes and intended use (If you want such a knife, Blaydz can provide it, for a premium, in several months, not years.) In any case, he became interested in making a matched set comprised of a spear point and a clip point Bowie, but he would not make the case as he was not a carpenter or cabinet maker and just didn’t have the tools, or the inclination. We (Blaydz) took care of that end. What emerged is a unique, one-of-a-kind product and when he saw the case, deemed it right. More sets of various kinds, will probably follow, but we get ahead of ourselves.
Bill makes little effort to be ‘socially correct” but after completing one of our knives, a larger one with a crown stag handle, he said afterwards that it was “a man’s knife.” He was quite aware that the sheer size of Bowies is off-putting even to the relatively rare female collector. Some concessions are necessary. While he, and we, consider size basic to a Bowie’s function (length of blade is integral to its speed and therefore to it’s momentum or power, (he generally doesn’t consider a knife shorter than 8 1/2 to 9 inches a Bowie and will not make a Hell’s Belle less than 9 inches) he does admit to the utility of some shorter blades, particularly if the shorter length has a rationale, say, defensive camouflage. For concealed carry purposes, blade length is a direct function of femur length.
Similarly, the size of a briefcase or purse limits the size a knife can be. Bagwell’s esthetic sense is significant, and within certain parameters he can see as valid a “woman’s” bowie, shorter and relatively slender (I hope I’m not going too far here). Blaydz can, given time, produce a sheath for the pocketbook as well as the briefcase. As Bill informed me, I’d be quite surprised at the number of briefcases that hold Bowies on Wall Street. Apparently there is more than one way that stock trading is dangerous. A firearm is, in most cases, more potentially lethal, but at ten to fifteen feet, a drawn Bowie is more than a match for it. Bowies, in the mid-nineteenth century, were the only weapons, including pistols, to have been illegal to use in certain forms of homicide, in four states.
A stiletto can pierce, but not more effectively; a cleaver or kukri can chop with similar result; and a razor can slice, but only in one direction and without the power of a combat Bowie. And none can intimidate to greater effect. A woman under threat, who is serious and trained, who drops her pocketbook and leaves only a Bowie in her hand, can cause considerable ambivalence in the minds of potential assailants.