Mountain Men and Life in the Rocky

Subject Guide


Mountain West

Malachite’s Big Hole

Reenactments - Hawks, Knives, and Traps:

Tomahawks and knives are relatively inexpensive items that you can easily obtain at rendezvous, or you can obtain these from the numerous purveyors of fur trade era goods on the internet.  

Tomahawks will generally run from around $20 to $60.  If you’re planning on throwing it, get a couple of spare handles right away.  Tomahawk handles split with amazing regularity if used for throwing.  Also, the hawk blade will eventually find a rock to kiss, so you’ll need a file or sharpening stone.

Go to the section on knives to see the types and styles of knives.  Suitable starter butcher style knives can be purchased at a second hand store for a dollar or so, but make sure the blade is carbon steel, not stainless steel. Absolutely correct Sheffield knives and very good Green River knives can be obtained from the successor companies (see sources, knives)  Knife blanks and finished blades without handles can be obtained, allowing you to construct a knife that will be uniquely your own.  Custom knives, tomahawks and axes are available from numerous black- and knife-smiths catering to historical re-enactors.  These products can be stunningly beautiful, however, be aware that the prices asked can also be stunning.  Also be aware that in the early 1800’s a quality knife was considered to be a factory made knife, not a custom made work of art.

If you are going to portray a mountain man, even if you don’t intend to do any trapping, at least a couple of traps should be part of your outfit. During the fur trade era, a trapper typically had five to six beaver traps.  Modern traps are nearly indistinguishable from those used 200 years ago.  Go to the section on traps to see drawings.  Don’t get new traps, get some old, beat, rusty traps off of E-Bay or a local flea-market.  I was able to obtain five suitable traps for $20.  Be aware that the links on modern set chains are very different from chain links used during the fur trade era and you may want to have a blacksmith make you correct chains.  A custom made, heavy, blacksmith fabricated beaver trap appropriate to the 1830’s with five feet of chain will cost somewhere between $300 and $425 each.  

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