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Knife/Dagger length

Posted: Wed Nov 05, 2008 5:10 pm
by The Methley Archer
At what length does a knife become a dagger or how are they different?

The reason being that would like a suitable blade for *15th C* re-enactment similar to the blade on my Fallkniven F1 that I use for my bushcrafty/camping stuff. Is there a data base of medieval blade shapes?

Any help much appriciated.



*edit :oops:

Posted: Wed Nov 05, 2008 5:29 pm
by Medicus Matt
Don't really know if there ARE any hard and fast rules.

I think, by definition, a dagger is a type of knife; knife is very generic, daggers have to be pointy and stabby.

If you'd care to narrow it down a bit period-wise it might help.

Posted: Wed Nov 05, 2008 6:19 pm
by Marcus Woodhouse
I read that a knife has one edge a dagger has two and that is how Germans and Italians got around their city laws against carrying swords by carrying the falchion/grossemesser. "This ain't no sword gov'nor, it's a knife-I'll grant you thats it's a big 'un but..."
I'd be interested in any more information as to when a dagger becomes a sword as I'd like to get one of those big bad italian daggers whose name I cannot be spelling but which means "Five fingers".

Posted: Wed Nov 05, 2008 7:08 pm
by nev
As far as i'm aware it is correct that a knife has only a single cutting edge where as a dagger has 2, I was also of the belief that a sword has to have quillons/a cross guard where as a dagger doesn't necessarily have to e.g the Welsh rondel daggers from the 15th century, as long as a short sword but because they have rondels and not quillons its a dagger not a sword, getting around the ban on the Welsh carrying swords.

Please note I can't be bothered to check my facts this evening and this is based on my very confussed, inarticulate and often inaccurate memory

Posted: Wed Nov 05, 2008 7:42 pm
by robjones999
Italian knife - cinquada

Not entirely clear on the difference - function may have something to do with it - but the blades of daggers shown and used in the fifteenth-century manuals arethe same length as the users fore-arm, if that helps.

Posted: Mon Nov 10, 2008 10:59 am
by The Methley Archer
Can anyone help with this image described as:

Table a treteaux," le Chateau de labour, gravure sur bois de Pierre Gringoire vers 1500

It was taken from a Company St George, Dagon issue. I know its a line drawing of an image and I'm looking for the original image and have had no luck in finding it. I want a closer look at the knife on the table.


Posted: Fri Jan 16, 2009 6:02 pm
by bernard
There is a York finds book that has a large selection of knife blades in it of a variety of shapes and sizes. It's

AY 17/15 - Craft, Industry and Everyday Life: Finds from Medieval York
Patrick Ottaway and Nicola Rogers.

You might find something in there.

Knife or dagger?.

Posted: Tue Jun 16, 2009 10:02 pm
by glyndwr 50
I have been asked this question many time ,Whats the diffrence between a knife & a dagger.There are many ways of looking at this question. What would you use a knife for ?.The first thing that comes to mind is of course to cut something .So what would you cut ?.Food preperation or eating comes to mind,also small little jobs like gutting or cleaning out animal entrails or fish ,so I would say a knife would be a sevice tool for any number of meanial tasks.This also could cover other jobs to which a knife could be a helpful advantage. When you come to the question what would you use a dagger for you find its in a diffrent league,take the average knife and you will find that there is no cross guard .this askes the question why?.Again there are many reasons for this addition to to be found on a dagger but not a knife.But just to make it even more problematic some daggers don't have cross guards .To help explain this question it would be best to take the dagger as every one knows or comes to mind the ones with cross guards .The average dagger needs protection for the hand against other bladed wepons.The dagger is a good defence against a sword,for blocking a blow where a knife would not have the addition cross guard to stop a blade sliding down its blade. Also a dagger has two sharp edges against a knifes one .Also the shape of a dagger is designed for thrusting and deep penertration of equal cuts .If you stab something with a single edged knife you will penertrate but not so smothly as a dagger would .Taking all these points into mind it would be safe to say that a knife in general is for general work,where as a dagger is designed to be a distructive weapon and has only one real purpose to act as defence and also to dispatch or to maim. This is purly an observation and idea that I have come to over the many years of doing reenactments and talking to reenactors about the knife v dagger question . I would like anyone who reads this to add anything that may help to try and solve this complex question..

Posted: Tue Jun 16, 2009 11:08 pm
by guthrie
The museum of london book on knives and scabbards has a huge variety of knives, with blades from 8 to 14cm.

Posted: Wed Jun 17, 2009 12:12 am
by Phil the Grips
A knife has one full edge (and still a knife even if it has a bit of a back edge), a dagger has two full edges.

Of course spike rondels and b*llocks make this a bit tricky but would come under "dagger" as the main mode of use for a dagger is the thrust, which is the secondary definition.

A knife/dagger becomes a "sword" when it gains a pommel to counter the weight of the blade (technically making a sabre a big knife, and the main difference between messers and falchions, one being a form of knife, the other being a form of sword despite both seeming similar) but also when it changes the measure at which you use it for attack and defence.

These are vast simplifications and there is always the sharp and pointy equivalent of the platypus to screw this up :)

Posted: Wed Jun 17, 2009 9:59 am
by Alan E
Where does this thing come from that daggers all have two edges? Medieval knives/daggers were named for their hilts and varied in blade type within the same hilt. AFAIK rondel daggers had two edges (rare except in reenactment), triangular section with single edge (I have a lovely single-edged rondel blade from Tod - reproduction of a french one from around 1440 I believe), triangular section with no edge, round section with no edge. All are used the same way - as a thrusting weapon.

If we have to distinguish between knife and dagger, surely the sensible distinction is that knives are primarily used for slicing and daggers are primarily used to stab; with the caveat that this is no hard/fast rule?

Posted: Wed Jun 17, 2009 1:17 pm
by Marcus Woodhouse
I got it out of a book if that helps.

Posted: Wed Jun 17, 2009 2:55 pm
by Alan E
Marcus Woodhouse wrote:I got it out of a book if that helps.
:lol: :shock: :lol:
Eee Marcus, you're better than that! C'mon, what book? What was the context? Modern, medieval, fiction or finds based? Someone deciding that "for the purposes of this discussion 'dagger' shall mean..."?

Is this just another reenactorism? If not, what are the sources of the statement? Not picking mate - there are plenty of people I respect who have said it (including on this thread); but I don't see any evidence to support the statement. Perhaps it's just modern usage, but a search for dagger definition shows "double edged" definitions from wiki-land:

- A dagger (from Vulgar Latin: 'daca' - a Dacian knife) is a typically double-edged blade used for stabbing or thrusting. They often fulfill the role of a secondary defense weapon in close combat. In most cases, a tang extends into the handle along the centreline of the blade.

- A stabbing weapon, similar to a sword but with a short, double-edged blade; A text character (†) that is used for footnotes, to signify death ...

With broader definitions from:

- a short knife with a pointed blade used for piercing or stabbing
- a character used in printing to indicate a cross reference or footnote

(10) -- a short stout edged and pointed weapon used for thrusting and stabbing (Oxford Dict.)

- a knife, usually in the form of a sword. Daggers came a variety of forms, with both single and double edged varieties. ...

Edit: Personally I think it is a reenactorism and there is no such distinction. A dagger is a variety of knife who's main purpose is stabbing/thrusting.

Knife & Dagger

Posted: Wed Jun 17, 2009 8:20 pm
by glyndwr 50
Well there you are Chris , Plenty of good sound advice.You should have to problem now what with all the good responses from the lads .Fair play to them all they certainly know there stuff .

Posted: Wed Jun 17, 2009 9:36 pm
by Marcus Woodhouse
(I can't remmember I read so many they all blur into one.) :oops:


Posted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 8:17 pm
by doogz
Phil the Grips wrote:A knife has one full edge (and still a knife even if it has a bit of a back edge), a dagger has two full edges.

Thanks for differentiating the two, the knife and the dagger, what is more effective to use of the two?

Re: Knife/Dagger length

Posted: Tue Apr 06, 2010 11:38 am
by Marcus Woodhouse
Trying to put a danty tit bit from your plate into your mouth when it is perched on the end of a foot long dagger makes for interesting, though morbid (will he kill himself or not) viewing for a start.

Re: Knife/Dagger length

Posted: Thu Apr 15, 2010 1:18 pm
by Colin Middleton
My feeling (based on no evidence) is that at knife is a tool and a dagger is a weapon. A knife is too big when you're struggling to do the job with it. A machette is a knife (all be it a big one), but I wouldn't use it to peal an apple (you want a small knife for that). Similarly a dagger is too small when you can't hurt people with it.

But that's just an oppinion.

What are you using your knife for?

Re: Knife/Dagger length

Posted: Thu Apr 15, 2010 1:26 pm
by Phil the Grips
Colin Middleton wrote: Similarly a dagger is too small when you can't hurt people with it

Tell that to SOE agents carrying 2" lapel daggers for self defence ;)

"Tool vs Weapon" is the general sense to differentiate, and one law if often based on, but that comes down to perception and opinion too. A dagger becomes a tool to a profession that requires it for a task, such as a soldier, but is a weapon in another context, for example.

Re: Knife/Dagger length

Posted: Fri Apr 16, 2010 3:19 pm
by paul bennett
A knife is a knife if you call it a knife and people agree with you. A dagger is a dagger under the same conditions. They should be as long as you need them to be.

Also, some messer/grossmesser/langesmesser had pommels.

On the other hand, if you want a modern typological classification, ask a museum (the armouries would be a good start) or Bradford uni archaeology department for a point in the right direction.

Re: Knife/Dagger length

Posted: Fri Apr 16, 2010 3:36 pm
by John Waller
Confusing ain't it? I always thought the Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife was a dagger, which it is, but it's also a knife..... :crazy:

Re: Knife/Dagger length

Posted: Fri Apr 16, 2010 3:39 pm
by paul bennett
It's whatever mr fairbairn and mr skyes want to call it. I wouldn't argue.

Re: Knife/Dagger length

Posted: Fri Apr 16, 2010 5:59 pm
by Lord Byron
John Waller wrote:Confusing ain't it? I always thought the Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife was a dagger, which it is, but it's also a knife..... :crazy:

paul bennett wrote:It's whatever mr fairbairn and mr skyes want to call it. I wouldn't argue.

Just spent a fascinating 10 minutes reading the following excellent article on Wikipedia, and they seem to have exclusively used the term knife in reference to it, couldn't find dagger at all: ... ting_Knife

Re: Knife/Dagger length

Posted: Mon May 03, 2010 1:45 pm
by Brother Ranulf
It may be that we are looking at this through modern eyes (again!), using modern terms and trying to apply them to medieval weapons.

I came across the following in a statute of William of Scotland, written at the end of the 12th century:

Habeat equum, habergeon, capitum e ferro, et cultellum qui dicitur dagger.
(He had a horse, a coat of mail, a helmet of iron and a knife which is called "dagger".)

The writer clearly saw a dagger as a knife, not something different to a knife. Perhaps it had a specific name because of its shape or specific use, or perhaps any military knife used as a secondary weapon was called a dagger . . .

Re: Knife/Dagger length

Posted: Mon May 03, 2010 2:20 pm
by Merlon.
The OED defines them by method of use...
definitions are:-
Dagger "A short stout edged and pointed weapon, like a small sword, used for thrusting and stabbing."

Knife "A cutting instrument, consisting of a blade with a sharpened longitudinal edge fixed in a handle, either rigidly as in a table-, carving, or sheath-knife, or with a joint as in a pocket- or clasp-knife. The blade is generally of steel, but sometimes of other material, as in the silver fish- and fruit-knives, the (blunt-edged) PAPERKNIFE of ivory, wood, etc., and the flint knives of early man."

Re: Knife/Dagger length

Posted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 10:47 am
by eXtremeKier84
but I rather to have a knife in a fight, any type of knife can be dangerous in a fight, but some types are as dangerous to the user as they are to the attacker, such as a cheap folding knifes with a weak blade lock that allow the blade to close on your fingers.

Re: Knife/Dagger length

Posted: Tue Aug 26, 2014 2:23 pm
by Markkyss
short stabbing knife, ostensibly the diminutive of the sword, though in ancient and medieval times the distinction between a long dagger and a short sword was often obscure. From approximately 1300 the European dagger was consistently differentiated from the sword; in the 16th century a school of fencing developed in which a specially designed dagger with a large guard was held in the left hand and used for parrying.

neck knife