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Thread: A.B.L. 1950 Colasse (Picture heavy)

  1. #1
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    A.B.L. 1950 Colasse (Picture heavy)


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    Today I went to the local flea market and picked up an older pocket knife I saw at an old army wholesale.
    He had several of these knives, but this one was by far the best one of the bunch. Most of them were rusted. All of them were covered in factory grease... The one I picked needed the least of work.

    I'll show some before and after cleaning pics, but first: some history.
    What I learned from a quick trip on the web is that these knives were Belgian army knives (ABL= Armée belge-Belgisch leger which just means Belgian army, written in French first and Dutch second.). 1950 was the year they were issued and Colasse should be (have been?) the company that used to make them. Sometimes you see these on the web as British army knives, but they aren't.

    They're a bit heavy, mine was not sharp at all and still needs some touching up, and similar to a sak, they have multiple functions. It's a slipjoint design and the locking bar locks the tools into place very firmly. It has a blade length of 7.5 cm and an actual cutting edge of 5.8cm.
    This knife costed me only €4, which equals $5.3. I'm thinking of getting some others next week on the flea market, clean them up and keep them in the collection or as gifts.

    Now for the pics!

    First two pictures of the knife untouched, grease and rust everywhere:



    After a first cleaning, still needs sharpening (aka: how it is now. I couldn't wait to get this up):



    Close-ups of the tools:




    Cleaned, closed position:



    I hope you guys liked it.

    Jerry

  2. #2
    Nice! That's a big spike, too. Was the knife designed or issued for maritime use? Looks like a sailor's knife to me.

    Frosty

  3. #3
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    Awesome Find!!!!! looks great! Congrats!

  4. #4
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    The spikes were put on Army knives. See the British equivalents also.

  5. #5
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    Nice knife. I have a similar one. I hope it is of interest.

    Rust Never Sleeps s-k

  6. #6
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    I had never seen this kind of knife but it's really interesting...this could be "material" for some custom made modern reinterpretation of an old knife.
    I have a little question about it. The "bottle opener/opening tool" seems to be sharpened on the "closing" side. Is it a "real" edge? like chisel ground? is the handle some sort of synthetic material, or metal?
    Thanks for sharing.

    Fausto

  7. #7
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    The edge on the opener is sharp enough to open cans. The handles are synthetic. The spike is a standard marlinspike and is well-designed. The screwdriver/pry tool on the blade end is functional and strong - no worries about bending it if you need to open a can of paint. You will sometimes see the same design without the synthetic handles. I had one for a while. It was a strong knife. The blade was functional, but dull on arrival. Nothing a few minutes on a sharpening stone couldn't cure. I think it would appeal to the strong, funtional, and inexpensive crowd. If ou are looking for a knife that will take a lot of hard use, this is definitely one to consider. Fit and finish are another matter. I don't think they were taken into consideration at all. Folks who want a nicely fitted and finished knife will definitely not want this one.
    Last edited by popedandy; 03-25-2012 at 11:09 AM. Reason: comments added

  8. #8
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    Completely agree with popedandy. Fit and finish is rather poor. I mean by this that the interior metal protrudes far beyond the plastic handles, and there are gaps between the plastic handles and the metal interior. The belly of the bottle opener is quite sharp. Not paper-cutting sharp but well, because of the mass of the tool, you could do some cutting with it if you wanted. The blade itself is quite thick as well. Indeed a strong and functional blade.
    I'm going to get a few others of these and clean them up, I like it a lot.

  9. #9
    Nice job on the clean-up.

    They look similar the the British Army equivalent. The spike would come in useful for picking open knots in ropes on tarps etc. I like the Lambsfoot style blade, you don't see them so much these days which is a pity as they are both traditional and handy.

    Any idea when the Belgian Army stopped issuing these?

    Thanks, Will

  10. #10
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    Great knife. Congrats on the find.
    I do have a love for "work knives" and yours is nothing if not a work knife.
    Frank R

    ... Still looking for a vorpal blade.
    (op cit Lewis Carroll)

    List of BF Dealer Members

  11. #11
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    Some additional information I gathered from around the web, NOT MY TEXT, quoted this from axis-forums which turned up in google:

    These are a bit different than the other knives I carry, but I couldn't resist them. They are sailor's knives that recently surfaced after more than a half a century of storage. From that time period they are carbon steel of course, and hell for stout. The sheepsfoot blade has about 2 1/2" of cutting edge, and is .1" thick at the spine. The combination can-opener and cap lifter is even thicker, and would probably double as a shackle wrench. The 2 1/2" marlin spike is about 1/3" thick. It's quite sharp, and properly curved for rope work. The center liner is extended into a strong scredriver point. The back springs are quite strong, and the blades open and close with authority. The handle slabs appear to be hard rubber. Despite the heavy grease in which they are packed, there may be some spoting of the high carbon steel. Length overall, not including the shackle, is about 3 3/4". The weight is a bit over 4 1/2 ounces. The price is only $9, trivial for a solid working knife, especially a multi-bladed utility knife.

    They were made for the Belgian military under British license for the NATO forces. They are stamped in different ways, mostly "A.B.L." (Belgian Army) and "Colasse" (the main contractor). The most common date is 1951, although there are other dates as well. I can think of all kinds of uses for these, besides the historical interest. They would make great Scout knives for kids who tend to lose things. I'll probably keep one in the car, one with my camping gear, one in my tool box, etc.
    Something I found on a Belgian army forum was that the earliest dates go back to 1949 but were produced (and used) long after. Someone testified that he had to unissue hundreds of these when he was in the Belgian Army in 1992-93. So they were in stock for quite some time, but he also said that they weren't used for years when he had to unissue several hundreds of them.

    Colasse would have been a British contractor as well, according to some forums, and the design was based on the (a?) British WW2 pocket knife.

  12. #12
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    Thanks all for the kind comments.

    Here's a top view on the knife and can opener in closed position. In the upper left corner of the knife you'll see a rather large gap (2mm) between the plastic handles and the metal interior. Might be because of old age, might be mass/sloppy production. It's a work knife indeed.



    I'm going to the flea market again next sunday and get some more of these. I might make a good deal out of it if he throws some of the extremely rusted ones in. They're rusted shut so he might give them away if I buy a few more. I might be able to clean them up properly.
    Bummer it's a pinned construction. My skills don't go so far as to disassemble such a construction and put it back together again to clean it properly.
    Because of all the gaps, brownish dirty oil keeps on sipping out when I pinch the plastic hard to the metal. I hope it'll dry out. If not, it will have to wait for the next batch of these knives to undergo a collective cleaning session (or multiple sessions).

    I'll keep you guys updated and post some more pics if I get a few more. I'm curious if there are any other production years in the batch.

    By the way, I found this on a french forum in my quest for information on this knife:

    http://forum.neoczen.org/viewtopic.p...=14&start=1410

    This guy cleaned one of those knives up really nice and made custom wooden handles for it. It's truly a piece of art.
    There are additional examples of rusty knives of this type in the same thread if someone would care to scroll down a bit further ;-)

    Once again, thanks guys.


    EDIT: I asked my father about the use of this knife when he was in the Belgian Army in '72-'73 (he was a Recon/Scout). They never used folding knives (only fixed blades/bayonets), nor ever saw them getting used so they were probably only used back in the fifties and unissued after a couple of years. Our country has a tight budget for Defense, maybe thats the reason, but I still would not understand why the Belgian Army would unissue all of them without replacing. They seem like really handy tools in several situations a soldier might be put into.
    Last edited by Galeocerdoshark; 03-26-2012 at 02:43 PM.

  13. #13
    That was a decent job with those wood scales on that French site, really good craftsmanship.

    I think this Belgian Army knife is based on the British type but it is from much earlier than WW2, WW1 at least or even Boer War 1899-902. Earlier examples came with bone, checquered horn or even some very desirable stag and high finish on older examples.

  14. #14
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    Well, Sunday again so back to the fleamarket. The guy was there again and he still had the box of knives. Hooray! I opened several of them up and to my surprise, there were slight differences in design of the tools and in length. Totally possible to explain after my next discovery: different factories stamped on the blades.
    So, long story short: I got home with 5 additional pocket knives and now I've got a lot of cleaning to do.
    It does make a nice small army pocket knife collection now, with the different factory stamps.

    Fresh from the market:




    Another 1950 Colasse, just as the one from last week:


    1951 Colin Winand:


    Another Colin Winand:


    Don't know, marked C.C. 0530 on the bottom of the canopener. Unusual spot.


    One from Solingen, Germany. The canopener has some kind of anker sign on the bottom near the pivot and some letters: ZM FN. The blade itself is also stamped with: Friedrichswerk Solingen. I like this one the best. Grind is somewhat different, fit and finish is a lot better than the Colasse knives (no gaps between plastic and metal etc), tool has a straight spine, it's a little smaller in overall size,...


    More pics after the big cleanup. Gonna leave the nice patina on while trying to remove the largest orange rust here and there. And oh yeah, that grease has got to go. That stuff is not gonna go into my pants

  15. #15
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    Nice collection. I've not seen the German-made version before.
    Rust Never Sleeps s-k

  16. #16
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    I'm going to clean them up one at a time, so that might take a while. Unless somebody would be extremely interested in pictures of the cleaned-up knives, I won't be posting anymore pictures of them in this thread (except for this post, aha!). Anyway, what I can tell from the knives I've held at the market and the ones I have at home is that the knives made in the Colasse (dated 1950) and Colin Winand (dated 1951) factory, seem to be similar in size and in tool-grinds. Biggest difference between knives from these factories, is that F&F on Colin Winand knives far surpasses that of the Colasse knives I've held. No -or limited- space between plastic handles and metal for the Colin Winand knives, which is a plus to me. The knife marked ABL CC 0530 has the same F&F problems as the Colasse knives, being: large gaps between plastic and metal. The canopener on the CC 0530 (which is a code for knives produced in Great Britain, under license of the Belgian Army, if I understand correctly) has a different grind on several spots, so all in all it just looks different and the blade itself is a bit different as well. It's not rounded into a sheepsfoot design, but makes a more pointed angle where the spine bends towards the tip. The CC 0530 example has the worst preservation of the scales, sadly I don't know anything on the age of this one.

    The best knife out of the batch is the German made knife of which you'll see pics below. I got it cleaned up, and it came out pretty nice. I might or might not try to remove the rust a bit more on the screwdriver (the flat metal area protruding from the blade/canopener pivot area).
    It's in my pocket as we speak. Very sturdy little bugger. All in all it's a tiny bit smaller than the previous knives and F&F is very good (for these knives of course, it ain't a Sebenza:-)). Couldn't find anything on the web so I'm curious about the history of this knife. I'm pretty sure it was for the Belgian Navy (not the army!) because ZM - FN stands for: ZeeMacht - Force Naval (which would be Naval Forces in Dutch first, French second). Would like to know a date though. All of these knives were produced in the time period of the Korean war, and since there have been Belgian forces in the Korean war, these knives might have known some use over there (of course not the ones I've got at home, but these types of knives), but that's just speculation.
    Anyway, the Navy-knife is by far my personal favourite. And here are some pics of it, all cleaned up.








    I hope you guys liked the small photo reportage and the bits of history linked to it. Thank you all for the nice words and comments!

  17. #17
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    That looks very good. Great photos. This is a British equivalent for comparison. The bottle opener feature on the can opener attachment wasn't added until 1945. I hope this is of interest.
    Rust Never Sleeps s-k

  18. #18
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    It's definately of interest. Thanks for showing and explaining the can opener bit. It looks like the pivot area doesn't have brass rings on this 1943 knife? Or is it discolouring from the photo? I'm going to keep an eye out for these knives in the future, maybe I could add a few different data or factories to the collection. Great stuff smiling-knife! How is the F&F on your 1943 knife compared to the Colin Winand you showed earlier?
    Last edited by Galeocerdoshark; 04-02-2012 at 10:45 AM.

  19. #19
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    You're welcome. I'll try to compare the two and let you know. Shrinkage of the synthetic scales is a big problem with these knives so it is difficult to comment on the original quality of the construction. They were also made without the spike. All of my British knives have steel washers rather than brass around the rivot. I think they were called 'birdseye' rivots.

    Rust Never Sleeps s-k

  20. #20
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    Thanks for the info! Any idea where the blades without the spike were issued? Army only?

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