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Harness Jacks - Special Orders

Discussion in 'Traditional Folders and Fixed Blades' started by waynorth, Nov 27, 2011.

  1. waynorth

    waynorth Dealer / Materials Provider Dealer / Materials Provider

    Nov 19, 2005
    I have had a flood of questions about the knives that will follow here.
    Now that I have none to sell, I thought it would be a fair and politic time to tell this tale.
    It is a bit about my journey, and a bit about the present state of cutlery making in America, but mostly a lot about my love of this pattern.
    15 or so years ago, I became intrigued with the Harness Jack (HJ). A somewhat rare variation of the Jack knife, I thought it would be an exciting series of searches, and a way to limit my vintage knife habit. Also, having made my living doing leather work many years before, I had an affinity for the punch as a tool.
    I had no idea that my collecting of old HJs would drive the price up so much in this small niche market! Also, the supply dried up in short order, because others were bitten by the HJ bug, especially after I wrote an article for KnifeWorld magazine in 2005.
    Because of the demand, I thought a Cutlery manufacturer should revive the pattern, which had died out pretty much as horses had disappeared from daily life in the automobile age. None were much interested, even though I wrote or called all the ones I could find, some more than once or twice.
    A Special Factory Order (SFO) occurred to me, but the required orders were too big for me.
    Then I found someone who regularly did SFOs, and we split an order, hence HJ1.
    HJ SFO 1.jpg
    Modeled after a Robeson, and equipped with their Robeson's punch, this old Teardrop pattern turned out great - pretty close to what I had in mind.

    It was so much fun, I came up with another one, and Queen, who did the first order, agreed to a smaller order of Regular pattern Jacks, with another patent punch. In the process, I got to know the guy who designed and guided both knives through production. And along came HJ2.
    HJ SFO 2.jpg

    In a similar fashion, I ordered another pattern, the Equal End jack, with a punch that worked like, but was not a copy of, an Empire punch. And so was born, HJ3!
    HJ SFO 3.jpg

    I will post chapter two in another post!
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2011
  2. comoha


    Jan 12, 2006
    Its so cool that one man should have such passion for a very unique and historic pattern. Thanks Charlie!
  3. Bigfattyt

    Bigfattyt Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 23, 2007
    Cool pattern!
  4. knarfeng

    knarfeng senex morosus moderator Staff Member Super Mod Moderator

    Jul 30, 2006
    Great story. Thanks for sharing that part. Looking forward to the rest.
  5. waynorth

    waynorth Dealer / Materials Provider Dealer / Materials Provider

    Nov 19, 2005
    You are most welcome, Corey.
    So here's Chapter two;

    My favorite knife producer had moved to Great Eastern Cutlery.
    A dream of many is to start your own business, and he had the chutzpah to go for it. No equipment, no workers, he dove in with the entrepreneurial strength of will Americans are famous for, coupled with probably the world's best bank of production cutlery knowledge.
    Just a few of the knives he's engineered and built since he started 36 years ago:
    Winchester Classic Reproductions
    Winchester Cartridge Series
    Winchester Buffalo Head Series
    Case Classic Series
    Schatt & Morgan Keystone Series
    Schatt & Morgan File & Wire Series
    Schatt & Morgan Premier Series
    Queen Classic Series
    Queen D2 line
    Marbles Reproduction pocket knives
    Marbles Safety Folding Knife

    No one else was going to make my next HJ!
    Of necessity, HJ4 was a large Equal End (EE) pattern, because that was the only suitable pattern this upstart company was making at that moment.
    My last HJ was also an EE, but at 3 5/8" it was a typical pocketable size. HJ4 is 4 1/8", or a half an inch bigger. Seems like a small difference, but even an 1/8" changes the character of a pocket knife.
    Foolishly I only placed a small order, which sold out in no time!
    There were two variations, one having a clip blade, and one a spear. The Robeson punch made another appearance here. Behold, HJ4.
    HJ SFO 4.jpg HJ SFO 4stag.jpg

    More to come!!
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2011
  6. waynorth

    waynorth Dealer / Materials Provider Dealer / Materials Provider

    Nov 19, 2005
    The third, but not the final, chapter in the HJ SFO tale;

    So along comes the 2011 Bladeforums annual knife, and it is one of my favorite Jack patterns!
    The teardrop had nearly disappeared from knife production. It was at one time, 100 years ago, plus or minus, very popular. It takes more material than a regular, more straight-sided Jack, so you can see the influence of the bean counter at play here!:rolleyes:
    Having learned a little about the realities of producing knives, I asked GEC if they would be able to piggy back an order of HJs onto the BF knife. They told me it was a new pattern (of course), and in order not to load development costs onto the Bladeforums members knives, they were going, indeed, to produce other knives based on the same pattern.
    But the hardest part was convincing them (him) to produce a complicated punch!
    Napanoch Cutlery held the patent and when Winchester bought Napanoch, ca. 1919, they used up the stock of punches on Winchesters before they changed to a cheaper punch.
    That American audacity I alluded to in chapter one, held the day. The challenge was met and the punch reproduced!
    And so we have HJ5;
    HJ SFO 5.jpg

    I should mention that GEC is continually improving that Schrade-like peachseed bone seen here - again to recapture, and indeed sometimes improve, the old flavors of pocketknife. I'm proud of the etch also. If you look through old knife catalogs, you will often see etches, some interesting, some incomprehensible, and some humorous!
    Ephemeral in a user knife, but entertaining none the less, I hope we see more of them.
    That's it for now, but tune in next year!!;)
  7. Invoice

    Invoice Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 3, 2006
    Charlie, please tell us more on the history of GEC and the man who started it.
  8. waynorth

    waynorth Dealer / Materials Provider Dealer / Materials Provider

    Nov 19, 2005
    I'm working on it Neal! It will be a while before the story is released!
  9. Invoice

    Invoice Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 3, 2006
    Glad to hear that. After becoming the owner of a few GEC's :D, I have become a big fan. I want to learn more about them.
  10. knowtracks

    knowtracks Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 16, 2006
    Very COOL Charlie!!! ;) Can't wait for the beat to go on....

  11. coyote711


    Sep 19, 2009
    Very impressive story, Charlie! I'd say there's some Canadian chutzpah reflected in what it took to get these HJ's produced, too. ;) Thanks for posting!

    This also makes me appreciate what a gem of a company GEC really is!
  12. Noddy

    Noddy Basic Member Basic Member

    Jul 13, 2006
    I love those patterns waynorth, and thanks for the narrative

    Ever seen a clippoint version?

    I have a 1950s HJ - German, Klass I think. It's a user but I still have the box for it somewhere. The awl looks like it is made from the blade of a pair of scissors - which given the time and place seems to have some merit in it as idea

    I'll get a picture taken
  13. kamagong


    Jan 13, 2001
    I have one of Charlie's HJ2s. It is my favorite production slipjoint by far, everything else is a distant second. Mine has goldenroot bone handles, which was an inspired choice. You don't often see bone this beautiful nowadays.


    - Christian
  14. GLDNDomer


    Apr 8, 2011
    Never seen this pattern before, neat. I'm partial to clip blades over spear blade, so I like the HJ4 variation most. Looks very useful, indeed.
  15. Ballenxj


    Oct 30, 2010
    Charlie, I'm pleasantly overwhelmed by your stories. Those Harness Jacks look quite useful, especially if you find yourself working with leather on occasion. :cool:
  16. Ryanol


    Aug 24, 2011
    Man I might have to get my hands on one of these. The tool I use the most on the pioneer is the awl.
  17. ranchmanben

    ranchmanben Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 18, 2011
    I don't know how I have missed this great pattern. As some one who regularly needs to punch holes in various head stalls, latigos, belts or reins this would be incredibly handy. I would love to have one of those hjs. An old great and useful tool brought back to life.
  18. supratentorial


    Dec 19, 2006
    Charlie, Thank you for the background info on these special orders! I look forward to HJ #6! :)

    Christian, Your photos got me looking for a HJ #2 and I finally found one! The fit and finish is top notch and it was sharp out of the box.

  19. kamagong


    Jan 13, 2001
    That's how it works around here. We're all a bunch of enablers, tempting each other with pictures of beautiful knives. Yours is a fine specimen and mine looked a lot like it once upon a time. It's an excellent example of what Queen is capable of when they put their mind to it.

    - Christian
  20. supratentorial


    Dec 19, 2006
    I'm hoping that my knife looks as good as yours soon. Thank you for the push. If I end up buying a horse and carriage than I'm going to blame Charlie! ;) :D

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