Hey Snickersnee,Navaja's?

Hi Snick.
I have seen where you mentioned Navaja's a few times and not finding any suitable to your use.
I don't know much about these knives except what I have been told and you know what that means sometimes. I have been told that they come in many sizes and are used for most everything in certain areas of Spain and some surrounding,overlaping cultural areas.

I have one made by and these are the markings on the blade.
Santa Cruz Inox
Made in Spain.

It is obviously a forged blade due to some light hammer marks on the right side of the blade. The blade is 3/32" thick,1 1/16" at the widest point and 6 13/16" long. The o.a.l. open is 14 3/4". The handle is stag and steel and has an acceptable fit and finish for what looks like a cottage industry knife.

I haven't used the knife and I bought it mostly for the curiosity factor and the fact that I like knives from different parts of the world. So, I don't know how good an edge it will hold and the most I have done is run it over some crock sticks.I might be surprised if I put it to use if what I was told is correct.All in all the knife is what I would consider a little light for its' size and I wouldn't ever push it too hard.

With all that said.......
What do you consider a "good" Navaja?
What do you look for in one?
Just how strong should one be in your opinion.
What would be the ideal size for you and why?

I find the design itself intrigueing and wonder what you see in the design to make it a really worthwhile useful knife compared to som of the others on the market.Like I said. I am completely ignorant when it come to this kind of knife and its' uses.


The civilized man sleeps behind locked doors in the city while the naked savage sleeps (with a knife) in a open hut in the jungle.
May 22, 1999
I believe Snick was more interested in finding its origins and military history which got me interested too. There isn't much information on the internet. Guess I'd have to go to a real library to find out more about this style of knife.

Click on graphic to see more.

<A HREF="http://www.showeb.com/spain/bin/x.cgi/index/default/default/4829-72-204123919"><IMG SRC="http://www.showeb.com/spain/1/clasica/4.jpg" border="5"></A>

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"A knifeless man is a lifeless man"
-Nordic proverb

[This message has been edited by David Williams (edited 01 August 1999).]
Dave, thanks for the visual aid!

Basicaly "navaja" is an old word that now has several different meanings. I recently sent off for a copy of "La Navaja Hispanola Antigua" from Spain, and the bookseller I was in contact with informed me that "these navajas aren't at all like the Swiss knives". There are also "navajitos". So this word gets used for modern folders that aren't really navajas in the classic sense, thus it can cause some confusion in terms.

As you probably know, I am translating a 19th century text, "Manual del Baratero", that deals with navajas. Actauly, I'm done with the translation, just cleaning it up and making sure my translation is accurate. Then I'm going to digitaly enhance the pictures and either get it published or put it on the web. Anyway, I reckon what it has to say on the matter of selecting a navaja would be of intrest;

"In Spain there are various villages notable for the good charachter and temper that they give to the blades of their navajas, admirable for their keen edge and finish and such that they don't break or bend after having pierced two coins or a two inch thick board. Albacete, Santa Cruz de Mudela, Guadij, Solana, Mora Bonilla, Valencia, Sevilla, Jaen and many other places have masters of the forge, whose skilled hands can produce for the stranger, and are reccomended for the admirer.

Nevertheless, the figure of the navaja is not always adequate for the use that the owners will give them in the course of our specialty, that is to say that the blade must have to it a measure of one palm of length, and be perfectly secure between the handle scales and spring.

The figure of the blade is of great intrest, because without proper qualities the diestro* risks bending it at every strike. So, because, those of much belly reduce the accuteness of the point, look for 3 to 4 finger's breadth of width or it's of no curve, and with the point somewhat prolonged, for giving the thrusts; all should show the present figure."

Okay, that last part makes more sense in Spanish then English; basicaly it says you want a blade that's three or four fingers wide so that you can have some belly without sacrificing a good point, or without much belly and a prolonged point for thrusting ability. Good advice.

The biggest failing of most of the repro's is that they have poor locks. It's not inherent to the design,as you can tell from the text, and my Grandfather's was quite strong, but the new ones are mostly made as display pieces.

Things to look for in a good one;

Most any that were made for use as a weapon will incorporate some sort of gaurd on the bolster or blade. My Grabdfather's was made in the 19th century, had a substantial gaurd, and incorporated a Spanish notch for trapping.

If the lock release is stamped from sheet metal and hasn't been polished, the side of it will have these little sliver that will slice up your thumb or fingers when you release the blade. So you want to be sure that the release lever is smooth on the sides. For that matter, check the spring too.

You also want to make sure that teeth on the base of the blade engage the lock well, they should stick up a ways through it. Well designed examples will have the teeth angled in such a manner that they force the spring down into the teeth the more force you apply. Likewise, the notch will have radioused corners so it doesn't break out under pressure.

I prefer the classic dimensions, because the navaja is all about giving you a large knife that conceals well. The little 4 or 5 inched blades are kinda silly.

I'll take a good navaja over a "tactical folder" because the are a larger and stronger, hence more formidable, weapon. They conceal well even in jeans because their shape conforms to the contours of you pocket and leg. Though you can tell something's in the pocket, people won't think it's a knife. They'll just think you're happy to see them.

You can do an inertial opening by raising the release lever with your thumb, you can also open them silently this way.

As to strength, you should be able to stab trees without breaking the blade or lock, and you should be able to do some hefty chopping too.

The navaja in the above picture is more of a utility than fighting navaja, as you can see there isn't much between your finger and the blade. However, my people have used fighting navajas for centuries and they have proven to be very effective streetfighting weapons.

Oh, one thing you may miss about these things, they're designed to be held with your thumb against the spine. Not only will thins help keep your fingers from slipping onto the blade and give you more control, you can also aply downward force against the lock with the ball of your thumb to help keep it closed. A navaja inherently passes the "white knuckle" test.

I'm unfamiliar with the maker of your knife, but if it was more of a "village bladesmith" purchase than a production knife, you should be in good shape. These things still get used in parts of Spain and Mexico, and among the Romani.

Also, they tend to be lighter than you'd expect. This is because their liners don't tend to be porportionately as thick as on smaller knives, and there are a number now being made with chromed aluminum liners.

Oh yeah, "diestro" means "skillful fencer" more or less. I don't have a good synonym for this, or for "tirador" or "baratero" either.

As to my intrest, it's mostly a practicality/heritage thing. I am intrested in the history as well, but my main focus is on use and performance/construction.

I'm hoping to open a shop and start making these things next year.

P.S. I hear there's a book coming out on Spanish bladework called "Sevillian Steel". Has anybody heard anything about this? Publisher, author, where I could pick up a copy?

[This message has been edited by Snickersnee (edited 31 July 1999).]
Thanks Snick.
I just wanted to stop in and see if you had edited and you had. Now it's my turn to run,because it's late.
I will check out the pointers you gave and get back later today.
Mine doesn't have a guard,but it does have the rounded notches. Perhaps it is a better knife than I thought.
If it looks good enough I may try and do some tests with it today as I have another item to check out.
That's what I like about some of the real knives of around the world.
What we generally see here and what is the real thing may be two entirely different pieces.I have found that most ethnic blades are quite usable. they had to be for the people to survive.


The civilized man sleeps behind locked doors in the city while the naked savage sleeps (with a knife) in a open hut in the jungle.
Yeah, the whole trick to ethnic blades is finding a good one instead of a bad reproduction.

I can't assure you as to which you're in possesion of. Hard to say without actualy seeing it. My basic rule of thumb is I buy a knife and then bang it around. If it doesn't hold up, it wasn't worth having.

Some of the more comercial shops in Spain play on their reputation of having produced excelent edged weaponry in the past in order to sell "wall hangers" to tourists. But we've seen that in many places and in many fields.

It's a good patern, but it's quality depends on the maker.

Oh, one more thing, the spring should be kinda thick, a sixteenth of an inch or a little more. Some bad examples have real thin springs, I don't know why, the difference in manufactoring cost must be miniscule.

What size did these knives come in? I remember and extreme length you posted but me knowing how my memory is I don't think it is correct. (4ft ?)

This forum has a wealth of information in it but when you cannot find the info you want on this knife style may I suggest another forum Ethnographic Edged Weapons Forum It isn't in the UBB format but the posts seem lively and current. They are mostly on swords but I see a knife subject posted once in a while.

"A knifeless man is a lifeless man"
-Nordic proverb

The biggest I've heard of is 54 inches open, or four and a half feet. That's pretty big even by navaja standards. Three-and-a-half-footer's did get used, and I wouldn't doubt whoever had that monster made would, and likely did, use it.

More commonly encountered are over-all lengths of 15-24 inches.

One of the advantages of having such a long handle is that you can parry or pass a blow with the handle while cutting with the blade.

I have seen some circumstantial evidence(some old woodcuts) that would suggest that some of these bigger models were actualy fixed blades, but I know for a fact a lot of them were folders.
Back again.

David I finally checked out that page,thanks.
Mine is similiar to the classc style.
The blade is pretty much exactly like the ones shown.
The handle on mine is prettier with the stag and steel being steel first,stag,steel and finishing up with 2 3/4" of stag. Holding the knife straight up the back end is straight with the floor and not rounded and doesn't have that abrupt curve.It is even more graceful than those shown. I don't know if the particular style of fighting includes strikes with the butt like a skull crusher,but this most certainly would lend itself to that.

Snick I stabbed some wood with the Navaja and did a little chopping after checking it out.It performed excellently!! The edge is still as sharp as it was when I started and it is as tight all around too.
I am convinced that this is a "real" Navaja because of this and some other things I have noticed since I started this thread.
I have another question about the Navaja's shown on the page that David was kind enough to link us to.
I noticed a small crescent about 1/2 way down the back of the handle on the spine.Is there any purpose to this crescent?

The spring is very heavy at 1/8" thick and near that in width,.100" even more than what you said.
The lock at the end of the spring is also about 1/8" square.I believe it is probably as strong as many of the liner locks being made now.

The difference in the spacing of the steel and stag on the handles even have a purpose I believe.The bolster has one visible steel pin that the blade pivots on I believe.
The second area of steel has the pin that the spring fulcrums from.
The first piece of stag has 5 brass pins and the second piece has 7 brass pins.
These are all set in equal distance patterns and are very nicely done.

The fit and finish does seem to be in line what you called "village blacksmith" work.I always felt like it was a pretty darned good knife and now that I have checked it out and looked over the things you told me about,I know it is. Especially the clincher. It was the last day of a gun and knife show,towards the end of the day and the sellers were willing to bargain. I got the Navaja for $30.00 some 5-7 years ago. I am even more pleased than I was before. I thank you and appreciate the help in understanding something I still know only a little about.

My "people" favored the "Warclub" and then the "Tomahawk" when they became availible so we were also an up close and personal people too as all peoples were at one time.

I lived in Jacksonville and then Melbourne and finally in Palm Bay on the east coast n '47-'48 & '49. Melbourne was a nice sized larger town then.When we moved to Palm Bay it was in the "country" and we lived about 3 miles west of the wide part of the town that was Palm Bay.

I was 8 years old then and had the run of the woods such as they were. It was a magical time and I loved it there even though I was just a kid.
I enjoy reading your exploits from country I played Tarzan and other wonderful imageinary beings in and even though I am a grandfather many times over now,I still have the kinds of dreams that you are able to live.


The civilized man sleeps behind locked doors in the city while the naked savage sleeps (with a knife) in a open hut in the jungle.
The little cressent shaped depression you're seeing on the handles of the first two navajas is because they aren't navajas in the way we mean it, they're lockbacks.

I used to stay in Palm Bay and Melbounre too! Small world. Remember Dragon Point? When I was a kid we took these airmatresses out into the lagoon with the idea of paddling to the dragon.

Well, about halfway across the matresses sprung leaks and sank. That was bad in and of itself, but there was this guy who's house was on the water across from the Dragon, and he had a ten foot bullshark he'd caught from his dock mounted on his patio that we'd seen on boat trips through the area. Man, we all thought were sharkbait!

Actualy, I'm not quite a first time father yet, so I'm not sure if the Dragon even existed when you were down there, but I know it's been around awhile.

Local legend has it that Melbourne was a pirate haven in the 19th century, which is at least a little true, and the guy who had the statue built had it made after he had a dream of a dragon chasing the pirates off.
Oooh! Oooh! Click on the link David provided and go to their 11" "navaja montera". On the top bolster you'll see some ridges, and then a small rim at the base of the blade.

That is a common feature on fighting navajas, only on this one it's kinda vestigal, on the real ones the ridges and the rim would be a bit bigger.

The ridges help give your fingers a good grip, and the rim keeps them from slipping onto the balde.

The rim on the real deal tends to be a bit fatter and also rounded off. That way the one on the spine kinda "fills up" the arch between the ball of your thumb and the joint when you've got your thumb resting along the spine.

Although on some, especialy larger examples, they do have thinner and taller rims, but you use more of a hammer grip on those ones.

Yeah, you certainly can use the long handle to strike with, but why use the handle to strike with when you have the blade? I'm not saying it isn't done, just that I don't particularly do this.

Many people are caught off gaurd by using it to pass or parry their blade while you cut their forearm with yours. To my knowledge, the navaja is the only knife in the world that has such a long handle. Well, I hear that balisongs get pretty big too.

Have any FMA-ers out there heard of using this technique with big balisongs?

Oh yeah, this technique can backfire if used against double edged knives.
I just got "La Navaja Espanola Antigua" in today. IF YOU SPEAK ANY SPANISH AT ALL, GET THIS BOOK! It pretty much rocks.

You can get it at www.barataria.com, while you're there pick up "Manual del Baratero" too.

Oh, these are authorized photocopies, not reprints, but they're clean and cheap.
Snick maybe you could do some pix or some translating for us that are not bilingual? At least in Spanish.
I know a little Cherokee and Lakota,but am pretty much ignorant in them even,let alone Spanish.I know just enough to get me in trouble.
It was like my bro almost got into trouble one time when he said No beuno por c-a-c-a instead of No bueno por nada. (beg) I know the grammar is horrible.Part of the reason we could get into trouble.

Back to the Navaja. Do you mean to start a small manufacturing place?
If so how soon do you hope to be in production?
I noticed a post of yours in the shop forum asking about titanium for springs. My opinion for what it is worth is to use the very best traditional materials and make the absolute best example of a Navaja in the world. Kind of like the H.I. Kuhkuri's being the best in mine and several others opinion.

I wouldn't mind having a really good one that would primarily and normally used for fighting. It would be just to have mostly,but Indins like the Spanish and Romani are known for certain inheirent traits about knives and a person never knows.

I will check out that site again and get a little closer to the screen. My view comes up on my tv and at 20 feet away the detail is sometimes lacking.

I was too young in Palm Bay to be off swimming unsupervised except when we went to the "swamps." Then us kids done a lot of things that would have got us killed.Literally.
I did things in my young years I wouldn't even consider now.I don't think the gator problem was as severe back then due to less people and more open spaces.There were certain places we wouldn't go in the swamp though.
I don't recall anything about Dragon Point.

A very young 13 year old friend and me at the same age tracked a Mountain lion that came to his house one night in Orofino Idaho.He had a 22 single shot and I had a small set of bow and arrow. Good enough for rabbit and squirrel and the occasional grouse,but unspeakable idiotic for where we were and what we were doing.
I really believe we found its' den and its a wonder we didn't die that day. It just wasn't our "time."


The civilized man sleeps behind locked doors in the city while the naked savage sleeps (with a knife) in a open hut in the jungle.
Yeah, I'm planning on getting my shop going early next year. I'll use modern materials where they offer a distinct advantage, and the navajas will be of my own design, not replicas of antiques, which is in keeping with both the spirit of the knives and the people who made them. They will be readily identifiable as navajas, but also readily identifiable as my handiwork.

Sorry, I can't translate "La Navaja Espanola Antigua" for you, that joker is two hundred pages long! It'd take me a real long time, you might try a translating program though, I here babblefish is pretty good. AltaVista uses it to translate foreign language websites, and while it's not perfect, it's good enough fo rmost purposes.

I'd say that it's fine for non-fiction since it will give you the facts, lousy for fiction as it butchers the grammer, inflection, and syntax. Like I know what those words mean...

Anyway, all is not lost. I anticipate Manual del Baratero being down in a month.

Oh, Sevillan Steel is coming out from Paladin Press. I have no faith in the author whatsoever. Apparently this guy is some ninja seeking cross-over status with little if any background in the Western arts at all, and it shows up in his interview with Paladin. He's their featured author.

I'll buy the book and check the technique, even though the author has almost no idea what he's talking about, the actual technique might be authentic, but judging by what he had to say in the interview, it's a real long shot.

I was rather disapointed really.
Without actualy handling one I can't say, but those look to be of much better quality than most I have seen.

Possibly made for sale to people that will use them, as oposed to the wallhangers sold for tourists that so often get exported.

When you start making these, be sure to let us know. This looks a knife I could not resist purchasing if I knew if was well made.
I just caught this topic...most interesting, I must say.

Good luck with your shop Snickersee