About Danish Daggers

Between the years 2400 and 1500 BC, while the rest of Europe was well into the Bronze Age, Scandinavia lagged behind because it lacked the ores for the production of copper and tin.  Therefore metals had to be traded into this region from the south, and flint remained the premier material for the making of tools for several more centuries. In their attempt to reproduce in stone what they saw in metal the knappers of Denmark, Sweden, and northern Germany produced some of the most complex flint objects ever made by man. 

There are six basic types of daggers that have been further divided into letter designated subtypes. The first three are roughly lanceolate in shape with Type I [5 subtypes] being a biface with no defined handle or only a weakly defined one; Type II [2 subtypes] has a more pronounced and thickened handle; Type III [6 subtypes] has a handle with a diamond-shaped cross-section that usually has "stitching" on one or both faces. This unique flake scar pattern is said to mimic the stitching used to hold the leather coverings on the handles of metal daggers, and was formed by alternate removals of indirect percussion, and or pressure flakes from a pronounced median ridge deliberately formed in the center of the handle. The classic Type IV [6 subtypes] has a broader blade with its widest point near the handle of which expands towards the end or “pommel”. On this type the handle cross-section is either diamond shaped or triangular with stitching on one or both faces. Type V [2 subtypes] also has an expanded handle—however, it lacks facial stitching. Type VI [3 subtypes] has a blade with the widest part near the handle, but the handle is straight with no stitching. 

Most original daggers were made from tough, gray Western Baltic flints with a minor source from the Helgoland archipelago in the North Sea off the coast of Germany. I have made pieces from material that came from both these sources, however most of my daggers are of the more readily available North American cherts and flints.  As a general rule, pristine original daggers are quite large, from 8 to 14 inches with some Type I-C and D daggers up to 16-18 inches! Due to the constraints of local materials, many of mine are smaller. In this case, along with my “full size daggers” I have initiated two new size classes of American daggers, “mini” or “miniatures,” and “small” daggers. These sub-size daggers are 5 inches and under for minis, and 5 to 7 inches for small. When approaching 8 inches we are getting into the realm of the full sized daggers and the price will make a quantum leap as material is scarcer and the time spent in manufacture goes way up!

 Also, when it comes to finish flaking there are two stylistic subdivisions of daggers: those that have had there blades ground smooth in the later stages before pressure finish, and those that were pressure finished to various degrees over a percussion flaked surface. I have never been a fan of “FOG” knapping and therefore most of my daggers are of the latter style. With modern grinding wheels it is no big deal to smooth out a poorly percussion flaked blade, however, to bring that blade to dimension with well ordered percussion flaking, then get a decent pressures scar pattern takes some skill even though the end product may appear to be a little cruder than the FOG knapped dagger. Therefore, I only use grinding when I absolutely have to in order to save a valuable piece that I otherwise would have had to scrap out. Remember, stitched-handled daggers are infinitely more complex than bifaces. They may have as many as seven edges and seven faces [Type IV-C] as opposed to one edge and two faces!  

Obviously, the Type IV is the most popular, and I make more of these than any of the others. I will try to maintain at least one or two for sale while leaving several sold examples for you to look at. I have taken commissions in the past, but all depends on how I feel at the time, and whether I wish to take on such an involved project. Though I have made over 700 daggers in the past, as I get older it gets harder. Also, I have made over 100 square-sectioned axes, the technical knowledge of which is necessary to the understanding and making of the Type III and IV daggers. These axes I make on occasion, when I feel like it!       

For more information see DC Waldorf's Master Knapper's Guide to the Flint Technology of Southern Scandinavia and North Germany, and accompanying DVDs in the Book and Video pages. 

This product was added to our catalog on Wednesday 13 November, 2013.

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