Tag Archives: Kukri

Kukri update, and a companion patch knife

A couple months back I posted about the Nepalese Gurkha Kukri Bhojpure fighting knife that I bought to go with my semi-cleaned Nepalese 1878 Martini-Henry Francotte pattern short-lever rifle and bayonet as created by Gen. Gahendra Rana’s “kami” cottage gunsmiths in the 1880s (more on the rifle and bayonet here.)

Like the Francotte and its bayonet, the $89 Bhojpure Kukri came from IMA/Atlanta Cutlery’s 2003 purchase of the entire Royal Nepalese Arsenal, then located at the semi-ruined palace of Lagan Silekhana in Katmandu.

Well, that post got picked up by The Truth About Knives, which is cool. Maybe it resulted in some people saving some of these old knives.

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I’ve continued to work the blade and, thanks to a tip from a reader (thanks, Robert!) picked up a new replacement sheath for the old man that fits it like a glove. It currently shaves forearm hair (knife fighter mange) and shreds paper with no problem.

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However, at Atlanta I also found this bad boy:

They list it as a “Gurkha Officer’s Patch Knife” for $25 (!) and bill it as “most likely carried in kukri pouches by the elite Royal Guard of Bhimsen Thapa”– Nepal’s military minded prime minister, in the early 19th century– the chap that owned Lagan Silekhana.

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The knife came without a scabbard, is 7.5-inches long with a 3.75-inch slightly drop point carbon steel blade, one-piece carved bone handle and brass furniture.

Like the rest of the Katmandu stash, it had sat in a wooden palace for generations open the elements and was covered in a thick layer of soot, yak butter, and Nepalese flotsam. It was in unissued condition and the blade had never been used (or sharpened– it was a total butter knife).

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This is what it looks like after a good TLC with Ballistol, green pads, and the like, with the brass parts touched up with Brasso.

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Patina on a weapon means it’s seasoned, right? I mean this little pot sticker is 150~ years old, or so the story goes.

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I had to do a small repair on the butt cap as it separated from the handle during the cleaning process, but some replacement brass nails and epoxy corrected just fine.

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I used water stones with a 1000/6000 grit to get first a bevel, then a fine edge– though not so thin that the edge would roll. You can trim fingernails with this bad boy now.

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I intend to use a strop to keep it fine. A generic leather patch knife sheath ($10, eBay) fits it like a glove.

All in all, not a bad blade for a total of about $40 and a half-dozen hours of sweat into it. I rather like it and may pick up a few more just to have. A few more years in storage probably won’t hurt them.

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That dang Kukri obsession

I really dig old military arms of all sorts, ever since I was a kid. I guess you can say I am just a big, 42-year old kid these days.

One of my latest edged weapons is a Nepalese Gurkha Kukri Bhojpure Fighting Knife that I bought to go with my semi-cleaned Nepalese 1878 Martini-Henry Francotte pattern short-lever rifle and bayonet as created by Gen. Gahendra Rana’s cottage gun smiths in the 1880s (more on that here.)

Like the Francotte and its bayonet, the $89 Bhojpure Kukri, came from IMA’s 2003 purchase of the Royal Nepalese Arsenal, which was located at the palace of Lagan Silekhana in Katmandu.

As spears and the Kora sword were being replaced by firearms, the kukri was the weapon of choice for hand-to-hand combat.

The Bhojpure region kukri was typically produced at the turn of the 19th century and after. This style is a somewhat down scaled version of the Victorian Long Leaf kukri. It appears these saw service from the 1880s through the first quarter of the 20th century when they were withdrawn from service and placed in arsenal storage. With that in mind, the blade is anywhere from 90-130 years young and has spent most of that time “on the shelf.”

It came covered in… who the frack knows what. Pureed leaves, cosmoline, dirt, tar, yak grease I don’t know. It was horrible. Of course, it was as to be expected though, as it has been in arsenal storage for probably a century, and the Francotte came similarly dressed.

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Cleaned via Ballistol and elbow grease, it is very nice, measuring out to just a hair over 17 inches overall with 13 of that being a rat-tailed steel blade almost as thick as my pinkie finger (around 3/8″) at its fullest point. This kukri was handmade; the steel was smelted, forged, shaped and hammered in Nepal by individual Kami blacksmiths. As such it is very dirty impure century-old steel that is kind of soft when compared to modern steels.

Still, it’s a great piece of history.

Check out how thick this beast is when compared next to the same length of modern Ontario 6420 OKC Kukri which uses 1095 carbon steel.

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It’s also rather sharp and has seen a good bit of service, but the wood, though dark, is solid.

The yak butter was such a good preservative that there doesn’t seem to be hardly any rust or patina…

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What is the blade notch for? Some say its to represent the god Shiva, which doesn’t make sense because the Kora– a Nepalese sword of the same period– doesn’t have the same notch. Some say it is for capturing an enemy blade in a knife fight, or as a “blood notch” which is even goofier. I think that it is meant to be a tool notch of some sort (to be used, for example, in removing nails, etc) as the kukri is something of the multitool for the Nepalese of all working castes.

I also have a set of chakmak and karda blades; a sharpening tool and small secondary knife usually stored in the sheath of the kukri. They have a great patina on them as they did not get the yak butter treatment so I will keep them as is.

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Here is the cleaned Bhojpure compared with my much more modern Ontario Kukri in an ode to the Brigade of Gurkhas cap badge.

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I still would like to buff out the blade with Flitz, strip and refinish the handle with boiled linseed, and maybe touch up the edge a bit. Overall, I think the old soldier has a lot of life left in him.

This is what I think I look like with it:

From the Illustrated News of London Feb. 22, 1908.

From the Illustrated News of London Feb. 22, 1908.

But this is probably closer to the truth:

British Home Guard display an array of close-combat weaponry at a training session, 1942. including kukri.jpg

British Home Guard display an array of close-combat weaponry at a training session, 1942. including kukri.

Not every kukri-armed soldier was a Gurkha

The kukri is a traditional Nepalese weapon. It is most commonly associated with the Gurkha units serving with the Indian or British armies. However it was used, on a less official basis, by other Indian Army formations.

Kukri (WEA 2145) The kukri is a traditional Nepalese weapon. It is most commonly associated with the Gurkha units serving with the Indian or British armies. However it was used, on a less official basis, by other Indian Army formations. This particular kukri was the property of Khudadad Khan - the first native born Indian soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross. Khan served with the 129th Duke of Connaught's Own ... Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

Kukri (WEA 2145) Copyright: © IWM. Original Source

This particular kukri was the property of Subedar Khudadad Khan – the first native born Indian (and the first known Muslim) soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross. Khan served with the 129th Duke of Connaught’s Own Baluchis (now 11th Battalion, The Baloch Regiment of Pakistan Army) and received his VC for actions when manning a machine-gun at Hollebeke, Belgium on 31 October 1914 during the Battle of Ypres.

He gave this kukri to an officer on the hospital ship in which he was repatriated to India and it is now in the Imperial War Museum.

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For the award of the Victoria Cross: [ London Gazette, 7 December 1914 ],

Hollebeke, Belgium, 31 October 1914, Sepoy Khudadad Khan, 129th Duke of Connaught’s Own Baluchis, Indian Army.

On 31st October 1914, at Hollebeke, Belgium, the British Officer in charge of the detachment having been wounded, and the other gun put out of action by a shell, Sepoy Khudadad Khan, though himself wounded, remained working his gun until all the other five men of the gun detachment had been killed.

Note the Punjabi Muslim turban with the Kullah tip being evident at the top.

Khan, Note the Punjabi Muslim turban with the “Kullah tip” being evident at the top.

Khan’s VC group is on display in the Imperial War Museum’s Lord Ashcroft Gallery. I say group because he returned to service after his wounds healed, fought in Afghanistan in 1919 and remained with the Baluchis late in life, retiring as a Subidar Major.

Khan lived to a ripe old age (82) and died at the Military Hospital (MH) in Rawalpindi on 8 March 1971. He is buried in Rukhan Tehsil Village, in what is now Pakistan.

A statue of Khudadad Khan, with an Enfield but lacking his kukri or VC, is at the entrance of the Pakistan Army Museum in Rawalpindi and he is remembered as “Baba-i-Baloch Regiment” (The Father of Baloch Regiment), the second-oldest unit in the Pakistani Army after the Punjabs.

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A Gurkha and his most dangerous weapon

Photo via LIFE archives, originally black & white, cleaned up & colourised by Paul Reynolds

Photo via LIFE archives, originally black & white, cleaned up & colourised by Paul Reynolds

A Naik (corporal) of either the 7th or 9th Gurkha Rifles, part of the 4th Indian Division of the British 8th Army, swinging his curved knife known as khukri (kukri), 1st August 1943.

Unit Moto: Kafar Hunu Bhanda Marnu Niko (Better to die than live like a coward)

I bumped into a few Gurkha in my travels and dearly love a good khukri. Besides a collectable Bhojpure model that I display with my vintage Nepalese Francotte, I keep an Ontario Cutlery Kurkri in my camping gear and it is hellah functional for clearing brush and cleanup…or zombies.

Numbers increasing

The British military recently announced at a passout for new troops that, while other forces are declining, the number of Gorkha in the Army will be growing by a quarter.

Lieutenant General J I Bashall CBE, inspecting new members of the Brigade of Gurkhas, 6 October-- note the Kukri.

Lieutenant General J I Bashall CBE, inspecting new members of the Brigade of Gurkhas, 6 October– note the Kukri. They are not ceremonial.

All Gurkha soldiers undergo nine months of training at the Infantry Training Centre, in Catterick, which includes cultural integration trips to Darlington and Richmond.

Lt Gen Bashall said last week: “It is because of the excellent professionalism and first class reputation of Brigade of Gurkhas that we have decided to increase Brigade of Gurkhas by 25 per cent. This will see those on parade today offered far greater opportunity for longer service, wider employment and promotion.”

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