I recently acquired an unusual knife made by Disston that I need
some help identifying. It is about 18" long and has a sharp edge on
one side and a saw edge on the opposing side. Marked H & C Disston.
I have seen several of these sell on ebay (which is where this one
came from) and they are often identified as "Civil War era
amputation saw as identified in "Civil War Collectors Encyclopedia""
I have a copy of a book by Francis Lord with this same title, but
can't locate this knife in it.
So, I have two questions for the porch:
1) Does anyone know what the original intended use of the knife was?
I bought it to use dressing game.
2) Can anyone direct me to the correct book and page where it is
identified as an amputation saw? (If such does exist and is not one
of those "ebay legends")
I have posted a photo at:
(who at one time thought that he could buy just one little Disston saw and
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> 1) Does anyone know what the original intended use of the knife was? I
> bought it to use dressing game.
Rest assured that this was not used to cut off men's limbs in the Civil
War. This knife was aimed at general kitchen use, stuff like cutting
bread, meat and poultry, etc. It appears is several late 19th century
catalogs (1876-1880). It was made by the Henry's brother, Chuck, at the
jobbing shop where a lot of screwy stuff got hatched. Hope this helps.
Will look up the exact title when I get home, but I think it was
referred to as a "Kitchen Utility Knife" Finally, the teeth are not even
nearly fine enough to cut through bone...
Pete Taran (who's not even sure that Chuck was making stuff in the Civil
War Time Frame) Vintage Saws on the web at: http://www.vintagesaws.com
Mike asks about the alleged Disston Civil War amputation saw.
Disston calls it a 'Saw-Knife' in their "The Saw in History", 9th ed, 1926.
From page 29 - "A tool that is classed with these bone and meat-cutting
saws, and yet is more than a saw is the Saw-knife. This is a knife with
double-cutting edge, coming to a point at the end. One edge is used for
sawing, while the other is used for ordinary cutting."
Below that entry they mention the Subcutaneous Saw for surgical use
as a variation of the Saw-knife. No pic but described with a pistol grip
and other features that your's is not.
Suppose during the War Between the States, when you took over someone's
house/farm house, the regimental surgeon might use whatever was at hand if
his steel and ebony handled amputation saw/surgical kit wasn't unloaded
from the field trains yet.
> I recently acquired an unusual knife made by Disston that I need
> some help identifying. It is about 18" long and has a sharp edge on
> one side and a saw edge on the opposing side......
> I have seen several of these sell on ebay ....and they are often
identified as "Civil War era
> amputation saw as identified in "Civil War Collectors Encyclopedia""
> I have a copy of a book by Francis Lord with this same title, but
> can't locate this knife in it.
.....> 1) Does anyone know what the original intended use of the knife was?
.......> 2) Can anyone direct me to the correct book and page where it is
> identified as an amputation saw? (If such does exist and is not one
> of those "ebay legends")
This type of Saw Knife was first made and patented by W.Stillman who
according to the Book Handsaw makers of North America was around in the late
1830's I actually have one of these made by W.Stillman and it is a very well
made, nice looking saw,[or is it a knife?].Disston just lists it as a saw
knife but it is in the meat saw section in their 1918 catalog
In volume IV of the Civil war Collectors Encyclopedia page 122 they show
one made by E.M Boynton and stamped US and which they identify as a US
medical dept bone saw.Boynton according to the above book made saws from
1869-87 so would have been a good trick if this saw was used in the civil
war in any function!I suspect anyway that it was used by cooks or butchers
and not surgeons.I have to admit though that I have sold quite a few of
these on the ebay, and I always figure who am I to augured with some
"expert" that wrote a big impressive book like this " Collectors
Encyclopedia" eh? and I list them as a Bone Amputation Saws and point out
this reference material. Have sold many for over $100, and the young Miss
Jazz once found a meat saw type that had this type handle but a iron frame
that was marked Jackson and I got $250+ for her with it.Think she gave 2
bucks for it and I was very popular with her I can tell you because what it
This reminds me of the time I saw a fellow selling a rather beat brass
back saw as a "Civil War Fuse Saw, possibly confederate" since it was from
England ! His idea was it had a brass back so it would spark the fuse and
blow you up.Of course the blade was steel which I pointed out when I told
him it was just a common dovetail saw that was in rough condition. he told
me "Well you could cut fuses with it couldn't you?"...I told him you can
wear your shoe on your head but that don't make it a hat.......Todd