Knife Game Series: Mumblety-peg

Knife Game Series- Brughel painting of Mumblety-peg

In our Knife Games Series we look to games played with knives. Many of theses games are from days gone by as the popularity of carrying pocketknives, especially among school boys has declined.

Today’s edition features a knife game called Mumblety- peg (also known as mumblepeg, mumble-the-peg, mumbledepeg or mumble-de-peg). I’ve always heard it called Mumble-peg.

While the origin of the game is impossible to determine, it is recounted in Tom Sawyer, Detective written by Mark Twain in 1896 as a boy’s favorite outdoor game.

Mumblety-peg has many variations. Some are only slightly different, others are totally different games.

The similarities, however, are they are all competitive and are usually played with two players. The other common element is the knife is more “flipped,” instead of thrown, in trying to stick it in the ground.

One of the simplest versions of the game is this one-

This is a game for two players, though more players can be involved. Usually, a circular target is drawn on the ground in soft earth. Players alternate turns. At a signal from one player, IT attempts to “drop” the knife into the target without looking.

In fact, it is this variation believed to be depicted in the 1560 painting by Pieter Brueghel called Young Folks At Play now displayed at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. There are at least 80 games going on in this scene and one is Mumblety-peg.

Another common variation is called “mumble the peg.” This game results in the loser pulling the knife (or peg) from the ground with his teeth, hence the term “mumble” the peg. Merriam-Webster dates the origin of this phrase to 1627.

Next up in the Knife Game Series- Split the Kipper

Photo credit:

Published in: on January 16, 2010 at 8:29 am  Leave a Comment  
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The noblest sport- fighting for our rights

“Aggressive fighting for the right is the noblest sport the world affords.”     Theodore Roosevelt

Recently CNJ introduced New Hampshire State Representative Jennifer Coffey and her initiative to legalize carrying stilettos, switch knives, daggers and dirk-knives. Currently in New Hampshire it is illegal to carry these knives.

Now there is an online petition to show support. The goal is 1000 signatures.  While most of live out of state, Attorney E. F. Nappen wants all the Knife World to show their support.

“This petition is to raise awareness and support. Out of state signers show the national support for the effort.”

Evan Nappen, Attorney at Law

Click here to read Representative Coffey’s appeal and then sign the petition.

This pro-knife bill updates are found at

Dressing down to protest Airport security measures

Today’s front page of The Wall Street Journal reports on looking for knives. Yeap, the instrument of our favorite hobby made big news. Well, actually it’s the folks protesting the full body scan looking for knives, and weapons, that’s the point of the story.

I’ll let you read it, but gotta show you the bold initiative of these protestors- saying they are dressing down to show their displeasure is an understatement, for sure.

BARING THEIR DISMAY: Members of the Pirate Party parade through Berlin's Tegel Airport in their underwear Sunday to protest government plans to test full-body scans as an invasion of citizens' privacy.

Photo credit: European Pressphoto Agency

Published in: on January 11, 2010 at 4:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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My knife’s mystery handles and the history of the Polymer Industry

I’ve got to come up for air. I’ve been deep in the bowels of the web on a quest for knife handle material history.

That’s right. I spent my entire Sunday afternoon trying to determine the handle material on my new C. Platts’ Sons Jumbo Swellcenter. Yeah, I know they are over 100 years ago and the likelihood of “discovering” exactly what these handles are, well let’s just say- remote. But you know it is driving me crazy.

In addition to exploring the web, I also posted for help. Then I got my other two black handled C. Platts Jumbos to contrast and compare- and yes, one is the same material, but the other I’m almost positive is ebony. I even got out my super duper magnifying glass to look at this mystery material close-up.

The knife dates between 1900 and 1905. So grabbing a Platts catalog from a book shelf won’t get it. Nope- I can find little info about their particular handle materials going that route- very little info remains about the Platts operations to help me. Instead, I ran every rabbit I could think of relating to handle materials, foreign substances and the history of plastic.

Here is where I am-

  1. They ain’t glass (there’s a pin crack). That was a joke….
  2. Not celluloid either (no shrinkage or chemical smell when tested).
  3. They look like a rubber substance (like Gutta Percha). They are hard and yet, sound like bone or wood when tapped.
  4. Don’t think they are Bakelite cause the knife was made before that patent was granted, but who knows.

What I’ve learned though is-

1899 Gutta Percha & Rubber Co

1) Gutta Percha dates back to at least the 1600s. It was used in a crude form by the natives of Malaysian Archipelago for making knife handles, walking sticks and for various other purposes. A John Tradescant noticed the natives putting it on the handles of their machetes and took it back home in 1656. He called it “mazer wood.” Its Malay name is gutta percha and as a resin, it is plastic and mouldable, yet hard, making it suitable for the manufacture of knife handles.

2) Bakelite (a plastic-like substance) was patented in 1907. Just about anything made of it is a sought after collectible today, like radios and jewelry. “Bakelite” molding compounds incorporate other filler materials, like wood, powdered glass or asbestos.

3) Celluloid and its predecessor Parkesine have been around for a long time. As early as the mid-1800s Celluloid served as a replacement for tortoise shell.

4) In 1851, N. Goodyear was granted patent on Ebonite, a hard thermosetting material. Ebonite was a man-made substitute for ebony wood.

5) And all this stuff is called the history of the Polymer Industry, particularly as it relates to synthetic polymers, but in the end, I’m still no closer to knowing what my knife’s handles are than when I started.

And after all of this- I’m not sure they aren’t simply jigged wood or bone dyed black either.

Published in: on January 10, 2010 at 7:55 pm  Comments (1)  
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Buying old rare knives under the influence

Now that I have your attention- here’s the deal. When we lock in on a knife to buy…sometimes our emotions can override our common sense. We are under the influence at that point; we are intoxicated. We are buying under the influence.

Keep your wits

When you finally find one the one and only knife you’ve been looking for don’t get carried away with emotion. Keep your wits about you before you pull the trigger.

While we all have gotten swept up in the tide of “I got to have this knife,” when in that situation there may be good reasons for not buying it. It could be it is a counterfeit and your gut is telling you to run; it could be the seller is of questionable reputation and the knife is too good to be true or it could simply be due to the knife’s condition the price that is way too high (then it’s just a “business decision”).

Word to the wise

My point here is not to be suspicious of every knife or seller you meet, but, on the other hand, I had a wise man once tell me…

“you have a gut feeling for a reason….so you had better listen to it.”

Most knives and sellers are fine, but if your gut screams at you….LISTEN. If you don’t feel you have enough experience then get a reputable dealer’s opinion.

Many knives are just too expensive (I’d rather say, “Valuable”) to throw all reason and logic to the wind. Yes, values continue to increase, but if you have reason to question a deal…then question it. Don’t blow it off by telling yourself that it is probably OK, when in actuality your gut is letting you know there is something that doesn’t feel right.

Take the heat

You may take some heat for your decision. I once had a dealer try to sell me a “Near Mint” toenail for a really big price. It was a Case Brothers with a really nice etch on the blade. And you had better believe he wanted a big wad of cash for it, so I gave that toenail a very close look. The etch was VERY APPEALING. I was under its influence…intoxicated by that knife. There is no doubt I would love to have a CB with an etch that nice.

But, in the end I passed. I overrode my emotions. There were a number of questionable “things” about that knife that told me it was possibly a rework and it was simply too much money to risk. In the end, I listened to my gut feeling. I took heat too. That dealer told me I didn’t know a good knife when I saw one. He was P O’ d (that told me I made the right decision too, incidentally).

Why are you offering it to me?

Also, the other thing to think about is this- If a dealer is offering you a “one of a kind” killer knife (now don’t take this wrong, OK?), but, this is the way I think…if it is so great, why is he/she trying to sell it to me? Dealers have a Rolodex of buyers, so if you are offered a knife that is so rare…so good, then why didn’t he just pick up the phone and call one of his regular buyers? Instead he is now offering it to you, or me.

Most knives are fine. And if it is a moderately priced knife then that is one thing, but if it is a price you know is a near record price, then ask yourself this question-  “Why does he still have that knife and is now trying to sell it to me?” You may have just gotten lucky- at the right place at the right time- but, maybe not, so just step back and don’t get caught up in the moment…under the influence. Don’t buy drunk.

I promise you, in most cases, if the knife is that rare and authentic…you and I would have never even known it was available.

Published in: on January 8, 2010 at 8:28 pm  Comments (4)  
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Knife Company Memorabilia- Cattaraugus Cutlery Co. wall display

It’s not everyday we find a true piece of knife company history. Last week an item sold on eBay and it was a true treasure.

Here’s the seller’s description:

c.1920- 1930 36” X 48″ FOLDING ADVERTISING BOARD, made of heavy cardboard, beautiful colors with blue, brown, cream, red and green.  The center picture is of a grey haired gentlemen in suit and tie peeling an apple with his pocket knife with “FRIENDS FOR 30 YEARS” in the frame.  The other two frames are (1) a picture of kitchen cutlery with “CATTARAUGUS –IS A GUARANTEE FOR CUTLERY” and on the other pocket knives with “LITTLE INJUN LINE-A KNIFE FOR EVERY USE.”  At the top center it says “CATTARAUGUS CUTLERY CO., LITTLE VALLEY, N.Y.”   On the top left is a picture of the “LITTLE INJUN” and on the top right is another picture of an “LITTLE INJUN.”  We understand that one is on display in the National Knife Museum.”

Oh yeah, I almost forgot- it sold for $869 plus $150 shipping (proving again, good stuff brings good prices, even in a bad economy).

Published in: on January 6, 2010 at 7:53 pm  Comments (6)  
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A psychologist’s take on why we collect

The psychology of collecting

By Mark B. McKinley, Ed.D.

Everybody collects something. Whether it be photographs of a person’s vacation, ticket stubs from ballgames, souvenirs of trips, pictures of one’s children, athletes’ trophies, kids’ report cards or those who collect “junk” (pack-rats) and dispose of it in garage sales.

The evolution of collecting
During the 1700s and 1800s there were aristocratic collectors, the landed gentry, who roamed the world in search of fossils, shells, zoological specimens, works of art and books. The collected artifacts were then kept in special rooms (“cabinets of curiosities”) for safekeeping and private viewing. A “cabinet” was, in part, a symbolic display of the collector’s power and wealth. It was these collectors who established the first museums in Europe, and to a lesser extent in America.

The motivations to collect
Why do we collect things, e.g., Cracker Jack toys to manhole covers? Some people collect for investment, yet one must wonder how a penny can become worth thousands of dollars. Some collect for pure enjoyment – it’s fun. Some collect to expand their social lives, attending swap meets and exchanging information with like-minded souls.


Published in: on January 6, 2010 at 4:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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To-Do’s: The Tyranny of the Urgent and then the knife things

Tyranny of the Urgent- the things that require immediate attention. Might be important or might not be. But one thing they are is urgent.

Most of us suffer from the Tyranny of the Urgent, especially on the first day back at work after the holidays. Well, today was that day for me.

My day was full of things I had to get done- appointments to schedule, calls to make, paperwork to do, expenses to turn in….all seemed to be urgent.

In one respect, the last three weeks of work was all pushed forward to today. Before the holidays, I worked really hard to “clear my desk” so I could relax and take off, and then I get back and I’m already behind. Isn’t that the way it is?

I got to the office and started methodically working down my “To- Do” list. I was making significant progress getting the urgent done in order to get to the important.

Urgent doesn’t necessarily mean important.

Once I got the most urgent done, then I was able to do the next item on my “first day back to work” list and this task was important- I mean really important.

I had to go get a cashiers check and get it in the mail.

You know why this particular “To-Do” was so important, don’t you?  I had to pay for the knife I came to terms on over the holidays. 🙂

Hi-resolution pictures transmitted, price discussions ensued and the deal consummated- all electronically, and from 2500 miles away. I love technology.

Now you know why this task was so important- the sooner I got the money sent, the quicker I get my new old knife. Priorities, Priorities.

Published in: on January 4, 2010 at 10:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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New Year’s Resolutions of a Knife Collector

Be it resolved that in the Year 2010, I will not:

  • Proudly pull the knife I just purchased out of my pocket to show someone only to see him drop it.
  • Give any more of my favorite knives to TSA employees because I forgot to take them out of my pocket before going through airport security.
  • Want to buy all the new-fangled knives I see at the Blade Show.
  • Start buying knives I don’t collect on a whim.
  • Give in to the temptation to buy a knife just cause it is a good deal, when I already have 12 of that same knife that I bought because they were a good deal too.
  • Buy a knife collection when I hear myself saying, “Well, I’ll sell all the ones I already have to help pay for it.”- cause I never do.
  • Buy a knife at the first table I come to when at a knife show- cause I always find one I’d rather have on down the row.
  • In my excitement for my new knife tell my better half about it, only to then have her ask how much it cost.
  • Travel to a knife show without taking a knife to trade.
  • Lust over knives owned by other collectors (but will let them know IF they ever decide to sell, I want first dibs).
  • Fall asleep waiting on an eBay auction to end when I wanted to bid before it closed.
  • Rationalize every knife I want to buy with this “Well, I may not ever see another one again.”
  • Rationalize a seller’s asking price for an old knife with “I know he’s asking a fortune, but it is in really good condition.”
  • Put my knife collection up (out of sight) in an effort to make more room in my office for the other “knife stuff” I buy.
  • Show my knife friends the most recent knife I bought when they are only going to say, “That knife ain’t right.”
  • Read a knife forum’s thread trashing and bashing a knife, or a seller, on eBay.
  • Take a seller’s word for a knife’s condition when he only provides a vague description on eBay.
  • Pay top dollar for a knife when the seller uses the “It’s in excellent condition for its age.”
  • Tell someone what I paid for a knife only to hear him say, “Well, that guy offered it to me for less than that.”
Published in: on January 1, 2010 at 10:26 am  Comments (4)  
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