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Restoring Chisels, Turning Gouges and Other Edge Tools

  A Promotion Gift by Bob Smalser 1 of 6  

Our youngest is a full-time college student. But he’s also an Iraq combat veteran and National Guardsman who, in addition to his line-unit duties, supervises a regional Honor Guard team performing color guard honors and veteran’s funeral details over a wide area of a large, western state.

NCOIC’s of such details are authorized swords with the dress uniform, and we thought a presentation sword would be an excellent gift upon his promotion to Sergeant.

So I looked at the current crop of new-made ceremonial swords sold by today’s uniform and insignia companies, and after examining the plated, soft-stainless blades, the scabbards assembled with staples and imagining how long the thin gold plating would survive frequent use, rather quickly came to the conclusion that rehabilitating an original sword would be a much better value for what will become his first family heirloom.

I don’t pretend to know much about swords, but as a trained gunsmith specializing mostly in restorations as a sideline these past 40 years, I take particular pleasure in restoring the broken and abused pieces rejected by collectors to some degree of their former glory. I don’t try to make them look new, but like a piece that was well-used but also well-cared-for, which mostly involves undoing previous, heavy-handed repair and refinishing attempts.

Hence when I found this abused Henderson-Ames M1860 Staff and Field Officer’s Sword with well-dinged and badly-corroded hilt and scabbard, broken guard pins, bent and cracked quillon, and a stained and burred blade, I bought it. While the M1840 NCO Sword is the most common in use today, the M1860 patterns also included a model for staff NCO’s which is perfectly acceptable today, and this jewel is sufficiently close to the NCO pattern not to matter.

What makes this one a jewel are the National Guard and “by-the-bootstraps” mustang connections. Emmett P. Greene was born in 1856, and was a common stonecutter in Atchison, Kansas. He volunteered to serve with the 22nd Kansas Volunteer Regiment during the Spanish-American War, one of four volunteer regiments raised in Kansas.

While the 20th Kansas fought in 18 major engagements in the Philippines during 1898-99, and the 23rd Kansas performed occupation duty in Cuba, the 21st and 22nd Kansas regiments were held in reserve in the United States, the 22nd at Camp Alger, near Falls Church, Virginia, where it was ravaged by typhoid fever.

When the regiments returned to Kansas by late 1899, they soon evolved into the newly-formed “National Guard” established by The Militia Act of 1903 passed by the US Congress. State and local militias and volunteer units now had a national underpinning, and E. P. Greene by then age 47 was made a company commander in the new 1st Kansas Infantry Regiment at Atchison. The sword was a farewell gift at the end of his tour as a commander circa 1903-1906, undoubtedly paid for by passing the hat among the troops of Company L.

While departure gifts from the officers of the regiment were (and are) common, a gift from the noncoms and troops is not, and what makes this gift especially poignant is the engraving appears to have been done by the company armorer… perhaps for want of additional funds. While executed using a professional’s graver and mallet, the well-executed layout and branch decorations on a difficult, concave surface… combined with unfair curves, loops and squiggles demonstrate a certain native talent and care struggling with a distinct lack of training and practice.

Woodworker's Guide to Wood Collection only $79.99 at Shop Woodworking
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