Knifemaking: making your mark and the Cuchilla Pequita

“Control what you can control, maggot!  Let everything else take a flying fuck at you and if you must go down, go down with your guns blazing.”

Cort the Gunslinger, from Stephen King’s The Drawing of the Three

The Gauchos were a group of cowboys who worked on the grasslands of South America during the 18th and 19th century. They were a people without boundaries, solitary, and existing on the Pampas of Argentina, Uruguay and Southern Brazil.  The Gauchos were a pretty wild bunch and had a lifestyle that was similar to the gypsies and travelers of Europe.  Always moving from place to place, job to job, and always on the hustle.  Most were nomadic and had few possessions. 

They were a solitary people, yes, but when they did run into other gauchos there was usually high-proof alcohol involved.  Also gambling.  And prostitutes.  Those three things made for a trifecta of machismo, and that usually resulted in conflict which manifested as duels.  Guns were expensive and hard to come by so the weapons of choice were usually knives.

When Gauchos dueled the objective was not to kill (although fatalities most definitely occurred); it was to leave a mark, preferably on the face.  A gaucho with a scar on his face had lost a duel, and all the other Gauchos knew this.  He would carry this scar for the rest of his life, but looking a little deeper one can find that scars are not always a badge of shame.

There is an inherent drive to leave your mark on the world but sometimes the world leaves its mark on you.  Things aren’t always the way we think they should be and in taking a risk to make a difference we can fail spectacularly.  We all lose duels everyday and some of us carry many scars, both seen and unseen.  Some of the most powerful and profound people I know carry scars that are both large and deep, yet these people shine brightly and leave their mark on the world everyday.  They are beautiful even though life has done its damnedest to leave its mark on them.  How is this possible?

I had a teacher once tell me that no one is in control.  This is something that is a bit of a struggle for me almost daily, even though I know that in the grand scheme of things my sphere of control is very small.  It comes down to choosing how to react to the things in our lives.

So there is a choice.  You can choose to not get pissy about the holiday Starbucks cup.  You can choose to not to feel like a victim because your candidate didn’t win.  You can choose connection over isolation.  You can choose to do something about situations that don’t serve you.  You can choose to wear your scars proudly because whatever left its mark on you wasn’t strong enough to take you down.  You can choose to let the things beyond your control take a flying fuck at you and fall as they may.  Though we can’t always control the circumstances in our lives, we can choose how we respond to them.  This is where we make our mark and is also the lesson of the Cuchilla Pequita.

There are several types of knives carried by the Gauchos.  The Cuchilla Pequita is loosely based on the Cuchilla.  The Spanish word for knife is el cuchillo, a masculine noun in the vocabulary.  The Gauchos feminized cuchillo and applied it to their particular style of knives, which had a ‘pregnant’ blade belly and a slightly dropped point.  This design is based on that style and starts in 1095 spring steel:

After grinding and hardening:

Drilling rivet holes:

Texas Mesquite:

Fitting the handle:

Fiber spacers for a splash of contrast:

Clamped:

Profiled:

Sanded up to 2000 grit:

The Cuchilla Pequita:

How we choose to react in our lives affects the impact we can make.  This is the lesson of the Cuchilla Pequita

Here are some sources that were incredibly helpful:

A Short Essay About Gaucho Knives: Facón, Daga, Cuchilla and Puñal

Brittanica Online

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