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Navaja Folding Knife, Circa 1790
Navajas are traditional Spanish folding knives. They were popular with sailors of the Spanish Main who regularly carried them in their waistbands. Sixteen Navaja-style knives were recovered from the wrecks of the Nuestra Senora de Atocha and Santa Margarita. Both galleons sank in 1622. (1) Though best known for fighting and personal defense, Navajas were used for everything from cutting lines, peeling fruit to shaving. They were even used to preform surgery. (2) Over time a locking style blade with a backspring evolved. These knives were called Navaja de Muelles (Spring Knifes). A metal pull ring to release the lock was added in the late 18th century. The ring was eventually discarded in favor of a lever.

The Navaja shown below is 17 inches long when open and weighs 10 ounces. The 7 7/8 inch steel blade is nicked near where it folds into the Stag Horn handle. A spring under the blade locks it into place when open and a metal pull ring releases the lock. This style of Navaja is sometimes called a "tail rattler" (cola de crotalo), because the tip of the handle resembles a rattlesnake`s tail. (3)
Overview
Type: Folding Knife
Style: Navaja de Muelles
Country: Spain
Overall Length: 17 inches
Overall Width: 1 3/8 inches
Handle Length: 9 3/8 inches
Blade Length: 7 7/8 inches
Weight: 10 ounces
Handle: Stag Horn

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References
(1) Navajas of the Galleons by Corey Malcom
The Navigator: Newsletter of the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society, Vol.21, No.4 July 2005

(2) The Surgeon by Jan Sanders van Hemessen, 1550

(3) La Navaja Espanola Antigua, "cola de crotalo" (The Old Spanish Knife "tail rattler")
by Martinez Del Peral Forton, Rafael 1980


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