The number of folks posting these knives on the forum for peers’ evaluation remains fairly constant, so I thought it might be worthwhile to create a thread where folks can come to their own conclusion about a knife in question in the privacy of their own home. This way they can ideally spare themselves the cost of finding out their newly acquired “treasure” is actually an artificially aged reproduction or an outright forgery. When I’m suspect of a M1918 Mk. I knife I usually start out here http://www.usmilitaryknives.com/m1918mk1.htm Over the years, Frank’s page has saved me thousands of dollars by showing what “Wrong” looks like and is my inspiration for creating this thread.
So you have found a M1918 Mk. I Trench Knife being offered for sale and you want to know if it is an “original” or if it’s just another well aged reproduction. This thread will enable you to view several originals in order to determine what “right” should look like. I’m only going to cover the two most common types of this knife typically encountered (The Au Lion & the L.F. & C. made variants). My intent is not to provide a “How To” guide in order to forge the far rarer H.D. & S. & O.C. L. variants (The aforementioned Au Lion & L. F. & C. variants have been “forged” aplenty, so frankly there's no harm discussing these) so they will not be discussed. Plus, I am still looking for an O.C.L. variant ;-) There are originals’ and reproductions’ differences I won’t discuss such as blades' grinds and skull crackers’ sizes (Some specifics needs to be left unsaid, in order to keep those who are dishonest at bay, well... at least the lazy ones).
The Au Lion type (A Lion in repose stamped on the ricasso)
First up is the French Au Lion “The Lion” made type. There are two variants of this version. There’s the kind with the two grooves on the back-strap of the brass (the French made ones are brass, the U.S. made ones are bronze) handle and the kind without the grooves (see photo below). There are slight size differences with the “U.S. 1918” fonts’ sizes too. There are a wide range of finishes found on these knives' handles. They range from rough to smooth casted/finished and everything in between. The blade’s Au Lion trademark is stamped on the ricasso. The Au Lion logos’ run the gambit of deeply stamped to lightly stamped. Most common seem to be the lighter stamped ones.