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~ Introduction ~


~ Variations Of The Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife ~

The Ribbed & Beaded Pattern

The so-called ‘Ribbed & Beaded’ variant of the F-S Fighting Knife has attracted this moniker due to the somewhat ornately designed grip which has a series of ‘ribs’ interspersed with concentric rings of ‘beads’.  The reason for this, one would assume, was someone's idea of creating a secure grip.  Whatever the original logic behind the design, it did create what, for a utilitarian weapon, is a very esthetically-pleasing design and as such has translated into a very popular variant amongst the many F-S Knife collector.  This ‘Ribbed & Beaded’ F-S Knife can be found with many subtle variations, manufactures anomalies and inspection marks and can be a study in its own right.  

The Second Pattern F-SSecond_Pattern_-_Variations_Of_The_Fairbairn-Sykes_Fighting_Knife.html
The Third Pattern F-SThird_Pattern_-_Variations_Of_The_Fairbairn-Sykes_Fighting_Knife.html
The Ribbed & Beaded F-S

The popularity of this variation has perhaps only been eclipsed by the plethora of speculative stories that it has attracted.  For the most part, the information that has been attributed to these knives has no foundation in anything factual or real but appears to be little more than wishful thinking and/or guesswork.  Sadly much of this speculation has now been put into print and is somewhat accepted as common knowledge!  I will not repeat any such stories or ‘myth’ here as it would undoubtedly add credence to such.  I will, however, offer some thoughts of my own in regards this interesting variant of the F-S Knife but I must stress that such views will be based solely on my personal observations of the knives themselves and any conclusions, theories or the like will be derived from the direct examination of numerous examples over many years. 

What follows then is a study of this pattern or ‘variation’ of the F-S Fighting Knife, covering as much as is reasonably practical of all of its subtitles, variations and details.  Like many F-S topics, it would be impossible for this study to be definitive or conclusive, so if you have an example that can teach us something new about this pattern then please feel free to contact me and share such details.

As mentioned in the introduction, the Ribbed & Beaded F-S Knife is subject to many subtle variations; from its construction, finish and markings there are enough differences to look out for that this pattern of F-S could be a study and a ‘sub-category’ to collect all of its own.  Because there are so many significant differences in construction of these knives, that coupled with well over two dozen manufacturers fulfilling F-S contracts during 1944/5 (the time period I believe these were produced), then it is reasonable to assume that a number of separate makers were involved.  And as to who those makers were?  Well, despite some speculation we just don’t know.  To my knowledge, no Ribbed & Beaded knife has been noted with any maker's mark.  There are no records (official or otherwise)  which conclusively link the R&B with any specific maker.  Although a recent detailed investigation by a friend and fellow experienced F-S collector, suggests that J. Clark & Son ‘may’ have been one of those that supplied such knives.  As J. Clark supplied well over 30,000 F-S knives in the years 1943/4/5 it is certainly possible.



Consistent with the variety of details on this knife, there seems to be very little standardization in the style of pommel nut that one might see.  Some have quite large ‘domed’ nuts, whereas others have much smaller ‘button’ styles - with many being somewhere in between.  Likewise, some pommel nuts are marked with vice or clamp marks while some are left unmarked.  All observed are of the standard ‘through’ type of nut, allowing the tang to protrude through the nut.  Again variety seems to be the only consistency, as tangs can be found ‘peened’, cut and filed flat, with some tang ends being fully finished (blued/plated) while others are left unfinished.  Below is a selection of original Ribbed & Beaded F-S Knives that clearly demonstrate such variety of pommel nut.

From examples observed it would appear that those grips containing ‘nine’ rows of beaded rings are the most frequently encountered (below right).  Although a few knives have been observed to have six (below left), seven or even eight rows, it must be noted that such examples are very scarce indeed and as such are the exception rather than the rule.

Perhaps another key area of interest is in the blade itself, in that examples with the thicker hand-ground and the thiner machine-ground blades are both encountered.  Again, logic would suggest that this is yet another indication of multiple makers.  One would conclude that those manufactures more familiar with supplying a knife of higher quality would be expected to use a thicker hand-ground blades.  There is further evidence to support this in that I have noticed some (but not all) of those knives with the thinner machine-ground blades were fitted with cross-guards that were more crudely made and finished.  The examples shown below are representative of this thick/thin blade phenomenon.  As can be clearly seen; the knife at left shows a large triangular section to the ricasso, indicative of the thicker blade having to be ground down to facilitate its assembly through the crossguard aperture, whereas the knife at right with the much thiner blade needed no such procedure.

A vast array of pommel shapes, finishes and nut types can be found on the Ribbed & Beaded F-S Knife.  Just one indication that multiple makers were involved in production.

The Ribbed & Beaded F-S can be found with many different MoS inspection marks.  These are always found on the ferrule portion of the grip, near the crossguard.  There is usually a Broad-Arrow pointing toward the guard with a number just below it.  Many of these markings are poorly stamped (no doubt due at least in part to the curvature of the grip), so it is not unusual to have part of an arrow and/or number missing.  It is worth noting that such marks are never found on the crossguard as we occasionally see on other F-S variations but always found located on the grip.  Below is a chart of those numbers thus far noted.  If you have an original example that is not shown here and can add to our knowledge them please get in touch to share such details.

~ Broad Arrow & Inspection (Number) Marks Found On The Ribbed & Beaded F-S Knife ~





This example is poorly struck but the ⩚1 marking is a rare mark.  If you have an example that better shows the detail them please let me know.  If miss-stamped this mark can be mistaken for the ⩚7 mark.


The example shown has been miss-stamped with only the number 2 clearly shown.

The ⩚4 is a mark often seen on the J. Clarke knives but here shown on a Ribbed & Beaded F-S.

I have seen a few Ribbed & Beaded with this mark and all seem to be of very high quality with hand-ground blades showing a very small ‘V’ ricasso.  Many of these also have a scabbard fitted with a snap - fastener as per the original First Pattern.

This number is sometimes miss-read and taken for a nine, so it is important to read it in the same context (with the ⩚ above and not below) as the rest of the markings.

A rare mark but when seen the ⩚1 and ⩚7 are often mistaken for one another, especially when miss- stamped.  But if one has seen a number of examples it is clear to determine which of the two one is looking at.

As with the ⩚6 this is often read upside down.

No image is available for this marking, although it is in my notes, so I must have seen it somewhere, so if you have an example and would like to share a photo let me know.

A rare mark and only noted on a handful of examples.










The ‘ENGLAND’ import stamp has been thoroughly covered already and this can be found in the ‘F-S Topics & Articles’ section entitled ‘The McKinley Tariff Act’.  But suffice it to say that the US required all imported goods to be marked with the country of origin.  So those F-S knives and scabbards marked/stamped ‘ENGLAND’ we can identify as war-time products that were sold as surplus shortly after war's end.  Please note that this does NOT generally apply to those F-S Knives that are marked ‘SHEFFIELD ENGLAND’ as with few exceptions these will almost certainly be of post-war manufacture.

The adjacent image of an original Ribbed & Beaded F-S Knife clearly shows the correct ‘ENGLAND’ import stamp located in the usual place on the top of the crossguard.  This exact same marking is also found on the scabbard (see inset).  This mark was applied to comply with US import laws and identifies such F-S knives as being sold post-war (as surplus) into the US market.  This marking is very clear but it is worth pointing out that many were mis-stamped and are sometimes not always this clear. Note the F-S knife shown here is also marked with the British military ownership/inspection mark of ⩚9 in the normal place.

The British military ownership/inspection marks (⩚ & number) and the US import stamp (ENGLAND) are the only markings that one usually sees on the Ribbed & Beaded F-S Knife.  Although it is worth pointing out that neither of these markings are always present.  As discussed, the import stamp was only applied to those knives that were not issued but sold post-war as surplus.  Therefore a knife that does not bear the import mark we can logically assume was not sold as surplus and hence was actually issued during World War Two.  Such examples of the Ribbed & Beaded pattern ‘without’ a US import stamp, however, are quite rare.  Along with other clues, I have always taken this as an indication that the Ribbed & Beaded pattern dates from the late-war period.  Why else would so many still be left  un-issued and in stores at war's end?  There are also examples of this pattern that do not have any military ownership/inspection mark.  As such, it is possible that some examples were sold through commercial channels.  However it is also very possible that these knives for one reason or another missed the marking process.

The adjacent image is of an advertisement by the Pasadena Firearms Company in California and was placed in the November 1954 addition of Popular Mechanics Magazine.  Of interest to us is that it clearly shows a Ribbed & Beaded pattern F-S.  Perhaps this is a clue that a large proportion of these imported ‘surplus’ knives were of this pattern?

All black finish

For the most part it would seem that the vast majority of Ribbed & Beaded F-S knives were finished with an all-over blackened finish (left).  Certainly from surviving examples observed it would appear that this was the case - even where finish has been lost due to use and/or over cleaning, traces of finish still survive and it is clear that most examples were the standard (by late-war period) of all-over black.  However not all knives were subject to this standard finish as some rare examples can attest. 

In total contrast, a few very rare ‘plated’ examples are known (right).  One must remember that the original (First Pattern) was plated in such a way, so it is not unreasonable to see the logic behind such a decision.  Also very rare and seldom seen are those examples with a blued/blackened hilt and polished blade (center).  In regards the latter, some interesting contemporary details have surfaced via advertisements placed in Popular Science magazine circa 1950 (see below).

Black hilt & polished blade

Nickel plated finish

The two advertisements below appear near identical but it was recently pointed out to me by a friend (thank you, Martin) that there is an important detail ‘missing’ from the later advertisement!  Both ads are from the ‘Popular Science’ magazine from the year 1950.  The advertisement at left dates from June of that year, whereas the right advertisement dates from August just two months later.  Of interest is that both feature the Ribbed & Beaded pattern.  But of more interest is that the earlier June ad states: “...knives come blued or polished, state choice..”, (circled in red).

This statement has been amended in the later ad with just ‘blued’ knives on offer.  These comments and the reference to ‘polished’ are likely referring to the rare version with the blued hilt and polished blade.  This is perhaps suggestive that only small quantities of this variation were available having been ‘sold out’ after just a short while with the later add resulting in it having to be altered to reflect that only blued knives were available. 

The Ribbed & Beaded F-S has always been a popular variation and I see no reason for this to change.  Along with its pleasing lines, there are plenty of official markings and variations to keep the most fastidious of collector interested.  The fact that so many were imported into the US in the years that followed  World War Two is a good thing as it has provided us with many fine examples still in quite incredible condition.  Although very fine examples are scarce as indeed are some variations, there are still many solid and honest examples out there to keep our interest.

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