Since its inception in August of 1941, the basic Second Pattern F-S design never really changed but this does not mean that every single knife or scabbard is identical...far from it.  In fact, there are so many subtle and not-so-subtle differences to look out for that the Second Pattern F-S Knife can be a study in its own right.  From different finishes and etchings to production anomalies both in the knives and scabbards, a collector could easily be kept busy for a lifetime. 

As previously discussed on the Second Pattern main page and for ease of identification, I have classified the Second Pattern into three types according to their finish.  This does not imply any official ‘sub-variation’ to the standard pattern but is merely a means to help us identify and discuss a particular knife.  A very brief overview is given here but for a much more in-depth study please follow the link in the navigation bar at the  left which will take you to the specific Type of Second Pattern.

An interesting production anomaly that sometime crops up is a variation on the standard grip, often referred to a a ‘button pommel’.  Essentially this is a very slight difference in the profile of the grip and pommel.  For comparison see photograph at left which shows a ‘button’ pommel.  In this case the neck of the grip has a narrower profile and terminates in a more ‘button’ shaped pommel as opposed to the more rounded style on the normal grips.  There is no logical reason for such a subtle change in design.  However one explanation could be that these grips were sourced from a different supplier.  One needs to recall that at the time Wilkinson had switched from turning the grips from solid brass stock to having them ‘cast’.  These cast grips were sources from an outside foundry supplier, therefore it is reasonable to assume that at some point another supplier was contracted and this suppler when making their own casting moulds produced a pattern that deviated (albeit slightly) from the original design.

This theory can be partially substantiated when one looks at an internal Wilkinson memorandum dated 19th January, 1943.  Comments are made as follows:  “The last batch of F-S grip castings received were of poor quality and rejected and returned”.  This tells us that Wilkinson were indeed receiving ‘cast’ grips from an outside supplier but also that problems did occur and in this case had to be returned.  It is therefore reasonable to assume that Wilkinson (at least on one occasion) procured cast second pattern grips from another supplier.

The Second Pattern is one of the most interesting Wilkinson F-S knives to collect, this is due in part to the plethora of fine and interesting etched panels that can be found on the blade.  Knives usually have both the F-S and W-S logo etched on opposing sides of the blade (though there are exceptions).  Although the F-S logo remained the same, there are different Wilkinson etched panels to look out for.  In addition to the ‘standard’ etched panels it was also possible to privately order a unique etching with your personal details within an ornate banner.  This topic is covered fully in the dedicated page which you can locate in the primary navigation bar at the top of this pager but here we will look briefly at some of the etching panels found on Second Pattern F-S knives.

In the photographs below are three closeup images of ‘THE F-S FIGHTING KNIFE.’ etched panel.  Note how consistent the details are and of course, how the etched panel presents differently when applied to different ‘types’ of Second Pattern.  The left images shows an etching on a Type I ‘all nickel’ knife, whereas the center image is on a Type II ‘all blued’ Second Pattern, the right images shows a Type III ‘blued hilt/polished blade’ knifeAll these etchings show consistency and care in their application but one can clearly see how different they look in respect to the different blade finishes.

Although the Wilkinson trade logo etching remained relatively constant throughout Second Pattern production, variations still do exist.  The most frequently found etching can be seen in the image left.  This is found on all pattern of F-S knives and is easily the most often encountered.  This particular example is on a Type 1 ‘all nickel’ Second Pattern.  The ‘longer’ version with a slightly more elaborate foliate design can be found on Third Pattern knives as well as Second.  This is quite a rare etching but does turn up from time to time.  This example seen here in the center image and is on a Type III Second Pattern.  The elaborate Wilkinson etched panel in the right image is very rare indeed and is referred to as a ‘Masonic’ etching (see ‘Blade Etchings’ page for full explanation).  This is a very rare Wilkinson etching indeed and only found on the so called ‘Masonic’ Second Pattern knives.

One of the more fascinating aspects to collecting the Wilkinson F-S and especially the Second Pattern is the variety of ‘special’ and sometimes wholly ‘unique’ etched panels that can be found.  This is something that for the most part is unique to Wilkinson Sword and reflects their long history in fine sword making.  A small selection of these etchings is represented below but once more I will direct you to the dedicated ‘Blade Etchings’ page found in the primary navigation bar at the top of this page.

A somewhat small and often overlooked production anomaly, some Second Pattern knives have been noted with ‘blind’ or ‘spigot’ pommel nuts.  The normal way of securing the grip to the tang is that a nut, having first been drilled & threaded ‘through’ its entirety, is threaded and clamped tight onto the tang.  Any remaining tang protruding is then cut and filed or peened over, thus finishing the process. However and very rarely it has been noted that a ‘blind’ nut, i.e. a nut that has ‘not’ been drilled through, has been used.  This must  have required an accurate cutting of the tang prior to assembly, the nut being tightened with no more work required.  It is not known when or why this method was tried but it must have been short-lived as only a few examples have been found.

The original (First Pattern) grip was initially turned from ‘solid’ brass stock and then knurled to provide a secure grip.  The precise time is not known but at some point the decision was made to cast the grips.  This was certainly fully implemented by the time Second Pattern production was under way.  The material used was still brass but casting the grips enables a small internal void to be created at the thickest part of the grip (see the adjacent original technical drawing), enabling a small amount of raw material to be saved per unit.  This was an important compromise as brass (along with other raw materials) was categorized by the War Department as a Strategic Material and therefor strictly controlled.  At first thought this modest change would seem insignificant but when multiplied by tens of thousands of units the accumulated savings, especially during wartime shortages, was a prudent and responsible decision.  From a visual inspection it is almost impossible to detect the difference between a ‘cast’ gip and those from solid brass stock, although if one examine the grips closely it can sometimes be possible to detect small casting flaws to identify the cast grips.

© R. Wilkinson-Latham

© R. Wilkinson-Latham

A rare but fascinating production anomaly only found on Type 1 (all nickel) Second Pattern knives is that of an ‘S’ shaped cross-guard normally associated with the First Pattern knife.  This was clearly nothing more than Wilkinson using up old stock  parts  from  First  Pattern  production.  Of course this anomaly does beg the question was this knife one of the first Second Patterns that immediately followed First Pattern production?  One would logically think so, as it was likely that parts were used up quickly as the ‘new design’ was implemented. 

When viewing such a knife it  is of paramount importance that a very close inspection of the pommel nut be carried out to make sure it is completely original and has not been maliciously tampered with.  I’m pleased to say that the example shown here is 100% correct and original.  This ‘transitional’ style knife is very interesting and when found in such wonderful condition as this example must surely be a desirable and interesting addition to any F-S collection.

This Type III knife is by far the most often encountered but is still quite a difficult knife to find in original condition.  With its blued hilt and polished blade it is quite a striking knife.  The polished blade allows for the etching panels to be clearly seen and perhaps this is one reason that many of these knives can be seen with extra personal etched panels on the blade.  All three types of Second Pattern have blades that have been hand-ground; this is reflected in the many subtle differences in blade profile, width and length one sees.  The blade in the example shown in is totally unused and original, yet its overall profile is broader and length slightly shorter that the two other examples shown.  One needs to remember all these blades were hand ground.

The all blued Second Pattern F-S is likely one of the rarest of all the Second Pattern knives.  Blued/blackened throughout, this is certainly a very modern fighting knife in concept, having no reflective surface.  Surprisingly, these knives are still etched with both the F-S and WS etchings, although as on the example shown in the blueing is applied ‘over’ the etchings which now become muted and much less visible.  This is not always the case, as examples with etched panels applied ‘after’ blueing have been noted, making the etched panels much more visible.  The scabbard chape on Type II knives is also blued and normal in the flat-bottomed style.    On the example illustrated, the earlier style has been used although still blued.

The earliest and possibly most desirable of all Second Patterns, this first type immediately followed First Pattern production and retained the same allover bright finish of the original design.  The grips can be either turned from solid stock   as per First Pattern or cast.  Aside from the straight cross-guard and lack of a ricasso these knives are almost identical to the First Pattern it replaced.  The correct scabbard for these knives should have the ‘new’ elastic retaining strap but retain the round-bottomed and nickel-plated chape.  Both etching panels are of the standard form, however some rare knives have been noted with personal etching panels applied to one side.

This image shows how this ‘transitional’ knife fits into the F-S picture.  The knife at left is a standard First Pattern which clearly shows the characteristic squared ‘tablet’ ricasso and distinctive ‘S’ shaped cross-guard usually only seen on this pattern.  The knife far right is a standard (Type I) Second Pattern, this time with the characteristic straight cross-guard and no ricasso.  Straddled by these two ‘standard’ pattern knives and at centre is the transitional knife, note the absence of a ricasso as per the standard Second Pattern but still retaining the ‘S’ shaped cross-guard of the First Pattern.

What follows on this page is by no means an exhaustive study of the variety of details in respect of the Second Pattern, that would require a book in itself and is far beyond the scope of this article.  However it is my intention to highlight perhaps the more obvious and important aspects that can be encountered.  And perhaps also to highlight some more obscure, elusive and/or previously unnoticed details that I hope will be of interest and possibly inspire you to be more observant in the study of your own collection.

This is a a photograph I took many years ago to highlight some of the knives I owned back then.  It is still relevant and does a respectable job of highlighting at a glance the variety that can be found in studying the Wilkinson Second Pattern F-S.  It’s worth pointing out the knife just right of center, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is not etched when in fact it is, the bluing having been applied ‘after’ the etching panel of this Type II.  The knife is shown in a larger image below, as is the etching itself.

When discussing the Second Pattern with fellow collectors both experienced and novice alike, one can easily get confused as to the ‘type’ of knives under discussion.  For this reason I eventually decided to created and introduce the concept of three basic types of Second Pattern.  It would be tempting to go further but that I feel would only confuse an already challenging topic.  These three types refer in the most basic sense to the common finishes found and are clearly listed and described below.  Each type also has its own dedicated page and also gallery.  By using this reference in any discussion or description it helps to start one of on the right foot, so to speak.

I hope you enjoy exploring this page and indeed the other more specific pages related to the Second Pattern.  As time allows and as new production anomalies and variations are discovered, I will endeavor to update this page and include the appropriate details.

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Variations & Production Anomalies

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~ Introduction ~


~ Finishes ~


~ Type I ~


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~ Cast Grips ~


~ Button Pommel Grips ~


~ Blade Etchings ~


~ The F-S Etchings ~


~ The Wilkinson Trade Label Etchings ~


~ Special Or Unique Etchings ~


~ Blind ‘Spigot’ Pommel Nuts ~


~ Transitional ‘S’ Crossguard Second Pattern ~


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