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Good evening everybody!

I have a question that will probably have as many answers as there are opinions on it.

I recently came into the stewardship of a 1888 Prussian bayonet.  Before actually taking possession, I thought it was a 1940ish bayonet, that really did not have much value.  There is no scabbard.

Upon receipt, I learned that the original finish on the wooden handle grips had been stripped, but all of the metal seemed to be reasonably intact.  Especially considering its age.

My question is what to do with the handle?  I have not been able to learn what the original finish was on the bayonet.  My  personal feeling is that raw unfinished wood needs some sort of protection, but I want to preserve as much of the history as possible.  I have developed a very nice durable finish for the totes and knobs of old hand planes that I go through.  Because I value the natural beauty of the wood, I have not been able to cover up the grain of the wood on these pieces, but rather protect them with my own little recipe that yields a similar look and feel to the lacquer and finish, but still allows the wood to be seen.

With this bayonet so much older than I expected, does anyone have any advice on what to do with it?  Should I strive to emulate the original finish that was used back in 1888?  Does the already stripped handle destroy virtually all value of the bayonet?  If so, then I would have no qualms of refinishing it that way I want.  

Thank you for any advice or words of wisdom that you would care to share with me.

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Kevin...if this was one of your rifles of the same era, what would you use to restore the stock on it? It seems to follow that since many of the same arsenals that manufactured the military rifles also produced the bayonets, a good place to look is rifle restoration. Most of the bayonet specific restoration articles and videos on the internet deal with taking some rusted old piece and doing the magic they do to wow a crowd. 

You and I have already had some great and detailed discussions on this topic - if not this piece. You know me - I'd like to see it back to as close to original as possible. However - you also have some wicked skills when it comes to restorative and creative work. Do you think you would receive as much pleasure taking on the challenge of researching and developing an era-like finish with your skills? Oh yea you would - regardless if it adds value or not! The pure satisfaction of pulling that off would provide you endless bragging rights!  :-D

Hey Lars!  Good to get your input here!

I have briefly discussed this one with you before, mainly on ID'ing the thing.  I do not have a rifle for this one (yet). This bayonet was initially issued for use on the M1871/84 11mm Mauser (I would love to find one of those rifles!). 

This M1871/84 bayonet was the first knife style bayonet to be a standard issue for a major army.  Kind of the grand daddy of the knife style bayonets going forward!

The muzzle ring on a large majority of these were cut off so that they could also be used on the (8mm Mausers) GEW 98s and the K98K rifles.  This practice was officially sanctioned in the early 1900s.

This particular bayonet (blade) was made in 1888 by the WKC, and assembled in the Erfurt facility.

At some point, the original finish on the wooden handle was stripped off.  After realizing how old this bayonet was and some of its history, any thoughts of simply making new grips for it were thoroughly snuffed out.  I certainly need to preserve the wood, and as much history as I can.  I have tried several times to find anything that details what that original finish was.  No luck so far. 

If I could learn what the finish was, I am certain that I could reproduce it, or at least a very close approximation. 

Kind of like the urushi lacquer used on the Japanese Arisakas.  We cannot reproduce this exactly (and since it is derived from sap which is poisonous, I am not convinced we want to!), but a VERY close approximation can be accomplished.

Sorry.  I can get kind of caught up in these old methods...

I have developed a very nice durable finish that is very pleasing to the touch on the hand planes that I work on.  In the absence of good information regarding the original finish of this bayonet, I am leaning toward using that finish on it. It will look and feel good!  :)

But if anyone has information on the original finish, I am certainly interested!

Thanks!

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