Story and Photos by Tim Stetzer
I’m a sucker for history and martial mayhem. So, when I caught wind of the Bawidamann Doughboy on Instagram I was immediately hooked.
My first message was to a buddy who’s a WWI buff, and my second was to Andrew Bawidamann, to get details. Like the name implies, the Doughboy traces its origins to the trenches of WWI. Trench combat was often an up close and personal thing and the nature of close quarters combat, in very tight conditions, caused the troopers and militaries of the time to rethink some of their gear.
Trench clubs and trench knives became standard equipment, alongside pistols, shotguns and bayonets. A wide variety of trench knives were used by the various powers but the U.S. brass knuckle hilted MK1 models are the ones that most people probably visualize when you say trench knife.
Although designed for the trenches of WWI the MK1 arrived too late to see much service there but was reissued during WWII to Army Ranger and Airborne units, and some Marine Raider battalions.
If you’re familiar with Andrew’s work you know that he has an affinity for war history, that can be seen in his wartime style pinup art—amongst other things—as well as an affinity for EDC gear and blades, that he designs and makes with his brother Ben.
The Doughboy is the first in a series of brass knucks that blends that love of martial history with practical EDC use, and it channels the hilt of the MK1 trench knife. The first MK1’s were actually made by the French manufacturer Au Lion and was subtly different from later US production models. The Doughboy leans more to the Au Lion design.
The two-knuckle pattern looks like it was cut from the middle of an MK1 handle but it isn’t that simple of a project. Andrew spent more than a year developing the Doughboy and he poured his love of the era and the MK1 into the design.
Early prototypes showed that just cutting out a section of MK1 handle ended up with a bulky and clunky design. So, Andrew spent a lot of time and revisions to slim down the handle proportions, to make it work as a set of standalone knucks, while still keeping that MK1 style and influence.
The edges of the Doughboy are melted to keep from tearing up your pockets, and it’s finished in a matte finish that gives it a vintage look. The base models are cast in the U.S. from C922 Navy M Bronze and weigh in at 9 ounces.
The Doughboy is pretty much all business but there is a bottle opener built in. Andrew went back and forth on the inclusion of that, but personally, I always like having something that can open up a beer. It’s a great conversation piece when you pull it out to pop open bottles at your next beer exchange too.
The Initial Doughboy production consisted of the double knuck DB-2 and its single knuck partner the DB-1, and they were cast in the Naval bronze as mentioned above. Andrew has also done a run in brass, as well as an Airweight version of the DB-1 and DB-2, in cast aluminum with a Cerakote finish.
The DB-2 in bronze is priced at $95.00, which I think is extremely reasonable, considering the thought and effort that went into the design and the final product quality. I’ve seen many other knucks go for much more than that, that frankly don’t have the same appeal and functionality—at least to me.
Especially when you factor in that these are an all American designed and made project. You’re supporting American artisans and American small business.
It’s odd to say about a hunk of metal designed to cave someone’s face in, but the Doughboy has a refined feel to it.
I have other knucks that I like but neither compares to the Doughboy. One is similar size and heft but is nowhere near as comfortable in the hand. The other is comfortable but doesn’t have the mass or the palm standoff of the Doughboy. Both cost more too.
Another big thing is that the finger holes are big enough for even large sized hands. If you ever tried an original MK1 trench knife—or even a repro—you’ll find that the finger holes are rather small. I have a busted up knuckle on my right hand, that won’t fit through the holes on a MK1, but it fits just fine in the Doughboy.
I roamed around the sketchy sections of town hoping to get mugged so I could try out the Doughboy but didn’t have any luck. Apparently, muggers don’t need extra cash with those government stimulus checks coming. I did slug it out with a pine board in the garage though, just to get a feel for how the Doughboy hit.
One of the first things I noticed was that the size of the knucks kept my hand well away from the board, so that you’re hitting with the knucks, not your hand. My other knucks don’t have that much standoff space, so when you punch something it’s hitting the knucks but also your hand. Punching boards with those is less pleasant.
The other thing is that the large palm standoff helps significantly as well. It gives you something to grasp and ensures that the knucks are riding away from your fingers. So, they don’t just look cool, they actually work well too.
Between the two, I have a definite preference for the double knuck DB-2 over the DB-1. The DB-1 is a little lighter at 6 ounces—as well as smaller for EDC carry—and it certainly works too, but I prefer the heft and feel of the DB-2 personally.
It’s nice to have options though, so buy one of each and see which you prefer. Or make your buddy buy one of each so you can try them out and see which you like best, and then buy that one.
Make sure to check your local laws about knucks before tossing them in your pocket and knocking out muggers with them. They are legal in a lot of places, but definitely not everywhere. In some states its legal to carry a gun, with or without a permit, but not brass knuckles. Like that makes sense. But it’s government, so what do you expect?
Even if you can’t legally carry them, if your allowed to own knucks as a collectible, these things are still really slick. I have a pair on my desk, and I find myself slipping them on when I’m on the phone, reading stuff like Knife & Gear Society articles on the internet or doing other stuff to distract myself from the things I’m supposed to be doing. Like writing.
I kind of think of them as fidget spinners for adults. They’re also a cool piece of art, giving me something to just look at on my desk when I’m not doing anything else with them.
Check in at Bawidimann.com or Monkeyedge.com to see when the next batch is in stock. Also, make sure to sign up for Andrew’s newsletter to get updates when a new drop is coming. These things sell fast though, so jump on them when they’re there.
Keep an eye out in the coming weeks for a full set of knucks based on the MK1 handle too. K&G
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Length: 2.710 inchesWidth: 2.51 inchesThickness: .584 inchesMaterial: C922 Navy M BronzeWeight: 9 ouncesMSRP: $95.00
Tim Stetzer lives in Western Pennsylvania with his wife, 2 kids, and too many cats. He has over two decades of law enforcement and criminal justice experience, and is a police academy instructor. He is also a veteran of both the Army and Air Force Reserves and has been an avid outdoorsman since his youth in Boy Scouts where he first became interested in knives. Tim has written for various gun, knife and outdoors publications since 2006 and has designed or helped design a number of custom and production knives during that time.
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