The Beginner’s Guide To The Sgian Dubh
What is a sgian dubh? Well, it translates from Gaelic as ‘black dagger’. This refers to the black bog oak that the handles were often made from, as well as the way they were concealed. Sgian dubhs originate from a time in history when everyone would have carried a knife for hunting and protection. It is said that these blades were concealed under the armpit of the wearer. They were removed when entering the home of a friend as a sign of trust and friendship.
These days it is worn in the sock, usually the same side as your writing hand. It is used purely for decorative purposes now. Or for cutting the haggis!
Sgian dubhs can be as elaborately or simply decorated as you choose. Many have stones in the top which can tone in with the colours in your kilt. The handle can be made from a variety of materials, such as staghorn, wood, pressed heather or plastic. They are often decorated with clan crests or other Scottish emblems, such as thistles or lion rampants.
In regard to the law and your sgian dubh, if the blade measures more than 3.5 inches you are breaking the law. Some older sgian dubhs may be longer than the legal requirement, but all of ours are less than the requirement and are fine to carry as part of your national dress. However, it would be unwise to try to board a plane or enter a nightclub with one.