The crooked knife sometimes referred to as a "curved knife", "carving knife," or "mocotaugan," from the Cree term "môhkotâkan," is a woodworking knife, typically with a curved end. The crooked knife is a common tool found amongst the native Americans of the Eastern Woodlands as well as non-native woodworkers. The crooked in "crooked knife" refers to its unusual shape with the handle set at an oblique angle to the blade. The blade can be straight or curved, long or short and can be made of a steel forged specifically for the knife, or from reused hardened steel from another source. The shape of the blade, whether curved or straight, is a function of the carving purpose of the user: straight for whittling wood, making splints for baskets and incising, curved for hollowing out bowls and masks and ladles, as well as myriad other usages.
The crooked knife is drawn toward the body, with the thumb ergonomically placed along the flattened bottom of the handle, the hand clenched with the palm up. Drawing the blade toward the user the knife allows great range of movement and precision.
The handles of the knives are typically made of wood but can also be fashioned of antler, or another hardened material. The handles often became highly embellished and take the form of humans or animals, or are incised and inlaid and are fashioned into high works of art.
The shape of a crooked knife was apparently inspired by the incisors of a beaver, which in earlier times were mounted in a handle and used for the same purposes.
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