Originally in RKS Newsletter #60 November 2003
An interesting anecdote to the model 4 in the previous Brown Micarta article is the sheath marked 1960. It is a Johnson brown button with a horizontal logo, allegedly one of Johnson’s earliest. This should help end the speculation that Johnson did in fact make sheaths possibly as early as 1960 for Randall even if only on a trial basis. It seems Johnson became the primary sheath maker in 1962 with the H.H. Heiser Company being relegated to a secondary supplier. This switch did not happen overnight but over at least a year so you have to assume Johnson was in the picture for some time prior to early 1962. From what I can ascertain, most Heiser sheaths beyond 1962 were “leftovers” languishing in the sheath bin.
I have yet to see a model 1 or 2 (or any popular model that matter) in a Heiser marked sheath during or after the switch to the heftier blade grind beginning in the early 60’s and becoming standard by the mid 1960’s. It appears the change in blade grind somewhat coincided with the change in sheath makers, probably a coincidence. The only mid to late 1960’s (a few 1970’s too) Randall’s I have seen in Heiser marked sheaths are Bowies, an occasional model 13, and possibly a small skinner.
Most importantly, I have never seen any evidence suggesting the H.H. Heiser Company used anything other than their company logo on sheaths supplied to Randall or other leather products they produced. Heiser had supplied sheaths to Randall for twenty or so years at this point so why change logos after all that time? This fact also supports my contention that Johnson provided Randall sheaths as early as 1960. It would stand to reason that Bo on considering the change in sheath makers would also change the logo on the sheath to a new Randall logo.
Local boy Maurice Johnson was a harness leather maker for trotting horses and not originally in the sheath making business and this was a new venture for him. In fact, Johnson may not have had his own logo stamp prior to the deal with Randall. If you look and compare the Johnson logo with the Randall logo, they are similar. Which came first? Probably the Randall stamp with the Johnson stamp soon to follow. There are also several circa 1960 Randall knives in sheaths with no logo. Could these be the first Johnson’s and a precursor to the official acceptance by Bo of Maurice Johnson’s work?
One final consideration is the difference in the leather used by Heiser and Johnson. Most Heiser leather tends to have a higher luster like shoe leather and tends to be less supple whereas the Johnson leather is not quite as “fine” of finish and tends to be supple. I can’t recall seeing a sheath with “Heiser type” leather and the Randall logo. I suppose the subject of when Johnson started to supply sheaths to Randall in any fashion may be left open to further debate.
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