This year’s BLADE Show was transformational for me. For the last four years, I have attended as a writer, with the job of interviewing people and taking photographs. Maxpedition bag slung over one shoulder, I wandered into the Cobb Galleria Center Friday with the intention of talking to folks and examining goods in preparation for articles once again.
A familiar pang came over me when I walked in, though. I was inspired by the master bladesmiths and craftsmen, and women, gathered to show their wares. My purpose was to write, but I really wanted to be there as a knifemaker. Leaving the pen, pad, and camera inside my slingbag, I began walking the show floor, thinking like a maker.
I have not made knives in many years. In fact, I had only ever made a few stock removal fixed blades for my own use. All my tools are long since gone–sold in a clandestine garage sale by a spiteful ex-wife. I would have to buy more machinery. And that could come later…
My plan was to find some small pieces of steel and a few bits of handle-making material to take home with me to get my inner maker jump-started. Since I would be starting from ground zero, I figured I should be reasonable and keep expectations within my skill level. I visited booths of the knife supply houses, studying what was available.
When I had finished a few hours of recon, I retreated to my annual dinner location, Big Chow Grill inside the Galleria for two heaping bowls of stirfry and a Stella Artois. Eating in solitude, I devised my strategy. I would return to the show in the morning and shop for inexpensive, yet quality materials from which to make four or five small full-tang knives. I slept well that night.
Upon my return to the venue the next morning, the crowd had swelled from the previous afternoon. Saturdays are normally much busier than the Fridays. Fortunately, I had charted a path around the huge room and I knew exactly where I wanted to root around.
My first stop was at Hiroaki Ohta‘s knife table. He is a custom maker from Tokyo. His simple folding knives are small works of art. I decided to buy one to remind myself that Old World craftsmanship does not have to be complicated. I picked out one of his Ohta Friction Folders FK-series with a very nice palo santo wood handle for $45. Money well spent. Off to the vendors.
My desire was to make a couple of fixed blades of which I could be proud. I needed Damascus steel! I have never worked it and I do not own any blade made of it, but the layers and patterns are mesmerizing to me. On the scrap table at Alabama Damascus Steel, I selected three small cast-off blanks. One was a serious ladder pattern while the other two were raindrop. The man said “fifty bucks” so I fished out a Ulysses and handed it to him. Damn, I think I’m a knifemaker again!
I bee-lined to Jantz Supply, where I found some C-grade Ironwood scales that were pleasing in appearance. Boom! Thirty dollars later, I stuffed them in the bag. I went to another knife supply dealer, but circled back to Jantz and purchased brown and blue G10 and some green and brown Kirinite from a junk bin. Total price, $5.50.
At Masecraft Supply Company, I saw some green glow-in-the-dark acrylic on Friday. I went back and bought a small four dollar square. It would go well with the green Kirinite as a bolster for an other-worldly handle. That, and I love stuff that glows in the dark.
My fingers moved through many pieces of horn and animal bone, searching for something to stand-out against the high carbon Damascus, but I just could not find what I was looking for (though I’m not exactly sure what it was, I’d have known it on sight). Oh yeah, I zipped back to Jantz once again and bought a rod of mosaic pin to contrast the Ironwood scales. In matching my project goals, I kept it small, but elegant.
My cache was beginning to feel a bit heavier on my back and that gave me a smile. When I passed by the commercial booths, I felt somehow different, like I now belonged to a subset segment of the show-goers. It was a good feeling and still within that part of me that wants to create. I do not know how far I will get with this hobby, but just reaching out to it has made me happy.