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.
Nice story about your adventure at the Blade Show. Are you going to show us progress during the builds?
Please show us what you make out of these blades. It must feel great to “author” your own knives! I become attached to my knives, a custom made by me would be impossible for me to put it away;)
Lew and jazz110,
I hope to have something to show, but it’s going to be a while for these. I have to get equipped. Once I start, I’ll take some photos of the progress.
Very nice article. I have made one knife with the help of custom knife maker Chet Deubel of Tucson, AZ. It’s hard ass work
Agreed, Leopold. It is hard work, but I think the reward is in the finished product!
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