BLADE Show 2016 and a Different Path

Blade Show 2016 suppliesThis 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.

Blade Show 2016 Media PassWhen 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.

Blade Show 2016 Ohta Knives OFF FK5My 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!

Blade Show 2016 Alabama Damascus steelI 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.

Blade Show 2016 Cobb Galleria Center Blade Show 2016 half of the show floorMy 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.

by Wilson

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7 Responses to BLADE Show 2016 and a Different Path

  1. Lew Evans says:

    Nice story about your adventure at the Blade Show. Are you going to show us progress during the builds?
    Regards, Lew


  2. jazz110 says:

    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;)


    • Wilson says:

      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.



  3. 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


  4. Pingback: Off to BLADE Show 2018 |

  5. Pingback: BLADE Show 2018’s Added Space |

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