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How to Whittle

Whittling is one of the longest and cherished pastimes known to man and especially Americans. During the late 1700s and up until the mid-1900s, Americans have been known to always be whittling. Some might say that is has fallen out of fashion, but to the contrary, there are tons of people who know how to whittle. So let’s look at what whittling entails, how to do it, and what the skills of whittling can be employed to do.

First, here’s a brief introduction to what whittling is.

What is Whittling?

Whittling is the art of carving pieces of wood with a carving knife or pocketknife. Generally, whittling is done on a small scale, such as carving little sculptures of animals, making a tool, or some other object. Unlike other types of wood carving (http://www.bestwoodcarvingtools.com/wood-carvers-beginner-guide/), whittling creates a sculpture or object. A distinguishing feature of whittling is that knife strokes, or cuts, are visible and add a rustic, rugged feel to the object being made.

Now that you have an understanding of what whittling is, let’s look at the basic cuts whittlers use:

What are the Basic Cuts?

There are a few basic cuts that any whittler, professional or amateur, can use to create just about anything:

  • Straightaway Rough Cutting: This cut is when you push the blade away from yourself. It is generally used at the beginning of whittling projects to fashion the general shape of the object. Execute thin, long cuts and avoid pushing to deep or the wood could split.
  • The Pull Stroke (Pare Cut): The Pare Cut is the most used cut in whittling. To perform this cut, grasp the wood with your left hand and the knife in your right hand. Brace the wood with your right thumb and pull the knife towards you, making a thin cut. Be cautious of where you place your thumb to not injure yourself as the blade comes toward you. The knife should be held firmly, allowing great control. This cut is mainly used for detailing the object.
  • Push Stroke (Thumb Pushing Cut): Sometimes, the wood will not allow for the pare cut. When this is the case, using the push stroke should do the trick. Again, hold the wood in your left hand with the knife in your right. Set the blade firmly against the wood and place both thumbs over the back of the blade. Push with your left thumb and use your right to guide the knife. This cut also affords solid control and can be used to make detailed cuts.

With a knowledge of the basic cuts, you too can now whittle small objects. However, knowing how to work with the wood is vital to whittling success.

Carving with the Grain

Carving with the grain of the wood makes whittling much easier, avoiding lots of potential frustrations. First, you will need to decipher the direction of the grain. If it is not obvious, make a shallow push cut going in either direction and see which one provided the least resistance. The least resistant cut will be with the grain.

IMPORTANT: Cutting against the grain will make whittling difficult, eventually tearing and splitting the wood. Not only is it difficult and impractical, it is also dangerous. With the extra resistance, whittlers will use more force, which can cause a slip and injury. The same principle goes for dull blades. Always keep your knives razor sharp in order to reduce the risk of injuring yourself.

How Can I Utilize Whittling Skills Outdoors or While I’m Camping?

Whittling is not only an engaging pastime, it is also an important skill when outdoors. There are several useful items that can be made through whittling when spending time out in the wilderness. Here are a couple of items:

  1. Tent Stake: Whittling is especially helpful if you need a tent stake. Tent stakes are easy projects and essential when needing to pitch a tent for the night.
  2. Fishing Spear: Forgot the fishing gear? Not a problem for whittlers. Finding a long piece of sturdy wood and taking the time to fashion a nice point out of one of its ends will yield a perfect spear to catch fish.
  3. Whistle: Whether you need to signal someone for help or are just itching to impress your friends, whistles are prime products of whittling. A short, yet slender piece of wood and a sharp knife can make some amazing sounds.

Whatever you may want to use whittling for, it is a fun and easy skill to come by. Practicing over the years will allow you to become an expert whittler and can lead to projects on a grand scale.

Byline

My name is Nathan and I have been wood carving for over 8 years. I own and operate a wood carving website (http://www.bestwoodcarvingtools.com/) that provides useful and valuable information to those looking to learn the craft or find a solution to their problems. To see all-inclusive introduction guides to wood carving visit http://www.bestwoodcarvingtools.com/wood-carvers-beginner-guide/ for more information.

 

For timeless whittling knives, check out the large selection of Great Eastern Cutlery pocket knives.

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Questions with Greg Medford of Medford Knife & Tool

Medford Knives have become synonymous with high quality, over-engineered knives built to take the rigors of hostile environments. Anyone who has seen one immediately knows they have a look that shows Greg is not only a tremendous machinist but a true artist. Make no misstate, the knives are not inexpensive, but like all world class products you get what you pay for. Greg and Amy are extremely personable, approachable people turning out unparalleled American made products. Recently, we had the opportunity to chat and have the pleasure of sharing our conversation with you.

Q: Greg, how did you get into knife making? What drew you to it?

A: I’ve always loved edged weapons and when looking to get into durable hard goods manufacturing I was interested in aerospace, firearms, engines and cutlery. They all would have sufficed but after looking at possible shortcomings of each industry I decided knife making left the most creativity, human individuality, and ultimately flexibility in the market place, not to mention the least amount of government oversight.

Q: Almost all of your production employees are military veterans. Can you talk about why that is important to you?

A: I love vets. I like them happy and working through all of life’s challenges that their civilian counterparts work through. They come to my shop and “fit in” again and work through their reentry into the normal world, so to speak. They get no quarter for their service, since we have all served, so they get to be basically normal and in an environment that is truly fun. We do not have “sensitivity in the workplace” seminars or struggle to “not offend anyone” and appreciate our collective dark and inappropriate humor. We are courteous and never judge or put anyone else down or shame anyone but we have fun with each other in an old fashioned way that is very pre-politically correct military and makes long days of work fun and builds friendship.

Q: Prior to knife making you did some really cool things. Can you talk a little about what you did before starting Medford Knife and Tool?

A: I was a master-level martial artist. I trained in 4 styles and was promoted to multiple degrees of black belts in all of them. My highest rank and primary dedication was in American Kenpo under Huk Planas. I started training in 1978 and taught daily until 2011. I taught mostly adults self-defense and combatives for many years in my own schools here in Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona. I had a few schools and loved the martial arts and business around it but ultimately wanted to do something more scalable. Upon my return from Kuwait in 1991 I moved to AZ and started flying Warbirds in the civilian world. I flew very intensely for years and have several thousand hours flying all kinds of civilian and military aircraft from all over the world. My primary interest was in radial engine era craft and tail draggers in particular. At my most intense period flying you could swing by my hanger and I’d be working on my Nanchang CJ-6 or Yak-50 or Yak 3 from WWII. The time I spent building engines and fabricating parts for my rare birds really schooled me for the ins and outs of knife design and making.

Q: What has been the biggest surprise to you in your knife making journey?

A: The biggest surprise in knife making is the insatiable demand the market has for expensive, high-end stuff. I had no idea how many “1%rs” there are out there and additionally how many regular folks would go for these kind of knives. I was stunned initially by how precise knives need to be to work well! I was also blown away by the seriousness with which the rabid fan base of knife collectors took this business and I respect them greatly and appreciate their collective love of our products at this level.

Q: What is your favorite model from the current MKT lineup?

A: Picking a favorite knife is like singling out a favorite child. That being said, I will say that I love the Praetorian for its obvious success and how it catapulted my team and me solidly onto the map. I love the new designs like the Infraction and the Burung for the style and design savvy. I love putting the TFF-1 and my latest stuff next to each other and comparing and contrasting the start and current place in my design life. I love the epic quality that my latest knives display, as a testament to my efforts to respect our customer and their hard earned and spent money. And I am proud of my team’s craftsmanship that shows through in everything we make. It is very humbling.

Q: Your knives are some of the coolest looking, innovatively designed knives on the market. Where do you get the inspirations for your designs?

A: As far as design goes, I take my lead from my emotions. I have been fortunate to travel the world more than most and have stared at the great art and architecture of our specie’s finest creators. I have studied anatomy and prehistoric fossils as well as aerospace design and have stared and reflected on the great machines and ideas that span the modern age. I have slung us from horseback to space in a mere moment of time. I have done what every bright reflective human has done, but I bring an American swagger and blend of New England pragmatism and South Western optimism to everything I do. I typically honor form over function and allow the necessity of a tool to guide my initial sketches.

Q: If you weren’t making knives what would you be doing if you had your choice?

A: I’d be doing one (or more) of the following:   making breaching tools, building a PVD system to do coatings, making carbon fiber motorcycles, building a titanium foundry or possibly flying a jet.  I always do stuff I love so those are pretty good bets!

Q: Why did you choose D2 as your primary blade steel?

A: I like D2 for a variety of reasons. It has many of the properties of modern more exotic “super-steels” but is reasonably easy for end-users to re-sharpen. Further it takes heat treat like clockwork and walks perfectly a middle-ground for the amazing wide variety of end-user needs. I use the specialty steels to cater to those rare individuals that truly need something for their specific environment or use. I leave the rest of it to armchair quarterbacks that take their leads from the sales pitches for the “latest greatest new unobtanium.” My metallurgy page at www.medfordknife.com pretty much covers my position!!

Q: Your knives have been carried all over the world and in some pretty hostile places. Can you share a story or two of where your knives helped someone out of a jam?

A: I had a border patrol officer that ended up in the middle of some sort of drug trade mayhem that was apparently shot in the chest and hit directly on the side of his MKT fixed blade on his chest. He says it “saved his life” and that it was in an evidence locker. Sounds pretty crazy but he called me to thank me. We have over-nighted product to Benghazi, Egypt, and to points around the world to embassies during the peak of the Arab Spring. We have had NSW teams use our EOD model to hammer their way through an 18” bronze shaft bearing to repair a Riverine Boat and get back to the water. There are just too many funny stories to go into it.

BONUS Questions for Amy

Q: I am sure working at MKT has its ups and downs like any business but what is your favorite part of the job?

A: My absolute favorite part of the job is dealing directly with customers and resellers on the phone, and meeting them at the shows. I love the challenge of managing customers’ expectations and helping to elevate our product with excellent customer service.

Q: What is your personal favorite Medford knife?

A: My personal Medford knife has evolved over the past two years. I would have to say -without a doubt – the Midi-Marauder is my favorite. The size, proportions, and subtle elegance of the knife are perfect!

Q: I heard that your skateboarding career might be over. Do you care to tell us why?

A: I think I’ll be sticking to Frisbee. It is much safer and easy on the ankle.

 

Check out the variety of Medford Knife & Tool products at DLT Trading.

So you want a knife?

You want to buy a friend a present and you are considering a knife as that gift. You walk into a knife store, walk up to the counter and tell the salesman, “I want to buy a knife for a friend.”  At this point, the salesman starts asking you questions. Among the questions, what will the knife to be used for and how much do you want to spend? The hope is that, by the time you read this article, you will understand what questions to consider before entering the knife store, or as is so common today, where to start for an online search for the right knife.

Major topics include:

  • Intended Use
  • Knife blade materials
  • Folding vs. Fixed Blade knives
  • Blade Design
  • Legal Considerations
  • Costs
  • Summary

Intended Use
There are several considerations to be made with regard to use. The first is what will the knife be used for? Practically speaking, there is no knife that does everything. If that person is a hunter, are the conditions they hunt in dry (desert as in the American southwest), wet environments like in the swamps of Florida, or perhaps near saltwater such onboard fishing vessels.

The environment the knife will be used in should shape the decision of the blade material; carbon steel, stainless steel, or one of the newer super steels. Will the recipient carry the knife in the office, in the mountains of Afghanistan, or in the North Carolina mountains?  These variables might also shape the idea of fixed blade or folding knife.

Knife Blade Materials
Carbon Steel is made from iron and a very small amount of carbon. Knives made with carbon steel range from basic pocket knives such as Case pocket knives to the Marines’ Ka-bar, as well as military bayonets.  That brings us to stainless steel.

Stainless steels are carbon steel with the addition of chromium and other alloys which results in a steel with greater levels of resistance to corrosion or rust. Stainless steel blades are commonly seen in fishing knives, skinning knives, survival knives, and kitchen knives. The next type of steel to be discussed is called super steels.

I use the phrase super steel because today, knife users have the opportunity to choose from steels using advanced metallurgical processes, which make possible, knives with superior edge retention, stainless properties, as well as toughness. Knives made from these steels are folding knives, such as the Spyderco brand of folding knives, European knives such as Fallkniven Knives, and my personal favorite, Bark River Knives Bravo 1.5 (CPM-3V) distributed through DLT Trading. Super steels cost more but you get what you pay for.

Folding vs. Fixed Blades
When selecting a knife, a primary consideration is the question of fixed or folding blade knife? Fixed blade knives typically are carried in leather sheaths allowing the user to wear the knife on their waist or attached to other gear. Fixed blades do not fold and are generally stronger and safer than folding blades since the blade can’t fold back on the user’s fingers. Fixed blades vary in length from three inches to over a foot. Most people that carry fixed blade knives for everyday use prefer knives having blades of no more than 6 inches.  I personally find blades larger than 6 inches useful for chopping wood and brush but unwieldy for chores around the camp fire or home. I wear a fixed blade knife almost daily. This knife is the Bark Rivers Bravo 1.5 knife distributed by DLT Trading.  The blade length on the Bravo 1.5 is 5.8 inches (seen below).

Bark River Bravo 1.5

 

As the name implies, folding knives fold for easier and less conspicuous carry in a pocket. The knife pictured below is a Benchmade Griptilian. This knife is first rate and can be carried in the office or around town (where a fixed blade knife might not be appropriate). Knives with this design serve as a great utility knife, although it would be just as suitable to skin animals since the steel used in this knife is first rate (154CM hardened to 58-60 HRC). The blade is 3.44 inches in length. A consideration for folding blade knives is the quality of the locking mechanism. Some locking mechanism physically block the knife blade from closing while others might serve to hold the blade in place with pressure and a small slotted lock. Users DO NOT want the blades closing at the wrong time. The Griptilian seen below has a first rate locking mechanism. Buck folding knives have good locking mechanism while many Chinese copies of these American classics are sub-standard.

Blade Design
There is not a blade designed to do all tasks equally. That being said, there are blade designs that allow knife users to use their knife for multiple tasks. Some blade types, such as the clip blade circled below as part of a Case pocket knife lend themselves more to general use, whittling, and other applications. The two smaller blades are the spear point (left) and sheep’s foot (right). This Case can been carried for generations and serves as a great all-around pocket knife that does not generally draw any negative fanfare when carried.

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Another blade type is the Bowie or type blade used for combat applications such as hard field or combat use, including knife fighting. These type blades may be sharpened on one side or some may be sharpened on both edges. Additionally, some of these knives might be seen with serrated blades and saw teeth on the back of the blade. The saw teeth on the blade might appear intimidating but the saw blade’s usefulness is over-rated. Likewise, the serrated edges are okay for some applications such as cutting ropes, but their general usefulness (and difficulty of re-sharpening) proves to be negative features for this knife feature.  Although popular in Hollywood movies, large Bowie knives are generally better suited for combat applications or sitting on the mantle as a show-piece.

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The third type blade is a more common type seen used for general camping, chopping firewood, and the preparation of butchering animals. This blade has a squared spine and has a blade that extends all the way from the tip to the base of the handle. The knife seen below is the Bark River Bravo 1.5. The Bravo 1.5 has a normal straight back design. The Bravo 1.5’s straight back design would serve well for skinning animals or for heavy chopping. Knives of this design remain the most popular for avid outdoorsmen and weekend campers alike.

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Legal Considerations
In some states, cities or municipalities, it is legal to carry (or wear) a knife in public. For example in some rural communities of the south, most would not give a second glance at a person openly wearing a knife. However, if someone in New York City openly carried a knife, they might find themselves being arrested.  Similarly, find out if local laws prohibit the carrying of folded knives. In some areas folding knives might be considered concealed weapons and thus illegal. Finally, the local laws may specify the legal length of knives which may be legally carried (open or concealed).  The point is, understand the laws and regulations where the knife will be carried and ensure you are in compliance with local and state ordinances. Most salespersons in your local Wal-Mart will not know the laws on knives in your area. Do your research ahead of time and save yourself some hassle.

Costs
Most of us are not rich and do not have endless budgets. Therefore, the actual costs of the knives seen in this article might be useful. Starting on the low end, the Case pocket knife can generally be purchased for forty dollars or so. The Griptilian folding knife seen costs about 90 dollars or so. As for the two fixed blade knives; the two Bark River knives costs between 165 and 200 dollars, although variants with different handles or blade materials can be purchased for less. At the end of the day, knives that will serve us a lifetime can be purchased for between 35 dollars and up.

 Summary
We briefly discussed several things to consider when buying a knife; type of steels, blade design, use, costs, and legal considerations. Enjoy your search for that right knife. Chances are DLT Trading will have the knife you need.

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10 Questions with Pete Winkler of Cross Knives

Today, we sit down with Pete Winkler owner and knife maker at Cross Knives.  Having known Pete for over 18 years I can tell you Pete is a perfectionist and a man of great integrity.  Combine Pete’s love for hunting, fishing, camping and all things outdoor related and you have a pretty good combination if you are looking for someone to build you a first class outdoor knife.

Q: Pete – you and I have been friends for a good number of years.  I know you are a man of deep faith.  Can you tell us how you came up with Cross Knives and the significance of the name?

A: I was tossing names around for a few months as I got started. In the late 70’s I had an incredible God encounter and Jesus brought great change to my life. I wanted to have something simple and yet give testimony to what He had done for me through His death on the cross and His Resurrection. One day I was doing some planning and organizing for moving ahead with my knife business, and thought of the name Cross Knives and immediately had this inspiration of the Cross symbol in the logo. I was doing some work that day for a graphic designer and she asked me how things were developing and offered to do my logo. Before I got home from work that day she had several proofs of the name and logo and one of them is what I use today.

Q: Prior to becoming a world-class knife maker you were a very good craftsman/cabinetmaker.  How does this background affect your knife making and the way you do things?

A: As a carpenter/cabinet maker/ finisher, fit and finish is top priority for your customers. There is no room for ‘good enough’ when you are installing cabinets and trim in a $40,000 kitchen. Exceeding your customer’s expectations with your finished products needs to be an improving standard in our work. The craft I have worked at all my life certainly equipped me for much as
a custom knifemaker. It also prepared me by doing projects that took me out of my comfort zone, and having to do things I had never done before.

Q: Dating back to your days living in the Upper Peninsula, I know you are a very avid outdoorsman.  You’ve taken nice whitetails and other game and are a very accomplished angler.  How does your outdoor background influence design?

A: Knives are tools, and good tools make all the difference. My years in the field shaped a desire to create functional, affordable sharp knives, that are made with excellent materials. Tools that I would use myself, that are comfortable in the hand, and I know that they will hold up. I know also that what looks good to me, may not be someone else’s cup of tea, that’s ok. Most of my designs resemble older classic knife designs and styles….good working knives. Often a new design takes making several, before you tweak it to where you find the sweet spot with it.

Q: What is your personal favorite model you make?

A: My personal favorite would be a toss between my Lil Trapper and the Lil WhiteTail Hunter. Both are smaller blade EDC knives with 3.25-3.5 inch blades. Having either on my person, I know I can handle most anything the day offers me.

Q: What has been your biggest challenge in your journey into knife making full-time?

A: The biggest challenge in my journey is developing a market for my knives. Making them is work that isnt work. Developing new models and taking ones skills to new levels is exciting and motivating. Marketing them to build a sustainable income takes seasons of patience and perseverance. Jason, you have been an encourager and given me good counsel through the years as I have developed my business. Mike Stewart has also given me time and counsel that have enabled me to make fewer mistakes along the way. Ultimately you can make all sorts of knives…but to live, you do have to sell them. Letting other experienced makers offer their critique of your knives helps you to find humility and to be instructed by someone who has walked the dirt road.

Q: What is your favorite part about building knives for a living?

A: My favorite part is having satisfied customers and hearing their reports on the performance of their knives. Out of that there is an organic word of mouth growth in the business that is satisfying to see.

Q: You get your knives as sharp as anyone on the planet. Why did you choose convex edges for your knives?

A: I fell in love with the convex grind the first time I held a Bark River knife. Following my first Grind-In at BRK I decided it was going to be my ‘go to’ grind.

Q: I love the uniqueness and style of your sheaths.  I know who makes them but why don’t you tell our audience who makes them and why.

A: I make 95% of my own sheaths. I love being able to claim ‘sole authorship’ to my knives and sheaths. I have a friend here in Ohio, Adam Cantrell of VoyagerLeatherWorks that I send customers to who want something beyond my ability. He and I also barter sheaths and knives to promote each others business a couple times a year.. My wife Linda is going to get hands on, in the year ahead, and help in the sheath making department.

Q: What is your favorite steel to work with? How about your favorite handle material?

A: A-2 is my go to steel for most of what I do. With my forged knives, I like 5160 and 80crv-2. both are good steels. I love the performance of the CPM steels and recommend them to clients that want a top tier steel for their knives.
Handle material…I love figured wood, Turkish walnut, Spalted maple or Hackberry, Curly Maple, Dyed and stabilized burls. Snakewood, Black and white Ebony, Desert Ironwood and good figured Cocobolo.When it comes to what I love to work with, it would be a toss up between Desert Ironwood and cocobolo as my favorites to use.

Q: Pete, I have to address this: square pins. They are so very unique and we hear from so many people how much they like them. I was told once that you have a set of custom square drill bits that will drill the holes for these pins (joking). I certainly am not going to ask you to tell us how you work your magic on these but can you tell us how you came up with the idea and what folks at the shows have to say about them?

A: Years ago as I was getting started I was thinking of things I could do to make my knives different. I thought that having square pins would certainly get attention. It has been fun displaying them at shows and seeing reactions of customers and makers. Often people buy my knives because the pins are so unique. It is a real asset to be able to incorporate them into most models and they can combo with certain handle materials to get the ‘AHH’ effect when it is right. Many times at shows, folks walk by and do a double take at them and return to handle them and ask questions. They are a more work, but really worth the extra time. It has really been a lot of fun seeing people’s reaction to the pins and hearing their feedback on the uniqueness.

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10 Questions with LT Wright

L.T. Wright is the namesake and founder of L.T. Wright Knives based in Wintersville, Ohio. L.T. and his staff make some of the best bushcraft, hunting, and all-around hard use knives anywhere. On top of that L.T. is a true gentleman with a great reputation in the industry. Today, we sit down with him and talk a little about LTWK.

Q: How did you get into knife making full-time?

A: I made a kit knife for my Dad for Christmas. He took it to work to show his friends and came back with orders. That really sparked things for me. I’ve always had an interest in knives my whole life. Then at a gun show in early 2000 I ran into R.W. Wilson, maker of the tomahawks used in the movie Jeremiah Johnson and accomplished knife maker. I told him how I would love to know how to do that. He told me to come over and he would teach me. When I found out we only lived about 10 minutes away from each other, it was a done deal. I would come home from work and go over every night he let me and stay as long as I could. There I cut out blanks, roughed in, learned the craft. R.W let me go to gun and knife shows with him and there he taught me how to sell knives too. I owe him a lot for helping me get my start. My hobby kept growing to where I was doing my day job and working on knives into the late hours every night. I was also working shows on weekends. I mentioned to my wife Elaine that we could do this full time. I wasn’t happy at my day job, so we made the jump. My daughter was in college at the time, so it was a big risk. But we did it. We stayed dedicated and persevered.

Q: What has been your biggest challenge with your path to making LT Wright Knives a success?

A: The biggest challenge would be balancing knife making with the business side. Being a small business you have to wear all the hats at some point. When I started I made the knives, ran the web site, took the photos, shipped the packages, all of that. You have to be able to promote yourself, go to shows, and be on social media. There is so much more to it than actually making the knife. Managing social media, answering emails, customer service, managing employees. The running the business part is really the biggest challenge.

Q: If you weren’t making world class knives for a living what would you be doing if you had a choice?

A: I love my job. Making knives is my passion. However, if I had to choose something else I would be making guns or building hot rods. Knives, guns, and cool cars, that’s me!

Q: What is your favorite steel to use in your knives and why?

A: At this time, A2 tool steel is my personal favorite. It has all the qualities of good O1 and D2 steels. It falls between the two in edge retention, flexibility, and rust resistance. We’ve had fantastic results with our A2 and we have a very good heat treat.

Q: Tell what the Pout House is and how that came about?

A: We were looking to have a private forum for our fan base where they could go and talk about our knives and the knife industry in general. There are also topics on 4×4, firearms, watches, flashlights, etc. It is a group of like-minded people. Gives them a place to hang out and talk about things they like. We give them the opportunity to get a first chance at anything we put out. Short runs, one-offs, vault knives. There are monthly drawings, camp outs, and more. It’s also a great place for our fan base to get to know us, the crew and I participate in the forum as well. We’ve had several lifelong friendships built at the Pout House.

Q: I know you still go to a lot of knife shows. How does the interaction with customers at these shows affect your design and production?

A: I feel it affects it quite a bit. I learned early on it didn’t matter so much what I thought was cool or wanted to make, I needed to make a product the public wanted. I listen to what people like and ask for. If I have several people come up and say, “Wow that’s great! I wish it was longer/blue/wider.” Then that is something I’m going to consider. Customer input has gone into the development of products right now. It will go into what we build or how we change models in the future. Customer input is the driving force of what we make and build.

Q: Who is the knife maker you look up to?

A: First, R.W. Wilson. He does everything by himself. The amount of knives he makes, the quality of his products, and his knife making attitude were my guiding force when I was getting started. If not for him, I don’t think I could be where I am today. Another knife maker would be Greg Gottschalk. He is a genius when it comes to forging, building folders, and fixed blade knives.

Q: What knife do you carry most frequently?

A: My Genesis is my go-to knife. I carry it in my backpack every single day. If I’m at a show or in the woods, it goes on my hip. My EDC knife is my skeleton key in kydex. I use it for everything. Opening boxes, scraping wax, whatever comes up.

Q: Tell us one thing about L.T. Wright that we might not guess?

A: I was in a band called Faded Glory for years. I was the lead singer and guitar player. I also co-wrote most of the songs. If you watch our YouTube videos the music used is from my band. Yes, that is me singing.

Q: Bushcrafting continues to just grow and grow in popularity. What do you think are the qualities of a good bushcraft knife? Which model in the LT Wright lineup do you think is the best all around bushcraft knife?

A: I think the good qualities of a bushcraft knife include edge geometry, a blade at least 4 inches long, a large comfortable handle so as your carving you don’t get hotspots, multiple grip options on the handle, and a squared spine for striking a ferro rod or debarking, making tinder. The LTWK that fits the bill the best is our Genesis. It has the length, the broomstick handle with thumb scallops for multiple grips, and the squared spine.

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Why Engraved Knives Make Great Christmas Gifts

When it comes time to do your holiday shopping, many folks like to choose gifts that will be used for years to come and truly enjoyed by the recipient. At the same time, many gift-givers are drawn to beautiful gifts that are personalized for the recipient. Why not choose the holiday gift that does both — a personalized, engraved knife?

An engraved knife makes an ideal Christmas gift because it combines the best of both worlds — the functionality of a high quality pocket knife with the beauty and personal touch of custom engraving. It’s an especially good gift for that hard to buy for man in your life, because who doesn’t need a handy pocket knife or Swiss Army knife now and then? An engraved knife is the kind of gift that will be treasured for years and, if it is heirloom quality, passed down to the next generation as a cherished memento.

Engraved knives have always been an appreciated and welcome gift for a variety of occasions, such as groomsmen’s gifts for weddings or for a special anniversary or birthday present. An engraved knife makes a good competition prize. Also, some employers choose to give pocket knives engraved with the company logo to their employees as a Christmas gift or in recognition of a job well done. And some people choose to have a knife custom engraved with the date of a special camping trip.

These days, engraved knives are available in many styles: All-purpose pocket knives, Swiss army knives, survival knives, rescue knives, military knives and chef’s knives can all be engraved and personalized for gifting. Some gift givers even choose to have beautiful, useful fillet knives engraved for the fisherman in their life!

And depending on the style you choose, engraved knives come in either all-metal styles or with beautifully grained wooden handles. That kind of versatility and variety of choices make an engraved knife (of any type) a perfect Christmas gift.

Custom engraved knives can include the name of your friend or loved one, a special date or message, perhaps even a small image or symbol — things that make the personalized engraved knife a special and meaningful Christmas present that is certain to be treasured. If you’re a wife shopping for a hard-to-buy-for husband, he’ll be pleased to receive an engraved knife because it’s a considerate gift that he can truly use.

Since you want the gift to last a lifetime, be sure to choose the very best quality knife possible, whatever style of knife you choose. Read reviews of the knife and be sure it’s one that is actually used by people who use knives on a regular basis and expect performance as well as style.

Combine thoughtful personalization with a knife of excellent quality and workmanship, and you have a holiday gift that the recipient will carry and use almost every day. So for a thoughtful and useful Christmas gift for the guys (or even gals) on your list, it’s a good idea to consider engraved knives. They’re the kind of gift that won’t be re-gifted!

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10 Questions with Jim Stewart of Bark River Knives

Today, we’re back with our highly popular segment “10 questions with” and I had the opportunity to speak with Jim Stewart of Bark River Knives. Jim has a passion for knives and has a unique design style all of his own. He’s also one of the nicest guys you can possibly meet.

 

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Q: Jim – as most folks reading our blog know, you are Mike Stewart’s son. Mike is unquestionably an industry legend and in many ways a man who has really created the semi-custom/production knife market. What are some of the challenges and opportunities associated with being the son of a knife making legend?

A: Man, that’s a great question. I’d say that some challenges that any family members that do business together face, centers on patience! We all love each other and we want to do well, so there’s a lot of pressure we put on each other to make sure the product is the best it can possibly be. Sometimes that can strain, but ultimately, it brings us closer together as a family. It brings us all a sense of pride and accomplishment knowing that we all helped together to lead to the success we see today.

I have a wealth of opportunities through the knife industry and I’m grateful for every one of them. The business contacts and the friends (one in the same) I make lead to a great knowledge base, and we all know that knowledge is power! This allows us to not only capitalize on opportunities that arise, but let us make our own.

Q: Having seen your own designs and customs your knives really have a unique look and style that sets your work apart. What influences your designs and how do you go about bringing these designs to life?

A: Believe it or not, I’ve pulled a lot of visual influence for knives from the tactical market. Integrating certain features and adapting them to the Bark River style is always a fun experience. A great example would be the front-end of my Springbok. The visual pairing of the front point of the handle with the beginning of the grind line draws your eye to the blade and really helps the look stand out from the crowd. Almost like using the rule-of-thirds in photography and filmmaking to help bring the eye to where you need it to be on that frame or shot.

Q: Talk to us about some knives or knife projects you would bring to life just for fun.

A: Just for fun? One word: Razors. Straight razors are a natural leap for edge junkies like me. Bringing metal to that level of refinement and a literally hair-splitting edge is definitely a BAMF feeling. I’ve been studying and shaving with straights for 2 years now, and they are incredibly addicting. I’d love to spearhead a run of high-end quality straight razors, complete with video instruction. I’d even go so far as to find soaps and brushes and offer a package.

Q: What is your official capacity at Bark River Knives and what do you do on a daily basis?

A: I am head of Process and Project management. I organize the 100+ unique materials for each batch run of Bark River Knives and make sure it is all on hand and machined before we start each batch. Including all fasteners, liners, guards, pommels, etc. This is on top of finding, adapting, and implementing hand-finishing techniques into a larger scale production run. We fit the Mid-Tech production model to a T. My work is typically within 3 month projections with several batches of knives varying across our entire line. When I finish planning that quarter, I move onto the next. It never ends, and I love it.

I also am directly involved with designing and prototyping future projects. All new models have been overseen by both my father and I.

Q: What is your favorite Bark River Knife that has been produced and why?

A: I may come off as self-serving, but I love my Springbok. I designed it to be quick in the hand, deft, sharp, and stout without sacrificing comfort. When you pick it up it becomes an extension of your arm for any task that you can throw at it. I designed it selfishly, to be an answer to any hunting or bushcraft task that I needed. After bringing it to market, I was relieved to find that I wasn’t the only one who felt that way!

Q: Jim – I know you are a bit of a Star Wars fan. What Bark River Knife would Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader carry and why?

A: I’m a huge Star Wars fan, and I love that you asked me that. I’m really excited for VII this December! Luke would carry a Parang to get himself through those dense Dagobah swamps, if the Force were to fail him. Vader? I think he’d wear a Bravo Survivor. Black sheath, Black Canvas, with a red liner to represent the Sith. I don’t think it would print much against that cape. All too easy.

Q: You’re a smart guy that stays up-to-date on current events and the knife industry. What is the biggest challenge we face right now?

A: The biggest challenge, as knife enthusiasts and makers, that we face is the obfuscation of knives as weapons. This falls into the “unthinking knee-jerk emotional reaction based on fear through misunderstanding” paradigm that we have to combat every day. When anti-knife (and anti-gun) legislation is written and pushed through, it is never in the interests of the vast majority of citizens that are completely law-abiding. It may be written with good intent, but it is written by people that have no knowledge of the subject they are writing about and from an emotionally reactive standpoint. The laws created to “combat violence” do nothing but hamper good people, leaving criminals to still act exactly the way they were before. Instead of realizing this, politicians just repeat themselves in a different way. What is it called when something is repeated over and over achieving the same result, but expecting something different? Insanity.

Q: I grew up working with my family in a small family business so I know the challenges it can create. To me, I always felt the highs were a little higher and the lows were a little lower but the thing that brought me to owning my own business was the fact that good or bad I was responsible for my success or failure. What are your thoughts on family businesses?

A: I feel the same way. Working for yourself and succeeding feeds into that sense of personal accomplishment that is matched in no other way. To alter a platitude, The path to success is paved with bricks of suckage. You have to take the lows in stride, and use those points as learning experiences to gain a higher ground. You have no failures. You merely find ways things won’t work, which is a success in itself. Working with family can be trying, but if you work together and help each other through those lows, the family itself all grows closer together and more successful. I think other people can see that bonding strength, and it brings respect with it.

Q: What knife do you EDC most typically? Why do you choose that model?

A: I EDC 2 knives. On my belt is always one of our Ultralite Bushcrafters. Sharp, small, and because it’s super light, it doesn’t feel like it’s there. On my left side, I carry a Pro-Tech Integrity Manual. I have a lot of respect for the level of engineering that goes into it’s simplicity and materials. When we come out with [REDACTED] later, I’ll switch.

Q: When you are not building world-class knives at Bark River Knives what do you do for fun?

I’m a filmmaker. A talent rarely used, but I love producing content. You can find my YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/drax02 Be warned, though. It’s some pretty terrible stuff. But, the feeling of accomplishment I get from doing it recharges my batteries and lets me hit that same moment of zen I feel when creating knives. I hope one day to be experienced enough to create at least one short film a year and submit to film festivals. Of course, if there’s knives involved, they will be Bark Rivers.

 

 

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Bark River Knives Grind-In – Fall 2015

Another Bark River Knives Grind-In is in the books. The annual Fall Grind-In is sponsored by Ron LaBella, owner and chief knife aficionado at the Jerzee Devil Forum.  Although not a requirement to be a member, many of the knife makers who descend upon Escanaba, MI are loyal members of Ron’s forum.

There was near record breaking attendance, and upon arrival I had a really hard time finding a parking spot. Not only were the employee and overflow parking lots full but there were numerous cars out on the road. Luckily, I managed to squeeze in a spot for Eric (my twin brother and fellow DLT staffer) and we were able to make our way into the Bark River factory. Things were already moving along quickly and smoothly, despite the amount of people that were making knives. The crowd was very diverse, and there were several makers from outside of the country including Canada and Scotland.

Since Eric and I decided not to make knives this time around and focus on meeting our friends and customers, we were able to skip the safety meeting and arrive a little later than normal. Though we were able to sleep in a little more on a Saturday morning we did end up missing Mike’s talk he gives at the commencement of the Grind In. Mike Stewart (owner of Bark River Knives) is a colorful, affable guy that has a knack for telling stories and really making things fun. Sadly we missed a few of his one-liners and stories but he was kind enough to make sure he saved some donuts for us. For those of you not fortunate enough to attend one of the Bark River Grind-In yet would be amazed at the spread of food that the Stewart Family puts out. From the meet and greet on Friday night to the banquet meal on Saturday night it seems to be a never ending feast of food. DLT’s owner, Jason, says that the food and camaraderie alone are worth the price of admission at these events.

For me, the best part of the Grind In is getting to see old friends and new ones from around the world. One of my favorite parts of my job at DLT Trading is getting to meet like-minded knife enthusiasts from around the globe. It really makes for a fun job when you sell world class products to passionate folks who oftentimes become friends. Having worked on some designs as well as attending these events has also allowed me to create some good friends in the crew at Bark River. These guys on the line are the heart and soul of the knife you buy. The way knives are built at BRKT it is equal parts science and art so without the passion and care of these guys your Bark River Knife wouldn’t be what it is.

For the attendees/knife builders the next step after the safety meeting, is determining the design of your knife and beginning the process of making your knife. Attendees can choose from a wide variety of existing designs/blade blanks or even start with a bar of steel and a clean slate to create a completely unique knife. Not only does this flexibility allow you to make just the knife you want, it also allows you to help determine whether you want to make the knife completely on your own or have assistance along the way. Bark River’s crew never ceases to amaze me with their ability to nurture your design and help you to whatever degree you want them to help. They are never overbearing yet always willing to throw you a lifeline if you need it to ensure you leave with a knife that is certainly worthy of boasting and showing off to your friends.

Step-by-step you progress from blade design, to shaping, to handling the knife, to final buffing and sharpening. At each step you can choose your handle material, pin choice, liner material and the exact shape of your handles. It is truly a remarkable experience for those who love knives or those who love to see how things are built. For me, it really has helped me to be able to understand the complete knife building process and has allowed me to really improve my ability to answer customer questions on custom and semi production knives.

Once your knife is completed the knife goes to be professionally photographed and boxed with a matching leather sheath. After boxing the knife most guys continue to talk knives and help others that may need some assistance getting their knife finished and looking exactly the way they want it. Generally by 3:30-4:00 everyone is done building and ready to shower up and head to the banquet.

The banquet held at the Terrace on the Bay is nothing short of incredible. The builders’ knives are brought to the banquet to be admired and viewed by all the fellow Grind In attendees. Several awards are given out for the knives based on judging by all the builders. After judging, a mouth-watering gourmet meal is served. The staff at the Terrace pulls out all the stops for this meal and over the years we’ve had prime rib, lobster thermidor, cornish game hens, and pork medallions just to name a few things.

On Sunday you have the option of building a second knife for a small additional fee or you can just go hang out at the shop and talk knives and the outdoors with old and new friends from the Grind In. The entire weekend, from Mike Stewart and family preparing filet mignon on Friday night for the meet and greet to the farewell pleasantries on Sunday, is really something every knife lover should do at least once. Because this event has gone from 8-10 builders back when it started to full capacity with a waiting list it is imperative you reserve a spot early if you plan on attending. For details on attending contact us at DLT Trading or you can reach Bark River Knives directly at 906-789-1801.

If you attended this Grind-In, post your experience below.

 

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10 Questions with Lon Humphrey of Lon Humphrey Custom Knives

Today, we sit down with Lon Humphrey. Lon is one of our favorite knife makers, specializing in high quality forged knives built to work. Check out our selection of Lon Humphrey Custom Knives.

Q: Lon, let’s jump right in. What first drew you to knife making?

A: When I was a kid, I didn’t own a knife I couldn’t destroy. That inability to find a knife that could hold up to my adventures was what drove me to knife making. At 13, I was thinking that I sure can do better at making a knife than what was commercially available. At this time, I was just beginning to learn blacksmithing so a lot of metal objects were under my scrutiny. It took a long time – but I did build a better knife than I could buy. Thus began a lifelong passion.

Q: What exactly is a forged knife and how does it differ from stock removal both in performance and how it’s made?

A: A forged knife is a knife that is made from manipulation under a hammer or press. The hammer reduces the size and alters the shape of the stock into the final knife form. When you are doing stock removal you just cut out the shape of the knife and grind the bevels out of a bar of steel. Forging lines up the grain of the steel to the profile of the knife making it inherently stronger

Q: What is differential heat treat and why do you do it?
Differential heat treat is getting two or more hardnesses in the same piece of steel. I do this mainly to get a soft spine and a hard edge resulting in a knife with a hard edge making it hold an edge very well with a softer backbone for the toughness and flex needed in the hard use knives I build.

A: Lon – you’ve done some blacksmithing in the past. Talk to us about that experience and how it has worked into knife making.

When I started blacksmithing I wanted to make gates and wrought iron railing and really artsy stuff. This market is even tougher and more competitive than the knife making market. The love for working with steel and creating was a natural progression into knives.

Q: Lon – you’ve been a blacksmith, a millwright and a US Forest Service Intern) in Montana and a knife maker. How have these hard-working, blue collar jobs molded you as a man and a knife maker?

A: I was never a full-time blacksmith but I was a millwright for 20 years at a local veneer mill/ sawmill. Long hours 7 days a week fixing just about anything the operators could destroy taught me that tools including knives need to work and continue to work without failing whenever possible. I learned that if things are overbuilt they won’t break down and lead to costly production losses. I build my knives with this in mind.

The Job in Montana was probably the best job I ever had but was also the lowest paying. I did an internship with the USFS as a summer for college credit. I did a lot of hiking and fishing that summer in the Bridger Mountains. That was in the early 90s and at that time the USFS had a indefinite hiring freeze. They were doing plenty of seasonal jobs but I couldn’t see myself as a summer job kind of guy so I walked away from the forestry degree and looking at the things that are going on today with the Federal Government I’m glad I did.

My years at Blind Horse Knives as a handle finisher and that taught me how to go fast and keep things as uniform as possible in production.

Q: Talk to us about the shop in as you affectionately call it “Area 51” and how that came to be and why it’s a special place for you

A: Area 51 is a highly secure and top secret installation in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains
(OK – I’m joking but it is remote and off most all maps). Not very many people know where the shop is and those that do aren’t talking LOL. When I was forced to move my shop because of local zoning bureaucracy and foolishness I moved the shop to a piece of property out in the country with no neighbors and no “big brother” looking over my shoulder hindering my ability to earn a living. This land is land my father bought it in 1990. He worked hard to clear this land and plant Christmas trees. There is a lot of Humphrey family sweat in that chunk of ground and it’s far enough off the beaten path that no one bothers me when I’m working. If I want to go shooting for a few hours I don’t have to pay a range fee – I just walk out the door and start plinking. Area 51 is truly my escape as well as home to Lon Humphrey Custom Knives.

Q: There are times in a person’s life where they have an “aha! moment” – that moment where they realize that they’ve turned the corner and things are solid in life or in their profession. What was your “aha! moment” in knife making when you knew that things would work out and it could be a way in which you could earn a living?

A: Oh I don’t know if there was any real “aha! moment” (laughs). I will tell you that when I built the new shop built and went back into production I did feel as if I had really accomplished something great. I made this big step without going into debt and paid for it with hard work and working sometimes brutal hours to build up the cash to finance the move. I no longer have to worry if I will have another batch of knives ordered because I am backordered several hundred knives and have hired an apprentice. Having all of these knives ordered and committed to is really a great feeling.

Q: Your daughter Amber is very special to you. We all know you come across as a rough, tough take no BS guy 24/7 but those of us that know you well know you have a huge heart and that knife making allows you to spend extra time with Amber and that your knife making also provides for your family. I think people assume that knife makers are wealthy guys and sometimes don’t realize that buying one of your knives not only provides the customer with a world-class knife but also helps to provide for you and your family. Is there anything you would like to add to this?

A: Buying a Lon Humphrey Custom knife not only helps support Amber and I but also Cassie (Lon’s significant other) and her daughter Savannah. We are a true family run small business. I also have a part time employee now and we are helping provide for him and his family. At some point I want to bring Cassie on full-time to do the shipping and some of the bookkeeping and social media.

Q: Lon – we see that your work oftentimes has JS behind your name. What does that mean and what is the importance of that?

A: The JS stands for Journeyman Smith it’s a rating given by the American Bladesmith Society. To achieve JS you have to forge a knife that will cut a piece of free hanging 1 inch hemp rope then chop a 2×4 in half twice. The knife must then shave hair from your arm. After inspection by a Mastersmith the knife has to be bent to 90 degrees. That is just the first part of the test. After that you have to make 5 knives out of carbon steel and present them to the ABS judging panel in Atlanta, GA at Blade Show for either a pass or fail grade. I attained Journeyman Smith in 2013.

Q: Lon – all of us that know you know you are an American Patriot through and through. I’ve met few people in my life with such love and conviction for this country (our mutual friend Jim Nowka is another). Huge companies that employee thousands of people get all the publicity. It is where the media devotes all of its attention. But I look at numerous industries from beer making to knife making and I find that there are hundreds and thousands of small (even one man operations) popping up across this great country we live in that are creating small batch, high quality products that are not only creating products that overseas companies can’t but also creating a lot of jobs. Talk to us about how buying a Lon Humphrey knife helps this “made in America” movement. (Talk about how you buy American steel, wood from the Amish, etc)

A: At one time Made in America meant something. It meant you were buying a high quality product that wasn’t going to break the first time you used it. Now, it’s very rare you can find anything in the department store that is made in the USA. I am VERY proud that I use American steel in my Lon Humphrey knives. 100% of the curly maple I use I buy from the Amish locally so I know its locally harvested timber. My corby bolts are made in Michigan by a small machine shop as are my leather sheaths. I almost forgot, even my boxes and packaging paper are made in the Midwest. I really strive to keep everything I put in or on my knives as local as I possibly can. I do have to admit though my Whiskey does come from Scotland (laughs).

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10 Questions with Andy Roy of Fiddleback Forge

Recently, I reached out to Andy Roy, owner and president at Fiddleback Forge and to do my “10 questions with” segment. This blog post is a verbatim transcript of that discussion. As you will see from Andy’s answers to my questions he is one incredible knifemaker and an even better human being. With that let’s get started:

Q: How did you get into knifemaking and what was the draw for you?

A: I got into knifemaking kind of by accident. I discovered the internet forums and found a thread that ended up with me making a simple, very ugly knife. I was hooked. I had graduated from college only to find that I really didn’t like being an electrical engineer. It was a low point in my life and I was praying daily for direction. Knifemaking consumed me, I couldn’t stop. Two years later I was laid off from my job and went full time. It wasn’t till later that in hindsight, I realized that the my prayers for direction had been answered. Knifemaking was the new direction.

Q: Your handles are some of the most comfortable knife handles I’ve ever seen. What was your inspiration for these handles?

A: Thank you very much. When I was a kid I was constantly carving walking sticks for some reason. The handle shapes kind of flowed out of that. The idea is for the handle to be comfortable in several cutting positions, and to index itself in your hand. Also, the designs should preclude the need for the dreaded choil, which is a fad that I can’t stand. A good handle does away with the need IMO.

Q: I love the materials you use and the combinations you come up with. How do you do it?

A: A lot of it came about very naturally. I did a lot of woodworking before knifemaking, so there was an inclination to use nice exotic woods. And certainly Micarta has a longstanding role as a first rate handle material. So incorporating that was easy. We hooked up with Shadetree Phenolics a few years back and they are making some of the best stabilized burlaps available. In terms of the combinations, a lot of that was trial and error. I really like adding the pinstripes to make the knives pop. The idea that curves, and layers together really made an outstanding looking handle kind of dawned on me as it happened. Everything in knife making has been done, so I can’t really take much credit for it.

Q: Your knives have an artistry and style that make each one a true custom and in my opinion a work of art. Would I be wrong in guessing you have real artistic talent?

A: I don’t like thinking of myself as particularly talented. I’m an artisan, and that is enough for me. My drawings are very simple things. In high school, I did enjoy pottery. Something about working 3D makes more sense to me than painting or drawing.

Q: What is something about you that most people would never guess?

A: People might not guess how much it bothers me when children suffer. I just have no stomach for it. I give as much as I can afford to children’s charities and nothing to adult charities.

Q: What is your favorite steel to work with?

A: I love working with tool steels. I love that they are easy to sharpen, and I also like how they age, and look used. Stainless is too sterile to me and picking up an older stainless knife with no staining on the blade always makes me feel like putting the knife down and picking another for the task. Tool steel knives tell a story and I like that a lot. I also like grinding them better, and sharpening them better. Tool steel is the way to go unless you’re a sailor or a surgeon.

Q: What are some of your hobbies when you aren’t building world class knives?

A: My spare time is spent with my family. I have a wife and two daughters. The oldest plays softball and I coach her team. I love to hunt and shoot and fish, but honestly, there isn’t much time for that left after running the business and the family.

Q: Where did you come up with the name Fiddleback Forge

A: My Granddad’s farm in N. Mississippi was, and is, infested with Brown Recluse spiders. At the time, I was forging knives in my garage. The name came from that.

Q: What is your personal favorite knife you build?

A: I like the Bushfinger best. I’m partial to 4” blades, and that one really came alive for me when I was drawng it. I still like that one the best.

Q: If you weren’t making knives what would you be doing if you had your choice and why?

A: Man I hated my career before knifemaking. I am going to fight and work myself to death to avoid going back to that. I guess if I had a fantasy career, maybe a fishing guide would be nice.

 

If you already own Fiddleback Forge knives you are familiar with Andy Roy and his incredible craftsmanship.  If you do not yet own one I would like to personally invite you to try one.  Each and everyone is truly a work of art.