I have been a full time custom bladesmith and knifemaker since 2006.
I wish I had a cool story to tell of how I came to forging knives. A story like my grandfather was an old blacksmith who taught me as a child the secrets of forging steel and the magic of heat treating. Or my father gave me my first knife for Christmas when I was six months old. Alas my paternal grandfather was a mere Boston bootlegger (unfortunately no relation to Joe Kennedy). He made a lot of Irish Whiskey but certainly no knives. And my maternal Grandfather was a Yankee shoemaker from New Hampshire. And I don’t remember ever getting a knife for Christmas from anyone. So how did I arrive at a career in custom knifemaking?
Well basically this whole knifemaking thing is a hobby gone way out of control. We have a couple of saying in our family that kind of sums it all up -“too much is just enough” and “anything worth doing is worth over doing”.
And then there is also the making of Damascus Steel (a.k.a Pattern Welded Steel).
In 1996 after reading an article on blade forging I decided take the Introduction to Bladesmithing Course at the American Bladesmithing School in Washington, Arkansas. There I had the great fortune to be taught by Dr. James Batson and that class laid down the foundation of knifemaking for me.
In 1998 at the ABANA Asheville, NC conference I lucked out again and found myself sitting in the front row of bleachers for a power hammer demo next an amiable fellow by the name of Don Fogg (didn’t have a clue who he was). We were both about an hour early so we struck up a conversation about knives and got around to making Damascus steel. Now Don, being the great and generous teacher that he is, gave me an informal lecture on how to go about it. I took quick notes and when I got home I built a “Don Fogg” style vertical forge and decided to give this damascus thing a try.
Well it worked or at least the eight pieces of steel I hammered together appeared to have “stuck” and welded together. I forged the billet out, roughed a blade and ground it to a finished shape, sanded it to 600 grit and then etched it in Ferric Chloride.
When I pulled the blade out of the Ferric after a couple of minutes it was one of the most magical experiences I’ve ever had. It was so cool. I was immediately hooked. And being the compulsive, obsessive, and addictive type of personality I am, there was no turning back and I’ve making this stuff ever sense. Anyone reading this blog who makes damascus steel knows exactly what I’m talking about.. for you others well you just have to experience it to know what I’m getting at.