The Trail Taken To Reach The Pinnacle

I am often asked how I got started in the knifemaking field. I have been collecting knives for over 20 years. As a collector I attend the various knife shows throughout the Country. Around 1977, I decided to learn to make knives. The only decision left was the process that I would use to produce these knives.

The choices were simple:

1. I could use the "stock removal" method-ie: sketching a knife design on to a piece of steel, grind away the excess steel, sending the knife off to heat-treat and finally finishing the knife.

2. I could use the method that bladesmiths through the ages have used: Forge the blade to shape using a forge, anvil and hammer, do my own heat-treating and finish the piece. I obviously selected the latter of the two.

I read of a teacher giving beginning blacksmithing courses and immediately signed up for it. My first class consisted of learning to start a coal fire, basic hammering skills, etc. After class I spoke with the teacher (the late Martin Kruse) and asked him about forging knives. Martin explained that this full time business was bladesmithing. I convinced Martin to allow me to apprentice in his shop (no pay). I worked primarily on Martin's work and occasionally made my own knife or two. Whenever Martin needed supplies I would pick them up. There are some "teachers" who charge up to $200 per day for one on one instruction but by apprenticing under Mr. Kruse I was able to learn for very little cash output.

After a couple of years under Martin's tutelage I took the ABS (American Bladesmith Society) beginning Bladesmithing course to refine my techniques. I also took the Damascus course provided by the ABS. After relocating from L.A. to San Diego, I met ABS Mastersmith Al Barton. When we first met, Al was a full time farrier and part-time Bladesmith. Al helped develop me into the smith that I am today. Also Gordon Haight (another farrier) was of great help in working the forge.

I finally opened my first knife shop, have already graduated one bladesmith and am currently working with another. Proper conduct while learning from a maker in his or her shop is critical. Courtesy and safety are foremost! In Martin Kruse's shop I swept the floor, cleaned up and basically did whatever he needed me to do. I replaced belts and other knifemaking supplies when needed. Always remember that you are in someone else's shop. You are using their tools and time, not to mention their knowledge. Also the maker assumes all liability while you are in their shop. Unsolicited gifts are great, show up with a six pack of their favorite beer or bring a couple of their favorite cigars. Small gifts speak loudly of your appreciation.

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