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29
APR
2022

What Defines the Best Custom Utility Hunting Knife? Part 2

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Guards

For the most part, integral guards are utilized as a quicker, less expensive way to make knives. Most are simply squared off to give the illusion that they are somehow protecting your index finger/hand. I learned the hard way that such a guard is not meant for hard work. If you are going to use a knife with this type of guard, wear a glove.

Ben Breda Best Utility Hunter Blade Show 2019 Blackwood

Ben Breda won Best Utility Hunter at Blade Show 2019 for his model (photo above) in a 4-inch blade of W2 tool steel with Hamon. The handle is sculpted African blackwood with a bronze “S” collar and the blade is stainless steel. The knife comes with a leather sheath by Breda. Overall length: 8.75″ Ben’s hunter price for a similar knife is $575.00. (SharpByCoop image)

Most custom utility hunters have a single guard with some amount of curve built in to give you a better handle ergonomic. Additionally, it will provide some protection for your index finger/hand. The primary metals used for such guards are brass, nickel silver, and stainless steel. While brass is a favorite among factories and new custom makers, the biggest problem is it is soft.  It can be easily nicked or cut, making it uncomfortable to hold. Stainless steel guards provide the best protection and the least amount of maintenance for your knife.

Handle Material

If you are looking for a category of custom knives to collect or use that have diverse handle materials, utility hunting knives lead the way. Synthetics, wood, ivory, bone, antler, mother-of-pearl, and others—you name it, utility hunters have it.

Malosh Custom Elk Hunting Knife

Mike Malosh opts for an elk antler (above photo) with black and maroon Micarta® and stainless steel spacers for the handle of his utility hunter. The 6-inch blade is a W2 tool steel and the guard is stainless steel. Overall length: 10.75″ The knife comes with a leather sheath by Malosh. Mike’s price for a similar hunter is $390.00. (Impress by design image)

When many outdoorsmen dress their knives to impress, they want stag. Unfortunately, stag is experiencing two things simultaneously, and neither is good. Because of lack of supply, the quality is going down and the price is going up to the point that the ancient ivories are now becoming an alternative. After talking with knifemaker Mike Malosh at Blade Show 2021, I have started to order some hunting knives with elk. While not as popular as Sambar Stag, it is a great handle material and has a nice look.

My experience in the field has made me a true believer in synthetic handle materials. The two most popular are Micarta® and G-10. Canvas Micarta is my personal favorite. As the name implies, there are bits of canvas included when the Micarta is made. This gives the handle a little more grip when wet. Westinghouse Micarta is gaining in popularity. Often it’s referred to as “vintage or antique” due to the fact most of it was made before 1960.

Carbon fiber is five times stronger than steel, twice as stiff, and lighter in weight. This gave rise to numerous commercial applications, eventually finding its way into the custom knife market. Initially used by custom makers for scales on folders, you can now find them using it for fixed blade handles, too.

The advantage of synthetics over natural handle materials is synthetics don’t shrink and, for the most part, are impervious to the elements. That said, natural handle materials can dress up a knife.

Sage Advice

The custom utility hunting knife will be a workhorse in the field. Consider the factors I have outlined before you maker or buy one. What will you primarily use it for? What size handle is best for your hand? Will you be able to do the maintenance required for the blade steel? Can you sharpen the knife in the field and, if not, will you be able to practice how to do so before you get there?
I prefer a 5-inch blade as my experience has taught me that a big blade can do little knife chores, but not the other way around. As my 7th-grade shop teacher always said, “Use the right tool for the job.” Sage advice!

19
OCT
2021

Features of the Top Custom Utility Hunters

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Blade Magazine October 2021 RIGHT TOOL FOR THE JOB by Les Robertson pgs. 54-57

The hunting utility knife is a workhorse in the field.  Consider these factors before you purchase your knife.  What will the knife be primarily used for?  What size handle is best for your hand?  Will you be able to do the required maintenance for the knife’s steel?  Can you sharpen your knife in the field?  If not, practice before you get there.

I prefer a 5″ blade as my experience has taught me that a big blade can do little knife chores, but not the other way around.  As my 7th-grade shop teacher always said, “Use the right tool for the job,” sage advice. 

“Ideal size for a hunting utility knife,” you ask.  Having judged this category at the Blade show for over two decades, I can tell you there is no one ideal size.  That said, most of the winners feature a blade between 3  7/8″ and 5″.  For the makers reading this, please do not submit your 10″ bowie or 2″ miniature in this category for judging.  

Jan Hafinec with forged double hamon 5″ blade

In addition to dimensions, the importance of handle ergonomics cannot be overstated.  Most handles will feature some kind of contouring and generally will be between 4 ½” and 5″ long. 

Today, diversity is the word.  There are numerous steels and handle materials to choose from.  Once again, consider what the knife is going to be used for then pick the steel and/or handle material accordingly.  You will find that a well-thought-out hunting knife will become an all-around camp knife, as well.

Mike Malosh 6″ blade, Elk antler handle

25
JUN
2021

Damascus Bowie Knife Defined

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(cont. from Damascus Bowies category page)

The Bowie knife is named after its owner who made the Bowie knife famous: Jim Bowie. Most think of a Bowie as a knife with a long blade. Variations of Bowies exist with a 4″ blade. These were a favorite knife of the river boat gambler. This knife was often referred to as a “Vest Pocket” Bowie. Bowie blades can reach up to 14″; however, the

The Damascus Bowie is reintroduced.
Many objects of legend and lore will fade after 189 years, but not the Bowie knife. Thanks in no small part to the American Bladesmith Society (ABS) and the men and women who form this organization. The forged knife has been kept alive around the world. Bill Moran, the patriarch of the ABS, is credited with the rediscovery of creating Damascus.

Damascus is basically the combining of two or more steels. In the case of most forged Damascus blades today, those steels are a basic carbon steel such as 1084 that is combined with 15N20. The nickel in 15N20 steel resists the acid etch and stays shiny. It is the combination of the etched and shiny that give Damascus its distinctive look.

The majority of forged blades are flat ground. Simply put, this means the blade tapers all the way from the spine to the edge from both sides. Doing so makes this a more difficult grind as the maker has to remove a lot of metal. The advantage gained is a lighter blade that maintains its integrity.

Another technique utilized with forged blades is differential heat treatment. Basically, this creates a harder edge and a softer spine. The blade will generally have a temper line showing the difference between the harder and softer parts of the blade.

The carbon steels that are used are too numerous to mention them all here. The primary ones used with forged Bowie blades are; 0-1, W-2, 1075, 1084, 1095, 5160 and 52100.

There are three basic types of handles. First, the hidden tang; which is exactly what it sounds like. A hole is drilled and shaped through the center of the handle material to make room for the tang. Epoxy is often used as the adhesive to keep the tang and handle material together.

Depending on the material and maker, the handle may or may not have a pin through the handle. This type of knife handle will also lend itself to the take down handle. The handle is built in a similar fashion, but to a higher degree of fit as no glue is used to secure the tang and handle material. The handle is held together with a type of nut or finial that screws onto the tang providing the necessary pressure to keep the handle secured. Generally, a tool is provided to remove the device that is holding the knife together.

Second is the mortise tang. The tang will be shorter and the handle material will be spit. The inside of the handle material will have a slot cut evenly on both sides. This will allow the tang to be sandwiched in between both pieces of handle material. This technique will almost always have a combination of epoxy and some type of pin through the handle. An advantage of this type of handle is the reduction of weight. This can really help with a hunter/skinner, as well as, aid in the balance of the knife.

Third is the frame handle. Basically, the tang is slotted into a frame and handle material is added to each side. When completed it gives the illusion that the knife has a full tang. Generally, constructed with both hidden and pins that show. This is the most complex method of the three. Expect to pay more for this type of handle.

While all Damascus is forged, how it comes to be on a knife can differ. Makers who forge their knives generally will make their own Damascus. While many makers who utilize the stock removal method, will purchase their Damascus from a third party who specialize in making Damascus.

Bowies created by the stock removal method primarily differ from forged Bowies in two main ways:

1) Steel: Basically, stainless steel is used as opposed to carbon steel.

2) Handle: Generally, either a full tang or hidden tang construction.

Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at customknives@comcast.net or (706) 650-0252.

25
JUN
2021

Damascus Fixed Blades Defined

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(cont. from Damascus Fixed Blades category page)

The majority of forged blades are flat ground. Simply put, this means the blade tapers all the way from the spine to the edge from both sides. Doing so makes this a more difficult grind as the maker has to remove a lot of metal. The advantage gained is a lighter blade that maintains its integrity.

Another technique utilized with forged blades is differential heat treatment. Basically, this creates a harder edge and a softer spine. The blade will generally have a temper line showing the difference between the harder and softer parts of the blade.

Damascus fixed blades can come in all lengths and styles. (Click to see these examples)
Skinning Knives
Fighters
Damascus Bowies

While all Damascus is forged, how it comes to be on a knife can differ. Custom knife makers who forge their knives generally will make their own Damascus. While many makers who utilize the stock removal method, will purchase their Damascus from a third party who specialize in making Damascus.

 

Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at customknives@comcast.net or (706) 650-0252.

25
JUN
2021

Slip Joint and Multi-Blade Folding Knife Defined

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(cont. from Slip Joint and Multi-Blade Folding Knives category page)

The majority of slip joint and multi-blade folders made today are based on designs from, in some cases, the 1880’s.  Handle materials such as, jigged bone, Stag, wood and even Ivory on slip joint folding knives is nothing new.  Steels and handle materials have been upgraded since then and today.

Two terms often associated with slip joint folding knives are “Walk and Talk.”

Walk

The polished part of the spring front where the tang end and torque point move when opening and closing the blade.

Talk

The sound a blade makes when it snaps open or shuts at the end of the walk, causing knife people to speak of the “walk and talk” of the pocket knife.

The custom versions of these knives started to gain in popularity in the 1990’s.  This was due in large part to the custom knife maker Tony Bose.   Tony is considered the premier slip joint folding knife maker in the world.

While slip joint folding knives may have been the preferred folder of your father or grandfather, these knives have nothing on the custom versions that are being produced today.   The quality, steel(s), tolerance’s, and material choices help to keep the knives from two centuries ago still relevant today.

 

 

Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at customknives@comcast.net or (706) 650-0252.

25
JUN
2021

Hunters and Skinners Defined

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(cont. from Hunter and Skinner category page)

The smallest of the hunter group is a bird and trout knife. This knife features a small thin blade that can be used to field dress game birds and filet fish.

Perhaps the most recognizable hunter is the Loveless designed drop point hunter. This knife generally features a 3.5″ to 4″ blade. Most feature a single guard and a wide variety of handle materials. Among the favorite handle materials is Stag. Not only does this make your knife look good, the lands and grooves of the Stag antler provide an excellent grip, especially if your hand is wet.

“Skinners” or skinning knives are aptly named. These knives feature an up-swept blade that is designed to remove the fur or pelt from the animal.

As the game becomes bigger such as Moose, Bear, etc., hunting knives tend to get a little longer. This allows the hunter to quarter the game and pack the desired meat of the animal back to camp for further processing. There, once again, the hunting knife will become the primary tool for the final processing of the meat.

Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at customknives@comcast.net or (706) 650-0252.

25
JUN
2021

Presentation Fixed Blade Defined

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(cont. from Presentation Fixed Blade category page)

Another aspect of the presentation fixed blade may be additional embellishment.  This would include engraving, blued fittings often with Gold inlay.  If the knife has a handle made from Ivory you may see it scrimshawed.  On occasion you may see any or all aspects of the knife with some carving.

The word Presentation can be misleading as it gives you the idea this knife is merely something to be put under glass or hung on the wall.  Make no mistake, the knives are fully functioning.  If necessary they would do exactly what they were designed to do.

 

 

Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at customknives@comcast.net or (706) 650-0252.

24
JUN
2021

Damascus Hunter Defined

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(cont. from Damascus Hunters category page)

The size and type of the blade design will depend on the animal, bird or fish. The smallest of the hunter group is a bird and trout knife. This knife features a small thin blade that can be used to field dress game birds and filet fish.

Perhaps the most recognizable hunter is the Loveless designed drop point hunter. A damascus hunting knife generally features a 3.5″ to 5″ blade. Most feature a single guard and a wide variety of handle materials. Among the favorite handle materials is Stag. Not only does this make your knife look good, the lands and grooves of the Stag antler provide an excellent grip, especially if your hand is wet.

“Skinners” or skinning knives are aptly named. These knives feature an up-swept blade that is designed to remove the fur or pelt from the animal.

As the game becomes bigger such as Moose, Bear, etc., hunting knives tend to get a little longer. This allows the hunter to quarter the game and pack the desired meat of the animal back to camp for further processing. There, once again, the hunting knife will become the primary tool for the final processing of the meat.

While maintenance of your blade is always recommended. Damascus is more susceptible to rust than most blades. Once you are done using your knife. Wash it and wipe it off, then put a light coat of oil on it. After the trip, be sure to not store your custom made Damascus blade in the leather sheath. The tannic acid used to prepare the leather can lead to your blade rusting.

 

Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at customknives@comcast.net or (706) 650-0252.

23
JUN
2021

Damascus Folding Knife Defined

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(cont. from Damascus Folders category page)

Precious gem stones such as Jade or Lapis Lazuli can be used for custom knife scales. Another option is reconstituted stone, such as dyed coral. Other stones such as Tiger’s Eye, Malachite and even Agates have even been used for Damascus folding knife scales.

There are many types of unique patterns created in forged Damascus like twist, ladder, swirl, mosiac, star, etc.

Locks can range from, lock backs, liner lock, frame lock, push button locks.

Clips may or may not be used. The issue with using a clip with a folding knife using natural handle material will be the drilling of the holes for the screws. This hole may lead to an immediate crack or one that forms years later as the handle material contracts and expands.

While all Damascus is forged, how it comes to be on a knife can differ.   Makers who forge their knives generally will make their own Damascus.   While many makers who utilize the stock removal method, will purchase their Damascus from a third party who specialize in making Damascus.

 

 

Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at customknives@comcast.net or (706) 650-0252.

20
JUN
2021

Tactical Folding Knife Defined

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(cont. from Tactical Folder category page)

The criteria I came up with for the tactical folder category of the custom knife judging for the Blade Show is as follows:

The blade should have a non-reflective finish that can be bead blasted, acid washed, some kind of coating. Even a machine satin finish so the blade will not reflect light.

Bolster (if used) could be stainless steel, Titanium, Aluminum (yes, that used to be used for bolsters on tactical folders) or Zirconium. Again, your choice, but, as with the blade it should have a finish that does not reflect light.

Handle material will be of a synthetic nature. These would include G-10, Micarta or Carbon fiber, as examples.

If stainless steel, Aluminum or titanium are used for the handle and frame, then as with the blade, it will have to have a non-reflective finish.

At the time, no mention was made of opener’s, clips or locks. In 2018, the majority of tactical folders had a flipper opener, a liner or frame lock. Most have a clip that are now predominately set to the blade and is carried tip up inside the frame.

Well-known tactical folder maker, Bob Terzuola, wrote what is considered by many to be the definitive work on the subject: The Tactical Folding Knife: A Study of the Anatomy and Construction of the liner Locked Folder

If you have a chance to look on page 4 of this book, Bob gives thanks to all those who helped him with this book. Quote: “I would like to thank Les Robertson and Bob Neal for helping me define what a tactical folder is.”

Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at  or (706) 650-0252.

20
JUN
2021

Tactical Fixed Blade Defined

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(cont. from Tactical Fixed Blade category page)

Guard (if used) could be stainless steel, sometimes carbon steel will be used. Generally, if that is the case, the guard will be coated with something like cera-cote or blued. Again, your choice; but, as with the blade it should have bead blast finish or one that does not reflect light.

Tactical fixed blades can also feature a metal feature at the end of the handle called the pommel, skull crusher, glass breaker, etc. This too should feature a non-reflective finish.

Handle material will be of a synthetic nature. These would include G-10, Micarta or Carbon fiber.

Tactical fixed blades are credited with the introduction of Kydex and Kydex lined Cordura nylon sheaths. Even today these are mainstays for tactical fixed blades.

Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at customknives@comcast.net or (706) 650-0252.

25
FEB
2021

Bowie Knife Defined

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(cont. from Bowies category page)

The Bowie knife blades can reach up to 14″ in over all length; however, the sweet spot for a Bowie blade length is 9 – 11.”  Jim Bowie’s knife had a 9.25″ blade.

The majority of custom forged blades are flat ground. Simply put, this means the blade tapers all the way from the spine to the edge from both sides. Doing so makes this a more difficult grind as the maker has to remove a lot of metal. The advantage gained is a lighter blade that maintains its integrity.

Another technique utilized with forged blades is differential heat treatment. Basically, this creates a harder edge and a softer spine. The forged blade will generally have a temper line showing the difference between the harder and softer parts of the blade.

The carbon steels that are used are too numerous to mention them all here. The primary ones used with forged Bowie blades are; 0-1, W-2, 1075, 1084, 1095, 5160 and 52100.

There are three basic types of handles. First, the hidden tang; which is exactly what it sounds like. A hole is drilled and shaped through the center of the handle material to make room for the tang. Epoxy is often used as the adhesive to keep the tang and handle material together.

Depending on the material and maker, the handle may or may not have a pin through the handle. This type of knife handle will also lend itself to the take down handle. The handle is built in a similar fashion, but to a higher degree of fit as no glue is used to secure the tang and handle material. The handle is held together with a type of nut or finial that screws onto the tang providing the necessary pressure to keep the handle secured. Generally, a tool is provided to remove the device that is holding the knife together.

Second is the mortise tang. The tang will be shorter and the handle material will be spit. The inside of the handle material will have a slot cut evenly on both sides. This will allow the tang to be sandwiched in between both pieces of handle material. This technique will almost always have a combination of epoxy and some type of pin through the handle. An advantage of this type of handle is the reduction of weight. This can really help with a hunter/skinner, as well as, aid in the balance of the knife.

Third is the frame handle. Basically, the tang is slotted into a frame and handle material is added to each side. When completed it gives the illusion that the knife has a full tang. Generally, constructed with both hidden and pins that show. This is the most complex method of the three. Expect to pay more for this type of handle.

Bowies created by the stock removal method primarily differ from forged bowies in two main ways:

1) Steel: Basically, stainless steel is used as opposed to carbon steel.

2) Handle: Generally, either a full tang or hidden tang construction.

 

Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at customknives@comcast.net or (706) 650-0252.

08
JAN
2021

Journeyman Smith – What You Should Know

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As you look at some of the custom knife makers’ work on our website you will notice that some have the designation “Journeyman Smith.”  I am often asked what this means so I thought I would write a brief synopsis.

I was introduced to forged blades in the late 1980’s. What drew my attention were the custom Damascus knives being made by some of the ABS Master Smiths.  The top makers were asking $100 an inch (this included paying for the tang) for their knives, plus handle material and a sheath.  A 10” Bowie with a 5” handle would routinely be priced at $1600 – $1800 (depending on handle material.) Remember this was the 1988 price!

This lead me to look for less expensive options, which at that time primarily meant carbon steel.  Not knowing what I was looking for, I became an ABS Associate Member in 1988.  It was then I started to be educated on what the Journeyman Smith designation meant and why it was important to me.

To become a Journeyman Smith (JS) some basic requirements have to be met:

  • Eligibility: The candidate for JS must be an Apprentice Smith member for at least two years. At this point, they can take their performance test with an ABS Master Smith.  However, they must have been an Apprentice Smith at least 3 years before they can test for JS.
  • Performance Test: JS candidate can only test with carbon steel blades. There are guidelines for the knife to be used. The test is a 4-part event. All 4 parts have to be passed in order for the JS candidate to become eligible to test for JS.
    • Rope Cutting: The purpose of this is to test the edge geometry and sharpness.
    • Wood Chopping: This is done to demonstrate the edges toughness. A construction grade 2X4 is used for this test.
    • Shaving Hair: The is to demonstrate the edge retention of the blade.
    • Bending: This test is done to show the applicant is able to heat treat a knife with a soft spine and hard edge. This is known as “differential heat treat.”  On a hard use knife, this type of heat treat could be an advantage.

Once the time requirement and performance test have been met.  The JS candidate may now test for their JS Stamp (that is the JS in script you will see on their blades.)

The candidate will submit five knives, all having carbon steel blades for judging.  This usually takes place at the Blade Show in Atlanta, GA, the first of June.  Recently the ICCE Show in Kansas City has been added as an additional testing venue.

Upon successful completion, the maker will be awarded the JS stamp and certificate.  For many, the next step is to become a Master Smith.

In addition to the performance test, most ABS makers will spend time with other JS or MS makers learning this craft.  Some will attend the Bill Moran School of Bladesmithing at the Texarkana College in Texarkana, Texas.   Additionally, there are hammer-ins set up across the country.  These are usually done over the weekend and will further enhance the attendee’s skills and abilities with regards to making forged blades.

As you can see, custom knife makers with the JS designation have put a lot of time and effort into becoming a Journeyman Smith.  The knowledge they have gained can be readily seen in the custom knives they produce. As with any endeavor some JS makers will be better than others.

Over the past 28 years, I have had the opportunity to visit several custom knife makers’ shops. It is always interesting to watch their “process.”  I have attended classes on making and judging forged blades, and I have had the opportunity to judge finished knives at several shows both in the US and Canada.

At this point I have developed a pretty good eye for quality work at all three levels: AS, JS and MS custom knives.  In addition to the current work and/or potential, the price the makers charge for their knives is also very important to me. Right now, too many JS makers are asking too much money for their work. Given what prices were being asked by some of the tactical folder makers, it should come as no surprise.

What I look for is:

  • Quality: Their fit, finish and flow commensurate with the rating in the ABS and their time making knives.  Example: There are several JS makers who are better knife makers than some of the MS makers.
  • Position in the market: Where is the maker compared to their competitors in the current market?
  • Price: This should be influenced by #2. Additionally, materials used, demand and how their retail prices hold up in the aftermarket.  Right now, too many makers prices are not commensurate with the position in the market.
  • Improving Skill Set: Are JS makers improving their fit, finish and flow? Are they moving towards making Damascus, San Mai, blades with Hamons, materials being used? Are they incorporating Stag, Premium woods and/or Ivories as part of their options for handle material?
  • Communication: Do they answer emails or return phone calls in a timely manner? Do they make sure (to the best of their abilities) you are receiving the knife you want?  Point: Communication is a two-way street.  It is essential that both the customer and maker communicate in a clear and concise manner.

When you see a knife maker with the JS designation on my website, you can be sure they have been vetted by me personally.  I spent a lot of time developing the skills on what to look for.  I feel I am working with some of the best Journeyman Smiths in the world. I would encourage you to spend time looking at their knives on my website and continually develop your own knowledge base when it comes to forged blades. For additional information on what it takes to become a Journeyman Smith, I would recommend you follow this link the ABS website: http://www.americanbladesmith.com/index.php?section=pages&id=172

 

Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at customknives@comcast.net or (706) 650-0252.

 

17
FEB
2017

Mount Rushmore of Contemporary Knifemakers

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In the May 2017 issue of Blade Magazine, myself and eleven other veteran industry observers were asked to pick top four makers from 2000-2017. These four makers are considered the Mount Rushmore of Contemporary Knifemakers. Two of my top picks made it into the mountainous structure, and two just missed the cut. These are in no particular order. Here are the knife makers I picked for the Mount Rushmore of Knifemakers Part II:

Michael Walker: Michael Walker is among the best to ever make a folding knife. He is best known for reintroducing the liner lock to the folder world. This contribution alone should be enough to put him on the “new” Mount Rushmore.

Bob Terzuola: Bob was one of the original tactical folder makers in the early 1990’s.  In fact he literally wrote the book on it with the release of his Tactical Folding Knife: A study of the Anatomy and Contrition of the Liner-Locked Folder in 2000.   The consummate professional knife maker he can build a fixed blade or folder with equal expertise. Purchase one of Bob Terzuola’s knives here: Bob Terzuola Tactical Fighter

RJ Martin: One word sums up RJ Martin’s work: precision. He is one of those rare breeds of makers who can build both fixed blades and folder with equal skill. There are few true “double threats” in custom knife making today.  Purchase one of RJ Martin’s knives here: RJ Martin Vanguard Odyssey.

Jerry Fisk: In addition to being an ABS master smith, Jerry Fisk is the only custom knife maker to have obtained National Living Treasure status in the USA. Jerry has been a fixture in custom knives for the past 30 years and his work is always in demand.

 

Robertson’s Custom Cutlery is your source for custom knives from today’s leading custom knife makers. We only feature the highest quality knives at value prices. Our custom fixed and folding knife selection includes tactical fixed and folding knives, presentation fixed and folding knives, bowies, hunters and skinners, and a large selection of forged blades. Les Robertson, author and owner of Robertson’s Custom Cutlery, is also a Field Editor for Blade Magazine and an instructor at Blade University. If you have questions about the content in this article or about any knife or maker on our website, you can contact Les directly at les@robertsonscustomcutlery.com or (706) 650-0252.

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