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Rod Chappel History

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Rod Chappel was published in the very 1st Blade Magazine back in 1973…

Rod Chappel Blade Magazine 1st Edition 1973 American Blade History

The 1st Blade Magazine! The American Blade Vol. 1, No. 1 May – June, 1973

Many of us are lead into custom knives because of the failure of a factory-made knife we were using.  That was the case for me and was also the case for Rod Chappel.  In 1967, a factory knife failed on a hunt that lead him to explore making custom knives.  His first stop on this journey was to the legendary Bill Moran for more information on how to forge blades.   The next stop was to spend time in the shop of legendary maker, Gil Hibben.  Then with the help and guidance of legendary knifemaker, Harvey Draper, he started making knives. 

Rod Chappel 1st Custom Knife Harvey Draper History

Rod Chappel holding the first knife he ever built in Harvey Drapers shop. (photo: The American Blade)

In 1970, Rod started making custom knives full time in his Grandfather Roderick Davis’ boat shop in Spokane, Washington.  This is why the knives from the 1970s’ have the mark “Davis Knives” instead of his CHAPPEL logo. As a former architect and civil engineer, he felt comfortable first putting knife designs on paper like a blueprint, if you will. He had a deep appreciation for perfection. He had many designs, but note the Lewis & Clark, Mini Mag Bowie, Coeur D’Alene Fish Knife and Woodsman Bowie (Combat Bowie). They may look familiar since they are currently on our site. 

Rod Chappel Original Knife Drawings *

Rod Chappel Custom Knives Blue Prints Combat Bowie

Rod Chappel Original Knife Drawings *

Each Christmas Rod would build one knife to be sold to buy his children Christmas gifts.  These knives are all marked Christmas, followed by the name of the knife.

In 1984, my wife and I were headed to Chicago returning from our honeymoon, I was reading the Inflight Magazine.  In this magazine was an article on knife photographer, Jim Weyer.  One of the featured knives in that article was the Rod Chappel Hunting Leopard Combat Bowie with an Ivory handle.  At that time, it was the most incredible knife I had ever seen!  Instantly I became a huge fan of his knives.

Over the next 20 years, the search for a Chappel Hunting Leopard Combat Bowie with an Ivory handle began. I had bought a couple of smaller Chappels, but it wasn’t until 2004, (ironically I was flying out of Chicago) when I had purchased my first Ivory-handled Chappel Hunting Leopard Combat Bowie at a show there. 

Rod Chappel Hunting Leopard Combat Bowie Walrus Ivory Collectible Custom Knife Number 001

Due to his Alaskan Native American lineage, Rod was able to legally utilize supreme handle materials such as walrus tusk ivory or whales teeth for some of his knives. Rod’s knives are instantly recognizable with their sweeping grinds and carved handles.  His knives are very collectible and difficult to find.  He achieved what most makers/artists strive for; a unique look and/or style.  Rod Chappel passed away in 2017, but his artwork remains ever alive and inspiring for collectors and sportsmen alike.


*photo from the original American Blade magazine article about Chappel.

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