The Journey to World Class Knife Making
Updated: Nov 13, 2018
My interest in steel and fire dates back to 7th grade metals class and my cold chisel project. As we all know, artisan crafts of this nature were being shelved all over the country in the 70’s and 80’s. Finding artisan craftsmen to help further my interest seemed impossible. That all changed in the late 90’s with access to the Internet. My first blacksmith “Google” brought the Indiana Blacksmith Association up. $10 later I was a life member with monthly access to a forge and forgemaster. I was closer to knife making but mostly dinking around with simple forge projects.
In 2008, I decided to get serious about knife making. As luck would have it, about a month later, a special addition of a business magazine I never read landed on my desk. Something on the cover intrigued me. As I flipped through the magazine for the article of interest, I found Dave Haffner, CEO of Legget and Platt standing in front of a mill holding a hunting knife he had made. It was fascinating. I made contact via email through Leggett’s investment group. A half hour later I received a call from Dave. After a 45 minute conversation, he invited me to his home near Joplin, MO which fit in well with a pre-planned business trip from my home in Elkhart, Indiana to Tulsa only three weeks away.
All of this happenstance around Dave is the reason I am building knives today. Dave taught me a great deal about form, fit, and function. I was now actively making knives but the forging piece was missing, for Dave has perfected a knife making style known as “stock removal” using old saw blades. They are gorgeous, but I wanted more of “me” in the blade.
So in search of more knowledge about forging knives, I drove my family to Atlanta for the June 2011 Blade show. I happened into a seminar hosted by Ed Fowler. I knew nothing about Ed, but that was about to change. I liked Ed and what he had to say during his hour long knife talk. ‘The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Thirty Years of Knife Making.” What I didn’t know at the time was that Ed is one of the premiere bladesmiths in the country. (I also learned that people would pay as much as $35,000 for a custom knife, but that is another story!)
July 2011 I found myself a student at the Willow Bow Ranch, Riverton, WY – Ed’s ranch. For a week, (7) days, he and Chris Amos (former student and bladesmith) mentored me. Seven pounds lighter, Super glue in place of skin on some fingers, and 100 hours later, I emerged with a knife maker’s dream – the process, methods, experience and artisan philosophy of one Ed Fowler, a living legend in the custom knife making community.