||CKCA Interview Series
||About the maker, as a person:
1. 1What single knifemaker has influenced you most, and how?
"Back in the beginning, I would say Jim Crowell, he made knives the way that I liked to see them. Now, there is a
whole variety of knifemakers that I like to see work from."
2. Who is your favorite knifemaker, and which knife?
"There are so many makers that make great knives, but I really like Larry Fuegen. He has so much talent, and his
work is instantly recognizeable."
3. If you could start back at the beginning of knifemaking, what would you change?
"I would like to have made more folding knives. I am known for making high quality fixed blades, but I like to
make folders, and many people don't know that."
4. What are the upsides of full-time knifemaking?
"I can sum this up.....I get to build what I want, do what I want, when I want to"
5. What are the downsides of full-time knifemaking?
"Not too many, but back when I had a full time job for someone else, I got a weekly paycheck....Not anymore."
About the maker as a craftsman:
6. What specific material or design elements define your current style, name your favorite 3 designs you produce and
sleek bowies and historically influenced knives. I do like making the El Diablo fighter that I am known for, as well
as making traditional style folders."
7. Have you developed any special skills in addition to the skills required to make a knife?
"I have been engraving for a little over a year now, and really enjoy it. It can be overdone, but I am working to
add a little special something to my knives, and this is something that I can do myself."
8. Do you test your knives for performance goals, and if so, how?
"I use my knives on hunting trips, and get feed back from other hunters as well....real world testing. I also have
some rubber strips that I got a while back, and I frequently will cut these strips many times to see how long my
edges hold up. This rubber material is very difficult to cut, and I feel it gives a good indicator concerning
important criteria, that is heat treat, edge retention and proper sharpening angles."
9. What is the single most important piece of machinery in your shop and why?
"Well, the most important piece of machinery in my shop is not in my shop. It is my riding lawnmower. It gives me
more time to make knives. I frequently have to mow the grass on my property, which has about a 1/2 acre of
grass and mow around all kinds of stuff, and before I got the riding mower, it took 4 hours to mow, now it takes
about an hour....more time for knifemaking."
"In my shop, I would say my milling machine. I have a bigger Harbor Freight milling machine, nothing fancy, that
makes many smaller projects much easier to finish. I still have the Bader Bench Model 2 that I started with, but I
have other grinders as well, including a BurrKing. Several years ago, I didn't have very much equipment at all, I
now have more than ever. Each piece helps to make the overall process of knife making much easier."
10. Would you briefly take us through the process of designing and making a new knife?
"When I make a new knife the first thing I do is draw it. I take that drawing out to my shop, and I've got an old
table saw out there, I'll take a piece of soapstone, draw the pattern on the table saw, and I'll forge the knife until it
fits into that pattern. If I can see it in my head finished, then I know what I want it to look like, and I can do it.
One thing I am very particular about with damascus is the pattern development. If it doesn't look like I imagine it
in my head, I will not use the damascus."
About the maker as a businessman:
11. What qualities are necessary to be a successful knifemaker AND businessman?
"I don't consider myself to be a businessman, necessarily, but I AM in business. My whole thing is honesty. If I tell
you something is going to happen, it may not happen as quick as either one of us wants it to, but it will happen. If
I set a price, I stick to it UNLESS something unusual happens, like I find a great, yet expensive piece of handle
material, in which case I call my customer and give him an option to use it. I like to give people options, it's like
going to buy a new truck, you can get the basic Silverado, or you can get the Custom Deluxe.
I just make knives the best I can, first and foremost. If I don't think my work is good, you probably won't like it
either. That said, I really don't like to be talking up my work...it either speaks for itself, or it doesn't. Makers
constantly talking about how great their work is really bothers me. Communication is really important, I had to
learn how to speak with people a certain way in the beginnning, because I really didn't talk that much. Not shy,
just didn't have much to say. I would go to gun shows when my career started, and have been doing so since
then. It was a good way to get conversation going, what with questions people have.
Funny story, I was at a gun show a few years back, and a young fella, late 20's, early 30's maybe, said he had seen
my work in magazines, and could he pick up this bowie I had on a table. He asked how much it cost, and I said it
is $4,000. He said gosh, that a car could be had for $4,000, and I said sir, that knife is for people who already have
cars. He says OK, and put the knife back down. Not sure why I said that, but I still think it is funny."
12. Are there any materials that you will not use, or knives that you will not make?
"There's probably some knives that I won't make, but I can't think of any right now. A few years ago, a collector
called me to ask if I would make a Loveless-style drop point, and I recommended he contact some of the other
makers who specialize in that style. I won't use Pakkawood or Micarta on a finer knife, or I should say that I have
13. Please elaborate about your workday, how many hours do you work each day, days per week & what is your
average time delay for newly ordered knives(length of waiting list)?
"On a good work day, you might be in your shop for 10 hours, and get 6 hours of actual time on knives. On a bad
work day, you might be out there for 6 hours, and get 2 hours of work done. It depends upon the day. I think that
is any job, too. I used to be in construction. When you get to the job site, get your tools laid out, do your work,
eat lunch, go back to work, you might have 6 hours of work in an 8 hour day. If we count basic shop
maintenance and upkeep, repairing equipment, or if I am getting ready for a show, it might be a 16 hour day.
If I am getting ready for a show, I don't really take weekends off, but most of the time I do take weekends off from
work. When my kids were younger I would take Fridays off from work. It might sound kind of crummy, but
knifemaking for me is more of a lifestyle than a business. I used to have to make up the time that I took off from
work to make more knives, but my prices have gotten up there a bit, so now I don't have to make up the time.
As far as delay time, that is a tough one. I have a waiting list, but I do skip around sometimes. If I am sick of
building fixed blades, I might make a slipjoint folder for a customer who is further down on the list. I feel I have
been making knives long enough that this is my option. If I stuck to the list, and nobody cancels on me, I am
backlogged about 2 1/2 years right now, or somewhere thereabouts. I really try to be fair to everyone, but I have
to be fair to myself too. I get treated like that from my end too, like gunsmiths, they can really test your
patience...can take forever sometimes."
14. What shows do you attend, and how do you select them?
"I go to some major shows, and some local shows. I pick the shows that are known to be "good" shows, that are
located in different parts of the country, so I have a reason to see new places and travel. I was fortunate enough
to be selected for the Art Knife Invitational in San Diego, and enjoyed attending my first one back in October,
2007. I go to the Spirit of Steel because it is close to home and I always go to the Round Rock Show in Texas."
15. How do you promote your work?
"I have a website, I talk to people about what I do and I always try to get pictures in magazines. I make sure that I
get good quality photographs. I think I do what pretty much everyone else does to promote my work."
About the Maker as an individual:
16. Do you consider what you make as a weapon, tool or art object, or all of the above, do you carry/use any of your own
"I consider my work to be all of the above. Even the art objects, basically they are weapons, they are tools. I
carry my own hunting knife, my son has a hunting knife of mine made many years ago."
17. If money was no object, what maker would you own a knife from, and what would it be?
"I would probably want one of Daniel Searles bowies."
18. What is your favorite meal, automobile, type of music, firearm, sport and vacation spot?
"I really like chicken fried steak with gravy, and ketchup. My wife hates when I do that, put ketchup all over
everything. I like french fries on the side. If we are talking healthy, it's gotta be grilled shrimp and zucchini. If I
could have any automobile I want it would be a 1969 Dodge SuperBee, 440 ci, 6 pack, lime green with black
racing stripes. I would want to soup it up, put some stuff on it. I love Country music, specifically George Strait.
Favorite firearm would be Fox side by side shotguns, L.C. Smiths are nice too. I like baseball, but am not really
into sports...I like rodeo too. As far as vacation, I would really like to take a cruise to Alaska with my wife, but
more importantly, her family is from Czechslovakia, and that would be neat to see the ancestral home."
19. What object do you covet most in your life, and what is your favorite thing you already have?
"That 1969 Dodge SuperBee, 440 ci, 6 pack, lime green with black racing stripes sure sounds good to me. If I lost
the pictures of my kids through the years, I wouldn't want to get up in the morning. That means a lot to me"
20. Any last words? What do you perceive as the value of an organization like CKCA?
"I don't really have any last words. I think the CKCA is good for all of us. Any time you have an organization
promoting custom knives, that is a good thing."