Larry Wayne “The Hammer” Harley, friend, knifemaker, bladesmith and knifemaking teacher to anyone who showed an interest—especially kids and “wounded warriors”—passed away in his sleep Feb. 12. He was 66.
A lifelong resident of Bristol, Tennessee, Larry made knives under the business name of Lonesome Pine Knives. An American Bladesmith Society journeyman smith, he was the chair of the ABS Youth Program and was involved with the Wounded Warriors Project. He was best known outside the knife industry as one of the stars of the National Geographic television show Lords of War, on which he went simply by the nickname of “The Hammer,” specializing in identifying and judging the worth of assorted knives, swords and other edged weapons.
Though not a tall man, Larry was large with burly arms and a massive chest—which was no doubt needed to contain his huge heart. He conducted bladesmithing symposiums at his shop in Bristol, entertaining youths, veterans and anyone and everyone who wanted to make knives. He also taught at the Batson Bladesmithing Symposium, youth programs at the BLADE Show and Smoky Mountain Knife Works, and just about anyplace he could find that would allow him to teach the craft, and interact with the people involved, that he loved so much. “Larry always felt that the real payment for teaching a youngster of any age was the irrepressible smile that was always on their face when they realized they could do it,” wrote ABS journeyman smith Wes Byrd, who, along with Larry, taught kids how to make knives in the ABS Youth Program.
As BLADE Magazine Cutlery Hall-Of-Fame© member A.G. Russell noted, everyone in the business liked Larry. “If you knew Larry at all, you probably knew where he stood on all of the issues of the world that you and he had in common,” Byrd noted. “I also knew he had my back no matter what.” Added Larry’s friend Mike Crenshaw, “Larry was a remarkable bladesmith, friend and outrageous character that will be sorely missed. He passed the fire on to many, young and old.”
Larry learned to make knives from his father, the late B.L. “Pap” Harley. “It just so happened that my daddy made knives and that’s how come I’m a knifemaker,” Larry said in the February 2015 BLADE®. “I remember my daddy working on bowie knives on the kitchen table when I was 4 or 5 years old. He also read me books by Raymond Thorp, author of Bowie Knife and Crow Killer, for bedtime stories, and I remember we saw the Alan Ladd movie about Jim Bowie, The Iron Mistress.”
Larry’s friends were too many to count. In fact, if you met him he probably counted you as one of his friends and you counted him one of yours. His infectious laugh and twinkling eyes immediately broke the ice. A regular exhibitor at the BLADE Show in the early years, he was known then for his “hog-killing knives” and excursions on which he would take customers to hunt wild hogs in the Appalachian Mountains of East Tennessee and the surrounding area. He was also known as a top competitor in the early years of the ABS cutting competitions, winning at least one championship before the competitions became more organized and eventually evolved into today’s events conducted by BladeSports International, including the BLADE Show World Championship Cutting Competition, the 15th annual rendition of which will be held at this year’s BLADE Show June 2-4 in Atlanta.
Larry is survived by his loving wife of 35 years, Kristine; sons Richard and Nicholas; goddaughters Sarah and Julia Denton; aunts, uncles, cousins both in the Holbrook and Harley family; and many friends.
The family will receive friends from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. tomorrow, Feb. 15, at Oakley-Cook Funeral Home in Bristol. The funeral service will follow at 7 p.m. with the Rev. Steve Playl officiating. The committal and inurnment service will be at 2 p.m. Feb. 16 at Glenwood Cemetery in Bristol.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Wounded Warrior Project, POB 758517, Topeka, KS 66675-8517 woundedwarriorproject.org.