After going to knife shows for a few years, Dominick Gold of Manchester, New Jersey, had to try making a knife himself. He started reading and learning.
“I couldn`t believe how all the makers I met were willing to help the new guy,” Dominick noted.
He met Joe Szilaski at a New York knife show and took classes with him on stock removal and forging.
“I worked in the wholesale seafood industry out of the Fulton Fish Market in New York [City] and really learned how to use a knife,” he stated.
- Best-selling knife patterns: skinners, hunters, bird-and-trout and mini tactical tomahawks
- Preferred blade steels: 1095 for hamon, CPM 154 for hard or outdoor use, and AEB-L for fine edge holding in a slicer
- Blade grinds: flat w/convex edge and hollow
- How he tests his knives: paper slice, cardboard cut, 4×4 wooden post chop and user feedback
- Favorite handle materials: koa, redwood, maple, also Micarta®, G-10 and the occasional resin pinecone
- Price range: $200-$400
- Knife shows he attends: Northeast Cutlery Collectors Association, Mystic, Connecticut; Lehigh Valley Knife Show, Easton, Pennsylvania; Great Middletown Firearm and Knife Show, Middletown, New York
- Online purveyor selling his knives: artknives.com
- Forums he participates in: Northeast Cutlery Collectors Association and the knife gods Group on Facebook.
- Dominick does everything in house except heat treating stainless steel, which he leaves to Paul Bos. He hand-stitches his sheaths.
His skinner has a 3.5-inch hollow-ground blade of AEB-L stainless steel. The knife has dovetailed brass bolsters with a satin finish, red linen Micarta scales and is finished with a 550 paracord fob.
“There isn’t a straight line on the knife,” Dominick added. Maker’s list price: $250.
Contact Dominick Gold, 908-309-7541, firstname.lastname@example.org and on Facebook at Dominick Gold.
Wayne Meligan didn’t know why knifemaking came so easily to him, he just knew it did.
When Wayne was a boy, his father would pick him up after school with a change of clothes and they’d go fishing. He’s been carrying a knife ever since, fishing from the backwoods swamps to the Gulf of Mexico. After high school Wayne earned his bachelor of science degree in nursing, and today works full time as an assistant managing nurse in a critical care open-heart unit. He’s married with a 3-year-old at home, so his time for knifemaking is limited.
And yet, he spends every minute he can in his shop. Then his grandmother mentioned that his great-granddad used to make knives, and so did his grandfather.
Yet, nobody else in the extended family had picked up the craft, just Wayne. It all made sense—the compulsion to make knives was in his blood and had just skipped a generation.
- Best-selling knife patterns: drop-point hunter, ringtail cleaver
- Favorite blade steels: 5160 for its workhorse qualities, 1095, 80CrV2
- Blade grind: flat
- How he tests his knives: push-cut newspapers for chef’s knives; sportfish, hunt and camp for camp knives; cut a nail for heat-treat check on all models, or run through sheet metal
- Favorite handle materials: local hardwoods like snakewood and walnut
- Price range: $200 and up
- Forums he participates in: Bladesmithing for Beginners Groups on Facebook
This hidden tang all-around knife has a 7-inch blade of ladder-patterned steel from Alabama Damascus Steel. The angled integral guard is brass. The walnut handle looks wet because once the rough sanding is completed, the finish sanding goes from 220- to 2,000-grit. Finally a coating of Danish wood oil is applied.
Maker’s list price: $350.
Contact Wayne Meligan, 850-503-3335, email@example.com and Pirate Forge on Facebook.
Knifemaker Rob Ratliff specializes in fashioning gemstone handle knives, specifically using stone, minerals and fossils.
“My inventory consists of material from nearly every place on earth,” he claims. “I especially enjoy embellishments, such as filework and a variety of knife finishes. All of my work is in house with the exception of engraving.”
- Best-selling knife patterns: semi-skinner neck knives, drop-point hunters, gentleman’s folders and flipper folders
- Preferred blade steels: D2 for edge retention, CPM steels for corrosion resistance and performance, and stainless damascus because of its beauty and overall performance
- Blade grinds: hollow, flat and convex, depending on the knife’s intended use
- How he tests his knives: rope and paper cutting, feedback from customers, and edge flexes
- Favorite handle materials: gemstones for their unique, colorful, durable finishes, as well as Micarta®, wood and other materials upon request
- Price range: $100 and up for neck knives, and $400 and up for folders
- Knife shows he attends: BLADE Show, Gateway Area Knife Club Cutlery Fair and the Mt. Vernon Knife Show
- Member of: Gateway Area Knife Club
- Forums he participates in: bladeforums.com and jerzeedevil.com
“My background in woodworking and a career as a welder and in ornamental iron fabrication made my transition into knifemaking feel natural,” says Ratliff, who started making knives in 2007.
The wharncliffe-style, locking-liner folder sports a 3.25-inch Mike Norris damascus blade, dinosaur bone scales, fileworked titanium liners, “orange-peel-finished” titanium bolsters, and a dinosaur-bone inlaid titanium thumb stud. Ratliff’s list price: $1,050.
Contact Rob Ratliff , Dept. BL2, 4318 Martyridge Ct., St. Louis, MO 63129 314-581-1691 firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook.com/rob.ratliff.
Knifemaking is a new pursuit for Marty Jelinek. His 14-year-old son asked if he could help make a hunting knife for him, and the passion grew from there. Marty has no formal knife training but a background in fabrication helps.
“For heat treating and tempering I have taught myself using TTT [time-temperature transformation] charts and gleaning information from steel makers’ guidelines,” Marty explained.
He lives in the outback where Internet access is spotty, TV reception is poor, and there is nobody nearby to lean on or compare and contrast with.
“My day job is as a farm hand on a crop farm, and this leaves little spare time, but it does allow me the opportunity to field test my blades in the tough Australian outback conditions.”
- Best-selling knife patterns: 3-inch everyday carry drop-point, 4-inch drop-point hunter and the occasional kitchen knife
- Preferred blade steels: SUP9/5160 in the form of recycled planting discs; also 12C27, 1095, 15N20, 1075 and D2
- Blade grinds: full flat with a 25-degree secondary and the occasional zero-degree
- How he tests his knives: field testing around the farm, hunting, cooking
- Preferred handle materials: stabilized burl, G-10, horn and, by customer request, inlace acrylic. “The harsh Australian conditions call for tough hard-wearing handles, especially on working knives.”
- Price range: $250-$300 with hand-tooled sheath
- Forums he participates in: Assorted ones on Facebook, and Australian Blacksmith and Knifemaker
“I am just a bloke in the bush having a red-hot go, making a few knives to pay for equipment to make a few more knives, Marty added.
His kitchen carving knife has a 7-inch blade with blued 5160/SUP9 steel. The inlace acrylic handle includes G-10 liners and spacers. Overall length is 12 inches. Maker’s list price: $300.
Contact Marty Jelinek, +61 4 28 299 690, email@example.com, on Facebook at Handmade Knives by Marty Jelinek.
Edmund Davidson, friend and mentor for over 25 years, sparked Rudy Dean’s interest in knifemaking.
Rudy was taught the art of pattern-welding steel by Herb Derr, who also encouraged him to make knives. American Bladesmith Society master smith Jim Crowell was Rudy’s instructor in the ABS Intro to Bladesmithing class, continues to guide his forging techniques and supervised Rudy’s journeyman smith performance test.
After 27 years as a retail store owner, Rudy retired in January and has become a full-time bladesmith. He also enjoys farming, beekeeping and sharpening his bushcraft skills in the mountains of the Shenandoah Valley.
- Best-selling knife patterns: hunters and tomahawks made with patternwelded steel, and forged bowies
- Preferred blade steels: his own forge-welded steel using 1084 and 15N20, 1075 for hamon, D2 for stock removal and CPM S30V for kitchen knives
- Blade grinds: flat and the occasional hollow
- How he tests his knives: wood and rope cutting, occasional destructive tests
- Favorite handle materials: burls and spalted woods for natural beauty, vintage Micarta® for ruggedness and cast materials by J. Hue Customs
- Price range: $250-$900
- Knife shows he attends: BLADE Show, International Custom Cutlery Exposition, the Moran Association All Forged Show and the Shenandoah Valley Knife Collectors Show
- Member of: ABS, The Knifemakers’ Guild, William F. Moran, Jr. Museum and Foundation, Shenandoah Valley Knife Collectors Club and the North Carolina Custom Knifemakers Guild
- Forums he participates in: ABS and BladeForums.com.
Rudy runs a “sole authorship” shop, performing all aspects of his builds in house.
In his Urban Cleaver Rudy incorporates 261 layers of pattern-welded 1084 and 15N20 steels in a 5½-inch, partial-hollow-ground blade. The knife is 10 1/4 inches overall with amboyna burl Blood Drip scales from J. Hue Customs. Maker’s list price: $500.
Contact Rudy Dean, 540-487-8777, at firstname.lastname@example.org, at www.rudydeancustomknives.com, @rudydeancustomknives on Facebook and @rudydeanknives on Instagram.
Tim Flack’s bladesmithing journey began when he saw the Western approach to traditional Japanese fine metalwork in pieces made by South Africans such as Ford Hallam and Tiaan Burger.
“I loved the traditional approach they took using hand chisels—called tagane—to carve metal,” Tim noted.
He lost his job a few months later and Pokémon GO was out, so he made a few sterling silver pendants of Pokémon and realized it paid the bills.
A friend asked him to make a knife and he called the local knife club for help. Rick Afonso introduced him to his mentor and friend, Stan Hohowsky.
“I forged my first knife, a kozuka, and that had me hooked,” Tim said.
Stan and friend Brad Woollon have mentored him ever since. Both studied under South Africa’s only American Bladesmith Society master smiths, Kevin and Heather Harvey.
- Best-selling knife patterns: ultra-thin kitchen knife co-designed and manufactured with Woollon, his yanagiba, drop-point hunter and bowie
- Preferred blade steels: O1 and 5160 for ready availability in South Africa. “I’d love 52100 for my kitchen blades, but it’s hard to get in flat bar and we forge it out of bearings here,” Tim explained.
- Blade grinds: flat on kitchen blades for push cutting
- How he tests his knives: wood chopping, push cutting ropes, bottle chops
- Favorite handle materials: local woods like camphor bush burl, stink ebony and wenge
- Price range: $60-$300
- Knife shows he attends: local shows in Cape Town
- Member of: The Cape Town Knife Club
- Forums he participates in: Facebook Groups
His kitchen knife has a 7.38-inch flatground, convex-edged blade of Bohler K460 steel. Overall length is 11.81 inches. The handle is made of treated zebrano wood and fastened with mosaic pins.
Contact Tim Flack at +27 60 6054562, email@example.com, on Facebook at Tim Flack; on Instagram @journey_of_a_metalsmith and on Twitter @tim_meh87.
Find More Custom Knifemakers with BLADE‘s Directory
A full directory of custom knifemakers around the world can be found in the Knives 2018 book.