Herman Schneider, one of the most talented of the pioneering custom knifemakers of the 1970s and beyond, passed away Jan. 26. He was 87.
Perhaps best known for the spiked dagger in the 1986 Sylvester Stallone movie, Cobra, Schneider made some of the cleanest knives anywhere. Among them were hunters and skinners in his early days to art knives and reproductions of 19th-century dress bowies in the style of Michael Price as Schneider’s style evolved.
The workmanship of Schneider knives was second to none. As long-time knife collector and the headman of the Art Knife Invitational (AKI), Phil Lobred, once noted, “Herman Schneider’s knives lifted the industry up two notches in the fit-and-finish department.” Schneider was among the very first group of elite knifemakers to be invited to the AKI, and exhibited at the premier event for a number of years.
Of all Schneider’s impeccable knife creations, it was his art knives that stood out. “Herm Schneider built beautiful art knives,” observed Dave Harvey, owner of Nordic Knives retail knife store and coordinator of the biennial Solvang Custom Knife Show. “Many of his blades featured complex grinds that many of the most talented makers would not, or could not, pull off themselves.”
In 1982, Schneider was Lobred’s first choice to make the landmark King Tut Dagger reproduction. Schneider had to decline, however, and Lobred chose BLADE Magazine Cutlery Hall-Of-Fame© member Buster Warenski to make it instead. The rest is history.
An interesting back story about the Tut dagger repro: As part of Lobred’s instructions for the making of the legendary knife, the blade had to be solid gold. Warenski struggled with finding a way to harden the all-gold blade. After repeated failed attempts, he enlisted the aid of Schneider and Jim Hardenbrook, and together they were able to harden the blade successfully.
In a poll of the greatest custom knifemakers from BLADE®’s first 15 years (1973-88), Schneider did not make the top 10, though he didn’t miss by much and made the honorable mention list. And in the Top 10 custom knives from the same time period, Schneider was the only maker Lobred mentioned for his entire body of work instead of just one piece.
An early member of The Knifemakers’ Guild, Schneider not only was a great knifemaker but was also close to many in the knifemaking and knife fraternity. Along with Buster and Joan Warenski, Cutlery Hall-Of-Famer D’ Holder and Bob Gladstone, Schneider was instrumental in helping Dan and Pam Delavan get the first California Custom Knife Show up and running in the early 1980s. Many thought a lot of Schneider, not just for his knifemaking ability but for his friendship and kindness as well.