A Budding Custom Knife Maker
I grew up loving the outdoors. Fishing and camping were much cherished activities in our family.
I made my first knife sometime in the latter half of the 1970s, when I was still in my teens. I had begun fur trapping here in Northwestern Ontario and was looking for a good beaver skinning knife.
To call that first knife crude would be an understatement, but the making of it began to awaken a desire in me to do more.
Besides making a few knives over the next several years, I developed a desire to learn blacksmithing as well.
But as there seemed to be precious few people within my circle of acquaintances at the time who had much skill in these crafts, I resorted to reading the few books that I could find, along with a lot of experimentation.
I became somewhat captivated by the thought of making and using my own knives and other tools. The possibilities seemed endless and there were so many interesting aspects to pursue.
One area that really intrigued me was working with the coal forge and learning the finer points of shaping red hot steel. Another was heat treating – the controlled softening or hardening of high-carbon steels by careful heating and cooling.
I was hardening knives and other tools using the forge or oxy-acetylene torch, and judging temperatures by eye, long before I ever had a heat treating furnace.
A Maker of Fine Knives and Hand Tools
By 1984 I felt that I wanted to pursue the making of tools in a more serious way.
It was in the early spring of that year that I first made contact with Lee Valley Tools. It seemed only natural to me (if not just a little presumptuous) that, since I had been making various kinds of hand tools, they might be interested in providing an outlet for my work.
Needless to say, I was pleased to discover that Lee Valley was quite open to finding out just what I had to offer. I found Mr. Leonard Lee, as well as my other contacts there, to be most helpful and encouraging to me, a young and previously unknown toolmaker.
So began a long and continuing relationship through some good times and some harder times. I have felt privileged over the ensuing years to be able to supply Lee Valley, and through them, many craftsmen, with fine woodcarving and other hand tools.
Also that same year (1984) I was feeling that I wanted to get a little deeper into custom knife making as well.
So, being a little short on cash, I bought only the few essential parts that I knew I couldn’t make myself, and built my first belt grinder. Today, this machine is still an important part of my shop and I spend much of my working day in front of it.
A piece at a time, I invested in more equipment, and before the end of that year (1984), I was beginning to put out some custom knives for sale.