Monday, March 20, 2017


The term Classic Forged Knives refers to a process of knife making that harkens back to pre-industrial times.  In other words, there are no modern manufacturing techniques associated with this type of knife making.  In the purest sense this is referred to as bladesmithing.  A bladesmith is someone who uses blacksmithing techniques and equipment to make knives.  The most important piece of equipment is, of course, an anvil to which must be added appropriate hammers, tongs and a system to heat steel to non-magnetic temperatures.  All but the last requirement are specific to bladesmithing.  The modern knife manufacturer, whether operating out of a garage, small shop or large factory uses a method to produce knives called “stock reduction.”  Almost all contemporary knives are made this way.  The garage hobbyist will purchase a piece of high carbon flatbar and from that will cut out something that looks like a knife.  The large factory will do practically the same thing though they use large sheets of high carbon steel to stamp or cut out their blade blanks.  From that point on the process is nearly identical as the blank is taken through the manufacturing process from blank to final merchandise.  A bladesmith, on the other hand, takes a piece of high carbon steel, bar or rod, and heats it until the steel become highly malleable and then begins pounding it into the shape of a knife.  This is the traditional way of making knives.

Let’s set the record straight by saying that both methods make good knives if the maker is knowledgeable of sound metallurgical techniques.  I am forever harping at would-be knife makers to “learn their chemistry.”  Alas, most wannabees could not care less about ionic bonds and crystal math or a hundred other things that a top knife maker takes the time to learn.  That’s precisely why too many hobby or even “custom” knives are improperly heat treated and tempered and why you hear misinformation like, “forged steel is stronger steel than stock-reduction steel.”  Knife makers well-versed in inorganic chemistry know that pounded steel is no stronger than stock-reduced steel and what makes a piece of knife steel strong and adequate resides in (1) the specific type of steel and (2) the care taken in heat treating.

Well, I shan’t bore you with a lesson in chemistry but let it suffice to say that bladesmithing does offer one distinct advantage over simple stock reduction—that is to say if you are enamored by texture and the aesthetic qualities related to the actual forging (pounding) process.  It also brings the knife maker closer to the process itself.  A bladesmith can rise to the level of artisan while someone employing basic stock reduction will always just be a craftsman, and yes there is a difference.  Not to take away from the people who make beautiful knives using stock reduction with their nice handles and engravings etc.  But the essence of a knife is the blade and a forged blade IMO will always be more beautiful (assuming it’s done correctly) that a blank that was cut away using an angle grinder or bandsaw and then subjected to a $1,000-$2,500 2”x72” belt grinder then heated in an electric oven then tempered in another electric oven then polished with the same belt grinder.  Nifty, but mono-dimensional.  I even saw a YouTube video where a fellow bought himself a CNC machine and all his “custom” knives are made as if in a sterile vacuum chamber as not to be contaminated by germs.  I think that's stretching the word, "custom."

Check online and type “forged knives.”  There are some genuine artists out there!  Some of the more radical, cavemen types (that’s a compliment) are calling themselves Neo-Tribal Bladesmiths.  A couple or three are quite good.  They seem to be clustered in the Tucson, AZ area but I’ve heard there may be a handful of others scattered in different places.  There might even be one old hermit living in a cabin way down in Deep South Texas who's tribal, if not very neo.  Mind you, he's no where near as talented as those Tucson boys and besides he’s not quite sure what neo-tribal bladesmith actually means.  No importa.  Aqui estoy bien escondido y tranquilo.

Friday, March 10, 2017


I’ve spent a great deal of my life living in deepwoods cabins, camping in remote areas and otherwise roaming hidden trails.  Who’s to say what turns someone into a woodsman or woman but regardless there’re those who are and those who aren’t.  My childhood buddy and I would get off from school and head into the woods nearby and stay till sunset.  Our moms eventually learned to put up with our forays and by the time I was eleven I was spending weekends and holidays at either my uncle’s ranch or my dad’s ranch.  Summers were spent entirely at the ranch and at about the age of 14 I built my own secret camp in a deeply wooded area where I’d take in the quiet.  In all those years neither my uncle nor my grandfather ever discovered my camp.  Stealth is something I’ve been practicing for over 60 years.  As mentioned, I’ve dwelled in various cabins and now for nearly a decade have done the same.  Some people find this isolation hard to accept.  Just last night a friend told me that I needed to get into town more.  This friend was born and raised near Texas City in the midst of some of the most brightly lit, heavily congested, roaring noises along the Gulf Coast, Houston on one side and Galveston on the other.  I guess that’s just normal for him and though he likes the woods I can always sense a feeling of disconnect when he comes out here to visit.  I guess woodsmanship is like learning a language.  You either pick it up when you’re a child or you never quite get the gist of it.

If you read my latest book, The Sand Sheet you’ll learn about my life today and how I came to settle in this remote spot and about my eternal quest to learn the technologies employed by the pre-historic people who once dwelled in this corner of the globe.  As I see it one could spend a lifetime in these woods and never absorb everything that can be learned from my surroundings.  From studying the plants and bushcraft and ecology and birds, mammals, herps…Well, the list is as I’ve suggested, endless.  But there’s another reason for being out here.  I never was one to tolerate noise.  The silence of the deep woods is the best remedy for peace in life.  In the city I always feel an underlying stress working through me like prickles and pain from a pinched nerve.  Constant, unrelenting, day or night; the collective noise can’t be good for people.  How anyone can tolerate perpetual noise is something I don’t understand.  And yet, I’ve had people come out here to visit who immediately complain that “it’s too quiet.”  Not so much associated with noise but yet distantly related are the young people who accompany their parents and who then sit fixated to a hand computer playing video games.  That’s sad, folks.

I’ve compiled a list of the obnoxious sounds that so many people these days seem to take for granted.  For example, why is it that every time you turn a TV or computer on or off it’s got to go ding di-ding d-ding ding…or some other equally offensive jingle?  And how about the beep, beep, beep, beep of anything that’s backing up?  Yeah, it was some Washington bureaucrat’s brain storm to keep people safe.  But the backing up beeping has become so ubiquitous that no one pays attention to it!  Then there’s the ding, ding, ding, ding that’ll drive you nuts if you don’t fasten your safety belt.  Now I ask you: If I’m driving my pickup on a two-rut ranch road going ten miles an hour and there’s no traffic for miles then why must I put my safety belt on?  So I attach the safety belt behind my back so that damn dinging will shut up.  Anyway, it’s just more racket to toss into a mix that apparently most city folks seem to be forced to tolerate.  In all cities there’s a constant rumble; the coalescence of every noise being generated from miles around.  Sirens, diesel trucks, honking horns, jackhammers, leaf blowers, mowing machines, tractors, people yelling, babies crying, car radios blaring, helicopters flying overhead.  Some people I assume seem to love that sort of thing.  Well, good for them.

Yes, it’s awfully quiet out here.  No shopping malls and movie theaters or Broadway plays; no carnivals or “fun parks.”  No hamburger stands and fancy restaurants.  All I’ve got is persistent quiet with maybe a bird chirping or an owl hooting or coyotes yodeling nearby.  But then listen to those politicians and chambers of commerce types, those “developers” and Capitalists who spout endless growth.  There’s a new religion in town and don’t expect the preachers to tell you about it since they’ve all embraced it themselves. So then have you ever noticed when the sun takes on an unnatural color at sunset?  Dark clouds are building in the west.  Even the air begins to smell strange.  You can’t help but start thinking, There’s a storm coming.

THE SAND SHEET at Amazon.Com

THE SAND SHEET at Texas A&M University Press

THE SAND SHEET at Barnes & Nobles