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Old 04-03-2007, 10:06 AM
Ray Rogers's Avatar
Ray Rogers Ray Rogers is offline
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Exclamation Knifemaking Definitions Project

The purpose of this thread is to provide guidance and establish a consensus on a question that is asked by almost every Newbie and by some of the old timers as well. That question is:

"Can I say my knives are handmade?"

This question has been kicked around so many times on these forums I wouldn't be surprised if it constitutes 10% of the total database and yet there is still no definitive answer for it. The reason for this is simple: there is no recognized authority that can provide a definition that will be accepted by everyone.

There is another way to define words and that is by consensus of opinion and usage. That's how new words find their way into the Oxford Dictionary every year and it will work for us too if YOU want it to. If you want to help define and refine these terms, read the 'Why Should You Care' section at the end of this post.

Here are the definitions as they stand now:

Knife Maker - An individual who makes and assembles all the major
parts of a knife.

Custom Knife - A knife made by a knife maker to his own specifications.

Custom Made Knife - A knife made to the specifications of someone other than the knife maker.

Customized Knife - A knife with attributes requested or
supplied by someone other than the knife maker. This would include
artwork, decorative filework, serrations, finger grooves, handle material, etc not normally offered by the knife maker. This term may be applied to modified kit knives or modified factory knives.

Neo-Tribal: - A school of knife making that emphasises the enjoyment of the knife making process. N-T combines ancient and modern tools, materials, and techniques which can include such things as harvesting their own wood, using rosins instead of glue, and forging in charcoal or coal fires. N-T keeps the use of electricity to a minimum, prefers creative solutions over technology, while encouraging high-quality, original hand craftsmanship, innovation, and the efficient use of resources.

Forged Blade: A blade whose initial shape is created using hand guided forging equipment such as hydraulic presses, power hammers, treadle hammers, fly presses, etc.

Hand Forged Blade: A blade whose initial shape is created in a forging process using only manual tools such as hammers, fullers, etc.

Sole Authorship: All of the major components of the knife were made by a single knife maker. This includes exotic materials such as damascus and mokume but not minor components such as pins, pivots, bolts, screws, rivets, and similar items. Any embellishment such as engraving, scrimshaw, carving, etc must be done by the knife maker. All processes such as heat treat, cryo, coatings, plating, etc must be done by the knife maker. Any accessories specifiacally made for this knife must be made by the knife maker.

Hand Crafted, Hand Made - any combination of hand tools and hand controlled power tools.

Mid-Tech - The blade, handle, or scales were blanked out by some automated process for which the maker supplied directions but the knife was otherwise assembled and finished by hand.

The following are provisional and will change eventually:

One of a Kind - You made one and only one knife of this design and
will never make another. This refers to the DESIGN of
the knife. If another identical design knife with a
different handle material then neither one of them
qualifies as One of a Kind.

Kit-Tech - All or most of the parts of your knife were produced by
automated processes. Finish work may or may not be by
hand and heat treat may or may not be done by you

WHY SHOULD YOU CARE? The prevailing opinion seems to be that you can call your knives handmade, or handcrafted, or custom, or whatever you want so long as you explain honestly and completely to your customer exactly how you made your knife. That's fine as far as it goes but it fails to address 'the big picture'. The knowledgeable knife buying public does care - sometimes intensely - how that knife was made and it's no problem to explain your procedures to someone who is standing in front of you but what about when you aren't face to face? What about when someone is trading your knife or buying it through a dealer? What about when your knives are handed down through a few generations or acquired 20 years after you're dead and gone? You don't care? Fine, stop reading.

But, think about this: if the definition of 'handmade' were standardized and generally accepted then anyone who came across a knife with that word as part of its description would know immediately how it was made (within certain limits) even a century later and without ever talking to the maker. That could be a real plus for the person lucky enough to find a knife by a relatively unknown (or completely unknown) maker.

This also works well at a knife show where the potential customer could talk to you if he chooses - and it could save you a lot of time weeding out the real customers from those who are actually looking for something different than what you make. Imagine being able to walk down a row of tables with knives marked 'handmade', handcrafted', Mid-Tech', 'Primitive', etc and knowing immediately the general processes used to make that knife. No point in spending time talking to that 'Forged' guy if you know that what you really want would be labeled 'Primitive' even though the knives might look about the same on the table.

So, here's how this can work IF YOU WANT IT TO. Without you, this thread is nothing more than any of the others and will have the same effect, namely, zilch. I have listed the definitions that I use when thinking about how knives are made - this is our starting point. If you have a suggestion for a change to be made to these definitions or an additional definition you think should be added, then reply to this thread with that information. I'll either edit my definitions or I'll start a discussion or a Poll that will decide whether or not to edit the original definition. This way, the current definition will always be at the top of this thread. The next and most important part is up to you - you have to use these definitions as they stand whether you completely agree with them or not. Use them consistantly any time you reference these terms when you speak or write and especially if you use them on your blade mark. Be an advocate for the use of these definitions any time the opportunity presents itself. If you do this, then within a few years these terms will become common knowledge and the definitions will have been finally established. Or, you can choose to do nothing and let the chaos continue....

Last edited by Ray Rogers; 05-14-2007 at 07:50 PM.
Old 04-03-2007, 10:56 PM
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Brett Schaller Brett Schaller is offline
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I guess I'll be the first to jump into this can of worms...

I think you have a good idea here, trying to standardize some of these definitions.

I think I would reverse the definitions of "handmade" and "handcrafted." Most of the pioneers of the modern handmade knife (Scagal, Loveless, Randall, etc.) used power tools, and their knives have been called "handmade" for years now. I think trying to change that particular definition now will not work.

It has also long been generally accepted that a maker can send blades - especially air-hardening stainless blades - out for heat treatment and still call his knives handmade. I have difficulty thinking of a Lawndale Loveless as being "mid-tech."

Old 04-04-2007, 06:19 AM
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As I read the definitions the first thing I disagreed with exactly what Brett did. Reverse hand made and hand crafted. The items in a craft show are often made by hand with no power tools. Besides, by this definition, you and I and many others would be 'knifecrafters' not 'knifemakers'.

However, my concern with this effort doesn't end there.

Ray, I have enormous respect for you and the wealth of great advise and suggestions you've given me over the past two years, but to be honest, I'm not sure the 'chaos' is a bad thing. Let me explain...

I used to sell used cars for a living (I know... Iknow...). One day, I went up to my sales manager with what I was sure was a great idea. I suggested that we do what they do on the big new car lots--I proposed organizing the trucks in one area, the vans in another and then line the cars up according to price. This way, the customers could walk right up to what they said they wanted. Great idea, right? Wrong. The boss was quick to explain that if we did that, we would limit the customer's expose to our whole inventory. He continued by telling me about how many times a guy would come in looking for a sports car and leave with a pick-up that caught his eye instead. If the trucks had been on the other side of the lot, he would never have seen the truck. After a few years of selling cars, I could see that this philosophy holds water!

Now, I have never been to a 'knife' show, but I've been to plenty of gun shows. The last one I went to where I made a purchase was a couple of years ago. I went in with the idea of buying a Jericho 941 and nothing else. I left with a .44 Desert Eagle, a holster, and a bag of homemade beefjerky. Why do you think they put 'impulse' items at the register of WalMart. People 'think' they know what they want, but may find an interest in something else if they see it.

Putting signs over tables anouncing, in an agreed upon code-language, how a knife was made, might cancel the need for the friendly conversation that is now the means to make discoveries about how a knifemaker plies his trade. Some organization would be ok, but too much would cause cliques and isolation I think. I wouldn't want to de-humanize the art is I guess what I'm trying to say.

One day, when I have a table at a knife show, I want people to come up and say, "Nice knife! How is it made?" This allows me to share my art with them in a very personal way. The idea of people avoiding me altogether because I'm on the 'handcrafted row' instead of the holy ground that they seek... That just does not sound fun. And, what if I use multiple techniques to make my selection for that show? I do both forging and stock removal now.

This all reminds me of the thread Bob warner started a while back about a universal symbol or emblem for the... heck, I don't even know which word to use... 'custom' knife community. No one will ever fully agree I fear. Yet, there is a great deal of merit in the effort. I'm sorry I can't offer more.

Bless you for embracing this beast Ray! lol

Andy Garrett
Charter Member - Kansas Custom Knifemaker's Association

"Drawing your knife from its sheath and using it in the presence of others should be an event complete with oos, ahhs, and questions."
Old 04-04-2007, 07:48 AM
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Ray, I think I can speak for the rest of us when I say Thanks for taking on this task.

I do have a few comments as well. First, another term I see used a good bit, especially by Mike Stewart at Bark River K&T, is Semi-production. From Mike's definition it seems to be the equivalent to your Mid-Tech.

One comment that came up in one of the past threads on these various definitions is that if we start breaking things down too far we end up cluttering or muddling the entire concept of custom knifemaking. We potentially confuse the customers and collectors, if not ourselves.

Take me as example. I am a newbie, and am finishing up my first sole-authorship knives (my definition, not yours.) It is a stock removal blade from ATS-34.

I don't have a customer. I made the knife for myself. Without going into the argument that I am my own customer, according to your definition, I can no longer call this knife Custom Made or Customized.

I have not yet made another design like this. I may do so in the future if I decide I like this particular design. So, it is--temporarily--One of a Kind.

I used my drill press to drill the pin holes, and a Dremel with cut-off wheel to do the stock removal. According to your definition, I can no longer call my knife Hand Made. It is Hand Crafted.

Being that I am a newbie with little equipment and work in a corner of my garage, I sent out my ATS-34 blade to TKS for heat treat and cryo. By your defiinition, my knife is now Mid-Tech.

I think there are a lot of people on this forum, and elsewhere, who would have a big problem calling themselves "Makers of Fine Mid-Tech Knives."

Consider the following hypothetical conversation between a knifemaker and customer at a big knife show:

Customer: "I really like your knives. Are these custom knives all your work?"

Maker: "Thank you! Yes, the work is all mine, well almost. And they are not custom, as they were not made to the specifications of a particular customer, I just put my own creativity into the making of the knife."

Customer: "But this knife is hand made, correct?"

Maker: "No, it is not hand made, it is hand crafted. I used a belt grinder to do the plunge cut and form the bevels."

Customer: "Huh? But it is entirely your work, isn't it?"

Maker: "It is all my work, except I sent the blade to a nationally-recognized company/individual to do the heat treat. So, I can't really even call my knife hand crafted. It is a Mid-Tech knife."

Customer: "You mean like a kit. . ."

Maker: "NO!!!! It is NOT a kit knife!!! All of the work is mine, except for the heat treat."

Customer: "So it IS one of a kind. . ."

Maker: "No, it's not one of a kind. The one you are looking at is a working grade version with canvas micarta handles. Beside it on my table I have a similar, but fancier, knife of the same design with engraved nickel silver bolsters and stag handles."

Customer: "Okay. . .so do you make custom knives, or don't you?"

Last edited by NJStricker; 04-04-2007 at 08:12 AM.
Old 04-04-2007, 08:53 AM
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Ray Rogers Ray Rogers is offline
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Thanks for your comments guys, I know it took guts to jump into the middle of this discussion yet another time. I started this thread because someone suggested that I should during one of the OTHER many threads on this subject. believe me, I knew it would be a huge can of worms!

So, don't worry about hurting my feelings here. I offer these definitions simply because we need some place to start and these are how I define these terms based on the results from other threads. By all means, lets refine them.

The car sale parable was great too. However, while that story makes perfect sense these terms still exist or, at least, most of the do. Whether they ever get put on a knife or not it seems to me that if we could have a definition for the terms then that would be a good thing.

So, my question now is: Should we continue to try to define these terms ? It's a lot of work and time for something that may not be considered aworthwhile effort ....


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Old 04-04-2007, 09:38 AM
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Ok, I guess I better chime in since I feel partially responsible for putting Ray through this?.

First, thank you Ray for taking the time and putting forth the effort to come up with some sort of consensus on the terms we all use.

I urged Ray and others to do this because in my short time around these forums I saw countless posts on the topics like ?can I put my mark on a kit blade?? or ?I put the handle on it so is it hand made??. As a newbie I know I had some of the same questions, as I?m sure most of you did also. I?m still a newbie so I won?t weigh in on the specific definitions, but once they?re decided on I WILL use them.

I?m a hobbyist knifemaker and an amateur collector and I DO care that when I (or anyone else for that matter) buy a knife from a dealer/maker and ask if it?s ?hand made? that we both have the same definition. I was at a gun show recently and there was a guy at a table selling what he advertised as ?hand made? knives. He had quite a few people around his table when I pulled the trapper kit I just finished out of my pocket and laid it on the table next to his identical ?hand made? one he had for sale. You should have seen the look on the faces of the people standing around. Obviously his definition of ?hand made? and theirs was different.

There will always be scammers out there, but I think we as a knife making/collecting community have a duty to the pubic to agree on some industry specific terminology and USE it, and when you see people use the terms incorrectly call them out on it.

I applaud you all for taking the time to give this some thought.



"The choice isn't between success and failure; it's between choosing risk and striving for greatness, or risking nothing and being certain of mediocrity." - Keith Ferrazi
Old 04-04-2007, 09:45 AM
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I think it is a very worthwhile effort. Common terminology is necessary for any field.

That being said, I think we all generally agree (at least in connotation, if not in denotation) what a custom knife is.

Much of the impetus behind some of the past discussion threads was the gray line between a custom knife and a knife blade assembled from a kit.

Any of the terms and definitions you've offered so far, whether it be a sole-authorship knife or hand-crafted knife, can be fit under the umbrella term of custom knife and all of us here would be comfortable and understand what we mean.

We have true custom makers here (general definition). We have people who assemble kits here. In between is that gray area--people who assemble kits, and do them very well, taking the manufactured blade and adding their own creative touch in scales, liners, filework, etc. Some of them want to be recognized for the work that they do, either in the form of reputation or by cash in hand.

They are not true custom knifemakers. Yet they have done more than attach pre-fabbed handles to a production knife. The challenge is to define, and distinguish, this work from a true custom knife.

Do we call them customized production knives? Custom assembly? Personalized assembly? Decorated production knives? Semi-production? Given that there is an entire industry built around people who individually assemble, decorate, and collect production knives--knives made for that purpose, or factory-produced knives sold commercially and later rejuvinated--the knifemaking community needs to define what it is exactly that they do.
Old 04-04-2007, 09:52 AM
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Defining is a good thing. Humans have a deep need for classifying things and I am definitely on the giving the proper name for the proper thing side of the house.

I like Armory414 story, a bit of an Abbot & Costello routine there. I can see where that can be a worst case example. I look for definitions I can put on my knives when they are on a site or table. Example: Drouillard's Hand Crafted Knives. That gives a place for the customer to start at, especially if the definitions are gotten out there to the buyers. It gives them an instant understanding on the differences (not faults) of one of my hunters verses one that is forged but may look exactly the same. If you just have the generic "custom" the customer has to dig for the information. This has some advantages in it brings more customer/seller interaction but me as a customer like to have the general information on what I'm looking at or for and than get the details from the seller.


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Old 04-04-2007, 10:47 AM
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Hay guys,,I like the terms and now i understand where some of the agervation comes from,,,
you guys that have been doing this for years keep trying to bring order and knowlage to us newbies and our questions without the aid of any "Standards" on terms.
The auto industery has placed names and numbers on everything in every modle of every car ever made,,,yet I couldn't begine to figure how we could set that kind of order in knife making,,
I agree with parts of what was said by everyone above,, and now I'm frustrated too,,

for such a simple tool it sure brings up a lot of discontent,,heck its only a blade and a handle,,how hard could it be,,,
Old 04-05-2007, 01:55 AM
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Without getting too long winded...

Think about custom cars and motorcycles. They use production vehicles and parts, so are they 'custom' or 'mid-tech' or something else?

I don't want to get too wrapped up in definitions. After all, a knife is whatever the maker says it is. If I make a 12 inch knife that everyone else would call a bowie, and I decide to call it a paring knife..., guess what..., it's a paring knife. It may be a colossaly BAD paring knife, but' it's a paring knife just the same, if that's what the maker says it is. The same is true for terms like 'hand-made', 'customized', 'primitive', etc.

My own definitions are as follows:

I make a lot of stock removal knives. They are 'hand made custom knives'. They could also be called 'hand crafted custom knives' since I consider the two terms synonymous. ***A note about the term 'hand made': If the design is original to the maker, and if every surface of the knife is created by the labor of the maker's hands through the use of tools, then it is, IMHO, 'hand made'. The use of electricity is irrelavent. The key here is to understand that if all contact between the tool and the knife is controled by the 'feel' of the maker's hands, then what could be more handmade than that. It shouldn't matter if it's a file or a belt grinder. The term 'primitive' can be used to identify a knife made without the aid of power assisted tools.

I have started forging knives too. These are 'forged hand made custom knives'.
The term identifies the process used to create it to the degree that an educated buyer can draw certain conclusions about it.

I have also just sent a design to Admiral for a quote on laser cutting some blanks. These will be 'hand made production knives' . They will all be very similar as a finished product and as such, will not be 'custom' per se'. However, these are going to be marketed to the local law enforcement and military community and may be 'customized' on request. I just wanted to have blanks available to cut down on costs, wasted steel, and turn around time for the boys and girls in uniform. It's my own unique design and every surface will be finished by me. The HT will be mine as will the sheaths. 'Hand made production knife' is as accurate a term as any and far less cryptic than something like 'mid-tech'.

***Just a quick note on kit builders: The guys at Hogue Grips (the craftsmen in the wood shop) make 'custom gun grips'. Following that example, I recognize kit builders as craftsmen who make 'custom knife handles'.

Does any of this make sense to anyone but me?

Andy Garrett
Charter Member - Kansas Custom Knifemaker's Association

"Drawing your knife from its sheath and using it in the presence of others should be an event complete with oos, ahhs, and questions."

Last edited by Andrew Garrett; 04-05-2007 at 02:31 AM.
Old 04-05-2007, 05:51 AM
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It makes sense to me. I also agree that the distinction between hand made and hand crafted is a little too fine. The difference between using a belt grinder vs. sandpaper/file is not that different than the distinction between using a hand-held hammer vs. a trip/power hammer. The machine speeds up the process, it does not dictate the outcome. The maker does.

We should also recognize that there are words that have already established somewhat of a definition over time. For example:

Tribal or Neo-tribal--through the works of Wayne Goddard, Tai Goo, and others, this has come to mean that a knife has been completed without any power. A hand-held hammer, files, stones, and sandpaper were used to form and finish the blade. A hand saw was used to cut handle material. The heat source for forging is traditionally charcoal, but I think the group here recognizes propane as well. As long as no power tools are used, I think they would recognize stock removal knives as well in this definition.

Primitive--To me, this almost refers more to the look or style of a knife as it does to how it was made. A primitive knife can be made with primitive (neo-tribal) methods, or it can just look that way having been made with power tools, etc.
Old 04-05-2007, 07:32 AM
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This is part of why I love this place. Even with different opinions on things it stays civilized.

I can see where getting tied up in to many names can bog you down or over classify and the example of Andy's does bring to light something I hadn't thought of. I just make knives one-way; I had forgotten there are people who use multiple techniques.


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Old 04-05-2007, 09:04 AM
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Food for thought

Here's a link to an editorial written by A.T. Barr from Tactical magazine:

I think the essence of this editorial is in the last 2 paragraphs:

"The bottom line is what do our customers want. If they walk up to a Knife maker?s table and he has 30 knives shaped exactly the same, and the action is exactly the same, they know that more advanced technology was used to make these knives. At the other end of the spectrum, you have those makers who forge the steel and produce the screws that are used in their knives. You will find that the majority of makers are somewhere in the middle.

Well-educated knife collectors can see and recognize those differences in how a knife is made, and have made a choice about the kind of knife he/she wants to accumulate. The bottom line is, I feel that the knife maker should tell the customer about the steps he/she used to make their knives. "

Read A.T.'s "bottom line." The key here, and this has been reiterated in our forum by Ed, Ray, and a host of others, is honesty in the relationship between maker and customer.

So, why do we feel the need to define what it is that we do?

I think that their may be 2 purposes here. The first--and I think this may be the direction that Ray started in--is to define custom knifemaking for ourselves, the makers. What are those distinctions that separate a piece of work that is entirely done the traditional way of the bladesmith, vs. those that incorporate more modern techniques? A custom knife can be made through neo-tribal or primitive methods, or through techniques and equipment that make more efficient use of time (or allow us to screw up faster! ). While we may have our own opinions as to which is the better method or which might produce a better product, in the end, if it looks like a knife and acts like a knife and we know we did the critical steps to make it ourselves, then we can call it a custom knife. The definitions we develop here will be for ourselves and for the education of the newbie knifemaker to help them appreciate the different ways in which a knife may be made.

But the second reason for defining custom knifemaking, I think, is for the other partner in the knifemaking/collecting relationship--the customer. Why? Because there are those out there, whether purposefully or through ignorance, choose to sell knives that are not true custom knives. When this happens, there is no honesty between maker and customer. And this will ultimately hurt the true knifemaking community. These may be large corporations that sell their knives and call them custom, it could be individuals that buy kits and do custom handle assembly, or those that take worn out pocket knives, rehandle them, and re-sell them as custom.

The definition of "custom knife" from a buyer's perspective has a lot to do with their expectation of what they are purchasing or acquiring. If someone is offering to sell them a custom knife, that expectation is that a) they are buying an item that is unique, or at least produced in such small quantities, such that it's value may be enhanced by it's uniqueness, b) the knife has a level of craftsmanship that can only be attained through the individual attention of a small number of artisans toward a small number of pieces, and that quality surpasses that which can be attained by commercial mass production, and c) in some cases, the customer may have some influence in the knifemaking process in either materials or design of the finished product.

We generally recognize the first 2 qualities in any hand made/hand crafted knife (Ray's definition) and in the 3rd quality, where the customer orders a knife with certain qualities, then it is custom made to the customer's specifications (again, Ray's definition).

Can a knife be called custom if it does not have all 3 of these qualities?

For example, Yellowhorse knives have long been recognized: They are built on Buck blades, yet they are highly desired for their uniqueness and artistry. By some of the definitions we've used in the past, these are not really custom knives, and are no different than this example:

What is in a name? Several times in the past we have been asked here whether or not it is proper for someone, after installing a handle, or adding filework to a blade spine, for them to add their name to a blade. We tell them no. Should we then, be disturbed by this example from A.G. Russell, as we are disturbed by a newbie who shows up on our forum?

This link is from A.G. Russell's "Handmade" drop-down box on his web page. A quote from that page reads: "I made knives until the mid 1970s but today seldom make a knife a year. However I do have very talented makers in the United States and Japan who make knives that I am proud to put my name on. I design them and have them made to our standards." A.G. is honest, he does not make the knives. He only designs them. He does put his name on them, and they are handmade, but not by him. In our quest to define custom hand made knives, if we stick by the advice we give to newbies here, should A.G. Russell be putting his name on these knives?

What about this example:
A Buck production knife in which the customer gets to select the handle material. Is this a custom knife? It is certainly not hand made or hand crafted.

There is a wide range of connotations for the terms "custom" and "handmade," apparently even among names recognized by knifemakers. Again, why are we developing these definitions? Referring back to A.T. Barr's comments, there are collectors out there who are not educated, and makers out there who do not communicate the process by which their knife is made. David Yellowhorse clearly marks his knives as being produced by Buck. The guy Finky who sells on Ebay does not tell the bidder that he bought his blade somewhere and only installed a handle.

The honesty is lost when the maker does not communicate what exactly the customer is buying. But can we restore that honesty or communication by defining custom knives?
Old 04-05-2007, 09:29 AM
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Ray Rogers Ray Rogers is offline
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Very well done, Nathan! Persoanally, I can barely scratch the surface trying to address the very salient points that you made in that post. Briefly, I would say that if we are successful at coming up with definitions in this thread then perhaps, over time, other makers may decide to change the way their knives are described and advertised.

As for putting your name on a knife that you may not have made, I would like to leave that very valid discussion for another thread. If this thread is successful, I do plan to address that issue and one other issue in threads similar to this one.

For now, I would like to be very focused on these definitions. These are actually some fairly huge issues we are discussing, so big in fact that we could easily be overwhelmed by the enormous detail they can engender. To be successful in this venture, I think it will be necessary to stay tightly focused on creating these definitions and I think we should that one term at a time.

If we solve the little problems one at a time then, one day, we'll discover that the big problem solved itself...


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Old 04-05-2007, 12:31 PM
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NJStricker NJStricker is offline
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I had a friend in college who majored in mathematics. In one upper level class they had to prove "1" and "0" Boy am I glad we're not starting there!!!

But I think you are right, Ray, we need to start somewhere and start small.

Going back to your original list, "sole authorship" is probably the most encompassing definition in knifemaking.

"Sole Authorship - all definitions below require that you and only you
make all the parts of your knife and do all the
operations involved in making it unless otherwise

The maker 1) forms the shape and bevels of the blade, 2) heat treats and finishes the blade, 3)attaches the handle and associated hardware, 4) adds any embellishment (if any) including engraving, scrimshaw, etc. and 5) constructs and fits a sheath, if one is to be provided.

At a bare minimum, a person who considers him/herself to be a maker of handmade knives must perform the shaping and beveling of the blade, the final finish, and the attachment of the handle and associated hardware. Notice I leave off heat treat, as I suppose that there are a large number of knifemakers who send out there blades for HT, and we don't want to exclude many legitimate makers from our definition. Those who can, do, and those who don't, send their blades out. We can discuss collaboration at another time, but a knifemaker performs the operations that decide the shape and appearance of the finished knife.

Obviously, a person that makes a sheath for another is a sheathmaker, a person that engraves is an engraver, and of course the scrimshander. The person/company that performs the heat treatment is the heat treater. These are all somewhat obvious to us, but the point I am trying to make here is that these are all actions performed on a knife made by another maker.

So, what about a person that installs handles on the knife of another? Are they a custom handle maker? David Yellowhorse described his work as custom knife inlay (I didn't notice anywhere on his website where he refers to himself as a knifemaker).

Moving on to some of the other terms you listed--hand made, hand crafted, etc. I think these terms you want to use to describe the general method in which the blade itself is formed (e.g. forged vs. stock removal, power vs. no power). These terms I think are too easily confused, and maybe it is better to just say what we are doing:

Forged neo-tribal blade: A knife blade in which no power tools were used to make the blade. The shape and bevels are 75% formed by the use of hammer percussion on the hot blade. Stock removal is kept to a minimum and is used only for the purposes of finishing the blade and not for forming the bevels or the shape of the blade itself.

Forged blade: As above, but power tools (including trip/power hammer, belt grinder, electric drill, etc.) may be used in the process.

We can come up with similar definitions for stock removal knives.

So, instead of saying it is a hand made, hand crafted, or bench made knife, the maker should say, this is a forged neo-tribal knife. . .
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