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The Outpost This forum is dedicated to all who share a love for, and a desire to make good knives, and have fun doing it. We represent a diverse group of smiths and knifemakers who bring numerous methods to their craft.

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Old 09-01-2020, 02:13 PM
Dana Acker Dana Acker is offline
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: Mt. Airy, North Carolina, USA
Posts: 1,888
Neo-Tribal Revisited....

The Outpost was, at one time, the online headquarters of the Neo-Tribal Metalsmiths. There had been a couple of do it yourself forums, and were eventually given a more stable home by Alex at TKN.

NTM was a phenomenal experiment. I was already headed in that direction on my own, when I had an enlightening conversation with Virgil England at the Blade Show in Atlanta. He told me that there were kindred spirits in Arizona who were forging by the light of a full moon, and doing some innovative things.

I made contact with Tim Lively and Tai Goo in Arizona, my brothers from another mother. The snowball had just gone over the top of the hill and before long had become an avalanche.

There was significant interest and soon a full moon hammer-in was held at my house and the Blue Ridge Tribe was born.

One of the early credos of the NTM's was: "If the worst happened, and civilization as we know it ceased to exist (think Mad Max) could you still make a knife?"

It was an interesting proposition, and led to some great creativity, evident not only in the knives and tools made, but also in the means of making said knives. Homemade forges, muscle powered tools, and scavenged raw materials were sort of our stock in trade.

And it didn't escape the notice of the rest of the knife world either. The term "primitive" became a topic of hot debate. It was said that many of the NTM knives were primitive. But primitive was different to different people. Was a knife primitive because of how it looked, or was it a tool with only ancient styling, manufacturing means, and functionality? Was primitive a style, a look, or was it indicative of quality?

As the NTM's grew exponentially in a relatively short period of time, our tribes included accomplished professional knifemakers, and people with no prior experience, who wanted to learn the craft, and learn it our way. Texas Jack advised in the post on knife philosophy, the recommendation of getting of Wayne Goddard's "The $50.00 Knife Shop," and I heartily agree with him. Well this philosophy was right up our alley. And it helped some new smiths or stock removers get into making knives with a minimum starting investment.

But what fun we had! We had "iron in the hat" drawings frequently, and some great friendships were made around the country and the world. In fact I was privileged to visit Tim Waggendorp's, and Achim Wirtz's respective shops in Belgium and Germany. Lightning had struck, and it seemed the NTM's were an unstoppable force.

The ABS has organization, official leadership, official membership, and exacting standards. Now no one take that as a criticism of the ABS. I have a great deal of respect for the ABS, and am friends with a number of journeymen and master smiths. The quality both in performance and aesthetic are high, and all the above is what makes it such an outstanding and prestigious guild. It's also all of the above that has kept it a legitimate and still existing organization. And, that said, it's probably the lack of all the above that contributed to the end of the NTM's as an organization.

That's not to deny that there was infighting among some of the members and leaders. There was unnecessary contention and antagonism between smiths and stock removers, usually initiated by the smiths. There were no real organizational rules, no official leadership, no membership requirements, and no quality standards, which, at the time, made things fun and free, but at the same time, probably foretold our doom as an organization or, perhaps better, a movement. Now what I just said were issues with the NTM's, quality was always stressed. It was never acceptable to cut corners or make inferior knives.

However when photos were posted, there were knives made by brand new makers with what many might consider substandard knifemaking equipment. That, some in the knife world used as a criticism of the NTM's concept of quality. True, many of the new folks' first attempts were a little rough around the edges, and couldn't be deemed museum quality. But we lauded their efforts and proudly displayed them, because we thought it important to be encouraging and inclusive. No one was judged on the basis of their experience or lack thereof, at least not at first. I think there's an old post I put up on the forum titled "On Not Losing Sight...." or something to that effect that's probably somewhere on TKN, that was written to address some of those issues.

Some iron in the hat drawings drew some criticisms because experienced smiths didn't like getting rough newbie work, when they had gone all out and entered quite salable pieces. In fact it was because of some of the infighting and criticisms that Alex asked me to become a forum moderator, because I guess I was more adept at peacemaking and cooling down volatile situations. My official NTM leadership title was Medicine Man, a title not to be found in most corporate structures. We were serious about knife making, but not about much else.

I'm a smith. I do stock removal primarily for aesthetics. I was just given a knife I made 20 years ago to do a little clean up work on for the owner. It was a knife I forged completely to the edge, much like Tai and Tim and others, sharpened with a hammer. I'm pleased to report that aside from a small amount of surface rust, and work wear, the knife is still in great shape. It was a NT blade, and it has, so far, stood the test of time.

That said, I have no issues with stock removers. Some of the best knives I've collected over my lifetime were made via stock removal, and they are great knives! I'm proud to own a Bob Dozier knife that I purchased from him personally. Bob has always said, "I'm just a grinder." But that knife is one of my prized possessions, and its quality is impeccable, although it's never seen a forge. Ever checked out a Greg Medford knife? The Jones brothers, Philip and Barry, made many if not most of their knives by stock removal, and they made great knives. In fact Barry brought a Katana they had made to our first Blue Ridge NTM's full moon gathering, and we used it to chop wood to burn into charcoal for forging. That Katana was hardly scratched up after a lot of use that night, and was still razor sharp when the sun came up. Again, impeccable quality.

There are professions where when one leaves or retires the former members are still considered active participants. Once a police officer always a police officer, once a teacher always a teacher, once a Marine always a Marine...and there are many more. Now I'm not comparing myself to any of those well respected vocations. Not in the least! Their training, reputations and exploits are mountain higher than those of mine.

But that said, once a NTM, I have found always a NTM, even though the organization is defunct, and even its forum is largely a forgotten thing of the past. I choose to remember and promote the leading of any sincere person desiring to learn the craft as a still worthy goal. And while I have a better than basic shop, I still support Texas Jack's post about not having to have a lot of expensive machinery in order to learn knifemaking. In other words, when it comes to NTM I eat the fish, and spit out the bones.

Knifemaking should be fun, and something to be excited about and share with others. It's about new and ancient techniques. It's about generating new and lasting relationships, which creates a network and repository of information.

That said, of everything went to hell in a bucket in society, could you still make a knife?


Last edited by Dana Acker; 09-02-2020 at 09:13 AM.
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Old 09-14-2020, 11:21 PM
prizzim's Avatar
prizzim prizzim is offline
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: Washington D.C.
Posts: 1,165

Modern shop (the 10x14 foot garden shed) has a propane forge using forced-air and house gas, but can be plumbed for a portable tank. Same old 2x42 Craftsman grinder. Got a Coal Iron 16 ton press, and a home-built tire hammer.

But, unplug it all, and what's left?

Coal or charcoal and a Champion 400 blower, Tim Lively's hammer he left me, and my choice of half a dozen anvils, including the first one I bought through the forum here as well as some nice colonials. If I'm really stuck on propane, I have a venturi forge or two lying around I can rig to a tank, or go back to the bean can forge with the hand torch of yesteryear... still my favorite tool for making Mokume Gane out of pocket change.

I took a break from knifemaking to get back into blacksmithing, and when we're not distancing, teach the beginner's class at Blacksmith's Guild of the Potomac. It's entirely hand tools... coal forges, hand blowers, hammers and anvils.

And as Tai once said, "Grinder is just an electric file."

Neo-Tribal skills are just that... skills. You have them, or you don't. Tooling matters less, when you know your fundamentals, and can practice the craft with whatever you happen to have. Get it hot and hit it. Do the best heat treat with what you have, selecting the right steel for the right quench, finish as close as you can for minimum filing, and do good work.


Hammer on!
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Old 09-15-2020, 12:37 PM
Tai Google Tai Google is offline
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 1,709
Slogan of the original Tucson Tribe:

"We're not trying to make a better knife,... we're trying to make a knife better!"

Tai Goo Knives:
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Old 09-16-2020, 08:39 PM
Dana Acker Dana Acker is offline
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: Mt. Airy, North Carolina, USA
Posts: 1,888
Yes! That's the ticket! Of course! Thanks for that reminder, Tai.

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