A Good Knife and A Good Plan

All you need in life is a good knife and a good plan.

The Following is my journey to obtain a one-of-a-kind knife.

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I commissioned professional knife maker Jerry Hobbs of  J.Hobbs Blacksmithing to forge my blade design into reality.

Why a custom blade?

A knife is the most taken for granted tool on the planet. Everyone eventually uses a knife to cut something.

It’s the tool that allowed humans to climb up a couple of links on the food chain.  It gave us tooth and claw.

It allowed us to create other tools.

Along with fire, it allowed us to not fear the beasts that lurked in the dark.

“Knives are everywhere but not all are equal.”

I’m a full time metal artist who uses traditional blacksmith tools and techniques to create metal sculptures and jewelry.  This allows me to interact with other metal-workers, artists and knife makers.

It wasn’t until I had experience with these blade-smiths, examined their fine hand made knives that I truly understood the difference between a factory knife and hand crafted blade.

I’ve hammered out a few blades of my own and I can tell you from experience, that making a knife by hand is a hell of a lot harder than it looks.

Now, I fully recognize that most people who use knives do so only occasionally, so a factory knife works just fine for them. But for someone who’s livelihood or life depends on the performance of a simple knife, the longevity, durability, usefulness, and value of a knife is paramount.

“A factory knife is a clone.  It has no soul.”

Factory knives are manufactured for mass production on an assembly line.

Manufactures who deal in volume are in the business of making the most money for the lowest cost of product and labor they can. Pure and simple, the less they spend on making the knife, the more money they make.

This fact limits any knife you buy that’s produced in just about any factory, large or small.

I wanted a knife that was created for me by an Artist/Craftsman who is in love with the process.  And I found that very passion for hand forging knives in Jerry Hobbs.

Here’s my story:

I wanted a knife to fit my lifestyle.  I’m an outdoorsman and needed an Every Day Carry (EDC) tool to meet the demands of that environment.

I live in the harsh climate of Northern Minnesota. I hunt, fish, hike and venture on foot to remote lakes summer and winter.

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My former life as a military man and later chapter as a security contractor in the Middle East had me carrying a “tactical” style of blade.

However, now that I’ve left that warmongering life behind me, I found I needed a more practical knife that’s built for field dressing game, skinning and still of use in the camp or kitchen.

“The Longer you’re in Special Forces, the shorter your knife gets.”
– Anonymous Old SF Dude.

I started with a sketch.  Then a cardboard cut out to get the feel of the design. Sometimes it may look good on paper but feel all wrong in the hand.

Refinements were made until it felt like a lost part of my soul.

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Once that was done, I cut out a mild steel blank and refined that until it felt just right.

Then I sought out blade-smith Jerry Hobbs, told him what I was looking for in a knife and gave him some creative freedom.

Jerry kept in touch with me all through the process of the knife.

Jerry even sent pictures of the journey.

I forgot to tell you that I wanted a Damascus blade.  One of the reasons I chose Jerry Hobbs to forge my blade is that he makes his own Damascus.

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He used 1095 steel .156 thick by 4 inch wide by 48 inch long and 15n20 .095 thick by 4 inch wide by 48 inch long.

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The 1095 and the 15n20 are then cut 1.5 inches wide by 4 inches long.

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They are then forge welded and hammered into a billet.

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The billet is then drawn out by hammer.  It takes a lot of TLC by the smith to get the “sex-appeal” to pop out of a Damascus billet of steel.

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What I appreciate about Jerry Hobbs is how he kept me in the loop on the progress of the blade.

He sent more pictures than what are shown here.  I was also surprised how he took the time and explained what he was doing with the steel as it progressed on its journey.

He even sent me pictures of the knife being sharpened!

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Here is the final product.  I couldn’t be happier with the craftsmanship of Jerry Hobbs.

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I highly recommend a man commission a knife maker to hand forge him a custom knife at least once during his life time.

Jerry Hobbs can be reached at J. Hobbs Blacksmithing.

Earn Your Patina

It’s only after you’ve made a few knives that you’ll understand why they cost a lot more than your average off the shelf blade.

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I feel a good intro into knife making for the individual who wants to make knives is to get himself a Green River Knife Kit from Track of the Wolf.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you could order some fancier knife scales.

Like I did for this green river knife here.

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Now for the record, I’ve always been a Mora knife fan.

I suppose I’v been a mora fan ever since my interaction with Cody Lundin in 2004 before his exploits on the Discovery channels show Duel Survivor.

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Back when he was just the Abo-Dude running the Aboriginal Living Skills School in Prescott, Arizona.

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I carried that little mora for almost 3 years as a security contractor in the Middle East.  Much to the dismay of my pal Tom Moore who has proclaimed the mystical powers of his Green River knife that he’s named Ol-Butch.

You can read more about Tom’s favorite Green River Knife by clicking…………………The Legend of O’l Butch.

But with more primitive hunting and fishing experience under my belt in the Northern Woods of Minnesota,  I have to admit that I’ve come to favor the green river knife more for my everyday usage in the kitchen and the camp.

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It’s true Tom Moore, aka Tomahawk, aka Pathfinder Tom, aka Whiskey Jack…I’m a convert!

My knife has earned its patina.

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I’ll close with the infamous words about the Mora Knife spoken by the legendary bacon chaw-en, whiskey drink-en, piratical Tom Moore.

“I have to kinda chuckle at the knife kooks I read about online that ask silly questions like “How do I force a patina on my new Mora?”

– First of all – throw away the Mora, get a Green River and USE IT. Get off of your computers, get out into the woods, deserts, jungles and mountains. Split some wood, cut some meat (and a finger or two), build some fires, defend yourself, and simply USE the Knife!

-Tomahawk

Forged In Fosston

Coming to Ventures Bar & Grill in Fosston MN, Sept 10th!
“Forged In Fosston”
This blacksmithing event, in conjunction with the East Polk Heritage Days
will feature several blacksmiths, knife makers and metal artists from the region who will be demonstrating their craft.  (12pm – 5pm)

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We’re fortunate to have as one of our demonstrators, Douglas Swenson from Hawley, MN.
Doug is an accomplished smith who’s been a judge at the 2013 International Blacksmithing competition in Iceland. Doug and his family routinely demonstrate at the Midwest Viking Festival and the annual Scandinavian Hjemkomst Festival in Moorhead, MN.
Doug will be bringing his Viking age Blacksmith Forge and dressed in period Viking age clothing.

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Also demonstrating is the one and only Joshua Quayle from Bagely, MN.  A gifted new comer to the knife making arts.  Joshua’s blades are unique, fully functional and lean toward the fantasy realm of knife making.

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From New York Mills, Jerry Hobbs a very talented craftsman from J.H blacksmithing will also be on site showcasing his traditional hunter/outdoorsman style of blade making.

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Fosston, MN native Tony Roed.  A Knife maker and metal artist from Stony’s Custom Designs will be swinging his hammer, demonstrating traditional blacksmithing techniques and forging a blade or two on his large Swedish anvil.

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Also from Fosston, Leon Bitker (The Rose Man) will be sculpting metal roses on site as well.  Leon likes to get audience participation during the creative process of his metal roses.

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Last but not least, Jeffrey M. Olson from Olson Iron Works, who also hails from his hometown of Fosston, MN.  A metal artist who specializes in the ornamental and sculpture side of the metal arts.  Jeff will be demonstrating traditional blacksmithing techniques.

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All these artists and craftsman will be demonstrating at the same time so you’ll be sure to see a lot of blacksmithing action.

We all look forward to you stopping by Ventures Bar and Grill in Fosston, MN this coming Saturday, Sept 10th from Noon until 5pm.

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Primitive Hammer Class

As a late bloomer as a metalsmith, I’m always searching for classes to attend that will allow me to become better at my chosen craft.

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This summer I was very fortunate to attend a hammer making class put on by Gary Hill at his home on Raspberry Island near McGregor Minnesota.

Our instructor was  Tom Latane.   http://www.latanepepin.com/

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Being new to this blacksmithing world, I didn’t know that I had just hit the lottery and was going to a class taught by a Rock-Star in the blacksmith community.

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I arrived the night before the class with my friend Douglas Swenson.  Doug is a very accomplished smith with 50 years experience.  Doug and I discussed what type of hammer we were going to make in the class.  Since the hammer class was about forging a wrought iron hammer, Doug and I decided to make a Mastermyr hammer.

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I patterned my wrought iron hammer after one of the hammers found in the Mastermyr Tool Chest found in Gotland Sweden. The chest contained the tools of a Viking craftsman from approximately 1100 years ago.

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Tom Latane’s hammer making class was incredible. I was overwhelmed and humbled by what I didn’t know and surprised of what I was capable of accomplishing using the same techniques and processes of Viking age smiths. It took me three attempts to get the 1075 steel forge welded onto both striking faces of the hammer.

Before heat treating the hammer, you can clearly see the difference between the wrought iron and the darker 1075 steel that has been forge welded together.

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I have a much greater appreciation for how valuable iron tools had to have been during the Viking era.

If you’re looking for some custom work to add some character to your house or cabin by the lake, feel free to contact me.

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Roger Cook, Knife Maker

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Roger L. Cook

is a blacksmith and knife maker residing in Mizpah, Minnesota.
Sparks have been flying from his Dawson lake Forge for over 20 years.  He’s hammer forged mirror frames, various latches and hinges, fireplace pokers, lilies, roses, leaves, bed frames, and ice fishing spears.  The list goes on.  You name it, he’s made it.
He specializes in knife making. Roger makes all manor of blades styles for his customers.
However, the Finish Puukko style belt knife is Roger’s flagship blade.

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Roger is unique among knife makers. He uses a custom variable speed grinder. The level of thought, work and dedication that went into his machine is self evident. The engineering is exact and the features outstanding. Such quality is virtually extinct. It does everything from grinding a knife blank to sharpening and polishing.

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Roger is very particular about the handle material for his knives. He likes to use rare and exotic woods. He uses Black Amber Stag (a rare European wood), Desert Iron Wood, Honduras Rosewood and Curly Maple. All stabilized for durability.
He also does all his own leather work for his knives. He keeps things traditional by crafting a Scandinavian Knife Sheath for each knife.

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He uses damascus steel for his knives. He heat treats and tempers all his blades. Damascus steel knives are very popular due to the beautiful patterns of welded, layered steel in the blade.
Roger is a full time knife maker and fully dedicated to making sure his clients are happy with their order. It takes him up to at least a week and a half of very long hours to produce one of his masterpiece knives, start to finish.

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Pictures don’t do his knives the justice they deserve. When you hold one of his knives, you can truly see the quality in his work.
Roger can be contacted by phone: 218-897-5067 or email: rdawson@paulbunyan.net

 

Coat Rack

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My “honey-do” list is different from your average man.  I get requests for coat racks to be hammer forged and put up.
Those individuals who pay attention to detail may point out that those mounting bracket holes are offset.”
To those individuals I would say, not every house is created equal, level and the studs where they should be.  A blacksmith specializes in putting square pegs into round holes.
If you’re looking for some custom work to add some character to your house or cabin by the lake, feel free to contact me.
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www.olsonironworks.com