Do knife makers trade blade secrets?

Oct 20, 2000
It is common knowledge that some knife makers have certain blade information that others may not have. Thus, one maker may be proficient in heat treatment, another excels in blade grinding, and yet another specialises in making damascus knives.

Of course, one does not expect a free flow of "trade secrets" among the blade makers community. But somewhere along the line, I believe there are some interchange of ideas which may bear fruit to a better blade.

How much of this exchange of information is going on between knife makers?
I've never seen a group of people, especially where theres a potential to make alot of money, that is as willing to share knowledge and information as knifemakers are. It still amazes me how the big timers will unselfishly help a newbie maker learn the craft!
Knifemakers seem to be a breed apart. I have always marvelled at the amount of information which I have been able to get from them. They all share unselfishly of themselves and their knowledge. In the one year I have been making knives, all questions asked no matter how trivial have been answered . Thanks to all.

I will echo what Michael and Marcel said. I made my first knife more than 35 years ago, and did so without the benefit of ever having even spoken to another knifemaker. I was operating in total ignorance. Some years later, in the '70s, I came across a book by Sid Latham called "Knifecraft," which opened the floodgates for me. It was *full* of "secrets" from masters like Herron, Warenski, Moran, Sigman, and others.

The depth of the information provided went so far beyond what I had come to expect from craftsmen and artists in other disciplines that it still amazes me 25 years later. I have seen the same willingness to share information present in the knifemaking community on the internet, where giants like Don Fogg, Howard Clark, and Bob Engnath have sustained the tradition of openness over the years.

I believe that knifemakers in general are not holding anything back. If you want to know how a maker accomplishes a specific effect or how he performs a particular task, ask him. I have yet to be given anything but good information. Makes this a pretty special group of people in my eyes.
The information that is shared has always been something that I have admired about makers.

In general, information is shared openly and that seems to be much more of a rule than an exception.
From the first time I meet another knifemaker( I had already been making about a year ) it was a free exchange of ideas, and how'd you do that. I invite anyone to my shop that's interested.I extend the offer now, if you want to see "how to" call for directions.(985) 878-8275
Now there are those other kind, but I could count them on one hand.
I'm a newbie at knifemaking, and probably never would have tried it if it wasn't for the wealth of info, ideas, and encouragement available at the ShopTalk forum here. It's amazing how generous some of these folks are with their knowledge and time.:D There are other sources, KnifeForums and Custom Knife Directory come to mind, on the internet where you can find the same kind of sharing going on.:) My thanks to all!
I have never seen a nicer bunch of people as knifemakers and knife collectors. My wife, who is not even remotely interested in knives, noted the same after having to come inside a show once to drag me out. As a newby hobbyist/knifemaker, I have NEVER had a knifemaker refuse to answer any of my stupid questions. In fact, guys like Jerry Hossom, Darryl Ralph, R.J. Martin and Kevin Cashen(sorry if I left somebody out) will talk your ear off with all kinds of high tech detailed answers. This is a great world we live in folks, and the knife community is one of the best parts of it.
Very very few knifemakers learned the art in a vacuum. We gain skill and understanding from the makers who have been there before us. There are really no trade secrets. Well, there are somethings that are guarded very closely in Asia and Japan, but not in Europe or here in the US.

Since this knowledge was so freely passed on to us, it would be a slap in the face to our teachers and mentors not to share it with others.

There are a few very popular US makers who will simply not share information but those are few and far between. They are not on these forums (maybe lurking but I doubt even that, they are far too self absorbed), but I still won't name names. It is still surprizing that with the way they treat people and fellow makers they are some of the most popular makers around, with almost a cult like following.
If you go to the SHop Talk forum and ask a question, you'll get great answers from Darrel Ralph, Kit Carson, Mike Cooper (L6STEEL), Nick Wheeler, and a WHOLE bunch more makers. THis place is AWESOME!
I think that they realize that they can pass the craft on to the next generation, or let it die with them.

(there are actualy several crafts that will do this)
Most of what can be said on this topic has been said already. I know that when I first started lurking on the Shop Talk forum, that after a few days, I felt compelled to post my astonishment at the openness of the sharing between makers.

Ed Fowler's book "Knife Talk" certainly is written in that tradition. Without any desire to denigrate stock removal makers, I think that the smiths may well be the most open about what they know with their peers and newcomers to the craft. I know Ed is committed to discovering the "holy grail" of blade steel, and in his writing frequently mentions that other smiths are on the same search. I believe that their successes, passed along to others, increase the potential that indeed the "perfect" forged steel will someday be found/made. That shared search for high performance steel is a bond or link between smiths that transcends even their being nice folks willing to help each other.
I feel that buyers and collectors enjoy the
makers' art within him or her self so there
need be no secrets.
I've helped many in past years and I really
enjoy seeing these guys and gals make it in
the trade,
No secrets here.

Despite today there will be a Tomorrow
.<B><I><A HREF="">Gray Knives</A></I></B>
Dear A.T.

I have read what you have written. It is something that came from your heart, that's why it is so wonderful to read. Thank you.

i dont know of any "trade secrets" in over 23 years of knifemaking i have only run into a couple guys that wouldnt tell anyone anything. in my early years of learning Buster Warenski and Jim Hardenbrook helped me with any questions i asked them. not only would they tell me, they made drawings to show me better! later i spent a week with Steve Hoel in his shop and his home learning interframe folders put together with taper pin pivots, which i believe to be the strongest pivot for a folder.
without the help of these mentors of mine i would still be struggling along.
yes it is amazing all these great makers will share hard earned knowledge about our passion. isnt it great?:)
I have had huge smaple of the typical generosity we find among knifemakers recently when Jerry Fisk offered to come all the way to Brazil and share his techniques with us. The result of his offer was a seminar to be held over here in November (at knifemaker Ricardo Vilar shop, near São Paulo) and will surely become a milestone in the carreer of the makers who will participate, not to mention that it will greatly increase the exchange of contacts between makers from both countries. And the funny part is that people keep asking me how I could talk Jerry into coming, while in fact he talked me into making the seminar! I now have many more seminars planned and some other makers - like Sava Damlovac - interested in coming and sharing their knoledge, and this may very well be the beginning of a knifemaking school in the ABS moulds, who knows where will this leads to?!
I have aways advocated the free share of information as the only means of expanding the knife market - that is very narrow over here - and can't help but discard makers who behave in such selfish manner as not to pass on their techniques, no matter how good they are. But at least over here, most makers who behave like this need to do so in order to sell their "stories" along with their knives (or is it the opposite? You buy the story and the knife goes for free), as they are usually of very low quality, and even one good maker who ended up famous for not letting even customers get close to his shop - is today being left behind by the newer makers, a well deserved end.
Ivan, just make sure Mr. Fisk makes it back here in one piece. He has knives to make! :)
I'll try, but maybe he decides not to go back like many foregn people end up doing!