What knifemaker has influenced you the most

Apr 21, 1999
I'm just curious to find out who influenced the way you make knives or collect knives. And what is it that they said or did to make such an impression.
Good question Ken. I'd like to hear your answer too. Bob Loveless brought me into collecting custom knives. Until a couple of years ago, I had no idea custom knives existed. I was happy with my factory knives until I seen a picture of a Loveless Big Bear. I was blown away. I'd never seen a factory knife that looked anything like it. Of course I quickly learned I'd never be able to afford one, but that didnt stop me from buying knives I could afford from makers whose work I liked.

I didnt try my hand at making a knife until I found this forum. Here where great makers giving their advice to regular folks about how to make knives. So i tried it myself. I suck at making knives, but I'm getting better each time. So I'd have to say that every maker who gives advice in shop talk has influenced me in my knifemaking.

Thanks for a good question Ken. This is a question Dexter asked me for the article on my work in the June issue of Knives Illustrated. My answer was: Alan Folts, Darrel Ralph, George Herron, and Cliff Parker. What the article didn't include is why.

Alan Folts introduced me to custom knifemaking and continues to answer my questions and open new doors for me. Alan is one of the most creative and generous people I have had the pleasure to know. I wish my head could store facts the way Alan's does. Alan has heard me say, "What was that thing called?", more times then anyone should have to.

Darrel Ralph helped me see how you can go anywhere you want with knifemaking. From watching him work I learned that you can turn ideas into reality. Darrel also finds ingenious and novel ways to make his designs a reality. Darrel is on the cutting edge.

George Herron humored all my questions and took my unusual manner in stride. In watching him work I learned how to use my hands. George uses as many gigs as any maker, but it is how he approaches his work that caught my attention. It seemed that he was aware of all of the elements involved in each procedure. His hands moved with precision. I guess I'm trying to say that I saw a master at work.

Finally, Cliff Parker. Cliff has great enthusiasm and tremendous talent. He thinks of doing something and then makes it a reality. His damascus is no less of a canvas then the most celebrated of painters.
Cliff has kept me moving forward by showing the way.

The cool thing about these men is that they have made my life better for having known them. Thank You Guys!
I lost my Ruana knife doctoring calves one day and thought I could make one as good as the Ruana was. I had no idea anyone else made knives! My first attempts were much less than satisfactory! :) I then found a Knives annual and seen all these beautifull knives. I couldnt afford the bood so I copyed Montana Makers addresses out of the book. Eldon Peterson and Pete Forthofer were the first two honest to god makers I met and they really influenced my work. Other makers that were influential were of course Loveless, SR Johnson, Jim Hammond, William Harsey, and many many others.

You could say the biggest influence to me being isolated the way I was back then was finally getting a hold of the Annual Knives 82! I wore that book plum out!
For me it is a toss up between two makers: Sean Perkins and Mel "Madpoet' Sorg, Jr.<p>

Sean Perkins- incredibly generous maker and an all-around nice guy. Over the last 2-3 years I have been following his work, I have learned the following lessons:
1) A rough finish can be as desirable as a perfect one if applied right.
2) Small fixed blades kick butt!
3) Not to be afraid to try new things (he constantly experiments with steel, thicknesses, grinds, finishes, materials, heat treat, etc. His work today barely resembles what it looked like three years ago, although I love it all)
4) It is possible to make just dandy knives with nothing more than common tools.<p>

Mel "Madpoet" Sorg, Jr- From Mel I learned a lot about the simplicity of knives. His grinds and finishes were far from perfect, but every single knife he made commanded authority. I have five of his knives (three were my design and finish), and all are awesome. He did everything by instinct, and his knives were superb. A little rough around the edges, but definitely the most ergonomic knives I have ever held. I have played with another forumite's Madpoet knives and I was tempted to conk him over the head and run with the knives in hanbd, but he was a patient AND my ride home, so I figured it would be a bad idea! In all seriousness, I learned many of the same lessons from Mel that I did from Sean, but from Madpoet the best thing I learned was that knives can be magical and are definitely greater than the sum of the individual parts.
Recently, I met a guy from a small town who lives a couple of hundred of kilometres away from the main city.

He's an unassuming chap who seemed to be more interested in rearing song birds than making knives, even though knife-making is his full time profession.

This guy in his early 40s is pretty easy-going. His knives, those which he bothers to make well, show great talent and promise.

He doesn't brag about his skills but I could see he has enormous talent. His choice of wood handles reveals an inherent skill for selecting the right stuff for their beautiful grains.

I learnt that it wasn't what he said that stuck in my mind but what he didn't say. His knives spoke for him. Most of his blades were made for field work but those that he made for some enthusiastic collectors show a reservoir of talent latent in this person.

I wish he would make more of such beautiful knives.
D'Holder and Bob Engnath through both their advice and writings focussed my knifemaking on what I do today. Beyond them, the long list of friendly knifemakers I meet, interact with, and am encouraged by at virtually every knife show continue to recharge my batteries.
Other than Brends hollow grinds, NO one has influenced me!!
A better question would be: What maker has caused you to loose the most sleep?? For me, that would be YOU :) You have cost me many sleepless nights trying to dream up a clever folder pivot, lock or something otherwise UNIQUE to apply to my folders !!!!
THEN to top it off, last year I had the opportunity to BUY one one of your folders in Atlanta, I passed it up!!! Now I can't afford one.......ARRRRRRRGH :p

I have three people who influenced me...George Herron, George Herron, and George Herron. Straight forward, top quality, field grade knives designed to be used and to perform. Workmanship, design, balance, and value are outstanding. His 13 year backlog says it all. But more than that, he spent time and visited with me (a nobody) at my first Blade Show in 1986 and I haven't forgotten our conversation to this day.
Well, it was Daniel Winkler's knives that caught my eye many years ago and helped turn me into a Knife Knut. But it was meeting Don Fogg in 1987 before I really understood the incredible committment, dedication, and integrity that is so common among members of the American Bladesmith Society and other professional knifemakers. Don's web site and email correspondance has me taught me a great deal.

Ed Fowler's excellent articles in Blade magazine have also had a major influence on me. I deeply admire and respect him for his knowledge, teaching spirit, and dedication to life as a student of blade making. I have yet to meet him in person, but his words have had a Huge impact on my understanding.

Although I have known him for only a couple of years, Mastersmith PJ Tomes has had by far the biggest influence on my perception of knives. To teach me, he has critiqued my collection (knifemakers see things that collectors often miss), discussed his philosophy of bladesmithing with me, and changed the way I look at the art of knifemaking and to some extent, life. His dedication to craftsmanship and a strong focus making the best tools he can for a reasonable price is impressive and is obviously admired by other knife makers as well. He is constantly striving to improve his techniques, and designs. PJ Tomes gets my vote as well.

Thanks for all thr great responses. Keep them comming !
As for myself ,my passion for knives started practically out of the chute . I used to steal razors out of my dads razor when I was 4or 5 dad finally gave me a knife but only after rounding the tip and dulling out the blade ,I was five . Dad says I would spend hours setting on the side walk sharpenning that thing and shaping a new point . Only to have him take it from me and dull it out again.
It wasn't untill I was 12 when we moved to West virginia and lived near an old man that lived on a hill a couple hollars away his name was Vernon Ott . One day he came to our house selling pumpkins from his garden I found out he made butcher knives out of old two man cross cut saw blades.As well as shovels ,picks hoes and axes.I was flabbergasted and spent lots of time in his shop watching him work .

Fast forward to 1989 I was living in Kaneohe Hawaii and while walking through a drug store with my wife I happened upon a Knives Illustrated magazine. all this time I had thought I was the only one with this knife disease. I learned of a guy in Kaneohe named Stan Fujisaka ,went to meet him and he taught me how to make knives .
In 1991 I went to Texarkana school of bladesmithing and took the beginner class and was taught buy Bill Moran ,Jerry Fisk and Michael Connor ,

Since then I am impressed by the style of David Broadwell,Larry Fuegen ,Pierre Reverdy,and Charles Bennica These guys have an incredible sence of proportion and symetry as well as grace and flow.Something I work very hard at myself just in a different way . I've learned from them what turns me on about a knife .

By the way Thanks Neil, I'm Honored that you would say that.Especially since there are so many other makers more worthy.

It seems We have all gotten here from different paths but we all arrived at the same place.Verry interesting
Devin Thomas has been a big influeance on me. Although Devin is known for his Damascus, he started making knives in 1978 at the tender age of 13. He moved from Vegas to Panaca (close to where I live) and my wife will tell you nothing has been the same since. I have B.A.D. (Blade Addictive Disorder) and eat sleep and breath steel and knives literally. I cant make them fast enough. Two other makers that have influenced and encouraged me are Rick Dunkerly and Barry Gallagher. I aspire to be as good as them both. Ken I envy you for your ability to incorporate unique mechanisims into your stuff.
Bill McHenry. He makes the most beautiful art knives for the high end, yet with the axis lock has made great users available for everyone. :)

I have none of your knives, but I do have a production version of one on the way. That is a minor point. I have seen your work and although it is not my favorite style/type, I do enjoy it.

What I find most interesting is your post, what people say, and what they do can be very different things. I find the 'do' part more impressive, many things might be said.

What can you say about *your* influences?

Good question I must say,

I learned to love knives on my own. It just seemed to come natural to me. But I learned to love Custom Knives when I saw my first Ogg knife. Thinking back, it was kind of like the poor kid that couldn't afford the nice shiny new bike in the storefront window. I knew I'd never have an Ogg knife because they were too expensive.

Then one day my Mom married Mr. Ogg. What a trip! The long and short of it is that I quit my career in the Air Force to learn to make knives. I was the only apprentice to complete the entire course of study with him. He was notoriously hard on apprentices. Now, here I am making Ogg Custom Knives. Sometimes life is good and we can have what we really need to be happy. This is one of those times.