The Cutting Edge

The Cutting Edge

Andy Dear | Sunday, 3 May 2020

Last month Viking Lars wrote a couple of Front Pages where he detailed his fascination with knives and leather work. I have shared the same social condition as Lars since 2015 when I started making knives and experimenting with leather work as well, and I can attest to how satisfying it is to have the ability to make such a wide variety of outdoor implements.

  When I started building fishing rods in 1994, I had no idea that one day I would work full time in that industry. I always considered myself a skilled rod maker, but in all honesty, I was never very good at selling custom rods. I didn't like the deadlines, or the warranty issues, or more frustratingly, the lack of care or concern on the client's part for taking care of their equipment. Through a series of "happy accidents" I found myself working in product development in among other things, the development, and improvement in epoxy-based adhesives and coatings that are used in the construction of fishing rods. I was very fortunate to be able to work alongside one of the finest chemical engineers in the business to produce several products that many of you guys are currently using on your rods and don't even know it!

  In 2008 when my son was born, I decided to sell that business, so I could focus on being a dad. I made my official exit in October of that year and disappeared out of the tackle industry for over a decade. In 2014, I got bored and started playing around with making knives. Although I am not sure I could be convinced to give up rod building for knifemaking, bladesmithing does have one distinct advantage over rod making that can't be overlooked. That is the ability to design and forge your own blade from nothing but a hunk of steel.

  One of the things I found VERY limiting about rod making was the inability for the layman to design and manufacture their own blanks. It's not that it is impossible, its just that it takes a shop full of tooling and equipment that will set you back well...and I mean WELL into six figures. Not to mention the steep learning curve in materials properties and composite tubular design and construction. It is absolutely the furthest thing from being a user-friendly process. I was able to circumvent that frustration a bit by working with a couple of manufacturers that were willing to entertain my design ideas for rod blanks, but it still wasn't the same as having a full hands-on experience from beginning to end. Knifemaking is the complete opposite. With nothing more than the right steel, a basic skill set, and a bit of ingenuity, one can completely fabricate their own blade from nothing more than a raw hunk of metal.

  After having built knives for a bit, in 2015 I saw an opening in the industry to supply the knifemaking community with a family of boutique epoxy adhesives designed specifically for the bladesmith that demands more than just a cheap off the shelf resin from a big box store. Working with some of the preeminent craftsmen in the knifemaking industry has been a very rewarding fact, I would go so far as to say it's been equally as rewarding as my career in product development in the fishing rod business. Whether its working with master swordmaker Walter Sorrels who has one of the finest instructional channels on YouTube in any craft, or the renowned bladesmith from the Philippines Ryu Lim whose unique style blends equal parts elegance and rugged aggression. Or a bit closer to home, my boys from the great state of Texas, James Huse and Paul Lusk who continue to push the envelope of what defines craftsmanship and attention to detail, I always learn something new and valuable...and often its something that bleeds over into my rodmaking pursuits as well. 

  Although my involvement in knifemaking doesn't (at least not yet) have the width or the depth of my career in rod making, it has been no less gratifying. If anything it has taught me that if you have an insatiable addiction for the crafting of tools for the outdoor activities you love, nothing less than a maximum hands-on experience in the process will fill that need.
Hope you and your families are staying healthy and safe.