BOYD ASWORTH’S SCARY KNIFE

June 12, 2009

By Roni Toldanes

Boyd Asworth is a unique craftsman with a knack for translating bizarre-looking materials into works of art. Just look at the photos.

Asworth forged 320 layers of 5160 steel to produce this Damascus blade. He used 51 layers for his Mokume bolster, using iron and nickel. For the unlocking mechanism, he installed a rosette made from carved 01 steel.

Asworth forged 320 layers of 5160 steel to produce this Damascus blade. He used 51 layers for his Mokume bolster, using iron and nickel. For the unlocking mechanism, he installed a rosette made from carved 01 steel.

Asworth, 38, is a Journeyman Smith in the American Bladesmith Society. He hopes to present this knife, together with four more of his best knives, to elevate his status this year to that of Master Smith.

Last year, Asworth received a portion of a mule deer’s antler from a hunter in Idaho. It took him about a month to figure out how to create a jaw-dropping knife from the grotesque antler.

“It looked so weird I couldn’t decide how I wanted to carve it,” Asworth recalls, shaking his head. “But I wanted to leave it as natural as possible, so I decided to split it and make a folding knife.”

After many sleepless nights, Asworth decided to carve the dragon’s face in the antler. He engraved nostrils in the handle and embellished it with emerald inlays to create the dragon’s eyes. Then he picked up a small piece of scrap iron from his shop, forging it into shape as the dragon’s tongue, which can be moved up and down with a slight pull.

When Asworth’s wife, Holley, saw the handle, she was appalled.

But as soon as he blended his finished blade into the deformed antler, his wife glowed at the idea. It’s like a mother learning to love her ugly child.

This handle’s close-up photo shows the unique features of the deformed antler that Ashworth sculpted to create the dragon’s face. The Georgia-based knife maker also embellished the handle with emeralds.

This handle’s close-up photo shows the unique features of the deformed antler that Ashworth sculpted to create the dragon’s face. The Georgia-based knife maker also embellished the handle with emeralds.

“She didn’t like it at first, but it grew on her,” Asworth says. “Once I put it all together, she said she liked it.”
The final product, as Asworth describes it, “was so mean and cruel-looking that we thought of calling it a one-armed bandit.”

The knife comes with a display stand made of amboyna, a mottled curly-grained wood of a leguminous tree often seen in southeastern Asia.

For more information, you may contact custom knife maker Boyd Ashworth at (770) 943-4963.

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A MASTER BLADESMITH TAKES THE CUTTING EDGE

June 12, 2009

By RONI TOLDANES

DAVID ANDERS will never forget that first day when, about 10 years ago, he found a copy of a cutlery maga­zine at a newsstand. Like a kid in a candy store, Anders was thrilled as he leafed through the pages. And by his own admis­sion, from the moment he picked up that publication, he was hooked.

DavidAnders1Undoubtedly, that day ignited his desire to produce cutting-edge knives that cannot be duplicated in exact detail by any other knife smith. Trouble was, while Anders already knew how to make ordinary knives, he didn’t have sufficient technical knowledge to create the type of knives he saw in the magazine.

“I was amazed to learn that some peo­ple can actually make those kind of knives,” Anders said with emphasis. “I was intrigued with finding out how they were made.”

There was not much reading material on the subject available in those days. Anders, however, learned about the exis­tence of the American Bladesmith Society (ABS) and its courses conducted periodi­cally at the Texarkana College School of Bladesmithing.

He enrolled in one of the courses held in Washington, Arkansas, where James Black, the famed creator of knives for the legendary Jim Bowie, had his forge over a century ago.

On his first day at school, Anders said, students were required to bring out some of the knives they had made before attending the course.

“It was a show and tell, where everybody looks at every­body else’s work,” he said. Anders brought two knives with him, proudly laid them on the table, but quickly took them back after seeing the other knives.

“I was intimidated and quite embar­rassed,” he said, “so I decided to keep my knives.”

After that day, Anders said he promised himself that he would someday become a master blade smith.Davidanders2

Like most custom knife makers, Anders was making knives only part-time. He dri­ves a truck for Wal-Mart, leaving home in Arkansas on Sundays and returning on Fridays.

But despite his busy work sched­ule, Anders continuously searched to sat­isfy his hunger for knowledge. He sought to learn more about improved steel and tempering techniques.

But it wasn’t until 1992 that Anders became a Journeyman Smith.

In general, ABS guidelines state that the overall quality for a Journeyman rating is in the range of “very good” to “excellent.” Yet, Anders didn’t think his knowledge was enough.

With practice, Anders believed, almost anybody with rudimentary manual skills can produce a knife. But building custom knives is another story. Through the years, David Anders struggled to perfect his craft, building more than 300 custom knives, many of them Bowie knives.

Jim Bowie’s life story has always fascinated Anders. “He’s my hero,” Anders admits. And it was a Bowie knife that gave Anders one of his most important awards, the “Best Bowie Knife” in Las Vegas two years ago. A year earlier, one of his creations was also declared “Best Art Knife” at the Little Rock knife show in Arkansas.

davidanders3Five years after receiving his Journeyman Smith rating, Anders achieved the highest title for a blade smith. He finally passed what he described as a strenuous test and received his Master rating, formally get­ting recognition that the quality of his knives range from “excellent” to “superlative.”

His growth has been spurred on by learning from the mas­ters, those who’ve proven themselves by creating works of art using steel as their canvas. And his impressive work has catapulted him to his dream-that of becoming a Master Smith.

Anders is meticulous on picking his materials for building knives. He prefers making Damascus blades for his knives, and as you’re aware, Damascus steel is produced when layers of steel are heat­ed, hammered, folded, heated again, hammered and folded again, perhaps hundreds of times. The process is slow, tedious and often requires great skill and strength on the part of the smith. To compensate for all that work, most good Damascus knives are quite expensive. That is why some knives made by David Anders have been sold for up to $2,500.

Anders Damascus often contains more than 300 layers, and sometimes he uses 13 different bars of steel to produce his blades. While he makes hunters and fighters, besides Bowies, his creations tend to end up as collectors’ items rather than “using” knives.

This 52-year-old master believes his blades can perform the task they were created for, but his wicked designs make it impossible for anyone to think about using his hunters for hunting, or his fight­ers for fighting. It is true that the shape and uses of knives is limited only by the minds of those producing and using them, but it is also true that art is art, no matter the form.

In an interview, David Anders stam­mered as he recalled the first day he read a copy of his favorite cutlery magazine. “That day, I told myself that a picture of my knives would someday be published in that magazine,” he said in a soft voice, without any tinge of braggadocio. “That would be the highlight of my life.”

Now, 10 years later, he was being interviewed by the same publication that gave him a different perspective on knife making.

Readers may get in touch with David Anders during the weekends at: 157 Barnes Drive, Center Ridge, AR 72027; (501) 893-2294.


FIGHTER KNIVES

June 12, 2009

By RONI TOLDANES

A bowie with a spine-tingling coffin handle designed by knife maker Kevin Cashen. It features an exotic bocote for its handle and Damascus fittings.

A bowie with a spine-tingling coffin handle designed by knife maker Kevin Cashen. It features an exotic bocote for its handle and Damascus fittings.

A CRO-MAGNON HUNTER noisily gnaws meat off the carcass inside his cave. Suddenly, another hunter lunges from behind, ferociously swinging a huge jawbone as he tries to snatch a chunk of the hindquarter. A bloody clash ensues, with the oafish invader eventually overpowering the smaller hunter, pinning him down with both knees and bashing his head with a huge rock.

Bloodied but still conscious, the victim wriggles and crawls away in a desperate bid to save his life. Then from the corner of his eye he catches the gleam of his knapped obsidian, still sharp despite his recent hunting expedition. He grabs the huge blade with both hands and thrusts it into the attacker’s rib cage, repeatedly piercing his opponent’s heart until the man writhes in an agonizing death.

The brutal fight ends. And the fighting knife is born.

We beg your pardon. The preceding scenario is merely a figment of imagina­tion. Sure, similar incidents involving “fighting knives” may have taken place but there is nothing in recorded history to prove the same. In fact, the history of fighting knives is shrouded in the same ancient mists as those that obscure the origins of knives themselves. But even without any help from historians, there’s one thing we are sure of: Early fighting knives were designed for fighting, no more and no less.

Custom knife maker Emil Bucharski forged this fighter’s twist pattern Damascus blade using 189 layers of 1095 mixed with nickel. Bucharski matched the seven-inch blade with an oosic handle. It has a simple yet elegantly-designed stainless steel guard.

Custom knife maker Emil Bucharski forged this fighter’s twist pattern Damascus blade using 189 layers of 1095 mixed with nickel. Bucharski matched the seven-inch blade with an oosic handle. It has a simple yet elegantly-designed stainless steel guard.

We’d like to think that fighters were also meant mainly for hunting. After all, it seems obvious: They had large, stout blades for killing or field-dressing big game. Even the very first Bowie knives may have originated from this design.

These days, however, we dare say with sincerity that no intelligent man would ever allow himself to be caught commit­ting a crime while clutching a $10,000 custom fighting knife. It’s simply unconscionable.

In short, the whole idea of crafting gold-inlayed, diamond-embellished and Damascus-bladed “fighting knives” is not to produce a tool that one can use to swagger around town with, looking for a fight. Like museum-quality arti­facts, custom fighters such as the knives you see on these pages are mere­ly proof of bragging rights – sharp toys for the big boys. They were not meant as sidearms or for slashing or stabbing. They’re simply art replicas of what beautiful knives are all about.

With that issue clarified, we hope you enjoy gawking at these pictures. These knives are genuine, well, fighters.

Knifemaker Rick Browne’s knife features an integral sub-hilt, making it a really strong knife. It has an overall length of 12 7/8 inches and an eight-inch blade.

Knifemaker Rick Browne’s knife features an integral sub-hilt, making it a really strong knife. It has an overall length of 12 7/8 inches and an eight-inch blade.

Italian knife maker G. Gabona’s knife displays his meticulous attention to detail in this miniature fighter. With an overall length of only five inches, this one comes with a mother-of-pearl handle and integral construction. Its sub-hilt may not accommodate a huge finger, but it was handsomely engraved.

Italian knife maker G. Gabona’s knife displays his meticulous attention to detail in this miniature fighter. With an overall length of only five inches, this one comes with a mother-of-pearl handle and integral construction. Its sub-hilt may not accommodate a huge finger, but it was handsomely engraved.