A poor rhyme


Knife makers struggle and yearn for the P

P as in publicity

There’s a maker that wants to be unknown

Signing his work just makes him groan

A strange duck is he, seeming to want anonymity


Advice is futile, especially from you

He has his cake and he eats it too

He makes ‘em big, he makes ‘em little

But ask him to sign, and he’s non-committal

To tell it true…he makes what he wants, that’s all he’ll do


It’s odd that he won’t sign his work

I suppose it’s some sort of quirk

So back in the woods, in a shop on a hill

There’s a knife maker that does what he will

I’ll quit now and not be a jerk, just in case he should go berserk



Below are two unsigned knives by the unknown knife maker. The sheaths are by Bob Wiggins who does sign his work on the back, although in VERY small letters.


Bill Wiggins demo knife


This is about the knife that I seem to use for everything except what it was designed for.

The knife that I am writing about today would probably be referred to by most people as a “hunter”, or “hunting knife”. I have not used it for any “hunting” related chores but I have used it for a myriad of other things.

The 4 7/8” blade is forged from 1084 carbon steel and the tiger maple handle is separated from the blade by a stainless steel guard. It was made by American Bladesmith Society board member Bill Wiggins as a demonstration piece. Since it was a demo knife, and time was limited, Bill didn’t rub the blade out and it was left with some grinding marks, perhaps what makers might call a belt finish. “Belt finish”, “working finish”, and “forge finish” are terms that some makers use when describing blade finishes. Often, although not always, knives with these terms attached to them appear to my eye to simply be “unfinished”. Not that any makers care how I interpret the wording they use in describing their knives.


 But, to get back on topic…..The lack of a rubbed blade out blade finish doesn’t bother me in this instance; I use the knife on a regular basis and fruits and vegetables don’t take long to patina carbon steel. Although this knife would be much more at home as a hunting or general use belt knife around camp, I use it to prepare food, open or cut down shipping boxes, and many other daily cutting chores in my house.

Before you say it, I know that it is not the ideal box cutter or kitchen knife, and I do possess those types of knives, so why do I select it over its better suited relatives for those mundane tasks? It’s simple really; the knife holds its edge and is very, very comfortable in my hand. But I suppose the best thing about it is that I like Bill and it’s a pleasure to use something that he made.


copyright Bill North 2014








Knife related pictures from a few years ago

I have started organizing the knife related pictures that I have taken over the years. Here are a few:moran shop 2005 800wideA visitor in front of Bill Moran’s shop in 2004

moran 2005 blogBill Moran at the Blade Show in 2005

fisk 2004 blogThe man his own self Jerry Fisk doing an edge geometry demonstration at the Moran hammer-in in 2004

adam cuts 2005 800 blogAdam DesRosiers removing the tops of water bottles in the cutting competition at Blade in 2005.

reggie cuts apple 2005 copyReggie Barker cleanly halves an apple in 2005

Phil Wilson CPMS30V Bird and Trout Knife


Previously I wrote a post talking about some of the poor transactions that I have had in the custom knife world and at that time I promised that I would later post about some of the better ones. So here is one of the transactions that I can only describe as perfect.

Several years ago I ordered two knives from Phil Wilson; one of these knives was a bird and trout. When speaking with Mr. Wilson I said that I would not abuse the knives and that I wanted knives with thin edges. He promised that they would have thin edges and that they would cut. He recommended using CPMS30V, I said fine and I sent him ironwood for the handle slabs.

I don’t have the words to say what a pleasure it is to receive ordered knives on time, and knives that are exactly what the maker said they would be. Both of the knives from Phil Wilson exceeded my expectations, but this is really about the little bird and trout.

The blade is 3 5/8” long measured from the front of the handle slabs and the spine is .105” at the thickest point. The blade is flat ground, nicely finished, and the edge is thin as promised. The knife is 8 1/16” overall in length, and the handle slabs are ironwood. The handle is nicely shaped and is comfortable in use.

The knife came very sharp which is not always the case with custom knives in my experience. It puzzles me that makers would ship a knife that is not sharp, it seems so basic to me that a cutting tool should be sharp. I suppose that they are falling back on the “it won’t be used anyway” mentality, or they are either too lazy or too incompetent to sharpen their knives before shipment. Anyway, Phil Wilson’s knives came sharp!

Because of a home-based business there are always cardboard shipping boxes around the house that need to be cut down for the recycle bin. I have found them a good way to test the edge holding, cutting ability, and handle comfort of knives. This morning I decided to try the bird and trout.

I started with the edge sharp and cut pieces from 10 to 12 inches long. I tried to cut about an equal amount with and against the “grain” of the corrugated box material. I tried to use the same section of the blade to do the cutting and be uniform in the cutting method or motion that I used.

At 127 cuts I could feel that the edge had dulled a little and I checked it on my thumbnail. It still bit into my thumbnail and was plenty sharp enough for just about any practical purpose. At 183 cuts there was a really noticeable increase in the force required to make the cuts and sort of a dragging feel so I stopped at that point. A few gentle, careful strokes on my well used Eze Lap 1200 grit diamond hone restored the edge to shaving sharp.


This is excellent, in fact outstanding performance compared to the other knives that I have tested this way. I suppose that it can be attributed to several factors among them being edge geometry, steel selection, and heat treating. Of course it could be argued that shipping boxes can differ and that I don’t have a standard. That is true as far as it goes but in all the tests that I have done in this manner the cardboard came from the same box supplier that we buy all our shipping boxes from. Some knives that I have tested on these same boxes delivered results that can only be called embarrassing when compared to this knife.

Phil Wilson has a website: http://www.seamountknifeworks.com


copyright Bill North 2013

Opinel, a simple knife

DSC_5753My Opinel number 10

To me there is pleasure in using tools and knives are no exception. Several times each day I use knives for something, opening mail or shipping boxes, cutting cordage, cutting down the fore mentioned shipping boxes for the recycle bin, cutting whatever needs cutting in the workshop, cutting food, and on and on. For me, a knife is a very useful tool.

There is a type of knife that for lack of a better term I call “simple knives”. I am not sure how to describe simple knives but to paraphrase United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart; I know them when I see them. I suppose that when speaking of simple knives what I really mean is uncomplicated. Uncomplicated in that they are basic with a part that one grasps to hold and a part that does the cutting. Of course knives exist that are composed of just these two parts or sections and others exist that have several parts but are still what I would call uncomplicated.

An excellent example of the type of knife that I am talking about is the French made Opinel folding knife. Opinels have a blade, a handle which is just a slotted piece of wood, a rotating collar that locks the blade open or closed, and a pin that the blade pivots on. No springs, fancy handle scales, or handle liners, but still it is capable of performing the same tasks as most if not all other single blade folders. And it performs these tasks more inexpensively that most of its glossier relatives.

Opinel folding knives come in a multitude of sizes and some different blade shapes including a folding saw. The knife pictured in this post is a number 10 which is not a small knife. The blade on mine is 3 7/8” long and about .088 thick at the spine just ahead of the handle. The knife is about 9” overall when open. It’s uncomplicated but it works just fine for cutting up something for a snack, a whole meal or most anything else that needs cutting around my house.

copyright Bill North 2013