1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

  2. Click here to enter the drawing for your chance to win a Kizer Sheepdog & Ka-Bar Dozier Folding Hunter, , Bladeforums.com swag or memberships!

    Be sure to read the rules before entering, then help us decide next week's giveaway by hitting the poll in that thread! Entries close at midnight, Saturday August 10!

    Once the entries close, we'll live stream the drawing on Sunday, July 28 at 5PM Eastern. Tune in to our YouTube channel TheRealBladeForums for a chance to win bonus prizes!

    Questions? Comments? Post in the discussion thread here

What is a knife maker?

Discussion in 'Shop Talk - BladeSmith Questions and Answers' started by ARTIST, Feb 17, 2019.



    Feb 13, 2019
    Not sure if this is the forum for asking this question? If it isn't, Let me know. It's more of a philosophical question, or at least it is more than likely to be that kind of a discussion. I've been an artist for over 50 years. Starving most that time. I could do seminars, I think, about creativity and it's relationship to "art" and "craft" (and paying the bills or not paying the bills. Lol) I do believe they are not the same things, yet they oftetimes "travel together" in some people (like blade smiths).

    Do you consider a knife maker an artist or a craftsman? Better yet, do you consider yourself an artist or a craftsman, or a little of both? I've been fascinated by what some have called the "mystique of the creative" for as long as I can remember.
  2. Horsewright

    Horsewright KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 4, 2011
    I'm a craftsman, both steel and leather. Many of my customers say I'm an artist, quien sabe? I make nice stuff to be used.





    Don't worry about it much. Too busy.


    Feb 13, 2019
    Horsewright, beautiful holster. Do you cowboy, buckaroo? Your last photo is why I ask. Your knives are nice little horseback carry pieces as well as far as I'm concerned.


    Feb 13, 2019
    I believe your sheathes and particularly your holster clearly demonstrate art. The fit and finish of your knives, the attention to detail and it's obvious that you spent thought and the neccessary amount of time and hand skills to make it all demonstrates craftsmanship. Both are clearly involved in these examples as I understand the difference.
  5. Hengelo_77

    Hengelo_77 Basic Member Basic Member

    Mar 2, 2006
    I enjoy what I do, I don't care much for the label people want to put on me
    Brock Cutlery likes this.
  6. skillgannon


    Apr 27, 2009
    I assume this is spillover from the knife talk podcast. In some ways its semantics but I think that fundamentally different makers come at this from opposite sides and perhaps identifying perspective can improve communication.

    My opinion is that that both lines will be crossed since handmade knives are a pretty simple tool. My thought is that the craftsman side comes from the desire to make a better tool. Fit and finish and materials used should allow the tool to be more effective. The art comes in when you start to do something purely for how it looks possibly at the detriment of functionality such as adding gemstones. The reality is that hand made knives are most often luxury goods and are made in a knife makers distinct "style " and having a attractive look will help to sell better. So then you could say that pretty much all knives are art or that anything that makes a knife attractive is a sales technique. It could be that making tools that look cool is a human thing and I'm all right with that.
    Ken H> likes this.
  7. Mitchell Knives

    Mitchell Knives Knifemaker Moderator

    May 21, 2000
    I think you have to be a little of both if you really want to make something unique.
    Hengelo_77 and ARTIST like this.
  8. Larrin

    Larrin Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 17, 2004
  9. Horsewright

    Horsewright KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 4, 2011
    Yes we have a small cow/calf outfit, so strictly speaking we're ranchers but thats splitting hairs. Lots of crossover nowadays but being Californio paisanos we lean more towards the vaquero/buckaroo side of thing. As far as the horseback deal that is our business motto: "Designed from the saddle for the saddle." Not only do we make stuff for us flat hatters:


    But for punchers too:


    Thanks. Ya wann get lost for a little, click on the Instagram link in my signature line.
    LCoop, ARTIST and benchwarmer380 like this.
  10. scott kozub

    scott kozub Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 1, 2018
    How about hobbiest. I have not earned the right yet to go by artist or craftsman. People love what i make but i feel i still have way too much to learn.

    Time will tell.
  11. ARTIST


    Feb 13, 2019
    My son is a saddle maker in Montana. My guess your in the Great Basin or ION country. Or is that California country in the photos? If so maybe youv'e not heard of him??
  12. Horsewright

    Horsewright KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 4, 2011
    Yeah we're Cali. Know quite a few saddle makers from all over.
  13. ARTIST


    Feb 13, 2019
    I agree with the idea that semantics come into play here. Particularly the origin of the word "art" should be considered. Webster's 1836 dictionary is fairly emphatic in it's defintion and still accurate, then necessarily relevant today. Webster, according to traditional thought and usage, defined it like this, "the radical sense is strength, from "stretching", "straining", the primary sense of strength and power, and hence of skill."
    He went on to broadly make a distinction of "art" into 2 main catagories, #1 the "useful or mechanic" and #2 the "liberal or polite". These are excerpt quotes and his definition goes on. Read it in it's entirety if you get the chance. Today they are often called the mechanical arts (associated with trades and craftsmen) and the fine arts (poets, writers, artists, etc.).
    When a knife maker makes something that has a practical, utilitarian purpose, it requires the necessary "craftsman's" skills to do that. When said bladesmith begins to adorn that creation with decorative motifs fitting for the metal medium which doesn't enhance it's utilitarian capabilities, he's transitioned from craft into fine, and or decorative art. This is why, as a fineartist I'm facinated with craftsmanship combined with high art, expressions and ideas I tend to think we moderns don't understand as well as we think we do. Crafting a well thought out and structurally sound tool with skill and knowledge and then adorning it with beautiful motifs fitted to the materials that serve no functional purpose other than to make it aesthetically a cut above.
    I agree, many knife makers easily transition back and forth, combining the 2 skillsets.
  14. ARTIST


    Feb 13, 2019
    Scott, who says when youv'e earned the right to consider yourself either an artist or craftsman. That question may very well be indicative that you respect and value both. That's good. That's the kind of attitude that the true craftsman/artist (whether a beginner or an accomplished master) typically (probably without exception) has. If you persevere at it and you notice improvements and advances as you go along that is likely confirmation to your question. If you find yourself comepletely satisfied with each piece you do, you may not be much of a craftsman or artist. I've never known truly talented artists who ever felt that way about their own works. They could always have done it a bit better (we discard alot).
    Kali4nia likes this.
  15. ARTIST


    Feb 13, 2019
    My son calls his business NORTHERN RANGE COWBOY GEAR between Billings and Laurel Montana. He makes mostly saddles, some leggins and made lots of headstalls,etc.
    So far he's been blessed to have mostly saddle work.
  16. Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

    Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith ilmarinen - MODERATOR Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 20, 2004
    For more on this subject, use the custom search engine in the Stickys. The topic has been discussed several times.
  17. Tenebr0s


    Jun 3, 2012
    One of my teachers in Japan said to me, there are artists 芸術者 and there are tradesmen 職人!

    He was taking a jab at me, because I definitely fall more on the artist side of the spectrum, whereas he's a tradesman. He has various knife patterns, and makes the blades to spec, over and over again. The level of his forging skill is really something that has to be seen to be believed. He's like a machine. The rough-forged blades are so identical that he can hold two at once in a pair of tongs for further thinning under the power hammer. He can have 15 identical sushi knives forged, cold forged, sheared, rough ground, and heat treated in a single day. They then go off to the grinder, who grinds and polishes them and attaches the handle, made by yet another tradesman. That's just how the industry is in that part of Japan (Sakai).

    As for me, each one of my knives is a little different; I do the entire process myself; and, I hold myself to a very high standard of fit and finish. I am probably too far to the artist side of things. I'd like to be somewhere in the middle.
    Brock Cutlery and ARTIST like this.
  18. ashwinearl


    Nov 9, 2006
    They were discussing this on knife talk podcast.

    The word Craig from chop knives suggested was Artisan that had the connotation of Craftsman and artist
  19. ron_m80

    ron_m80 KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Mar 1, 2009
    Reduced down to its simplest form, in context. "Knifemaker" is a paid membership level, one required to present certain materials on Bladeforums, commonly considered good manners to attain prior to requesting certain answers in forum, and necessary before one desires to sell certain items herein.


    :D What is a knifemaker indeed!
  20. i4Marc


    Oct 19, 2011
    Just to be clear, Dave IS an artist.
    skillgannon and Larrin like this.

Share This Page