The Cutting Edge

The official blog of Knife Depot

Category: Interview

Knifemaker Interview: James Wahls of Indy Hammered Knives

Making it as a knifemaker is no easy task and there are countless knifemakers out there worthy of some time and attention. It’s been a while since we’ve profiled a knifemaker on the blog (the last time was probably 2012’s chat with Stewart J. Light). So when knifemaker James Wahls of Indy Hammered Knives reached out to us, I was intrigued.

I did some research and stumbled upon this video:

His story seemed really interesting, so I agreed to interview him about his journey as a knifemaker.

You can find James and Indy Hammered Knives (IHK) at or on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

First, could you tell us a little about yourself, such as where you’re from and your background growing up?

Good Question, I’m from and grew up in LaGrange, IN, which is a small town in northern Indiana. When I say small, I mean I had Amish neighbors growing up and is still the place where I get all my sweet vintage blacksmithing tools! My folks and sister still live up there. I love to go back and visit this special place as much as I can because it will always be home to me.

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Fisherman Nick Doumel talks fishing and the importance of knives

Few things in life are more relaxing, liberating and exciting than fishing. And, like any sport or activity that requires quick thinking and skills with your hands, knives are an essential part of fishing.

To get more insight on fishing and knives, I turned to fisherman Nick Doumel who runs the fantastic fishing blog Brookfield Angler, which I highly recommend you check out.

Nick, who is a project manager for a company that builds tradeshow exhibits, lives just outside Chicago with his wife and 10-month-old son.

Here’s more of our conversation that includes what makes fishing so great, why every fisherman needs a knife and what type of knife works best.

How long have you been fishing and how did you first get into it?

I have been fishing since I was just a few years old when I would go with my dad. As I got older, I started to head out more on my own to local ponds, creeks and rivers – basically any place I could ride my bike to. Once I got my driver’s license, my fishing world got a lot bigger.

When I moved to Las Vegas in my early 20s, fishing took a backseat, and the entire six-year period I lived there, I didn’t even touch a fishing pole.

Once I moved back to the Chicago area, I quickly rediscovered fishing and have been making up for lost time ever since. I am amazed at how much my little break has really made me a much more passionate fisherman today.

What do you enjoy most about fishing?

Aside from the typical relaxation, escaping, enjoying nature, blah blah blah answer, my absolute favorite part of fishing is “the take.” I have always known that I love when the bite happens, but I recently read a post from a fellow blogger named Mr. P that made me realize how much I actually enjoy it; it really is the ultimate highlight in fishing. The way he describes it really verbalizes what I have always felt but could never verbally describe. What’s really fascinating about “the take” is that it can apply to a ton of other things in life if you take the time to think about it.

What type of fishing do you do, and what do you fish for?

2012 has been the year of the fly for me. For as long as I can remember, I have admired fly fishing and held it on a pedestal as some mystic art form that only the truly enlightened could enjoy. In the fall of 2011, I decided that my notions were ridiculous and that I was going to do nothing but fly fish until I really learned how to do it and I have really stuck to that.

Throughout the winter, I left all of my spinning and casting gear at home, opting only to bring my fly rods. That dedication has paid off and I can honestly say that I am completely comfortable with a fly rod; as a matter of fact, I prefer it 99% of the time now. Does this mean that I am up there with the ranks of Lefty Kreh or Joan Wulff? Hardly, but that still doesn’t stop me from pretending.

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Interview with a Knifemaker: Stewart J. Light on the joys and challenges of knifemaking

Stewart Light and his 3-year-old son, Adam.

Any knife enthusiast knows some of the most amazing and unique designs come from custom knifemakers. That’s why when I stumbled upon the awesome knives of Stewart J. Light, I knew I had to talk to him. I interviewed Stewart through e-mail to get his perspective and thoughts on knifemaking. Here’s the full interview. (Editor’s note: There are some British variations in spelling.)

After you’re done reading, I recommend checking out his blog for more images and interesting posts.

For start off by telling us a little about yourself.

I’m originally from Grimsby in the North East of England. Twelve years ago I went to the University of Hertfordshire to study Sports & Exercise Science and have stayed down south ever since.

After university I got a temporary job working as a porter in a hotel/conference centre. I have been working there pretty much ever since and am now the Conference Manager so spend my day in a shirt and tie – quite different to being in my messy workshop!

At university I met my future wife and we have just celebrated the birthday of our 3-year-old son and 1-year-old daughter.

When and how did you first become interested in making knives?

I fell into it, but it now feels like a perfect fit. There are a number of factors that lead me here, I think.

As a young kid I would often be out in the back garden watching my Dad doing bits of woodwork, which slowly turned into doing some bits myself.

It was primarily woodturning on the lathe but was odd bits of carpentry as well. I always felt there was a fairly relaxed attitude about what I was allowed to do. I was left to experiment as I wanted to. Encouraged a bit here, cajoled a bit there. The things I produced weren’t amazing, and I’m glad it wasn’t suggested that they should be. I was learning to use my hands and my head.

I would often tinker about with things, and the first knife I made was either a snapped off hacksaw blade that I sharpened on one edge using my Dad’s grinder then attached to a stick of walnut with some twine or it was a six inch nail I heated on the gas hob and hammered the end flat using the back door step as an anvil (I don’t know if my parents knew I did this!) and then quenched in water, thinking that I knew what I was doing. Both were awful things that wouldn’t be much use for anything but I enjoyed myself.

Guycep necker cord wrap handle replaced with Carbon Fibre & Blue G10 and Stainless Steel pins

Another big factor is that I was in the Scout movement all the way through every section, so the best part of twelve years. Looking back, I think it’s one of the biggest things in shaping who I am today, but what it also did was give me a real love for the outdoors. That combined with Ray Mears on the TV introduced me to the idea of ‘Bushcraft’ which then lead to choosing a knife to use. I started to see knives that other people were producing and I wanted to try myself. That was seven years ago and now it is my main hobby.

What is your favorite part of knifemaking?

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Talking pocket knives with diehard enthusiast Scott Rauber

We love talking to regular people about knives, so this week we reached out to fellow knife enthusiast Scott Rauber who runs a truly fantastic blog simply called the Pocket Knives Blog where he posts reviews on any knife he can get a hold of. Scott is from Upstate Western New York and sells custom-printed promotional items among other things. Here’s our interview:

When and how did you first become so interested in knives?

About 10 years ago I scored an SOG Multi-Tool and I fell in love with it. I bought a small sheath for it and carried it on my hip for years. Then, about four years ago I purchased a Kershaw Ken Onion Leek. Good lord have mercy!

You currently buy and sell knives on eBay. How did you get involved in that? Do you also collect knives to keep?

I’ve been an active buyer and seller on eBay for eight or so years. Around this time last year, I wondered if any moolah could be made buying and selling knives, so I bought a lot on eBay and resold them. I was slain in the steel spirit. Even though I consider myself to be a “knife realtor” and practice reselling just about all knives, every now and then one seems to end up in my drawer.

At your site, you review a lot of knives and judge them by what you call “steel sahlutes.” Has any knife ever received 10 out of 10?

Canal Street Cutlery Full Moon Trapper from Scott Rauber

The Canal Street Cutlery Sunset Bone Full Moon (Moon Pie) Trapper came oh so close with a 9.8.

I have a mental fight with myself on that subject with just about every knife I purchase. I scored a Camillus all metal frame EDC in one of my first purchases and she’s slick. I just can’t seem to part with it.

Are there particular knives whether types, styles or brands that you find people are more interested in than others?

Well, 80% of knife sales are tactical knives. Since I sell mostly used vintage knives steeped in steel experience, I’ve found the Schrade Old Timer’s are still very popular. I’m carrying the 194OT Gunstock right now and I’m wild for it!

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Spyderco collector dishes on future trends and new prototypes (part 2)

Friday, we posted the first part of our interview with Wouter, who runs a site called Spydercollector that is devoted to all things Spyderco. In the second part, Wouter discusses possible trends we might expect from past and future Spyderco knives.

UKPK courtesy of Spydercollector

In your opinion, what defines a good knife?

It may seem obvious, but first and foremost it has to cut well. In my book, that means a thin edge with a full flat grind, and no bolted-on thumbstuds or -discs. It also has to be easy to sharpen; as most thin edges are. After that it has to have good ergonomics and be lefty-friendly. I want to be able to work with a knife for more than ten minutes and not have any hotspots on my hand. Furthermore, a knife has to be easy to carry. That problem is usually solved by a well placed pocketclip. The basic pattern for a good knife –for me- is the Spyderco Calypso jr./Caly 3/UKPK pattern. It combines all the aforementioned features.

You’ve been lucky enough to have access to many new models. What trends have you noticed in Spyderco prototypes over the years?

It’s worth noting that everyone who is able to attend the Amsterdam Meets, or a major knifeshow with a Spyderco Booth, has access to these prototypes. After the first few Amsterdam Meets I’ve been asked to photograph and publish the knives for the online knifeknuts. The deal is that I can publish the production prototypes but not the concept models, which are further away from production.

Back to your question, I’ve seen a couple of trends. Generally, I’ve seen faster development times, more experiments with new materials, more use of ethnic designs and more knives that are adapted to changing knife laws. More importantly, I’ve noticed that the Spydercrew incorporates more user feedback every year. Even when a knife is trashed in a review and most people think that the knife was abused beyond reasonable use. Well, cooler heads prevail I guess and Spyderco comes up with an improved version of the knife in question. Spyderco wants to make a knife you can use and trust in any environment. The world is changing, both in terms of legislation and technology, and Spyderco is using both to keep making using knives.

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Talking Spyderco with avid knife collector Wouter (part 1)

Here at the Cutting Edge, we like to get perspectives on different brands of knives, so for Spyderco, we decided to talk to Wouter, a communications worker in the Netherlands, who runs the great site Spydercollector. At the site, he gives reviews, posts pictures of prototypes and talks all things Spyderco, so check it out.

If you’re not familiar with Spyderco, it’s a knife brand founded in 1978 and based in Colorado. Spyderco knives are known for their simplicity and reliability. Here’s the first part of our interview with Wouter.

Spyderco Kopa Series

What made you interested in collecting Spyderco knives?

The interwebs. Over ten years ago I had a few high-priced and extremely well-made knives, like the Chris Reeve Sebenza and the Microtech SOCOM. Up until then, my experience was that more expensive knives meant you got better knives. The Spyderco forum on was pretty popular at the time and these guys just wouldn’t stop raving about the then newly revamped Military folder and the Moran fixed blade. I basically figured let’s see what the fuss is all about. I was blown away.

The Spyderco knives cut just as well, if not better, than my expensive Sebenza and SOCOM. Furthermore, the ergonomics of the Spyderco knives were way better, and for the same amount of money I could get more knives. Moreover, the Spyderco tri-angle sharpmaker taught me how to properly sharpen knives – I started using the knives much harder.

What do you like most about Spyderco?

The knives have a unique look but they were actually designed in the dark. Every design begins with a specific task or use in mind. Everything else is designed to reach that goal: blade shape and grind, ergonomics, locking system, opening action, construction etc… They end up with a pretty unusual looking knife, but they work really well. I think the Kopa series was Sal’s first and only attempt to deliberately make a ‘pretty knife’. Furthermore, the wide range of models Spyderco makes, means I can carry and use a knife for any occasion; whether it’s in a suit at the office or in the woods.

How big is your collection?

They come and they go. I never counted them, but let’s just say I can rotate my EDC (everyday carry) often.

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The King of Fling: a glimpse into the life of professional knife-thrower Jack Dagger

Jack Dagger is now the official sponsor of the Cutting Edge “Knifeslinger” giveaway.  Jack is donating a set of his custom-made throwing knives along with an autographed instructional DVD to the first-prize winner.  Learn how to enter the contest here.

“The difference between success and failure is just inches,” said professional knife-thrower Jack Dagger, while teaching talk-show host Conan O’Brien the proper way to throw knives on his show last year. After a quick tutorial from Dagger, O’Brien successfully sliced through one of the half-dozen balloons he was targeting.

It was now Dagger’s turn.

He placed a cucumber on the forearm of his gorgeous assistant, Tanya. Then, from across the stage, he encircled her arm with a flurry of knives, before eventually slicing the cucumber in half to the amazement of O’Brien and the crowd.

Dagger, whose real name is Todd Abrams, has been delighting spectators around the world with his knife-throwing skills for over a decade.

A native of Baton Rouge, La., his initial interest in throwing knives spawned from adolescent boredom.

“I was a pretty ADD kid and started throwing screwdrivers in the dirt and making a game of trying to hit leaves and gumballs,” he said.

From there, Dagger branched out to hurling pocket knives, but it wasn’t until 1990, when he read an article about famous knife maker Harry McEvoy and his company, True Balance Knife Corp, that he was able to finally get his hands on a set of throwing knives.

Dagger said that he picked up the skill working solo, as most other knife throwers did in the pre-Internet age.

“Every thrower I ever met thought they were the only one in the world,” he said.

Eventually, Dagger found out about former knife-throwing performers Paul LaCross and Che Che Whitecloud, but he was still constantly in search for “that Yoda, that one person who was an amazing thrower, and is still alive.”

When he moved to California in 2003, Dagger met Michael J. Bainton, the current executive director of the International Knife Throwing Hall of Fame, who Dagger described as a “tough, old-school cowboy.”

Under Bainton’s guidance, Dagger began to perform between 800 and 1200 throws a day in an attempt to ingrain the muscle-memory of knife throwing.  He also began experimenting with human targets, who he would encircle with knives.

With the physical aspect of knife throwing mastered, Dagger began to book more and more events, however he soon realized that he was ignoring the equally-important theatrical element of his knife-throwing routine.

An actor during his childhood, Dagger focused on enhancing his audience engagement.

“Any monkey can throw a knife, so I began to really working on building a relationship with the audience that had an emotional aspect,” he said.

The result was that Dagger became more renowned as a performer.

Not only was he booking more gigs—he’s done between 1,500 and 2,000 in his lifetime—but he starred in More Extreme Marksmen and seasons one and two of the “Top Shot,” (both on the History channel) and will also be featured in an episode of Spiderman-creator Stan Lee’s new show “Superhumans”.

Though he’s never hit any of his assistants with a knife, Dagger has been injured once in the workplace.

Around 2004, he expanded his repertoire to catching knives thrown at top speeds.  His performances were flawless, until during a taping for a Japanese television show, a poorly-thrown knife punctured Dagger in the palm.

The consummate professional, Dagger bandaged the hand, covered it up with superglue and caught an additional dozen or so knives until the producers had finally captured the best shot.

Dagger’s advice to novice knife throwers is to make sure that they have a quality pair of throwing knives—he he has his own line of Jack Dagger Top Shot Bowie knives for sale—and to check out organizations like the International Knife Throwers Hall Of Fame, which  has developed a standardized set of competition rules.

Dagger also believes that someday knife throwing will become an Olympic event and hopes that his exhibitions and teachings can help it happen.

If O’Brien’s performance under Dagger’s tutelage is any sign of the future, then knife throwing may be poised for a wave of success.

A few minutes after bursting the balloons, O’Brien threw a perfect strike and sliced a cucumber off the forearm of a wax portrait of “Fonzie.”

The jubilant O’Brien performed a victory dance around the stage to celebrate his conquest. For Dagger,  who was equally enthused, it was just another day at the office.

To read more about Jack Dagger or book him for a performance, check out his website.

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