Handmade Knives by Carey Quinn About the Maker
How did all this get started? Gosh, how did this get
started? Let’s see. Once upon a time…
Seriously, or as serious as I usually care to get anyway, I have been in
love with knives as long as I can remember. I came by that
honestly. My Dad always liked knives. My Mother told me one time
that she had seen him spend his last dollar on a pocketknife. Dad taught
me to respect my tools. Take care of them and use them for what they were
designed and they will take care of you.
Through the years, I occasionally picked up what I considered to be a
nice factory knife. I would have liked to have owned more but my wife
always had this thing about rent, and groceries, and clothes for the kids, and
all that really boring stuff. I didn’t have any idea that there were
people around doing custom work. I don’t even remember knowing anyone
else that really felt the same way about knives that I did. I always
liked the kind of things that a guy could work with. That means sturdy,
not clunky. I have usually been troubled by the fact that almost every
knife I ever picked up was in some way unkind to my hand. As I got older,
I just figured that some engineer had gotten involved with the design of knives
in general and they were more concerned about ease of manufacture than function
and comfort for the user.
My wife and I enjoy going to arts and crafts shows and festivals and
fairs and all that kind of stuff. I have this theory about doing that
kind of thing with your wife but that’s another story. Anyway, I always
get to stop and look at any knives we might run across because I stop and look
at the stuff she likes too. A number of years ago, we were at a festival
and there was an older gentleman there sharpening knives on what turned out to
be a Bader grinder. That really intrigued me. I can sharpen my own
knife on a whetstone but there are a lot of people who couldn’t sharpen a knife
on a bet. I watched this fellow for about an hour and people were
steadily coming by and getting their knives sharpened and visiting and
occasionally buying a knife. I finally went over and introduced myself
and struck up a conversation. I went away thinking, “That’s really
neat. I could do that.” As fate would have it, the "Blade
Show" was in Atlanta about two weeks later. There is no way I know
of to describe the feeling a knife enthusiast gets upon walking into the Blade
Show for the first time. It’s kind of like being a mosquito at a nudist
colony; you really have no idea where to start. I just had no idea of what
I had missed out on my whole life. Something welled up inside of me and I
knew with everything in me that if I could just get up next to the proper
equipment, I could make a knife that a man would be proud to own and would do
about anything he ever asked it to do.
I went home and within two weeks, I had put together a machine to
sharpen knives on and rented a space at the local flea market. I was
going to earn enough money to buy a knife grinder. Things went along all
right but not as well as I had hoped. Enter Trader Bill Robertson.
I first ran into Bill at a cutlery store that he managed in one of our
local malls. I later met him at Trader Bill’s Knife Shop in Macon,
Georgia. He had a pretty nice shop but I didn’t go in very often. I
hate to take up a man’s time when he’s trying to make a living and I can’t
really contribute to the effort. It’s that grocery thing I mentioned
earlier. I did decide that he seemed like a pretty nice guy, he seemed to
know his stuff, and he was an honest man. What more could you ask?
As time went on, Bill started showing up at my booth at the flea market
on the weekend. It turned out that he had closed his shop. It
seemed to be kind of eating at him but I figured he would tell me what he
wanted to when he wanted to. After a while he started talking about
opening his shop back up first with this guy then with that backer.
Finally, we started talking about doing something together. We talked and
we talked and we talked some more. We eventually decided that Niké had
said it best. “Just Do It.” So we did.
I had a little money and experience, Bill had a whole lot of experience
and about ten years worth of customers who wanted him to reopen his shop, and
we both had a boatload of “want to”. Bill had found us a place that we
hoped we could afford. It had sat vacant for quite some time so we got
busy and cleaned and painted and cussed and fussed and scratched our heads and
ordered some inventory and finally opened the door and hoped the people would
We were the only shop around that offered new and used cutlery both from
major manufacturers as well as from a few local makers in addition to knife
repair. It was our belief that if you offer people a good product at a
fair and reasonable price and always try to do what is right, people will
reward you with their business. We had high hopes but you've heard that
old saw about the best laid plans...
Bill had been making knives for years. He started out by working with an old charcoal grill and hand tools. As he was able, he added more equipment. This equipment formed the basis of what I named "The Back Room Forge". Bill was kind enough to share his knowledge with me so I could pursue my dream of making knives.
For a number of reasons, I have decided to use 5160 spring steel in the
knives that I forge. It has about all the characteristics I think are
needed to forge a quality using type knife. There are any number of
people around that would argue that some other steel would do a better job and
I figure they can use whatever they want to when they make their own knives and
I’ll stick to 5160.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention Ken Averyt of Abbeyville,
GA. Ken invited me to come to his shop so he could give me some
pointers. Without his kindness and patience, the road I have traveled
would have been very much longer.
It is still my belief that if you offer people a good product at a fair
and reasonable price and always try to do what is right, people will reward you
with their business. With that in mind, I invite you to look around the
site. If I can be of service, contact
me and we'll do some business.
We (My partner, Bill Robertson, and I) were fortunate enough
to have an article written about us by a great guy named Dan Shechtman, a
freelance knife writer, in the Jan/Feb 2004 issue of The Backwoodsman Magazine. It
was really great because he looked us up and when we sent him some samples, he
liked what he saw. Thanks again Dan.