It's been awesome over the past couple of years seeing photographs of knife makers from all over Australia, and talking with them at the various events held promoting the craft of knife making. The stories of how people have found themselves neck deep in an amazing new hobby have been fun to hear about, and so we've decided to begin asking some makers some questions about what they do, how they do it, and why - and share it with the knife making community!
Without further ado, please welcome the first of our Meet The Maker Series:
Les Batchelor - Moosehead Knives
I’m 61 years old and assume some of you younger blokes would consider that to be a dottery old bloke poking about out in the workshop making the odd knife! I work full time in a very demanding professional industry and make knives as a hobby. I find immersing myself in the project is great for stress relief and my otherwise sketchy mental health.
I’ve been making knives for many years but have only found time to really get into it over the last two years or so, over that time I’ve made around 100 knives, (approx.) many of which I have given away, sold or still have waiting for homes. I make knives to order and the regularity of this work keeps me in new tools and consumables, but would never sustain full time employment.
I enjoy thinking strategically about what a knife will be used for and incorporating design aspects to suit the intended use. I design all my knives and actively involve the new owner in the process. If I had to pick my favorite I would probably say hunting knives, I’ve had a lifetime of hunting experience and can associate with how a good hunting knife should look, feel and perform. I have recently had a fair bit of interest from some mates in the military who are keen to get their own customized combat knives made. This has reinvigorated my interest given the tactical aspects of what a knife like this would need to cover, there is an immense range of scenarios in which a combat / tactical knife would be used and coming up with a knife that is robust enough to be worth the weight of carrying is a challenge.
I enjoy using carbon steel to make knives and have used a wide range of steels over the years. I find carbon steel, from my perspective and skillset, allows me significant scope to manipulate the steel throughout the heat treating process to meet the intended use of the knife.
If I had to single out my best skill it would be in heat treating, I have mastered the differential quench and if appropriate for that knife can bang out an impressive hamon pretty much blindfolded.
Worse skill? I can get a bit impatient to get a job done and rush it, this degrades any skills one might have so I either put a job aside or go mow the lawn if I get to that point.
The thing I enjoy most about knife making is teaching others, categorically, no question about it. I do a fair bit of this and have no hesitation in helping others wherever I can, I get just as much reward from watching someone make a knife as I do making one. I have forged some great friendships (pun intended) in the workshop and it’s a great feeling to pass on a plethora of skills others can utilize throughout their lives.
I find several other knife makers inspirational, not just for their considerable skills but also for how they interact with others. There is nothing more valuable to someone starting out than good advice that is realistic and relative to the question, encouragement and constructive feedback. The names that spring to mind for me are Bobby Smith, Rodney Middleton, Sierra Charlie, and Ben Mc and of course the man himself Bjorn Jacobsen.
If I had three main tips to pass on they would be to keep the blank ‘fatter’, or bigger than is required for the finished product, throughout the shaping you can always make fine adjustments along the way, you can’t make a handle or blade bigger once you have ground off steel. Secondly finish every knife to the highest standard that you can, do your best every time. Those scratches at the plunge line or a mark on the blade is there forever once the knife is finished, don’t look back in the future and regret not having spent another 10 minutes in making it. Finally do your best and don’t judge yourself on what others do, take the positive feedback and ignore the rest.
Please check out my Facebook page (here), your comments and feedback are appreciated.
The Creative Man forum is an excellent place to gather both feedback and knowledge, use the page as a tool along with youtube, but most of all get out there and make some sparks!
Well, BIG thanks to Les of Moosehead Knives for giving up his time to let us know about his work, much appreciated!
Thanks for reading Meet the Maker, we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did, and remember to keep an eye on your inbox - we might be asking you next!