Cartertown Knifemaker Hall of Fame

(Under Constuction)

There are a couple of recognized Halls of Fame for knifemakers. One of the most respected is the Blade Magazine Cutlery Hall of Fame but I could not find a listing of it's members anywhere so I received permission from Blade Magazine's editor, Steve Shackelford, to publish their Cutlery Hall of Fame here; Blade Cutlery Hall of Fame.
There is also a knife throwers Hall of Fame that can be found here; 
http://www.ikthof.com/  . The American Bladesmith Society has a listing of their "master smiths" here; http://americanbladesmith.com/ABS_MastersmithList.htm . Many knifemakers are also members of the Knifemakers Guild and a listing of their members can be found here; http://www.knifemakersguild.com/members.shtml .

The Cartertown Knifemaker Hall of Fame is made up of my own personal choices of those who I feel are outstanding knifemakers or have contributed significantly to the craft of knifemaking. I will continually add to this listing as time permits and as knifemakers earn their place in my opinion. I will post pictures and information about the knifemakers as to the best of my knowledge and depending upon availability. Biographical information about some of the legendary knifemakers often is disputed and sometime the lines between fact and legend can be very hard to define. Readers input is welcomed and you may suggest knifemakers for consideration in this list by contacting mike@cartertown.com . Again, I would like to stress that this listing is based on the opinions of Cartertown.com and may or may not include people that others would consider deserving of the honor.

Honorees are listed in no particular order.


Gil Hibben

Gil has been making knives for over 50 years and is one of the most recognizable names in knifemaking and knife collecting. Since 1957 Gil has made knives in Utah, Arkansas, Alaska, Missouri, Louisville, Kentucky and his current home in LaGrange, Kentucky. His knives have been featured in numerous movies and TV shows including the Klingon weapons in Star Trek and his world famous Rambo III knife. Celebrities and world leaders are among his faithful collectors but every knife he makes receives the same attention to detail and excellent craftsmanship regardless of who ordered it. Gil made hundreds of fighting knifes that have been carried into battle in Viet Nam. A 6th degree Black Belt in Kenpo Karate, Gil has designed several fighting knives as well as a line of throwing knives and axes. He is perhaps most widely known for his fantasy art knives which broke new ground in the late 1980s. His fantasy knife designs were also mass produced by United Cutlery and became catalyst that spawned many knife collectors. Over the last 50 years Gil has worked with, learned from, and taught, many notable knifemakers including A.G. Russell and Harvey Draper. Gil favors larger knives and his first love is the Bowie knife of which he makes several versions including the Iron Mistress and the Alamo Bowie. One of his Alamo Bowies is on permanent display in the Alamo in San Antonio Texas. Gil is an inductee into the Blade Cutlery Hall of Fame, the Knife Throwers Hall of Fame and he is the current president of the Knifemakers Guild.

At 71 years young, Gil shows no sign of slowing down and still works in his shop every day grinding blades and making knives. He shows and sells his knives at several prominent knife shows each year and fills custom orders for his many collectors. He also holds week-long knifemaking classes at his shop several times each year. In my opinion, there is no better bladesmith than Gil Hibben. He also happens to be one of the nicest and most sincere people you could ever hope to meet.

For more information about Gil Hibben see http://www.hibbenknives.com/ or http://www.cartertown.com/Knives/Hibben/HibbenKnives.htm


W.F. (Bill) Moran   1926-2006

Bill Moran forged his first knife at the age of 12 and over the next 60 years became one of the most legendary knifemakers of all time. Working from his small shop in Middletown Maryland, Moran made knifes for which collectors have recently paid over $30,000. He is widely credited with reviving the ancient art of Damascus steel forging in the 1960s. Bill Moran founded the American Bladesmithing Society in 1976 and the American Bladesmith School in 1988 in Washington Arkansas. He made somewhere between 6 and 40 forty handmade knives each year and his knifes are among the most highly prized treasures for knife collectors. I remember seeing some his knives with beautiful wooden handles and silver wire inlay. Although his legend sometimes is blown up larger than life, his craftsmanship was outstanding. Bill died of cancer February 12, 2006 and willed his forge and tools to the Frederick County Landmarks Foundation.

For more information about Bill Moran see http://www.americanbladesmith.com/MoranMemorial.htm or http://neveryetmelted.com/?cat=312


Buster Warenski 1942-2005

Buster Warenski of North Ogden, Utah began making knives as a hobby in 1966 and became a full time knifemaker in 1975. He continued to make his beautiful knives until his death in 2005. Buster is widely known for his large high-art daggers with intricately turned handles and magnificently ornate guards and pommels. Many are beautifully engraved by Busters wife Julie who learned the art from Buster not long before they were married in 1986. Buster set new levels of excellence in art knives and his attention to detail was second to none. His knives are highly prized treasures among collectors and command premium prices as they should.

 

Thanks to Julie Warenski for providing the photos.

You find more information about Buster and Julie Warenski here: http://www.warenskiknives.com/


William Scagel   1875-1963

Perhaps one of the most influential knifemakers of all time. Scagel style knives have been admired and copied for nearly 100 years. Bill Scagel began making knives in the early 1900s while working at a lumber camp and later at a railroad. Sometime around 1920 he settled in Michigan, built a shop and began his long full-time career of making knives, axes, whimsical metal artwork, cookware, and boats.

Sometimes referred to as a loner, Bill had his own ideas and his own way of doing things. After a squabble with the local power company, Bill refused to deal with them and built a windmill connected to some surplus WWI submarine batteries for his power. His shop was powered by a gasoline engine connected to a series of pulleys and leather belts. On the other hand, I have  read the during the polio epidemic in the late 1930s, Bill made several ornate braces for stricken children for which he would not accept payment.

For a brief period in the 1920s Bill Scagel sold his knives through Abercrombie & Fitch of New York and some of their subsidiaries. He made a wide variety of knives including camp knives, hunters, bowies, bird and trout knives, fighters, axes, folders, utility knives, kitchen knives, filet knives, and even some miniatures. One of the rarest and most valuable Scagel collectibles is his hunting knifes with a folding blade in the handle. He made only 12 of these and if you could find one today it's value would be well over $25,000.

Scagel had several friends who worked at the nearby Brunswick Pool Table and Bowling Ball Company and they kept him supplied with ivory, rosewood and Michigan hardrock maple that he used in his knives. He was also fond of using stag and leather in his knife handles. A Scagel knife was the inspiration for Bo Randall to start making knives after he purchased a handmade Scagel knife in 1937 that was being used to scrape paint off of a boat. Scagels influence can be seen in many knives made today by well-known knifemakers who pay homage to Bill by continuing to make his style of knives.

Bill Scagel was the true pioneer of modern day handmade knives. Besides being a knifemaker ahead of his time, Bill was an accomplished oil painter and a carpenter, building his own 2-story log cabin where he lived.

You can find more information about Bill Scagel here: http://www.stonecenterpiece.com/Scagel.pdf
 


Col. James Bowie  1796-1836

Although not a knifemaker, Colonel James Bowie's legendary "Bowie Knife" is probably the most famous knife in the world. There is a never-ending debate about who actually designed the knife, who first made it, and exactly what it looked like. Many believe that James' brother Rezin Bowie actually designed the knife and commissioned the first one to be made. It is also widely believed that Rezin traveled the country basking in the glow of his famous brothers accolades and had the "Bowie" knife made by several knifemakers and blacksmiths in various towns he visited. Whatever the real origin of the knife, James Bowie was known to carry it and use it in at least one legendary event.

James Bowie was a soldier, land speculator, slave trader, gambler and, some say, a con man. The story goes that James was in a fight in 1826 where a sheriff name Norris Wright fired at James at point blank range but the bullet was deflected and James survived the encounter. After the fight, Rezin gave his brother James a large knife that resembled a large butcher knife.

On September 19, 1827, James was involved in the famous Sandbar Fight near Natchez. There was a  duel between Samuel Levi Wells III and Dr. Thomas Maddox. Both men fired at each other and both shots missed. Others then became involved in the fight.  Alexander Crain shot Samuel Cuny and then James fired at Crain but missed. Norris Wright shot Bowie in the chest and James drew his knife and chased after Wright. The Blanchard brothers shot Bowie in the leg and when James fell, Wright and Alfred Blanchard stabbed him several times. Laying on the ground, James plunged his knife into Wright's chest killing him and then slashed Blanchard severely. All the witnesses remembered Bowie's "big butcher knife". The famous fight was reported in newspapers around the country and the legend of Jim Bowie and his Bowie knife was born. People everywhere wanted a Bowie knife and countless versions of various sizes and styles were made by countless cutlers and blacksmiths.

James Bowie recovered and went on to a number of ventures before dying along with 187 other defenders during the fall of the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas on March 6, 1836.

Nobody really knows for sure what the original Bowie knife looked like but it is unlikely that it was what has become known as the Bowie knife today. The famous knife has been redesigned over the years and was popularized again in 1952 in the Hollywood movie ""The Iron Mistress". There have been numerous books, movies and TV shows about James Bowie and his famous namesake knife. Today almost any knife with a blade more than a few inches long and a clip point is often called a Bowie knife.

Whatever the true facts were and whatever the original knife looked like, the Bowie knife has become a part of American folklore and is one of the most famous knives of all time. Untold numbers of Bowie knives have been made and sold over the last 180 years. Nearly every knifemaker has made one and most collectors of fixed blade knives have at least one in their collection. For that reason, Col. James Bowie deserves his spot in the Knifemaker Hall of Fame for being the legendary bearer of one of the most famous and often copied knives in the world.

You can find more information about Jim Bowie and his Bowie knife here: http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/BB/fbo45.html


Jimmy Lile  1934-1991

Known as the "Arkansas Knifesmith", Jimmy Lile made custom knives and was a great promoter of the custom knife industry. He was president of the Knifemakers Guild 1976-1977 and again 1980-1981. He was also a member of the American Bladesmith Society. Although Lile made knives for royalty and Presidents and celebrity collectors including including  John Wayne, Peter Fonda, Fess Parker; actress Bo Derek; and singer-songwriter Johnny Cash ,  Jimmy is probably best remembered as the creator of the original Rambo knife for the movie "First Blood" which generated a whole new era of knife design and collecting.  Lile is the inventor and craftsman of the patented "Lile Lock" folding knife, which is proudly on display at the Smithsonian Institute. He trained and inspired many of todays accomplished knifemakers working from his shop in Russellville, Arkansas.

Through all of his fame, he remained a down to earth nice guy and a true gentleman. It is rare to ever hear anyone say anything bad about Jimmy Lile.  His handmade knives and especially his original handmade Rambo knives are highly collectable pieces if you can find them.

For more information about Jimmy Lile see: http://www.arkansaskids.com/famous/history.asp or http://www.jimmylile.com/ . There is also a couple of excellent articles by Steve Shackelford about Jimmy Lile and his Rambo knives in the March 2007 issue of Blade Magazine.


Coming soon...

W.W. (Bud) Cronk

AG Russell

Bo Randall

Kit Carson

Bob Loveless

 

 

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