Learning From The Master
My First "Carter" Knife
Although I have collected knives for over 30 years, I have
attempted make a knife other than crudely grinding an edge on a
scrap pieces of metal laying around my garage. In May 2003, I was
fortunate to have one of my dreams come true. I spent a week in Gil Hibben's
shop with Gil personally teaching me how to make knives in one of his
I have collected Gil Hibben knives for many years. My
collection consists of
limited edition "production" knives designed by
Gil and manufactured by
United Cutlery. Gil's original handmade pieces have
always been beyond my
financial means, usually selling for several hundred to
thousands of dollars.
I have always hoped to one day own a Hibben original. I
never dreamt that I
get the opportunity to have Gil personally instruct me and
help me make my
own Carter/Hibben original.
I have to say a word about Gil and his family. You couldn't
meet nicer, more
accommodating people. Gil, his wife Linda, children Tommy,
Derrick, and Lira,
brother Darryl, and sister Sally were all
exceptionally gracious hosts and we have
become good friends.
Gil started me from
scratch. I decided that my first knife would be a Bowie.
Gil presented me with a
rough "blank", a 1/4" thick piece of 440 surgical steel
roughly cut into the
shape of a classic bowie knife.
With Gil's help, I drew up a design and cut a wooden mock-up which also served
as a practice blade on which to learn blade grinding. I then cut the steel blade
shape. The blade is painted with a blue machinist's dye to allow
Under Gil's excellent instruction, I went through the
process of grinding and shaping
the blank into a precision ground knife
Gil helped me with the final grind.
The ground blade was then heat-treated in a 1400 degree
kiln to harden
After heat-treating, the blade is surface ground a second
time. Gil was making a
similar knife at the same time so he could show me how to
do things by example.
In the second picture below, my knife is on top and Gil's
knife is on the bottom.
Next came the long process of polishing the blade to a
beautiful mirror finish using
a variety of buffing wheels and polishing
compounds. I added a little design work to
the top of the 10" blade.
We then milled the guard and pommel from a block of
"red metal" which has
an appearance somewhere between brass and
bronze. I chose a piece of rosewood
for the handle in which we later inlaid an
oval piece of "alternative ivory".
The pieces are fitted and assembled with brass and
nylon spacers for accent.
Next, the guard, pommel, spacers, and handle are ground to
their final shape and polished.
The finished product! 5/16/03
Me and Gil showing off my finished knife 5/17/03.
To my surprise and delight, my wife bought for me the knife that Gil made
teaching me to make mine so I now have both as seen below. My dream of
a Gil Hibben original has come true. The knife Gil made is on top, mine
on the bottom.
Gil's has a ebony handle with alternative ivory scrimshawed by
My knife has rosewood handle with alternative ivory
Being inspired by HutcH Hutching's beautiful scrimshaw work, I decided to try my
hand at the art. Bowie knives and riverboats naturally go together well so I
decided to scrim the steamboat "The Belle of Louisville" working from an
original photo of mine. Here is the finished knife.
If you want to learn knifemaking from the best, you should enroll in one of
knifemaking classes. It is fantastic experience! Gil will personally guide you
every step of the process and you will leave with a beautiful hand-made knife
made. It is also a wonderful opportunity to watch a true master craftsman in
his Web site for dates and more information at