A visit with Walter Brend

I have over the past couple of months had the privilege of joining Ethan Becker for several of his Friday “Church Meetings” – actually lunches out at local Knoxville restaurants during his weekly grocery run to the “big city”. I have been introduced to several people in the knife industry and media, and have through them expanded my network of contacts, sources, and knifemakers.

It turns out that legendary knifemaker Walter Brend lives less than 90 minutes from me, and with the help of one of my new acquaintances I was able to set up a time to visit him at his workshop. I jumped at the opportunity.

Where the magic happens.

Walter is known for his complex and precise grinds – all done freehand. What is more remarkable is that prior to beginning his knifemaking career, Walter was severely disabled in his left hand. He spent more than a decade as a professional meatcutter, during which time he suffered a debilitating injury.

Walter explained to me that he literally believes he has God-given talent for grinding.

When he first began making knives, he actually had to use a rag to tie a file to his hand. He had feeling and motion, but his strength was significantly reduced, not just in his hand, but in an arm that was atrophying from more than a year of limited use. He had been praying daily for healing both alone and with a neighbor.

He was working in his Florida shop on a not abnormally warm November day in 1980 when he began to inexplicably sweat and feel out of sorts. He went to take a break when he stumbled. In an instinctive reaction, he reached out with his left arm and grabbed hold of a doorknob. In what Walter firmly believes is a miraculous occurrence, he caught himself. From that day forward his hand and arm regained a balanced strength.

“I was touched by the hand of God”, he says.

Walter teared up in the telling of the story. I can only imagine the emotion of the moment, and I am sure I fall short even at that.

From this point his knifemaking took off. He became the first person to be juried into the Knifemakers Guild in his first year of as a maker. Whether you are one to believe in divine intervention or not, there is no disputing that Walter’s talent borders on the supernatural.


An extra large Model 2 with ivory handles.

Part and parcel to his elaborate grinds, Walter is quite fond of a recurve blade. He says it serves an important function when stabbing. While the veins and other tissue can roll or be pushed out of the way of a straight edge, the recurve adds mechanical advantage when pushing through tissue. This effect is even more pronounced when drawing the knife back out. He says that this has been demonstrated repeatedly when his knives, especially the Model 2, are used when hog-hunting.

Gratuitous knife porn. A modified dagger-grind.

Over the course of my visit, I was able to ask Walter our 5 from the Grinder questions as well. Walter has the distinction of being only the second maker that I have allowed to dictate their answers. Murray Carter was the other. When you reach a certain level of stature, I make such accommodations.

I will pull together Walter’s 5ftG answers into a separate post.

Tanto Tuesday ftw.

On a personal note, I am so very grateful for the chance to meet Walter and for the opportunity to spend time with a legend. One of the most exciting facets of my role as TTAK Editor is the doors it has opened for me. I am happy that I have been able to share these experiences with you. Thank you for reading.

comments

  1. Sam L. says:

    All I got is Woooooooooooooooooooooooooooooow.

    1. jlottmc says:

      That’s me too. Little green , not going to lie. Can’t stop looking at that ivory handled model 2.

      1. The Mammoth Ivory Tanto is the one that has me drooling.

  2. AW1Ed says:

    Wow. Definitely in the “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.” category. Looking forward to 5ftG.

  3. I_Like_Pie says:

    Awesome write up. Thanks for sharing this.

  4. Jon M. says:

    Brend’s stuff is kick-ass mixed with high-class, and what a terrific story of preserverance over adversity. Thanks TTAK and Mr. Brend!

  5. Jamey Taylor says:

    As a personal friend of Walter’s, for those that don’t know Walter is a fine man and wonderful friend, we not only talk about knives, but every aspect of life. Meeting him literally changed my life, that’s a whole different story….but I am really lucky, because I get to see almost every knife he makes…….

  6. Mark Marabella says:

    Hey Walter, nice write up!
    Talk to you soon!

  7. Rosalind Harris says:

    How fascinating!!!

  8. FYI says:

    Did you hear about Anthony L. & Susan Marfione (Microtech Knives) suing Anthony G. Marfione in McKean County Pennsylvania? Anthony G. is their eldest son who started Heretic Knives. Did Anthony L. Marfione begin his knife making career with Walter as his mentor?

  9. jimmie buckner says:

    Mr. Brend I am a ABS member. I came by your table last year and discussed folders. You said call you after the show and we would talk. I did not get to come this year even though I had a table but my health would not let me and I’m building a new shop at this time at our new home. would you please send me your phone nbr so I can call you and we can discuss some things. Thanks Jimmie Buckner phone nbr 1-229-436-4182

  10. jimmie buckner says:

    I do like your folders jimmie buckner

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A visit with Walter Brend

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