Reader Submission’s June 2017
By: Robert Dabbs
“Are You a Knife Guy?”
If that is the question, and you are reading this the answer is probably, “Yes”. But even within the world of “Knife Guys (and Gals)” there is a wide spectrum of personalities. Regular readers of this site will be familiar with current trend of Knife Maker articles. I enjoy seeing the views of artisans making their visions a reality. At local markets, gun shows and stores I am always drawn towards those unique pieces. If you haven’t had the chance, you need to handle one of these creations. They have a feel, a warmth, a certain life buzz that you don’t get with an off the rack kind of knife.
I don’t have a custom knife, yet. But, I have some really nice blades.
In the early 70’s we moved overseas. I was a Cub Scout and my father gave me a knife. It was a Swiss Army knife, I was in third grade, I cut my finger. I was hooked. That knife was absconded by a college roommate, I did manage to pick up a replacement.
While living as ex-pats my father also got a few knives for himself. They came from a small town in Germany (Solingen) and were made by a small local company (Wusthof);-). He still has those knives, even the one with the broken tip, but that is another story for another day!
Fast forward to 1982, a movie, one of the first based on a comic, and the father of the main character asks him of the “secret of steel”. It clicked. I was already working in a restaurant, and the older guys could be broken down into two distinct categories. I melded well with the first group. They owned their own knives. They washed them by hand and took them home at the end of the day like a trusted dance partner. The other group used what was in the drawer and didn’t seem to care. You could look at the meat, the bread, the vegetables, and know who cut it. Was Conan’s father right?
Today, I am still a food guy, still a knife guy. But I don’t work the tool daily as before. Instead, I teach. I help others learn the secret of steel. Mostly through Scouting and teaching Scouts how to handle knives and more importantly, teaching Scouters how to teach Scouts about knives.
People bring me their knives to sharpen. Some want to learn how to sharpen their knives others want it done for them. That is the difference. That is the Secret of Steel. I can teach the techniques and systems, the angles and grits, the carbon and stainless. We use the E.D.G.E method to teach; Explain, Demonstrate, Guide and Enable. But it comes down to engagement. Are you engaged with your tools or are they just there?
My wife and I were recently at a local Saturday AM street market. A man was selling forged tools. He had a few folks looking from a safe distance, a few would cautiously touch. I instinctively picked up a piece and began to move it slowly in my hands, changing my grip, turning it over and back. After a bit I made eye contact with the Artisan and said “very nice, thanks for sharing”. I placed it on the table and walked to the next booth. My wife commented,” Do you realize they were all looking at you?” I guess that is why only some are knife guys and of those, even fewer know the “riddle of steel”.