5 From the Grinder

“5 from the Grinder” with Mike McCarter (House Mountain Blades)

Mike McCarter is a part-time knifemaker and full-time Sergeant on the Knoxville Police Department. I have gotten to know Mike through the Ethan Becker Friday “Church Meetings”, the regular lunch gatherings of Knox-area knife-folks. TTAK readers will be getting to know Mike much better in the coming months as we document a very special project.

Mike is one of just a couple of knifemakers who are being given exclusive access to Ethan Becker’s Colclesser Bros. Kephart knife , one of just two originals known to exist. Mike will be developing an exact replica of the knife, with the finished run of knives to be produced in vintage, period steel. It is going to be a lot of fun to watch, and I am honored to be one of the people who will be able to purchase one of the final knives.

Mike’s first prototype reproduction of the Colclesser Kephart

I will have much more to write about the project in the coming months, but I wanted to first introduce you to Mike McCarter of House Mountain Blades. Or rather, have Mike introduce himself.

 

First, in a few sentences, please introduce yourself and let us know what led you to making/designing knives.

I’m Mike McCarter, from Knoxville, Tennessee. I am relatively new to the craft and still have a hard time referring to myself as a knifemaker. I have loved knives since I was a kid. Through the years, I had often thought of attempting to make my own and finally tried my first file knife in late 2013. It was awful!  My initial plan was to practice on a few knives, then make some for my personal use. I was very pleasantly surprised when friends, then strangers, began to express interest in buying them. I would make one to keep for myself but sell it, make another to keep then sell it, and so on.

Small Hunter in O1

Question 1: What knifemaker(s) or designer(s) have had the biggest influence on you? Do you have any mentors?

Although familiar with some of the more popular production knives, I recognized the names of very few makers / designers when I began making knives. A friend gave me a Bob Loveless book and I have read it over and over. Most of my blades have some form of a Loveless inspired drop point. I’ve had no formal training or mentoring but I have found most knife makers are willing to help newer makers. I once asked a maker a question on a forum, he went out to his shop and made a video to answer my question. I appreciate the overwhelming amount of support, critique, and guidance I have received from several members of the Knoxville area knife community.

Sgain dubh with padauk scales

Question 2: What is your favorite knife pattern or style from history?

I like almost any knife throughout history that would have been used by a hunter, trapper, frontiersman, mountain man, law man, soldier, etc. – when the wielder’s meals, livelihood, and survival depended on a quality knife. The knives of Kephart and Nessmuk are at the top of my list of favorites. I am a big fan of not only their knives, but also the man behind each. I have made several Kephart and Nessmuk style knives since I started. I’ve had the privilege of examining first-hand the Colclesser Bros. Kephart knife recently acquired by Ethan Becker. That deceptively simple looking knife immediately became my favorite.

Forged Nessmuk

Question 3: What is the next big thing in knifemaking? / What direction do you see the industry going?

Materials and technology will continue to impact knifemaking, whether it is a more wide-spread use of known materials such as titanium or perhaps a new, next-generation blade steel or handle material. CNC technology, water jets, and other equipment will likely become more cost effective to a greater number of makers. Industry-wise, popular television shows featuring knife making and wilderness survival will likely create a growing and continuing interest in knives. Social media makes it easier than ever for makers and buyers to connect. I believe less restrictive carry legislation will increase demand for automatics, OTF’s, and maybe (hopefully) even fixed blade EDC’s.

Rasp knife with elk-antler scales

Question 4: Is there a knife from your lineup that you feel best exhibits who you are as a knifemaker/designer in terms of design elements, aesthetic or techniques used?

Nessmuk in O1 with Walnut scales

I’m still all over the board with what I make and trying to not get locked into one type of knife, one type of steel, or the like. I’ve made a few tactical style knives with micarta and kydex but I mostly use wood and leather. I use O1 tool steel more than anything else but I have also used 5160. I still make blades out of old files and rasps, too. I understand the concerns with mystery steels but like the idea of repurposing or recycling an old tool – especially one made in the U.S.A.

This Nessmuk skinner in O1 steel with walnut scales best exhibits who I am right now as a maker and where I am in the journey.

EDC in O1 and Micarta

Question 5: What is your EDC and why?

Mike’s EDC Benchmade

I got this Benchmade 3000 about 20 years ago and have carried it almost every day since. I’ve bought several folders and made a couple fixed blade EDC’s to replace it but I always go back to it. It is a sleek, lightweight automatic and it is rock-solid. I’ll make – and keep – an EDC one of these days.

 


The best way to see more of Mike’s work is to check out the House Mountain Blades Facebook Page. Or just keep reading TTAK. There will be plenty more to come from Mike McCarter and House Mountain Bladeworks.

If you are a knifemaker, or know a knifemaker who would like to participate in our “5 from the Grinder” series, please drop us a line at thetruthaboutknives@gmail.com.

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