I have said it before, but my favorite thing about our 5 from the Grinder series is that it is as applicable to recognized Masters as it is for those who have only recently “turned pro”. Today’s participant, Paul DiStefano, falls in the latter category. In fact, by his own admission he isn’t a dyed-in-the-wool “knife guy”, instead falling in love with knives as a personal creative outlet and as “objets d’art”.
I met Paul at Blade Show 2018, having walked up to a table of truly beautiful knives being watch over by a very young-looking maker. Within moments, I was impressed at the quality of the offerings by this up-and-coming smith. I am happy to be able to bring you our latest 5ftG which comes from a slightly different perspective than many makers of whom you might have heard. That said, I am fairly certain that Paul DiStefano is a name you will be hearing again in the years to come.
First, in a few sentences, please introduce yourself and let us know what led you to making/designing knives.
My name is Paul DiStefano and I am a bladesmith from New York City. I have been making knives as a hobby for around a year and a half. Growing up I don’t remember ever really having an interest in knives. When I was young I was gifted with a natural artistic ability and a big imagination, but as I grew older I spent more time pursuing other hobbies like sports. I started making knives after college for one reason and one reason only. My sister told me to. She is an artist who makes sculptures in Manhattan and was disappointed that I had completely given up art and creating things from my imagination. She did not want me to waste something special that not many people have. With her being the older more intelligent sibling, I did exactly what she said. We built a forge, I started researching how to make knives, found the American Bladesmith Society, fell in love with forging and that’s how it all began.
What knifemaker(s) or designer(s) have had the biggest influence on you? Do you have any mentors?
I have never had any mentors in my short knifemaking career. I am completely self taught. Though some might think its better to have been taught by someone, I feel that there are some big advantages to learning how to make and design knives on your own. The biggest one being I get to completely see how my design abilities change, evolve and get better over time. Without any major outside influences I know its my ideas materializing instead of someone else’s because i’m just copying the way I was taught. I get the chance to see myself grow as an artist and come up with a better more elegant piece with each consecutive build.
What is your favorite knife pattern or style from history?
My favorite knife pattern would have to be an art Bowie knife. Bowie knives being the main type of knife I build are probably my favorite to make. I put my own twist on them and my knives are nowhere near historically accurate. I feel that the Bowie knife is one of the most elegant knives in the world when dressed up properly. Within the next year or two I plan on trying to focus on more fancy higher end art-style bowies with damascus, gold inlays and engraving rather then a knife forged for pure functionality. I have always liked the idea of having my knives sit on a stand in a collectors home being admired rather then taken out and used every day, but maybe that’s just because your not allowed to carry and use big knives where I’m from.
What is the next big thing in knifemaking? / What direction do you see the industry going?
Having not been in the industry that long, I don’t know how long it takes for trends to come and go. I see a major demand for folding knives. Probably because they’re more practical to use and carry then the big 11-12 inch bladed knives I like to make. I do hope that big custom blades stay alive and well because I am just getting started making them.
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?
My one knife that I feel best exhibits my style so far would have to be the one knife I have had professionally photographed. I brought it to bladeshow this year. Its name is “Amore Moderno” named after my favorite David Bowie song “Modern Love”. It is my modern take on a bowie knife so I thought the name fit well. The knife has a blade just under 12″ with a deep etched hamon that follows the clay placement almost exactly. It has filed spacers to add a touch of bright jewelry to the otherwise dark piece. The part I like the most is the long sweeping S guard I forged from wrought iron. So far to my eye, this style of guard is the most elegant and will be the main design element on all of my bowies which I hope eventually whenever its seen, people will associate it with my work. The handle also features some small carving that will also be done to all of my handles in the future.
What is your EDC and why?
I have no EDC knife and probably never will. Growing up in New York City a not so very knife friendly state, the thought of carrying a knife never crossed my mind. The only time I ever use knives is when i’m in the kitchen. This is also a reason why my eye is more attracted to art knives. I’ve just never had a need to carry a knife as a tool. I also got into knifemaking as an art form so I feel fancy nonuser knives will probably be the direction I end up heading.
If you are a knifemaker, or know a maker who would like to participate in our 5 from the Grinder series, please drop us a line at email@example.com