SPIRIT OF A WARRIOR
FROM THE DESK OF BRIAN LYTTLE:
A Knifemaker: Why?
Advice for New Makers
My Pride & Joy
My Current Favorite Steel
Two Visits with Brad Pitt
Prop for "Lonesome Dove"
Folder for "The Edge"
Conquering Diabetes II & Obesity
THE BEGINNING (written for Jan, 2001)
I started making knives about 1980 as a hobby after having seen some of Ted Dowell's superb integral hunters owned by a friend. I've liked knives and guns since I was a kid. Those first knives I made were a way to have a good knife the way I wanted it without a big cash outlay. Like a lot of knifemakers, I started by forging out old files using a rosebud tip on an oxyacetylene welding set as a heat source. Shortly afterwards, I rounded up an old coal forge with a hand-cranked blower.
One day, an acquaintance was looking at about the third knife that I had made and asked how much I would charge him to make him one. The knife blade was made from an old file and mirror polished and had a one-piece stainless steel handle and guard. I told him that I would make another for $250.00, expecting to be turned down. To my surprise, he told me to get started. Within a year, I quit my regular job and went full-time (towards the end of 1982). (Back to top)
A KNIFEMAKER: WHY? (written for Feb, 2001)
As I said, I like a good knife, and knifemaking offered the chance to always be working on beautiful things. After 18 years of full-time knifemaking, I still get a thrill when I hold one of my new pieces in my hand. Few people in this life get the chance to show what they can really do--I am one of the lucky ones.
An additional bonus is the lifestyle and freedom that it affords me. I have to admit that I know that I'll never be wealthy doing what I do. In fact, in the first few years, I would never have made it without the patience of my wife, Leonie, to say nothing about her steady job and the fact that a couple of lucky deals in real estate had enabled us to clear our mortgage. We have a nice house on 40 acres in the country and keep a small flock of ewes and raise lambs which help fill the freezer in the fall and also help pay some of our taxes. (Back to top)
KNIFE PREFERENCES (written for June, 2001)
As you see in my website, I like making all types of knives and, when asked, I am hard-pressed to say what my favorite knife is to make. My favorite knife seems to be the one on which I am currently working. As a hunter myself, I enjoy turning out a good hunting knife. A couple of years ago, I made three knives with 4-inch blades which were taken by two of my customer friends on a hunt to Africa. Two of the blades were 02/L6 Damascus in a ladder pattern and the third was forged W2 steel. One of the hunters shot a 12,000 pound bull elephant and my knives were used to skin it and to cut the hide into 7 sections. He reported that the three knives had to be touched up just once each in order to complete the job. (Back to top)
ADVICE FOR NEW MAKERS (written for July, 2001)
Periodically, I visit the library of a large technical college in Calgary and spend time reading from the many volumes on metallurgy. Many of these books are very expensive and the library is a cheap way to get the information that I need. I would advise other makers who live near any similar such facility to make use of it. (Back to top)
SHOWS (written for May, 2003)
One of the shows that I had been attending was the "Canadian National Art Knife Show" held in beautiful downtown Bayfield on the shore of Lake Huron about 3 hours drive west of Toronto.
The latter show was hosted by Wolfgang & Diane Loerchner and his brother-in-law, Dwight. On the Saturday evening, the makers and collectors were usually treated to supper in a big tent set up behind Wolfgang's house. The centerpiece of the supper was a stuffed and roasted 200 pound hog. Unfortunate for all of us, this show has been discontinued. The above-mentioned deserve a lot of credit for providing another and very special venue and show for collectors and knifemakers.
At the 1999 Show, I had made a carving knife with a 10-inch blade with which to carve the hog and, after supper, I donated it for a draw to help cover expenses for the show. With my then damaged shoulder, I had to be very careful as I couldn't move my arm very quickly, so... after having carved a 200 lb. hog, I got Kevin Cashen to demonstrate how sharp the knife still was by dropping show flyers and slicing them cleanly in half in mid air. Tickets sold briskly for the knife.
A number of those in attendance expressed surprise on learning that the knife was ATS 34. Apparently, a stock removal stainless steel blade is not supposed to be able to cut the way they had just witnessed. However, with the equipment that I have, the time that I have spent studying others in the field of metallurgy, and the guidance of my friend, Tim Zowada, I am able to bring out the qualities that Hitachi have put into the manufacture of ATS 34.
I try to attend the Canadian Knifemaker's Guild Show each year, usually the April show. It is always a treat to meet fellow knifemakers and the many knife collectors that come to the Show. The night before the Show, this year, a number of the knifemakers and collectors enjoyed a buffet at a nearby restaurant, followed by an evening of hospitality, discussion, and displaying of knives at the home of Murray & Phyllis White. (Back to top)