Artisans of Cutlery Show

This past weeekend I attended the Artisans of Cutlery Event at Tom Ferry’s shop near Seattle. The show was setup as private invite show, with four makers showing and approximately 20 collectors attending. I was really excited to get an invite to the show, as Tom had lined up some really great makers – himself, Jon Christensen, David Lisch and Michael Rader.

I flew in Seattle on Friday morning, and headed up to Daniel O’Malley’s Blade Gallery shop in Kirkland, a NE suburb of Seattle. After spending a couple hours chatting with Daniel and looking at some really nice pieces (I didn’t get to see the Scott Slobodian Naginata I’d wanted to check out as it’d sold the day before and was already packaged for shipping) I headed down to Tom’s shop in Auburn.

Tom’s shop is in a really pretty wooded area, just east of Seattle. I dropped by and got to spend some time talking with Tom, Jon Christensen and David Lisch. Mitch Lum was there getting photos of the knives for the show as well. Another collector was there spending some time with Jon working on a blade. David was also helping and I got watch them do the heat treat on the blade using Tom’s induction forge. If you haven’t got a chance to see an induction forge it’s pretty mindblowing – almost like a microwave for steel. No heat, no flames – just a copper coil (well not that simple obviously, but that’s what it looks like), but when you put a piece of metal in the coil it gets red hot in less than 30 seconds. Very cool.

The show proper was all day Saturday, starting in Tom’s shop. Tom gave a demonstration on making damascus, Michael Rader talked about how he does his amazing woodwork – showing some of techniques and tools, David Lisch showed how he forges penny guards and carves pure iron for his butt caps and Jon talked about his signature leaf pattern damascus and showed how he does his ferrules and ricasso wraps.

The demos were geared more towards collectors, but were somewhat similar to a hammer-in type of style. One thing I thought was very cool was that all the techniques shown were present in the knives at the show, tied things together very nicely.

After the demos wrapped up we moved to a local hotel in Auburn for a banquet dinner and the show. It was a lotter style show, which kept everything nice and relaxed – plenty of time to look at all the pieces. I think each maker had five or six pieces.

Highlights for me –

Tom had two of his Japanese influcenced folders – one a tanto pattern with a koi theme and ivory scales carved to mimic a tsuba wrap, the other was a dagger style blade with a gold dragon pattern – both were beautiful. If I hadn’t just taken delivery of a Shoki/Oni theme’d tanto folder a few weeks before I’d have defnitely gone after the koi/ivory one – as it was it ended up in good hands.

Tom also had a collaboration knive he’d done with Jon on his table – flame maple handle and color case hardened fittings – really nice bowie.

On a completely different note he also displayed and sold a life size (or close to it) sculture of a sea turtle with damascus fins & head – not sure what the shell was but it was beatifully colored in blue-ish/green – very, very stunning. Worthy of hanging on any art gallery wall. I really hope some pictures turn up of that (I stupidly forgot my camera in my hotel).

Michael Rader had several interesting pieces – a full blown sword with a beautifully crafted wood scabbard. Those of you familiar with his work know just how amazing his wood work is. He also had an integral hunter with a combination rubber/wood handle – built and priced to be used. If it’d had a guard on it I’d have been all over it, very nicely done. He also had one of his beautiful kitchen knives that I really liked.

David Lisch had a hunter, four bowies and a kitchen knife. The two that stood out for me were a blackwood (?) handled d-guard bowie and a stag handled penny guard bowie. David’s wrought iron is really very cool – the texture he gets on it is unlike anything I’ve handled before. David’s work hadn’t really been on my radar before, it definitely is now.

Jon Christensen does beautiful work, and I don’t have a good explanation as to why I don’t own a piece from yet. Topping my list of pieces he had at the show was a San Francisco style folder with damascus blade, wrought iron body with walrus ivory inlay – very, very clean. He also head a beautiful ebony handled hunter with an engraved (Tom’s work if memory serves) guard.

There was a lot to really love about this show and the attention to detail was definitely there. Each collector received a booklet that included bios of the makers (along with the tickets for the lottery drawings). Additionally each of the makers donated an item to be used as door prizes throughout the day. Some cool things too – I recall castings of one of Tom’s folders, David donated a damascus belt buckle, Jon a damascus steak turner I believe? and Michael a burl wood pyrmid with brozne top.

One of the things that really impressed was the clear dedication all the makers had to the show – they put together a collaboration knive that was raffled at the end of the show – with tickets for the raffle being earned based on how much the collector had spent on knives during the evening. Unfortunately I had to take off right before the raffle, but I’m sure whoever won was really excited.

Thanks to Tom and the other makers and their families who worked hard to make this a really enjoyable and successful show.

These smaller shows seem to be taking off, and it’s clear to see why. Getting a chance to learn a little more about how the maker do their magic makes for a really fun & interesting show. we were also afforded more of an opportuntiy to get to know the other collectors, which was very cool.

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