A Closer Look at Red St. Cyr’s Products

In a recent post, you read all about this talented West Coast blacksmith. Hear more of his stories and take a closer look at some of the products in high demand.

10 inch blade

The California town in which St. Cyr resides, Wilmington, is honored by his Wilmington Bowie. Featuring a 10-inch blade, overall length is 15 inches. The blade was made from a mild steel, 1095, found in an old horseshoeing rasp. The handle is of curly maple held in place by a mosaic pin. The guard features the maker’s filework. Kenny Rowe, leather worker from Arkansas, created this sheath. Price: $1,200.

 

These days, in addition to shoeing horses, an almost equal amount of time and effort is devoted to the creation of custom cutlery. This began during Red St. Cyr’s farrier apprenticeship when a farmer asked him whether he could make a useable knife from a worn-down horseshoeing rasp. 50 years later, he’s still making knives.

 

“In the beginning,” he states, “I was looking for a good utility knife for my work with horses, but couldn’t find what I really wanted. I finally decided to make my own. That was in 1960.” In the years since, he has turned out more than 1,000 knives. “But I’d made at least a hundred of them before I finally sold one,” the craftsman is quick to admit.

 

Today, St. Cyr concentrates on fixed-blade knives in all of the likely configurations, but is quick to state: “I favor custom knife orders where I can hand-forge the blade to the size and style the customer wants. At the other extreme, I recognized the need for good utility knives and enjoy turning them out because I know each one will probably make a problem a little easier for the knife’s owner.”

 

St. Cyr seems justifiably proud of this knife, which he calls the RSC Fighter.

St. Cyr seems justifiably proud of this knife, which he calls the RSC Fighter. The handle material is of cherry wood and contoured for a good grip. The type of steel used is 5200. The overall length is 16 inches, with an 11-inch blade. With the sheath, price is $1,250.

In spite of his knowledge of blacksmithing, St. Cyr recognized that he needed some help in getting started. The man who helped him most, he contends, was the late Al Barton, another farrier who then worked out of San Diego.

 

Covering adjoining territories in shoeing horses, it was only natural that the two would meet, compare careers, and learn of each other’s interest in creating cutlery. St. Cyr also credits “a lot of other members of the American Bladesmith Society for helping me progress.” The result was that he worked his way through the Apprentice and Journeyman ranks and was qualified and established as a Master Bladesmith in 2000.

 

St. Cyr buys his knife steels from Admiral Steels and Crucible Steel, using primarily 52100, 184, 15N20, 5160 and 01. Needless to say, perhaps, is the fact that he creates all of is own Damascus stock. Of the various steels available, he has found that “5160 is the most forgiving, while the toughest to work is 52100. It needs to be worked carefully.”

 

St. Cyr calls this his Cowboy Bowie.

St. Cyr calls this his Cowboy Bowie. Forged from 52100 steel, which he considers the most difficult to work, it is a popular item among his customers. The guard is of stainless steel with the maker’s mark engraved just below it. The St. Cyr logo appears on the left side of every blade. The handle is of ivory and ambonia burl. The overall length is 12 inches, with a 7-inch blade. As with all of his knives, St. Cyr made the sheath. Price: $450.

 

Of the various fixed-blade styles he makes, St. Cyr states that his Damascus Bowie knife made from his own Damascus is his most popular. As for handle materials, he favors ivory, stag and exotic woods, but not necessarily in that order. “If it’s a custom order I’m making, I use whatever handle material the customer orders, but if I’m attempting to come up with something that pleases myself, I may ponder the handle material for a time before I decide what would look best for the design involved.” When the knife is finished, St. Cyr inevitably allows his customer to enrich the blade with engraving, filework, engraving or other types of embellishments. The result is a one-of-a-kind knife that is unlike any other in the world.

 

As for marketing his products, the artisan has been at it long enough that private collectors purchase much of his output. On the other hand, he attends most of the nation’s major knife shows, thus getting to know newer collectors and users, hopefully making them customers.

 

As for equipment, the Reva Forge seems to have at least two or more of the necessary tools that are necessary for bladesmithing. As an example, St. Cyer has three Burr King grinders as well as three Baldor disc grinders purchased through Tru Grit, plus a Leeson Speed Master grinder that is of variable speed and is reversible. Saws for wood and metal are from Walker Turner, a company no longer in business, and the propane forge installed in the truck is from Forgemaster. His heat-treating is done with a unit from Paragon, and there is also an Enco lathe that simplifies many tasks. For welding tasks, he has two Lincoln welders—one for a 220 stick, the other wire-fed. St. Cyr’s comments, “Sooner or later, I use it all.”

 

The types of steel used to make the Damascus blade were 1084 and 15N20.

The types of steel used to make the Damascus blade were 1084 and 15N20. The maker calls this his favorite utility/hunter, with a 5 1/2-inch blade and overall length of 10 1/2 inches. The handle material is cocobolo with red spacers. Price is $850.

 

This is a slightly smaller utility/hunter model, but the price remains at $850.

This is a slightly smaller utility/hunter model, but the price remains at $850. The overall length is 9 inches, with a 4 1/2-inch blade. The handle is of California mesquite burl, with red spacers of fiber. The type of steel in the blade is 52100. The sheath, featuring decorative stamping, was also made by St. Cyr.

 

This is the dagger that won top honors at the 2006 Expo show in Pasadena, California.

This is the dagger that won top honors at the 2006 Expo show in Pasadena, California. The overall length is 14 inches, with a 9-inch blade. The type of steel in this winner is 5160. The guard features the maker’s filework and a decorative butt cap. Incorporated in the knife handle and sheath are curly maple and mahogany. Fittings are of nickel silver. Price: $2,500.

 

This is St. Cyr’s Mosaic model, with a blade in which every piece had been created individually before they were welded together.

This is St. Cyr’s Mosaic model, with a blade in which every piece had been created individually before they were welded together. The handle is of sambar stag. The overall length is 13 inches, with an 8-inch blade. St. Cyr also created the sheath, which is fashioned from the hide of a stingray. Price: $3,500.

 

By C. Jack Lewis

Photos by Stephanie Gonsalves and Red St. Cyr