Top 6 Tactical Pens of 2013 (Part 1) Review: Condor's Rodan, Part 1 Product Spotlight: Spyderco's Street Bowie Review: Buck Knives' Reaper Bush Knife, Part 1 Knifemaker Spotlight: Ben Seward

Knife Maker Spotlight: Tony Bose

In the world of knife making, how do you know when you’re doing well? You could use the price your knives bring as a sign of success. You might measure by the number of knives you sell. But if you’re a true craftsman and artist, the best measure is the quality of your product. Longtime knife maker Tony Bose is at the legendary level by any criteria.

A folder by custom knife maker Tony Bose

This Tony Bose stag-handled saddlehorn brought more than $5,000 at auction three years ago. It would likely bring even more today. Photo by J. Bruce Voyles

What sets Tony apart from the hobbyist knife maker is a combination of passion and attention to detail, qualities that are obvious from his knife making technique.

IT’S IN THE DETAILS
“When you do something [to a knife] make it obvious you meant to do it,” Tony says. “Be purposeful and consistent in your actions and have a style with a purpose.” Tony practices what he preaches; his knives feature trademark crisp lines, solid construction and clean presentation.

Tony’s knife making process is painstakingly detailed — you can’t rush perfection, as the most skilled knife makers know. It takes him three days to finish one slip joint, and he obsessively cleans out each pivot hole and pin hole after performing an operation. He doesn’t trust the cleanliness of his own bench, so as he works on each piece, he places it on a clean paper towel to avoid any chance of dirt scratching the parts.

CAREFUL CONSTRUCTION
Tony’s construction is traditional. He pins all his pins, rather than counting on glues and epoxies to hold them together.

On the handle material, he follows a step-by-step process. First, he drills all his holes, and then reams them to the full depth with a 2-degree reamer, after which he reams them again at the top. On the second reaming he uses a 10-degree reamer to ensure the pin is able to physically hold the scales in place and the body together.

At 10 degrees, there’s enough swell to hold the knife tightly together and yet not put too much pressure on the frame or incur a cracked circumference on the pin head. The body of the pin swells to fill the rest of the hole, making it impossible for the parts to separate even if something were to compromise part of the pin head.
Tony uses a jeweler’s loupe at every step to inspect the swelling of the pin, his hand rubbing, grinding and the joints on his handle material.

Knife Maker Tony Bose in his workshop

Using a straight edge wrapped in micro-fiber paper, Tony slowly and methodically runs the handle of each folder using peanut oil to create a slur. Photo by Abe Elias

THE FINISHING TOUCHES
Achieving a crisp grind line is not something Tony leaves to chance. He hand rubs the finish on the entire knife, and hand sands even the scales with a micro-fiber polishing cloth lubricated with peanut oil.

An example of this knife maker’s attention to detail: While shaping the ivory handle on a knife he was making, he periodically put the pieces of ivory to his lips. “Ivory is very sensitive, so you don’t want to overheat it. I touch it to my lips so I can accurately gauge the temperature,” he said. His care for that ivory was the same as a mother checking her child for a fever.

It’s because of this level of care in his process that Tony produces such outstanding knives, and he rightfully takes great pride in his work. “You’re not just putting a product out there,” he says, “you’re presenting something that represents you.”

Story by Abe Elias

Knifemaker Spotlight: Ben Seward

Best Camp Knife

Ben Seward (right) accepts his award at the Arkansas Knifemakers Show for Best Camp Knife. He bested knives from some of the top-rated ABS makers to win this award.

Knifemaker Ben Seward has an eight-month backlog… and he’s only an apprentice. Without doubt, this 21-year-old is already one to watch.

 

STARTING YOUNG

Like many knifemakers, Ben started as a teenager. He describes these first attempts as “very primitive.” In 2010, he attended the Arkansas Custom Knife show in Little Rock. There, he met Journeyman (at the time) Smith Kyle Royer (Kyle is now a Master Smith). Seeing Kyle’s work inspired Ben, who says of the meeting, “I now knew what a knife was supposed to look like.”

 

FINDING A MENTOR

Ben had a busy year in 2011. He met Master Smith Lin Rhea at the Arkansas Bladesmiths Show. Lin became Ben’s mentor and Ben spent the next year learning how to forge the knives he wanted to make. That same year, he joined the Arkansas Knifemakers Association and the American Bladesmith Society. He also took the Introduction to Bladesmithing course at the W.F. Moran School of Bladesmithing. He was also able to spend time learning his craft with Master Smiths John White, Kyle Royer and Jerry Fisk; some of the very best knifemakers the ABS has to offer.

 

Two years after attending his first custom knife show, Ben was now a table holder showing off what he learned in 2011.

 

FIXED-BLADE FOCUS

Ben forges a variety of steels, but he prefers W-2 and 1075 for the hamon (temper line) and 5160 for its toughness. As of this writing, he’s focused on building fixed blades. Ben builds Bowies, fighters and camp knives, as well as the occasional small fighter and hunter.

 

TESTING

Ben tests his knives in a variety of ways. He uses antler and oak for chopping, expecting no edge distortion or chipping. Next up is a 3/8-inch piece of manila rope that he cuts 200 times and expects the blade to still be shaving sharp. This test shows both edge toughness and abrasion resistance. For handles, he prefers desert ironwood and African blackwood primarily for their stability. Each knife comes with a custom-made leather sheath by his father, David Seward. The father-son knifemaker team worked well in the construction business so teaming up again seemed natural.

 

CUTTING COMPETITION COMPETITOR

Continuing his education, Ben started participating in cutting competitions. While he’s quick to admit that he’s not the best cutter, these competitions have given him considerable insight into what makes a good handle design as well as provided a keen understanding of edge geometry. His hard work is paying off. Ben won the “Best Camp Knife” award at the 2013 Arkansas Custom Knife Show. Given the competition in the room this was no easy feat.

 

Ben is planning on testing for his Journeyman Smith stamp at the 2013 Blade Show, and although not yet a Journeyman, he’s already considering changing his status from part-time to full-time knifemaker.

 

AFFORDABLE PRICES

One of the many things I like about Ben’s work would be his price point. Hunters start at $200 and Bowies begin at $400. David’s sheaths range from $50 to $150 depending on the size and embellishment. Currently his delivery time is eight to 10 months, but this will be less if he does go full-time.

 

I spent time talking with Ben at the 2013 Arkansas show and took the opportunity to handle his knives. They did not disappoint. His Equinox fighter was light and quick in the hand. The double edge, curved guard and highly ergonomic handle would give the user immediate confidence for the task at hand. In addition to the fantastic craftsmanship, Ben’s camp knife was well balanced with the weight slightly forward, and the handle design made this a knife that could be used all day without fatigue.

 

Given the quality of Ben’s work it will not take long for the “word” to get out in the custom knife community. I would suggest you visit one of two shows he will attend, either the Arkansas Show or the Blade Show, and handle his knives for yourself. If this is not an option, I would highly recommend you talk with Ben and get a knife on order now.

 

Ben Seward can be reached by email at sewardsteel@gmail.com or by phone at (501) 416-1543.

 

Story by Les Robertson, photo by Chuck Ward

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