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Here and There and Back Again

Some time ago while I was still living in Vermont I received a handwritten letter from a gentleman requesting information about a knife I had made. He had seen a photo of my “Paratrooper Knife” in a book and was interested in having me make a similar one for him (you can see the referenced knifeĀ here). I called him at his home to discuss the project, and as we talked about the knife he mentioned that he had spent a few years in Germany while serving in the U.S. Army’s 10th Special Forces Group during the 1960s. We had a nice conversation about Germany, the Alps, and, of course, handmade knives. We soon agreed on terms and I happily wrote his name and the details of his order in my order book.


It wasn’t long after that I decided to move to Germany, choosing as my new home a town very close to where this fine gentleman was stationed. I was really looking forward to forging his blade here in the German Alps, and got started as soon as I could. There were some delays, of course, as setting up a new shop in a foreign country takes a bit of time and effort, but within a few months of my arrival I was making the anvil ring.hobe1

The knife took some time to complete, however. I modified the original design to include a guard, and, per the customer’s request, a lanyard hole instead of a glass-breaker pommel as I had made on the original. This little detail actually added quite a bit of work, as I had to cut, file, and polish the tang and the lanyard hole to follow the contours of the handle, and then carefully hand fit all the pieces together using just a drill press and some basic hand tools. The end result, however, is a very effective and ergonomic handle design that I think looks pretty good too.hobe2

The blade itself is forged out of C105 (Germany’s version of W1 tool steel) and differentially hardened using clay. The harpoon clip is hardened along its edge as well and sharpened down to a zero. The ricasso is a little larger than I would normally make it, as the customer requested some extra room in front of the guard to accommodate a choked up grip if necessary, but I think it works quite well for its intended purpose.


In keeping with the German theme, I chose a nice piece of ancient German bog oak for the handle. I did not have the wood carbon-dated, but judging by it’s deep black color I would imagine it to be at least 4,000 years old. It’s actually pretty amazing to think about all of the history that occurred while this piece of wood was submerged in a bog somewhere in present-day Germany. I try to imagine what things may have looked like around here while this great oak tree was still alive, probably around the very dawn of the bronze age in Europe.


The knife is now in the hands of its new owner back in the U.S.A. I hope he’s pleased with the result, not just today, but also many years from now when he’s out somewhere using the knife, and perhaps thinking of Germany and the time he spent here all those years ago…