A friend of mine gave me a copy of blade magazine and I thought I would like to have a go at making a knife - that was 1989. I have always carried a knife since my Dad gave me one for my 9th birthday; very handy on the farm and seeing all those blades in Blade magazine, well that was that.
A lot of newer Knifemakers have the advantage of the wealth of information provided by online forums & tutorials to help them get started. Did you have it so easy?
In 1989 there was no internet! Information was like rocking horse shit and so were publications. I didn’t even know if there were any other knifemakers here in Australia until I attended a gun show in Brisbane. That was late 1991.
What's your design process? Sketch, Cad, or do you just get straight to work? Where do you source your inspiration for your designs?
Sometimes I will start with a drawing or sketch if you like and go from there. Mostly I have an idea in mind and forge the blade then I trace the shape onto paper and design my guards, handle, even my leather occasionally. I feel it is important to be able to follow a drawing as clients often give you one or show you a knife design that they like. It is a lot less expensive to rub out pencil lines on a drawing than to have made all your fittings, handle etc. to find that it just does not look right when assembled.
Inspiration? Hmmm. magazines, publications, other makers, the forums, art.
Do your knives say anything about where you're from?
I have recently changed my mark to incorporate the Southern Cross. Apart from that I don’t think so.
What's your preferred style of knife to make?
I like fighters, hunting knives and tantos. Most of my blades are flat ground with a convex edge.
How long typically, will a knife take for you to build?
To bloody long! No really, some take 2 days - some take 2 weeks. Usually 3 to 4 days if everything goes right.
What's your favourite material/s to use in your handles and blades? Preferred finishes?
Would have to be mammoth ivory, walrus tusk, stag antler, oosik, or any really nice figured hardwood. As for blades it would have to be my Damascus. None of my blades touch a polishing buff, so satin finish up to 2500 grit, usually 800g and polished handles, guards etc. I don’t like shiny shiny.
Have you had any strange requests for knife/kit design?
Sure have. There are some out there ideas mostly impractical. Just smile and move on quickly with nervous glances over your shoulder.
What's the greatest challenge you've had in Knifemaking? Any regrets?
Learning patience. My only regret is that I did not get into it earlier.
My biggest regret is not becoming obsessed with knife making like I am now when I was a bit younger.
Do you make anything aside from knives?
I have an order for a smoking hawk (that will be interesting). I do all my own leather work and I make jewellery and do lost wax casting for some of my fittings. I make Mokume also for fittings and jewellery.
Where do you see your Knifemaking going in the next few years?
I have joined the American Bladesmiths Society. I would like to get my Journeyman’s stamp in 2010 and then my Master Smiths stamp. I would like to see my work improve and create works of art. I would like to promote the art of knifemaking to the wider community.
What knife do you carry?
I have a fair collection of folding knives from custom to factory. I change them from time to time. I am just about to build a folder for myself, so when it’s done I will carry that.
More information about Keith and his knife making can be found here
Photos courtesy of Keith Fludder