As I started my series on knives a few months ago I had several local and out of state knife makers contact me wanting to have me torture and literally beat the crap out of their knives.
One such knife maker was Gary David Antley of Possum Walk Tx. Gary is an old school Blacksmith who uses a forge and anvil to shape most of his blades. The steel comes from either high quality 1095 etc. or from high carbon steels that he acquires. These steels are heated and shaped then hand ground to a mirror finish and a razor edge.
Gary also produces some fine knives forged from rail spikes that he has acquired at local flea markets etc. He takes these and brings them to a bright orange glow then draws the steel out long and flat. After Gary has finished with the heavy hammer work he heats the metal one more time then places it in his secret dry mix for a slow controlled cool down. After normalizing the metal he spends hours shaping and grinding on his hand made 2×72 belt grinders. Now when I say hand made I do mean that he himself hand made them.
Hours of polishing and honing go in before the handles on most of his knives are even addressed. Some of his creations have integral handles of twisted and shaped steel. They are really works of art as much as anything. Don’t get me wrong these are hard working and tough blades that beg not to be shelved or thrown in a hunting bag till next season. These blades want to be abused and mistreated. That is what they are built for. An unused tool is a useless tool.
Gary sent me a pair of blades to torture. The first I honestly had reservations about. A small blade barely measuring 3 inches in length made from an old rail spike. I have always been told not to trust making my blades out of rail spikes as the carbon content in not good. Horse hockey! I myself am a knife maker and I can tell you that a spike knife can be hardened to hold an edge as well as any commercial blade with the same price point. Gary’s knife was no exception. The blade took an edge well and held it through skinning a big 250 plus pound boar and then when cutting lots of ½ inch grass rope for another project. It withstood being driven by a 4lb hammer into a tree then ripped out repeatedly. No deformation in the blade nor the handle. The only damage was from the impact blows from the hammer.
The second blade offered up for sacrifice was a specialty blade. Most have heard of gut hook blades for the nasty bits but Gary built me a drop point blade with no edge on the first inch. The next 3 inches or so was razor sharp but that first little bit was rounded and smooth. No risk at all was taken when running it up the belly of the big hog the round tip and smooth fore edge provided the insurance I wouldn’t get a face full of putrid hog guts. The handle was of a rubber material similar to that they cover the tracks with at high schools for track and field. This material provided a seriously amazing non slip grip and was as comfortable as any grip I have ever held.
Please go and check out my friend Gary David Antley on social media. His knives are available through his page.
Story by Jeff Stewart