When I was in school, my father urged me to study English, as he had done. I thought his advice was premature and told him I had not decided what I wanted to do. "I suggest that you study English," he said again. "That way, when you figure out what you want to do with your life, you'll be able to tell somebody." The effect of this counsel was lingering, and I urged a similar course upon my own son, Thomas. I am astounded that he heeded my advice, though there was a malingering quality to his college years, leavened by sustained periods during which he beat on slabs of metal, drilling, honing, filing, polishing; making knives out of discarded implements and old farm tools; making small knives out of broken big knives--hunting knives, fishing knives and kitchen knives. Nothing, from Chinese cleavers to the straight razors he found in junk shops, escaped his notice if it had a usable or salvageable blade. He filled shoeboxes with parts of cutlery, and I probably should have seen that he would one day make all this his profession, as he does now at his knife shop on Main Street in Bozeman, Montana.
He thinks his obsession might have begun when we lived in Key West and he made spears out of sticks, by dragging them on the pavement while speeding along on his bicycle. Or when he took my little Finnish Puukko fishing knife and ground it into a dagger. He loved the disposable paring knives in the kitchen because they were either sharp or they were gone. He and his childhood friend Lorca had lots of them in their fort, where they pretended to prepare food by mincing leaves and weeds and chopping up apples from the half-wild orchard behind the house. Thomas always seemed to be thinking about food: One Christmas long ago, he asked Santa Claus for an omelet pan. Once he had it, he grew so fond of chopping garlic and onions and other things that his omelets were as laden as homemade pizzas.
He began to acquire heroes among the nation's bladesmiths: Bob Loveless, for the refinement and lightness of his knives, the sense that no line was out of place and that the design had been completely thought through; Walter Randall, for the strength and purposefulness of his designs; and Ron Lake, whose knives he describes as "mystery machines," for the perfection of their technique, the seamlessness of the fits in nonwelded areas, the precision of their locking.