Cartertown Knifemaker Hall of Fame
There are a couple of recognized Halls of Fame for knifemakers. One of the
most respected is the Blade Magazine Cutlery Hall of Fame but I could not find a listing of
it's members anywhere so I received permission from Blade Magazine's editor,
Steve Shackelford, to publish their Cutlery Hall of Fame here;
Blade Cutlery Hall of
There is also a knife throwers Hall of Fame that can be found here;
. The American Bladesmith Society has a listing of their "master smiths" here;
. Many knifemakers are also members of the Knifemakers Guild and a listing of
their members can be found here;
The Cartertown Knifemaker Hall of Fame is made up of my own personal choices of
those who I feel are outstanding knifemakers or have contributed significantly
to the craft of knifemaking. I will continually add to this listing as time
permits and as knifemakers earn their place in my opinion. I will post pictures
and information about the knifemakers as to the best of my knowledge and
depending upon availability. Biographical information about some of the
legendary knifemakers often is disputed and sometime the lines between fact and
legend can be very hard to define. Readers input is welcomed and you may suggest
knifemakers for consideration in this list by contacting
. Again, I would like to stress that this listing is based on the opinions
of Cartertown.com and may or may not include people that others would consider
deserving of the honor.
Honorees are listed in no particular order.
Gil has been making knives for over 50 years and is one of the most
recognizable names in knifemaking and knife collecting. Since 1957 Gil has made
knives in Utah, Arkansas, Alaska, Missouri, Louisville, Kentucky and his current home in LaGrange,
Kentucky. His knives have been featured in numerous movies and TV shows
including the Klingon weapons in Star Trek and his world famous Rambo III knife.
Celebrities and world leaders are among his faithful collectors but every knife
he makes receives the same attention to detail and excellent craftsmanship
regardless of who ordered it. Gil made hundreds of fighting knifes that have
been carried into battle in Viet Nam. A 6th degree Black Belt in Kenpo Karate,
Gil has designed several fighting knives as well as a line of throwing knives
and axes. He is perhaps most widely known for his fantasy art knives which broke
new ground in the late 1980s. His fantasy knife designs were also mass produced
by United Cutlery and became catalyst that spawned many knife collectors. Over
the last 50 years Gil has worked with, learned from, and taught, many notable
knifemakers including A.G. Russell and Harvey Draper. Gil favors larger knives
and his first love is the Bowie knife of which he makes several versions
including the Iron Mistress and the Alamo Bowie. One of his Alamo Bowies is on
permanent display in the Alamo in San Antonio Texas. Gil is an inductee into the
Blade Cutlery Hall of Fame, the Knife Throwers Hall of Fame and he is the
current president of the Knifemakers Guild.
At 71 years young, Gil shows no sign of slowing down and still works in his
shop every day grinding blades and making knives. He shows and sells his knives
at several prominent knife shows each year and fills custom orders for his many
collectors. He also holds week-long knifemaking classes at his shop several
times each year. In my opinion, there is no better bladesmith than Gil Hibben.
He also happens to be one of the nicest and most sincere people you could ever
hope to meet.
For more information about Gil Hibben see
W.F. (Bill) Moran 1926-2006
Bill Moran forged his first knife at the age of 12 and over the next 60 years
became one of the most legendary knifemakers of all time. Working from his small
shop in Middletown Maryland, Moran made knifes for which collectors have
recently paid over $30,000. He is widely credited with reviving the ancient art
of Damascus steel forging in the 1960s. Bill Moran
founded the American Bladesmithing Society in 1976 and the American Bladesmith
School in 1988 in Washington Arkansas. He made somewhere between 6 and 40 forty
handmade knives each year and his knifes are among the most highly prized
treasures for knife collectors. I remember seeing some his knives with beautiful
wooden handles and silver wire inlay. Although his legend sometimes is blown up
larger than life, his craftsmanship was outstanding. Bill died of cancer
February 12, 2006 and willed his forge and tools to the Frederick County
For more information about Bill Moran see
Buster Warenski 1942-2005
Buster Warenski of North Ogden, Utah began making knives as a hobby in 1966
and became a full time knifemaker in 1975. He continued to make his beautiful
knives until his death in 2005. Buster is widely known for his large high-art
daggers with intricately turned handles and magnificently ornate guards and
pommels. Many are beautifully engraved by Busters wife Julie who learned the art
from Buster not long before they were married in 1986. Buster set new levels of
excellence in art knives and his attention to detail was second to none. His
knives are highly prized treasures among collectors and command premium prices
as they should.
Thanks to Julie Warenski for providing the photos.
You find more information about Buster and Julie Warenski here:
William Scagel 1875-1963
Perhaps one of the most influential knifemakers of all time. Scagel style
knives have been admired and copied for nearly 100 years. Bill Scagel began
making knives in the early 1900s while working at a lumber camp and later at a
railroad. Sometime around 1920 he settled in Michigan, built a shop and began
his long full-time career of making knives, axes, whimsical metal artwork,
cookware, and boats.
Sometimes referred to as a loner, Bill had his own ideas and his own way of
doing things. After a squabble with the local power company, Bill refused to
deal with them and built a windmill connected to some surplus WWI submarine
batteries for his power. His shop was powered by a gasoline engine connected to
a series of pulleys and leather belts. On the other hand, I have read the
during the polio epidemic in the late 1930s, Bill made several ornate braces
for stricken children for which he would not accept payment.
For a brief period in the 1920s Bill Scagel sold his knives through
Abercrombie & Fitch of New York and some of their subsidiaries. He made a wide
variety of knives including camp knives, hunters, bowies, bird and trout knives,
fighters, axes, folders, utility knives, kitchen knives, filet knives, and even
some miniatures. One of the rarest and most valuable Scagel collectibles is his
hunting knifes with a folding blade in the handle. He made only 12 of these and
if you could find one today it's value would be well over $25,000.
Scagel had several friends who worked at the nearby Brunswick Pool Table and
Bowling Ball Company and they kept him supplied with ivory, rosewood and
Michigan hardrock maple that he used in his knives. He was also fond of using
stag and leather in his knife handles. A Scagel knife was the inspiration for Bo
Randall to start making knives after he purchased a handmade Scagel knife in
1937 that was being used to scrape paint off of a boat. Scagels influence
can be seen in many knives made today by well-known knifemakers who pay homage
to Bill by continuing to make his style of knives.
Bill Scagel was the true pioneer of modern day handmade knives. Besides being
a knifemaker ahead of his time, Bill was an accomplished oil painter and a
carpenter, building his own 2-story log cabin where he lived.
You can find more information about Bill Scagel here:
Col. James Bowie 1796-1836
not a knifemaker, Colonel James Bowie's legendary "Bowie Knife" is probably the
most famous knife in the world. There is a never-ending debate about who
actually designed the knife, who first made it, and exactly what it looked like.
Many believe that James' brother Rezin Bowie actually designed the knife and
commissioned the first one to be made. It is also widely believed that Rezin
traveled the country basking in the glow of his famous brothers accolades and
had the "Bowie" knife made by several knifemakers and blacksmiths in various
towns he visited. Whatever the real origin of the knife, James Bowie was known
to carry it and use it in at least one legendary event.
James Bowie was a soldier, land speculator, slave trader, gambler and, some
say, a con man. The story goes that James was in a fight in 1826 where a sheriff
name Norris Wright fired at James at point blank range but the bullet was
deflected and James survived the encounter. After the fight, Rezin gave his
brother James a large knife that resembled a large butcher knife.
On September 19, 1827, James was involved in the famous Sandbar Fight near
Natchez. There was a duel between Samuel Levi Wells III and Dr. Thomas
Maddox. Both men fired at each other and both shots missed. Others then became
involved in the fight. Alexander Crain shot Samuel Cuny and then James
fired at Crain but missed. Norris Wright shot Bowie in the chest and James
drew his knife and chased after Wright. The Blanchard brothers shot Bowie in the
leg and when James fell, Wright and Alfred Blanchard stabbed him several times.
Laying on the ground, James plunged his knife into Wright's chest killing him
and then slashed Blanchard severely. All the witnesses remembered Bowie's "big
butcher knife". The famous fight was reported in newspapers around the country
and the legend of Jim Bowie and his Bowie knife was born. People everywhere
wanted a Bowie knife and countless versions of various sizes and styles were
made by countless cutlers and blacksmiths.
James Bowie recovered and went on to a number of ventures before dying along
with 187 other defenders during the fall of the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas on
March 6, 1836.
Nobody really knows for sure what the original Bowie knife looked like but it
is unlikely that it was what has become known as the Bowie knife today. The
famous knife has been redesigned over the years and was popularized again in
1952 in the Hollywood movie ""The Iron Mistress". There have been numerous
books, movies and TV shows about James Bowie and his famous namesake knife.
Today almost any knife with a blade more than a few inches long and a clip point is
often called a Bowie knife.
Whatever the true facts were and whatever the original knife looked like, the
Bowie knife has become a part of American folklore and is one of the most famous
knives of all time. Untold numbers of Bowie knives have been made and sold over
the last 180 years. Nearly every knifemaker has made one and most collectors of
fixed blade knives have at least one in their collection. For that reason, Col.
James Bowie deserves his spot in the Knifemaker Hall of Fame for being the
legendary bearer of one of the most famous and often copied knives in the world.
You can find more information about Jim Bowie and his Bowie knife here:
Jimmy Lile 1934-1991
Known as the "Arkansas Knifesmith", Jimmy Lile made custom knives and was a
great promoter of the custom knife industry. He was president of the Knifemakers
Guild 1976-1977 and again 1980-1981. He was also a member of the American
Bladesmith Society. Although Lile made knives for royalty and Presidents and
celebrity collectors including including John Wayne, Peter Fonda, Fess
Parker; actress Bo Derek; and singer-songwriter Johnny Cash , Jimmy is
probably best remembered as the creator of the original Rambo knife for the
movie "First Blood" which generated a whole new era of knife design and
collecting. Lile is the inventor and craftsman of the patented "Lile Lock"
folding knife, which is proudly on display at the Smithsonian Institute. He
trained and inspired many of todays accomplished knifemakers working from his
shop in Russellville, Arkansas.
Through all of his fame, he remained a down to earth nice guy and a true
gentleman. It is rare to ever hear anyone say anything bad about Jimmy Lile.
His handmade knives and especially his original handmade Rambo knives are highly
collectable pieces if you can find them.
For more information about Jimmy Lile see:
http://www.jimmylile.com/ . There is also a couple of excellent
articles by Steve Shackelford about Jimmy Lile and his Rambo knives in the March
2007 issue of Blade Magazine.
W.W. (Bud) Cronk