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Author Topic: "Professional Knives" 2012  (Read 20030 times)
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Ed Fowler
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« on: January 23, 2012, 03:23:57 PM »

It has only been a few years since I first heard the term "Professional Knives" used in a critique of a friends knives when he applied for his ABS Journeyman's stamp. The term is becoming a buzz word in some circles.

I warn you that I am just finishing a book by Jeff Schmidt titled "Disciplined Minds" - A critical look at salaried professionals and the soul-battering system that shapes their lives. He has 293 pages of descriptions of "professional" disciplines and how many give their freedom for the sake of the dictates of a few. It is an interesting discussion. I hope that what follows proves to be so.

I would pose the first question:
What would constitute a "professional" knife maker?    

« Last Edit: March 07, 2012, 05:59:37 PM by PhilL » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: January 23, 2012, 04:04:09 PM »

I would ask a question? Is the knife maker the guy on the floor of the plant who assembles the knife, the guy in drafting who designs the knife or the owner who provides the money to build the plant that hires the guys to make the knives in his ideal?

Or are you talking about the small maker of maybe a dozen or so knives a year, the work all being superior and cherished for a long time? A Scagel, Loveless, Fowler or any of a dozen others? Can you narrow it down friend? I think maybe you have three words that don't all go together...

Professional to me means good. "He is good, he is a professional, he will do you a good job." Maybe that's the answer I will give, "A Professional Knife maker will do you a good job."

Is this helping any.......

BK..... 
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Dennis Mashburn
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« Reply #2 on: January 23, 2012, 04:42:34 PM »

Here is how Webster's defines professional on their website.
a : of, relating to, or characteristic of a profession b : engaged in one of the learned professions c (1) : characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession (2) : exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace
2
a : participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs <a professional golfer> b : having a particular profession as a permanent career <a professional soldier> c : engaged in by persons receiving financial return <professional football>
3
: following a line of conduct as though it were a profession <a professional patriot

I think all to often preception is what becomes reality.  For example (no disrespect meant B.K.)  I think the makers B.K. mention above make way better than a good knife.  I have never used one though and if I had one from those makers I probably wouldn't use it.  But I think they would preform very well.

Also many people probably think of a professional knife based upon looks alone.  I figure most folks that go to a knife show and see a shinny stainless stock removal knife, or a pretty damascus knife will all the trimmings think man what a nice proffesionally made knife.  Most of them are, but a knife can look really good and not cut anything.

Just some food for thought.

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« Reply #3 on: January 23, 2012, 07:03:07 PM »

BD.....

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I think all to often preception is what becomes reality.  For example (no disrespect meant B.K.)  I think the makers B.K. mention above make way better than a good knife.  I have never used one though and if I had one from those makers I probably wouldn't use it.  But I think they would preform very well.

You meant perception, right? Oh yes, their better than good, Ed is a certified master smith. To some that might not mean much but to me it means a lot. I am certified as a master carpenter and a master aerial suspension, growth control, line clearance specialist, or tree trimmer. I have personally trimmed some huge trees around the Cincinnati area, I've trimmed all along the river. We have a National park here called the Little Miami river refuge. It's against the law to cut down a tree or bush inside the park. There are huge power lines going thru the park and I trimmed one hell of a bunch of tree's to make sure that power would be there and not get knocked out from a storm. But I guess you can see that it's not just cutting them down, doing that is easy. It's trimming them without killing yourself or anybody else. Yeah, I know their better than good knife makers. A master is something special. It shows dedication of time and effort to succeed at something and not just be the best but better than that..... Wink

I was prouder the day I got my Journeyman stamp at Asplundh. That meant I was one of four or five in the area that made his J. Being a foreman was a pain, it was alright running your own crew and truck but I really loved climbing tree's. Now I'm going to learn to forge knives and work as hard as I have to, to make my mark..... Cool

I'm not bragging or nothing but once I start something I have to be a perfectionist about it. I might throw my first two years worth of stuff away because I see so much imperfection in it. I will get a journeyman stamp and then we will see....

BK......
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« Reply #4 on: January 23, 2012, 10:40:02 PM »

This is a bit of a sore subject for me but that's what makes it fun. Grin Here's my two cents. The word professional is just that, a word. Words are handcuffs. It carries a certain amount of weight, as it should, but anyone, professional or not can be unprofessional. Interesting? Was Rudy Ruana a professional knife maker, certainly, what about Ed Fowler, of course. Why. In my opinion what they had in common was professionalism. To me that means integrity, honesty and dedication. They represented their knives for what they were, they dealt with clients like people, and they tried to improve or learn when ever they could. You can see in Rudy's early work to his later, as well as Eds, a progression and refinement of ideas and purpose. The ability to regurgitate the "status quo" is fine for making tires and paperclips but knives are living breathing things, the have the potential for greatness. If you put them in a box you put yourself in a box. Saying you are a "professional" implies that you know all you need to know, that leaves no room for growth. That is the greatest problem with the ranking system in the knife world. A master smith is the top, does that mean no one can make a better knife than him? Just food for thought. What are your thoughts. Grin
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« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2012, 11:23:15 PM »

Chris....

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That is the greatest problem with the ranking system in the knife world. A master smith is the top, does that mean no one can make a better knife than him?

Now let's see. A master smith rating means a knife maker has completed his Journeyman time, which is supposed to be the time he spends working with other smiths and learning and refining their techniques to make a knife up to a certain standard. He presents those knives for judgement by a group that the smith might not agree with, but they are still a judge of this smiths work. You make them happy and you are at the top, you have the stamp. Now what? A true master can do two things, he can continue to try to improve his art or he can rest on his laurels.

I will use Ed as an example of this. Any one who see's his knives from early on to today can see the improvement. That's what is important to me. I hope to get better and better and make something so distinctive that every one will see and know is mine. I may go too far in my expectations but we must always work for improvement. That's what it is all about for me.....

BK......
« Last Edit: January 24, 2012, 12:12:57 AM by B.K. Mains » Logged

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« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2012, 11:46:25 PM »

Your expectations can never go too far! But they should be yours, no one elses.
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« Reply #7 on: January 24, 2012, 01:01:06 PM »

I have often spoken to the ABS, its tests and "awards" in the form of JS & MS stamps. When I joined the ABS there were few members, as I progressed with each award I knew I was among the chosen few. In those days the ABS was a far cry from what it is now, but the malignant influence of judging was slowly changing. I had decided to make knives my way, performance being my best teacher. One knife I have no use for is the dagger, then called the "Art Dagger", the judging for this became making it their way.

I did my best to change the requirement of making an "Early European Quillion Art Dagger" to each applicant making an individual art knife of his choosing  The knife would be one uniquely his and he would if asked defend his knife as both functional and his personal art. Many letters changed hands on this topic. I was soundly defeated and rather than decline to make a knife I truly loved I decided to prostitute my integrity and made an "art dagger" that finally satisfied them. I did this in respect for the majority of the ABS Board of Directors that existed at the time, thus I lost part of my integrity but was able to justify it to myself (for a while).

Loss of the ideals of an individual happens in many professions, both those requiring advanced college degrees and continuing through many professions some of which require much less education. An easy example is to compare two newspapers, one conservative and the other liberal. Each can cover the same event from a different slant by excellent journalists to satisfy the editor and readership of that news paper, in reading them at times it is hard to realize you just read about the same event twice.

I once happened upon two well known critics in the world of knives and ABS Board members. They were discussing the 'fact' that a certain ABS Master Smith (who is now deceased) was a fine gentleman, but made a lousy knife. I asked them if either had ever used one of his knives? Both said no! But his fit and finish lacked the quality of other Master Smiths.

The ABS Performance tests for JS and MS stamps have changed little since they were developed by Bill Moran and the first Board of Directors. Those tests were developed over 30 years ago, a lot of learning has had the opportunity to advance the performance qualities of the forged blade, still there is no recognition of this in the performance testing.

The more esoteric qualities (fit and finish) of the knives submitted to those who judge for the JS and MS stamps has advanced greatly.
Thus it is these qualities that have come to judge applicants. The fact that these qualities are subjective and always carefully follow what the rulers of the organization dictate a knife must look like.

Today these subjective mandates that mostly negate knife function and at times irrelevant,  and many times diametrically  opposed to optimum performance have come to serve the rulers of the ABS and continue to build an organization of members who will not question the "superior knowledge" of the rulers of the organization. Most of whom have never been in a position to really need a knife.

I do not mean any disrespect to the majority of the members of the ABS, most of them are good makers and dedicated to serve their clients rather than the organization. Those who get seek organizational recognition in the form of the js and ms stamps are the ones who will feel the pressure to sacrifice their ideals for those of the organization, they will feel great pressure each time their knives are judged and fear failure when their efforts do not win approval.

The conversation concerning my friends failure to make "Professional Knives" when he remained true to his ideals through the knives he submitted for judging has been plaguing me for years. Professional knives as judged by who? This is the ultimate question.

Ratings are great when they are based on knowledge, when they are based on conformity it is a perfidy to both the individual and those who depend upon the performance of his product.

Does any organization have the exclusive authority to judge a product as having or lacking "Professional Quality"?





 
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« Reply #8 on: January 24, 2012, 03:00:36 PM »

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The conversation concerning my friends failure to make "Professional Knives" when he remained true to his ideals through the knives he submitted for judging has been plaguing me for years. Professional knives as judged by who? This is the ultimate question.

I guess I'm going to stick my foot in it, but here goes. D.E. Henry. He made some beautiful knives. So he was a grouchy old bastard sometimes, so what, he still made some beautiful blades.

Your friend, Ed. He remained true to his ideals. If that's his epitaph, it's a good one. Henry remained true to his and maybe was too vocal in his opinions about knives and makers, but we should never demean the mans art and his ability to remain true to himself. I consider him to be a professional.....

BK.....
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Harold Locke
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« Reply #9 on: January 25, 2012, 06:45:50 AM »

Gentlemen,

My two cents worth, I believe that I have seen the blade that Ed is talking about that the top insiders at the ABS turned down as not professional.

The knife presented for the ABS jouneyman journey in my mind and eyes was perfect as to form, fit and finish. It was a head scratcher for sure. For me contemplateing what the "reigning master's" could have ment by their comments. If right that knife was a pronghorn style created by Chris A.

Chris was appling to work towards his Journman Stamp. The blade was excellent I tell you. If tested to destruction it would have done more bends than required for Mastersmith by the ABS's requirements.

The only conclusion in my mind was that ABS was making an all out attack on one of their own: Mastersmith Ed Fowler. So much for the ABS incourageing the growth and expansion bladesmithing in the modern era.

How many people read the letters to the editor this month and the attack on Ed Fowler?  From my experience with Ed the attack on Chris' work and on blade forums are mostly personal attacks and the facts presented in the letter to the editor are twisted by bias and not truth. Shame on those trying to bring down and discredit one of America's and the world's best Bladesmith and Philosopher of Lady Knife.
This fact alone by itself has guided me to make the decision to be a hobbiest-novice for the rest of my life.

My Two-Cents,

Harold Locke
« Last Edit: January 25, 2012, 06:50:52 AM by Harold Locke » Logged
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« Reply #10 on: January 25, 2012, 07:27:23 AM »

Quote
My two cents worth, I believe that I have seen the blade that Ed is talking about that the top insiders at the ABS turned down as not professional.

Maybe it's best to consider the source of the criticisms, Harold. I mean seriously, look at some of the crap they approve of....( Oh shit, there goes Journeyman stamp..... Cry )

Quote
The only conclusion in my mind was that ABS was making an all out attack on one of their own: Mastersmith Ed Fowler.

I have a reason for that and I think it's a good one. I've never been much of a joiner. I like to think I led the way sometimes and sometimes I sat in the back of the bus. But if I didn't like the driver I didn't get on.

Ed is not driving the bus at ABS. If Ed was driving the bus it would be different. Don't worry Chris. I showed my Green River to the "folks" and was cut off at the legs. The comments were pure crap. I won't even go into them simply because they were the cry of children getting up in the morning to go to school, loud but worthless.... Sad

Ed refuses to ride the bus. He is a leader in knife technology and has made an impression on me with his writings and thoughts on knives. It's this more than anything else that scares the herd.

And to me this tops it off: A quillon dagger for your mastersmith knife.

To the ABS board; In case no one has told you it is the 21st century. A master smith or applicant should include a dagger of his own design, or even a knife he and he alone has come up with. Is that simple enough? ( There goes my master smith stamp....... Wink)

Now, to keep it down to a mild roar, I will stop. No real sense in preaching to the choir.....

BK.....


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« Reply #11 on: January 29, 2012, 02:24:42 PM »

When we allow the moral authority of an organization to dictate the content of our work we surrender our personal contribution for the benefit of the organization, we lose control of our desire to make a mark in the community. When we take the initiative to further the ends of the organization as we see it, we receive criticism and are considered a threat. In short what is known as freedom is lost and many will never miss it.
« Last Edit: January 29, 2012, 09:32:59 PM by Ed Fowler » Logged

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« Reply #12 on: January 30, 2012, 12:10:47 PM »

So, what do we do? Start our own organization?  Huh

BK....
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« Reply #13 on: January 30, 2012, 12:39:45 PM »

I think this is a good topic!  My idea is just this if you are a master blade smith you have worked hard to get their but i think their is always room to improve to make a beter knife, i don't think their is such a thing as a perfect knife because their are such a broad range of things that knives are used fore you may create a knife that works perfect for you at a certain purpose and that same knife might not be considered perfect by someone else, that is why i think Ed is one of the great knife makers out their he is always testing new methods testing knives to destruction always doing the work to help others in their quest to build a great knife.  I realy don't want to sound like a jerk but when i get the ABS news letter allot of the knives i see are works of art and i think that is mostly what they are is art, not a knife i would want to take out and use but their is a market for these knives, so i say any knife maker out their making a knife to use or for art is ok with me, i think the ABS should focus on the aspects of design and function, and the methods used to create a high performance knife.  That is just me though i am a fan of a knife i can take out and use all day long, not a knife that i have siting in a display case.
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« Reply #14 on: January 30, 2012, 02:14:53 PM »

Gus.....

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i am a fan of a knife i can take out and use all day long, not a knife that i have siting in a display case.

Exactly. But back on topic, should we form our own group? Since Ed has experience with this, maybe he can lead us to it....... Huh

BK......
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