The Knifemakers’ Guild was established in 1970. John Applebaugh, Walter “Blackie” Collins, John Nelson Cooper, Dan Dennehy, T.M. Dowell, Chubby Hueske, Jon Kirk, R. W. Loveless, John Owens, Jim Pugh, and G.W. Stone were the founding members. In June 1970, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the first meeting took place and Bob Loveless was elected Secretary and A.G. Russell was made Honorary President. Russell was responsible for securing a block of tables at two gun shows that year where knifemakers could sell their work and also meet each other. In 1971, the founding members met again in Houston, Texas, where more makers joined the Guild. 1972 was the first year the annual show and meeting were held in Kansas City, Missouri, where even more knifemakers came to join.
Guild membership has grown through the decades and includes members from the U. S. and from other countries and continents, proving that the passion for excellence and a strong vision know no boundaries.
The Knifemakers’ Guild has always understood that the customers’ tastes are becoming more and more discerning in terms of quality craftsmanship and materials. Since the early seventies shows in Kansas City, the Guild caught the attention of important knife collectors. At these early shows new knife designs and steels were introduced.
In order to ensure that the craftsmanship and business ethics requirements are met, knifemakers who wish to join the Guild must first go through a probationary period. As probationary members, makers are encouraged to continuously improve their work and must follow the Guild by-laws. After the probationary period, which can be two or three years, new members can become voting members.
To achieve superior craftsmanship, Guild members learn as much as possible about the materials used during the knifemaking process. Some Guild members are also master bladesmiths and choose to forge their own steels. Some are making their own Damascus steel, where the diversity of patterns knows no limits. By understanding the qualities of each type of steel, the Knifemakers’ Guild members can produce the best knives for specific purposes, making specialized or general purpose knives. Then, having the purpose of the knife in mind, they choose matching handle materials: sturdy and weathering resistant manmade materials like carbon fiber, or natural materials which enhance the beauty of the design, from mother of pearl to stabilized wood and gemstones like jade and lapis.
The premium customer service offered by individual makers as well as the Guild as an organization endeavors to leave only satisfied customers. Knifemakers work very closely with individual collectors, purveyors, and dealers to ensure that they get exactly what they want. Makers take on projects that involve creating either a single knife a hundred percent in accordance with the customers’ specifications, or small runs of a specific model. Should a customer wish to add art work to the knife or knives, the makers will find the engraver or scrimshander who will also fulfill those wishes.
In addition to making knives to order, Guild members also have knives ready for sale. Collectors and knife enthusiasts are encouraged to attend the Knifemakers’ Guild shows, now the joint show with the American Bladesmith Society, the International Custom Cutlery Expo, where Guild members have knives for sale at their display tables. The benefits for the customer are that he can see the knife, handle the knife, purchase it and take it with him that day!