My personal philosophy is that we live in a world with a "throw-away" mentality. Things are made cheaply and not to last. I think this is a trend caused largely by the advances of technology to manufacture cheap goods, and people are losing an appreciation for the fine handmade tools of yesteryear. Admittedly, technology has brought us the internet, where people are able to freely share ideas, and advertising opportunities abound. Video sites such as YouTube are full of information shared by craftsmen on how to make things yourself, often cheaply or without cost.
I continually learn new techniques from other artisans, though I have been making knives for over 40 years! There also seems to be a current trend in popularity for the trade and/or hobby of knifemaking. I never thought I'd live to see a "reality" TV show dedicated to pitting knifemakers against each other!
I have been making knives since I was 16, learning from my father who was a hobbyist knifemaker. He never sold his knives, because he felt that commercializing his work would take the joy out of it. I find his maxim often true, as I develop a personal attachment to anything I spend many hours making, so it's hard to part with a lot of the knives I sell. I come from a long line of artists, musicians and craftsmen who have taught me the value of putting your best into your work and leaving something behind to be remembered by.
I have lived in the beautiful state of Utah all my life. I try to gather materials from nature to include in my knives, and to recycle as much as I can. I try to infuse my creations with as many natural materials as I can, many gathered near my home. When I started as many knifemakers do, I made my knife blades out of old sawblades and files, since most often these things can be obtained at no cost.
The heart of a good knife is a good piece of steel, so as a more experienced knifemaker, I sought out consistency in high carbon steels that were easy to heat treat, such as 1095, 5160, O1 and A2. Today many of my knives are made from Damascus steel and D2 tool steel. A knifemaker always faces the challenge of making knives that are tough yet easy to sharpen, and you can't have both properties, which is why knives vary so much in the types of steel used.
Today I am moving more toward the role of knife designer and marketer, since producing a high quantity of affordable knives myself requires some outsourcing of labor.
To be able to keep up with demand, I offer only specific patterns that I design, rather than taking requests for custom knives. Still, each knife is unique with slight variations, and I try to use a wide range of handle materials and finishing styles that give every knife personality and uniqueness. I tend to prefer brass, hardwoods and leather to composites and Kydex, but I'm also trying to cater to what the customers want! As a trained machinist, I appreciate the exactness of CNC-produced knives, so I am forced to turn a bit to the dark side, but still offer handmade goods as my flagship products. Some of my designs are manufactured for me, and I also am not able to make folding knives, so I have brought in mass-produced folders that meet my standards of quality.
Thank you to all of my loyal customers over the years. I try to listen to what my customers want, and value the friendships I have made by sharing my work with others. I try to offer the best quality and service possible, and rely heavily on word of mouth to get my name out there. I personally guarantee everything I sell, and appreciate all of the kind comments and praise given to me from my customers over more than 25 years of selling my knives. Nothing brings me more satisfaction than seeing one of my old knives again, to put a new edge on it and appreciate the hard use it has been put to!
Mark S. Russon
Woods Cross, UT