Occasionally, one encounters knives that qualify as genuine art. Custom knife makers use rare materials to create these knives, embellishing them with intricate scrimshaw or hand engraving. Primarily, these knives serve as collectibles rather than utilitarian tools for household or hunting purposes. But who makes the best custom knives? This guide delves into the world of top custom knife makers, showcasing their artistry and craftsmanship.
Such knives often represent investments rather than mere acquisitions. The world’s finest knife makers, responsible for these unique creations, frequently innovate in the knifemaking process. This discussion focuses on knives crafted by leading custom knife makers globally.
Identifying the world’s best knife maker involves subjective assessments, as this title depends on diverse criteria like craftsmanship, design innovation, and influence in the knife-making community. Renowned figures in this realm include Bob Loveless, known for his revolutionary hunting knife designs, and Bill Moran, who played a pivotal role in reviving the craft of Damascus steel. Modern innovators like Ken Onion recognized for his unique designs and mechanical advancements, and Tony Bose, celebrated for his mastery of traditional folding knives, also claim significant standing. Bob Kramer, a master bladesmith, is celebrated for his exceptional kitchen knives, blending culinary expertise with superior craftsmanship. Each maker’s unique contribution to the field, whether in utility, artistry, or innovation, cements their reputation, making the title of the world’s best a matter of personal preference and specific criteria within the broad and diverse world of knife-making.
This comprehensive list explores the best custom knife manufacturers, whose work ranges from functional hunting knives to intricate art pieces. Key figures include Enrique Peña, renowned for his modern traditional folding knives, and Owen Wood, a distinguished figure in the ‘Art Knife’ category is celebrated for his innovative designs and intricate craftsmanship. Buster Warenski is recognized for crafting some of the most expensive knives, while Ben Abbott is an esteemed knife maker and champion on “Forged in Fire.” Francesco Pachi combines knife making with his renown as a knife photographer, and Kyle Royer, a popular YouTube blogger, also excels in custom knife making. Michael Walker is celebrated for specializing in folders. Each of these knifemakers has carved a unique niche in the industry, earning acclaim for their dedication to craftsmanship, performance, and aesthetic appeal. Their creations reflect a deep understanding of both the functional and artistic aspects of knife-making, catering to a wide spectrum of users from professional chefs and outdoors enthusiasts to collectors and art connoisseurs.
In 2024, the question “Who makes the best custom knives?” remains highly relevant as enthusiasts and professionals alike seek the finest craftsmanship and innovation in knife making. This list presents leading custom knife makers of all time each known for their unique artistry, precision, and dedication to the craft.
Alain was familiar with knives at an early age when he used them for camping and hunting. He also began collecting knives as a young boy. In 1999, he decided to try manual work as a change from his computer artist job and chose knifemaking. Alain self-taught himself into knifemaking with the help of books, magazines, and the Internet. He still likes to learn and experiment with new things, techniques, and designs. Alain creates various knives of many styles: hunting knives, tactical knives, neck knives, folders, and art knives. He likes to use natural materials, such as wood-burl, antler, and ivory, and employs metalworking, soldering, sculpture, jewelry, leatherwork, and more.
Antonio began to etch and engrave knives at the age of 21, under the tutelage of his Master Engraver father. He received the honorific title of Master Artisan in 2000. Along with traditional etching and engraving artisan techniques, Antonio uses some new methods he has developed or improved on his own. He also employs the techniques of the goldsmith. Antonio has been awarded many prizes at cutlery competitions in Spain. Antonio’s knives are inspired by classic styles such as Gothic, Renaissance and Art Nouveau.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Ariel made his first knife when he was 12 years old and later gained experience in electric facilities and artistic bladesmithing shops. After several years of part-time knifemaking, Ariel became a full-time knifemaker in 2002. Ariel uses his small shop to individually craft his knives each of which is fully hand-made. With a focus on Damascus steel, Ariel often combines various metal elements in his blades. He is constantly expanding his horizons, trying new ways and techniques, which makes every one of his knives unique and amazing.
Riverton (WY), USA
In 1992, Audra began working and apprenticing with Ed Fowler, American Bladesmith Society Master Bladesmith. In 1996, Audra received her Journeyman Smith rating and soon built her own workshop. In 2000, Audra became the first woman to receive her Mastersmith rating from the American Bladesmith Society. Her husband Mike began making knives full-time in 2000, and the whole family got involved in the designing and crafting of knives.
Pasadena, California, USA
Ben Abbott has been crafting knives since the early 2000s. Abbott’s approach to knife-making emphasizes complete craftsmanship, where he oversees every aspect of his creations, from forging and heat treating to the intricate finishing touches. Known for his appearances and victories on “Forged in Fire,” he brings a unique blend of historical knowledge and practical expertise to his work. Abbott’s workshop, equipped with both traditional tools and modern equipment, serves as the birthplace for his diverse range of blades, including his signature Damascus steel.
Magaliesburg, South Africa
Bertie has been making knives in his workshop since 1980. Bertie is passionate about sole authorship and expresses his artistic talents in many aspects of his art knives, from self-made Dragonskin Damascus to stonework for handles to gold inlay work. His well-equipped workshop is filled with all sorts of machines each having a specific task. Yet, the principal work is done by hand. Bertie is very meticulous about details and may spend hours designing and then choosing the appropriate materials for a project.
Methuen (MA), USA
Bill began making knives in 2003. Bill has always had a fascination for knives. He is still proud of being a knifemaker capable of crafting a beautiful knife. Bill’s expertise has been acquired through reading books, the Internet, and precious advice from some of the best knife makers in the world. Today, Bill makes custom folding knives, boot knives hunting knives, and kitchen knives of his design. He meticulously handcrafts each knife using natural handle materials such as bone, ivory, and pearls and occasionally uses different types of woods and burls.
Olympia, Washington, USA
Bob Kramer, a renowned figure in the field of custom knife-making, operates from Olympia, Washington. A former line cook and chef, Kramer’s culinary background deeply influences his knife-making philosophy. He founded Kramer Knives to create kitchen cutlery that meets the rigorous demands of professional chefs and cooking enthusiasts. Kramer holds the distinctive title of Master Bladesmith from the American Bladesmith Society, a testament to his expertise in forging and metallurgy. His specialization in kitchen knives, particularly chef’s knives, features unique designs that blend functionality with aesthetic appeal. Kramer’s knives are famous for their precision, balance, and use of high-quality materials, including his work with pattern-welded steel, also known as Damascus steel. His commitment to craftsmanship and performance makes his knives highly sought after in the culinary world.
Riverside, California, USA
Bob Loveless, a pivotal figure in modern knife-making, began crafting knives in the late 1950s. Located in Riverside, California, his workshop became a hub for innovation and excellence in knife design. Loveless, a former member of the Merchant Marine and U.S. Air Force, brought a practical perspective to his craft, focusing on functional yet elegant designs. His work, particularly the drop point hunter, revolutionized hunting knives, emphasizing utility and simplicity. He co-founded the Knifemakers’ Guild in 1970, contributing significantly to the field through mentorship and collaboration. Loveless’ knives, characterized by their distinctive design and impeccable craftsmanship, remain highly sought after in the custom knife community.
Fortunate to live in prime hunting and fishing country, and being one who enjoys working with his hands, in 1966 he began making hunting knives as a hobby. After fine-tuning his skills in the custom shop of Harvey Draper, one of the world’s first custom knife makers, Buster began making knives full-time. Most of his productions were high-end art knives, many embellished with his own engraving and gold inlay art. In 1973, Buster joined the Knifemakers Guild, where he later served as director, vice president, and president.
Holliday (TX), USA
Forged in Fire champion Chad Kennedy is a bladesmith from Holliday, Texas, and owner of Chad Kennedy Knives. By forging his own Damascus, he crafts knives into unique works of art in a variety of styles, from hunting knives to cleavers and hatchets. In June of 2021, Chad earned his Journeyman stamp from the American Bladesmith Society, providing further evidence of his skill.
Los Angeles (CA), USA
With a background in producing custom cabinetry and furniture, Dave became interested in custom knives in 2002. After studying books and videos and purchasing the required materials and tools, he started designing folding knives and created his first knife in 2003. Fixed blades are a part of his art, along with folders. Dave’s knives have been approved by four voting members of the Knifemakers Guild. Dave participates in the activities of the American knifemakers community and enjoys its support and experience.
David started making knives in 1989 and became a full-time knifemaker in 1993. After meeting artist Carol Ann O’Connor in 1999, they started making knives with medieval and fantasy themes. The combination of Bill’s knives and Carol’s art was successful right from the start, with several best art knife awards won in the first year. Bill’s knives are unique and have been sold to collectors in different countries.
West Virginia, USA
Dellana was immensely creative already as a teenager: she would make her clothes, draw, paint, embroider, and even create things from scratch. In 1979, she started her own goldsmithing business. When Dellana met master knifemaker Jim Schmidt, she was intrigued by the beautiful art of making art knives. By 1996, Dellana became a full-time knifemaker, incorporating her background in jewelry with her fascination with knives. Soon she became a voting member of the Knifemakers Guild, a member of the American Bladesmith Society, and the prestigious Art Knife Invitational group. Dellana has produced many amazing Damascus pocket knives and does engraving herself.
Cape Town, South Africa
Des started knifemaking as a schoolboy and crafted his first quality knife in 1970. In 1990, Des started going to international knife shows and has, on many occasions, won awards for his designs and the quality of his work in South Africa and internationally. In 2004, he decided to follow his passion, becoming a full-time custom knife maker. Des’s main focus is on folding art knives.
Royal Oak (MI), USA
Don made his first knife in the sixties, and ever since has had a lifelong fascination with knives. He got serious about knifemaking in 1994 when he started buying professional equipment. In the nineties, Don self-taught himself into knifemaking with the help of the “Knife List” Internet forum, and still acknowledges a debt of gratitude to its many participants. He pursued his own visions of personal cutlery and developed a style that is uniquely his own. Don is a member of the Miniature Knifemakers Society and contributes as a moderator to online knife forums.
Helotes (TX), USA
Don sold his first knife in 2000 and became a full-time maker in 2004. Slip-joint pocket knives are his main interest and are primarily what he crafts. Don is committed to constructing only the finest quality knives and devotes as much time as needed per knife to ensure his customers receive the best quality knives possible. Don takes whatever time necessary to complete a knife to his exacting standards, whether making a single, double, or three-blade knife. Don co-hosts a slip-joint knife forum on knifeforums.com and is a member of the Texas Knifemakers and Collectors Association.
Fred has had a long-standing passion for handcrafts and, especially, knives. In 1973, inspired by a handmade knife he saw in a local knife shop, he decided to start crafting hunting knives. Fred ground his first knives on a hard wheel and hand-finished them, before building a small shop for his hobby. In 1976, Fred joined the Knifemakers Guild, in which he later served as Secretary, Treasurer, Vice President, and two terms as President. Dr. Carter has won many awards for his hand-made knives.
Loudon (TN), USA
Dusty grew up in a small ranching community, hunting, fishing, and working on ranches, being naturally exposed to knives. He began creating knives in 1991, totally self-taught in knife making and engraving. Dusty is constantly learning and evolving, while making up to 60 knives and sheaths a year. Dusty regularly attends knife shows and has won 26 knife show awards.
Laredo, Texas, USA
Enrique Peña, based in Laredo, Texas, has gained prominence in the custom knife-making industry for his blend of traditional and modern designs. Specializing in folding knives, particularly in the slip joint and liner lock categories, Peña’s work demonstrates meticulous attention to detail and an adherence to high-quality craftsmanship. His designs often incorporate classic elements with contemporary touches, making them highly sought after by both collectors and everyday users.
Always a nature and outdoor activity lover, Francesco became interested in making custom knives in 1991 and began his knifemaking activities completely self-taught. In 1995, after a trip to the USA and spending a few days with master Steve Johnson, Francesco decided to devote himself full-time to making. His primary occupation has led him to the presidency of the Italian Knifemaker Corporation and a membership in the American Knifemakers Guild and German Knifemakers Guild.
Gaétan has been making custom knives for over twenty years and has become an expert in many aspects of this craft. A talented artist, Gaétan has gained international fame for his scrimshaw makes each of his knives a work of art. However, while customized and beautifully adorned, Beauchamp’s knives are truly made to be used: function is their essence. Each knife performs smoothly in a multitude of functions: hunting, fishing, even opening boxes or cutting string. Living in Quebec, the cradle of French civilization in North America, Gaétan strives to preserve the culture and identity of French craftsmen and is independent in terms of ideas and designs.
George has had an affinity for the fine arts since his youth. His favorite pastimes included visiting museums, drawing, and painting. He felt at an early age that creative handiwork was his calling. After graduating from Rhode Island School of Design in 1973, he taught art and leatherwork. He also made custom leather sheaths for knives brought to his shop and thus was introduced to hand-made knives, which he quickly learned to love. After taking a course at The Jewellery Institute, George continued to master his knifemaking skills and soon switched to art folders. His rich experience in many artistic skills has resulted in him concentrating on designing and creating unique art folders.
La Grange, Kentucky, USA
Gil Hibben, based in La Grange, Kentucky, is a renowned custom knife maker with a prolific career spanning several decades. Hibben specializes in fantasy and combat knives, gaining significant recognition for his unique designs and contributions to the field. His work includes designs for films and celebrities, further cementing his status in popular culture. Hibben’s craftsmanship showcases a blend of artistic flair and practical functionality. His role as the current president of the Knifemakers’ Guild underscores his influence and standing in the knife-making community. Hibben’s knives, characterized by their distinct style and quality, have earned him a respected and celebrated position in the world of custom knife-making.
Hirosaki City, Japan
Born in Australia, Glenn has been living in Japan since 1986 and has drawn much inspiration from this nation’s culture. In 1992, when looking for a custom knife in Tokyo, he instead bought some tools and materials along with a book on knifemaking. Glenn started by making fixed-blade knives, and by 1999 started creating Linerlock folders, which became his focus. His background in jewelry resulted in him adding lavish embellishments to his knives. Glenn uses rare materials, such as mammoth ivory, mother-of-pearl, gold, and precious stones for his unique knives.
Vila Nova, Brazil
Gustavo started practicing blacksmithing at the age of 18 in his blacksmith father’s shop. His childhood fascination with knives grew into a passion: Gustavo took classes, studied from books, consulted information on the Internet, and did his own research. In 1999, he became a full-time maker. A number of prizes and titles have been collected by Gustavo since, at various shows. In 2002, Gustavo became a member of the Brazilian Knife Makers Society and joined the American Bladesmiths Society.
When studying industrial design at the Tama Art University, Harumi developed a fascination for knives. Her final design project for college was a set of custom kitchen knives. At the age of 21, Harumi was already a designer and maker of knives, with a high esteem for her skillfully hand-made products. She designed both fixed blades and folding knives, all of which were unique and one-of-a-kind. After qualifying for membership in the Knifemakers Guild, Harumi exhibited her knives at various shows and earned significant awards testifying to her skills.
Belfast, South Africa
Kevin began knifemaking at the age of 12, tutored by his granddad. At the age of 21, he was the youngest member accepted into the Knifemakers’ Guild of Southern Africa. In 2003, Kevin became a Master Bladesmith with the American Bladesmith Society. He enjoys making art knives, Bowie knives and daggers using his own Damascus or that made by his wife Heather. Heather qualified as a farrier at Montana State University, USA, in 1983. She is South Africa’s first qualified female farrier, blacksmith, and bladesmith. After meeting Kevin, Heather learned to create knives. She enjoys forging Damascus and Mokume Gane, traditional African weapons, and making forged period knives.
By the age of 30, Henry was working as a design engineer, devoting his spare time to artistic pursuits, such as painting, woodcarving, stained glass art, jewelry making, gun engraving and gunstock carving. He also started crafting knives embellished with hand engraving. Soon he resigned his engineering job and became a full-time knife maker and a member of the Knifemakers Guild. Henry specializes in richly adorned and engraved, unique folding knives that are easily recognizable for their peculiar style.
Hidetoshi began making traditional knives in 1990, at the age of 19, guided by the prominent Japanese master Nobuyuki Uekama. At the age of 22, he started studying the traditional Japanese art of carving called netsuke. In 2000, Hidetoshi began creating art knives in his own style, merging knifemaking and his netsuke art. He regards an art knife as an artistic object, on par with a netsuke handiwork. Hidetoshi is a regular participant in exhibitions and shows and has won several awards both in Japan and overseas.
Peterborough (NH), USA
Howard began making knives in the 1960s. He believes a knife must look good both open and closed, therefore he pays particular attention to design, the most difficult part of the process. Howard gives much thought to selecting suitable materials for the handle, blade, and other parts, to make each knife visually pleasing. All Howard’s lockback and liner lock folding knives are assembled with screws to enable adjustments and make a knife work with smoothness and precision.
Jerry has always been a fan of hunting, and the challenge of making his own hunting knife intrigued him. In 1991, he was given a piece of steel and a paperback book on knifemaking by a friend, and his knifemaking career began. Soon, Jerry met a few established custom knife makers living in his area and was introduced to folders, which became his new passion. After visiting some custom knife shows in 1994, Jerry started creating knives as pieces of art. In 1998, he joined the Knifemakers Guild. In his shop, located behind his home, Jerry performs every operation involved in creating knives except engraving and scrimshaw.
Jim joined the Knifemakers Guild in 1978. Unable to find much literature on knifemaking, he visited local knife shops to study custom knives. He also gathered knowledge from area knifemakers he became acquainted with. With a background in art, Joyce switched from painting to embellishing knives easily. With most of her engraving and carving leaning towards Art Nouveau, she possesses her own distinctive style. Jim and Joyce are happy to work together crafting some truly distinctive knives. Jim’s focus is on folding knives, although he still has a passion for daggers and fighters.
Pine Plains (NY), USA
Joe started studying metalwork in 1963 as a blacksmith’s apprentice, making knives and cleavers. He has worked as an ironworker, senior detailer in an art foundry, and other metal-working trades. Joe specializes in one-of-a-kind art designs with carved ivory, Damascus steel, and pearl. His blades, including hawks, are not wall hangers but fully functional, perfectly hardened pieces. Joe holds the rank of Master Smith with the American Bladesmith Society, is a voting member of the Knife Makers Guild, and is a field editor for BLADE Magazine.
Johan’s fascination for knifemaking started when he decided to make a knife to carry on a hunt. Liking what he had created, he began making more and more knives. After taking some classes and studying forge welding, Johan got totally hooked. For a couple of years, he would forge blades for other knifemakers to use in their knives. After discovering Mosaic Damascus, he experimented for many months until finally achieved his own technique with extraordinary patterns. While forging amazing mosaic Damascus blades for other makers, Johan crafts his own knives in his workshop, thoroughly controlling every aspect of his art, including file work and inlays.
New Braunfels (TX), USA
Johnny became a full-time knife maker in 1992. Most of his heirloom quality knife designs are available in right or left-handed models. Johnny was first exposed to handmade knives in 1983 while visiting the shop of Jim Moore in Texas, where he made his first knife. He still offers the model – High Country Classic Hunter – as one of his standard designs. Today, Johnny offers a variety of folding knives, with various locking devices, as well as slip-joint models.
Frenchtown (MT), USA
Josh began making knives at the age of 11. At the age of 15, he passed his Journeyman Smith and in 2000, at the age of 19, he became the youngest person to ever attain the Master Smith rating in the American Bladesmith Society. Josh enjoys making mosaic Damascus, liner lock folders, automatics, Bowies, and fighters. Josh places greater focus on hunting knives as he used to notice a huge lack of quality hunting knives available on the market for serious hunters. His passion for hunting and his knowledge of blades have combined to create one of the best knife companies in the country.
Jurgen created his first knife at the age of 14, as a member of a metal-craft club. After completing a 3-year apprenticeship as a silversmith, he studied metal design at an art university. Jurgen made his first folding knife the same year he graduated, showing his rich background in sculpture, art, and metal design. Even his first knives were true sculptures in steel, lavishly adorned with exotic materials. After starting to attend exhibitions worldwide in 1989, Jurgen became famous for his knife art which was sometimes difficult to comprehend even for seasoned custom knifemakers. Jurgen has received many awards for his unique knives.
Kaj had made a few traditional Scandinavian knives by the time he was 20. Soon, Kaj was taught to forge blades by an old smith, and, at the age of 26, Kaj started his career as a full-time knifemaker. Soon, he began making all kinds of knives: hunters, daggers and fighting knives. Kaj has attended many knife shows in the USA, France, Italy and Japan. His focus is on lockback and slip-joint folding knives, but he also enjoys making multi-blade folders and daggers.
Kaneohe, Hawaii, USA
Ken Onion, based in Kaneohe, Hawaii, is a preeminent figure in contemporary custom knife-making. Renowned for his innovative designs and mechanical inventions in the knife industry, Onion’s contributions significantly influence modern folding knives. He holds acclaim for inventing the SpeedSafe assisted opening mechanism, a pivotal development in the field. His knives blend functionality with unique, ergonomic designs, making them highly prized in both utility and collector markets. Onion’s work extends beyond traditional boundaries, incorporating modern materials and techniques. His partnership with leading knife manufacturers to mass-produce his designs demonstrates the wide appeal and practicality of his innovations. Onion’s impact on knife design and functionality cements his status as a leading innovator in the custom knife-making community.
Kyle Royer began his journey in knife-making as a teenager, quickly developing a passion for the craft. He achieved the distinction of Journeyman Smith at a young age, showcasing his commitment and skill in the field. Based in Missouri, USA, Royer specializes in creating high-quality, custom knives, with a particular emphasis on intricate Damascus patterns and art knives. His work is characterized by meticulous attention to detail and a deep understanding of metallurgical principles. Royer’s knives are not only functional tools but also artistic masterpieces, reflecting his dedication to both the aesthetic and practical aspects of knife-making.
Wickenburg (AZ), USA
Michael received a university degree in arts after serving in Vietnam in 1968 and returning home as a disabled veteran. He became hooked on making it when visiting a knife show. Michael specializes in folders, hunting knives, and survival knives. He uses natural materials for handles and is dedicated to using the finest materials available. Michael claims he has gained much from many makers he met who shared their knowledge with him. He strives to increase his knowledge of metallurgy and to craft the highest quality knives.
The son of a forester, Michael grew up close to the forest and game hunting. He began collecting knives as a youth and later finished his training as a cabinet maker. With his knife collection growing, he soon discovered an interest in knife making. In 1997, Michael filed his first knife. He specializes in making integral knives but also enjoys crafting other types of knives. Since 2000, Michael has been a member of the German Knife Makers Guild.
Visalia (CA), USA
Michael was introduced to knifemaking through a forging class in 1995 and received his Mastersmith title in 2003. Michael’s focus is on folding knives, but he makes fixed blades as well. The Bowie knife is his favorite style because of its simplicity. Michael believes that it is harder to craft a simple knife well, as, with the scarcity of detail; any defect will be clearly visible. He enjoys sharing his making expertise with others and, having a degree in Art Education, he teaches in his shop and at the School of Fire Arts in Exeter, California.
Taos, New Mexico, USA
Michael Walker, a prominent custom knife maker, operates from Taos, New Mexico. He is renowned for his innovation in knife mechanics, particularly in the realm of folding knives. Walker’s most notable contribution is the invention of the liner lock mechanism, a groundbreaking advancement in knife safety and functionality. This mechanism has become a standard in the industry, widely adopted by numerous knife manufacturers. His knives are characterized by their precision engineering, sleek design, and innovative features. Walker’s approach to knife-making combines artistic aesthetics with practical utility, resulting in pieces that are both visually striking and highly functional. His work has garnered a significant following among knife enthusiasts and collectors, solidifying his status as a key innovator in the field of custom knife-making.
East Northport (NY), USA
Mardi first worked as a jeweler, but switched to knifemaking in 1995, after attending several classes at the ABS school in Arkansas. Mardi loves to show his appreciation of the ornate, sophisticated beauty that is sometimes bizarre and impractical. His knives are sculptural and fancily embellished, with a focus on color and contrast. That said, Mardi’s knives fully retain their function. Mardi cares for the materials used in his knives and has developed titanium Damascus.
Vryheid, South Africa
Nico made his first knife as a school project at the age of 14. The humble beginning was the start of a lifelong passion for knives and knife art. Nico’s love for knifemaking made him progress from just making fixed-blade knives to making folders and forging his own Damascus steel. Nico keeps a high standard of excellence and will not allow any knife to leave his workshop until he is 100% satisfied with it. Nico makes mostly folders using exotic materials, but also enjoys making daggers and fixed-blade knives.
Edison, (NJ), USA
Noblie Custom Knives specializes in creating knives that blend traditional craftsmanship with modern design. The focus at Noblie lies in the meticulous crafting of each knife, where precision and quality are paramount. Utilizing a variety of materials, including Damascus steel and exotic inlays, Noblie’s knives are recognized for their durability and functional design. The attention to detail extends to features such as hand engraving, adding a distinctive aesthetic appeal. Each knife is a product of extensive skilled labor, catering to collectors and connoisseurs of fine knives. Noblie’s collection, while appealing to a broad audience, maintains a commitment to craftsmanship and utility in each custom piece.
Arvada (CO), USA
Owen grew up in Africa and spent much of his time outdoors in the bush. As a child, he always had a pocket knife around. Owen made its first knife in 1979. When Damascus steel was re-invented for the modern knife, Owen was immediately fascinated by its potential in knifemaking and started forging his own pattern-welded steel. Owen’s main focus has been on folding knives, but he has also enjoyed making daggers. A founder member and chairman of the Knifemaker’s Guild of Southern Africa for many years, Owen has also been exhibiting and receiving awards in the USA and Europe.
Ray’s many-years career in tool and die making resulted in his interest in knives. He made his first knife in 1984, after accepting a bet from a local Colorado custom knife maker, to prove that he would create a better knife than anything in a magazine they were looking through. In 1986, Ray’s son Ron convinced him to show his knives at the Solvang Custom Knife Show. Ron is in many ways as headstrong and independent as his dad. They both have collaborated on many knife projects, creating intricate and unique folding knives.
Ricardo began making knives in 1988. First, he made his knives by stock removal but switched to hand forging in 2001, influenced by the teachings of Jerry Fisk at the workshop that became a major event in the Brazilian knifemaking industry. Custom knifemakers from all over Brazil who had attended Fisk’s workshop founded the Brazilian Knife Makers Society, and Ricardo was elected as its president in 2003. Ricardo is known as one of the most prominent Brazilian knifemakers and attends international shows regularly.
San Diego (CA), USA
Growing up in a small rural city and often hunting, fishing, and kayaking, Rik naturally developed a passion for knives. In 2000, Rik decided to give knifemaking a try and was immediately hooked. He signed up with the American Bladesmiths Society and started discovering the universe of design freedom, craftsmanship, and new experiences. Rik received his Journeyman Smith rating in 2004. He is interested in making fixed blades but enjoys making folders too. Rik has explored many different directions in knife design and enjoys creating various types of knives, from simple utility workers to daintily embellished art knives. Rik likes using natural materials like bone and ivory on his knives.
Rudi’s background as a metallurgist has resulted in him developing a deep interest in edged weapons. After immigrating to Israel in 1993, he began working as a blacksmith creating edged weapons exclusively. Rudi crafts knives, swords, axes, and other bladed weapons of various styles. He forges his own Damascus steel and does his own hand forging, filing, engraving, and even heat treatment.
Clearwater (FL), USA
Stan has always enjoyed tools and making handicrafts. He made his first knife from scavenged materials. In 1999, Stan attended the Knifemakers Guild show that changed his life. Stan decided that, as a custom knifemaker, he would make each knife better than the previous one. Stan began with fixed blades, and after gaining skills, moved into folders, then autos. Lately, he started creating folders with all the screws hidden. Stan is still devoted to the creed that he will make each knife better than the one he made before that.
Stefan started making knives in 1989. His fancy was driven by his background in precision mechanics and enthusiasm for outdoor sports. At that time, there were no books or manuals, so Stefan learned some tricks and techniques from other makers in his region. In 1999, Stefan joined the German Knifemakers Guild and in 2001, he became a full-time custom maker. His first book about knife materials and knife-making tricks was printed in 2005. Most of Stefan’s custom knives are design-oriented: serrations and optical elements from nature transform his knives into biomechanoids and genuine collector objects.
Coventry (RI), USA
Stephen always had a love for sporting adventures, nature, and hunting. This inevitably involved the use of knives: Stephen would throw them and use them to carve and whittle. Stephen got hooked by handmade knives and began crafting hunting knives, soon to switch to lockbacks. Stephen’s background in art and his career of over 30 years in sculpting have resulted in him developing his style of highly ornamented and fully carved art knives. Stephen crafts lookbacks, liner locks, and automatics, using precious metals, Damascus steels, fossil ivories, and pearls.
Steve began creating knives in 1998. What began as an endeavor to create a homemade set of throwing knives quickly became a passionate hobby for life. In 2005, Steve won Best of Show Art Knife at the Wolverine Annual Spring Show. His main focus is still on fixed-blade knives, including gent’s knives, Bowies, and art knives.
Steve grew up surrounded by various tools available to follow his interests. His family included wood carvers, cabinet makers, and mechanics, and there were blacksmiths, silversmiths, and lapidaries in his surroundings. After receiving training in engineering and metalwork, Steve shaped his first knife by hand with file tools. He was exposed to high-quality hand-made knives in 1974 when visiting the shop of custom knifemakers Bob Loveless and Steve R. Johnson. The visit gave him a big boost and resulted in him developing a fascination with folding knives. Soon he created his first interframe and multiblade folders. Specializing in high-end interframe folders, every Steve’s knife, richly embellished with engraving and gold inlays, is a collectible piece of art.
Manti (UT), USA
Steve grew up at his father’s farm where he had the opportunity to hunt, fish, ride horses, and camp. He was first allowed to make a knife in a shop as a scout. Knifemaking became Steve’s lifetime passion, and he has always enjoyed the personal challenge of making each knife. Steve has served as Secretary/Treasurer on the Knifemakers’ Guild Board of Directors and is associated with many members of the Guild and the knifemaking community worldwide.
Thomas made his first knife and his first sword in his early teens. A European-trained chef for over two decades, he has been involved in knifemaking part-time. In 2000, Thomas became a full-time custom knifemaker. His knife art embraces many styles, from daily used chef’s knives to highly exquisite art pieces. Thomas each time strives to use a design and a combination of materials that would make a knife graceful, yet functional: even the most intricate design never compromises service properties.
Tim custom painted show cars, produced gold leaf signs, and worked as an illustrator when a teenager. After reading a book on custom knives and attending a Knifemakers Guild show, knives hooked him. Starting with a primitive lathe, he created knives arduously for several years, as he wanted to be a Guild member. A local custom knife maker introduced him to lockback folder construction, and Tim decided folders were practical and worthy. Having learned from Steve Hoel, Buster Warenski, Wolfgang Loerchner, and other master knifemakers, Tim is still grateful to them for the skills necessary to produce a fine knife. Tim spent years mastering his techniques to create magnificent folders of his own design.
Spanaway (WA), USA
Todd spent much of his younger years in the deep forests of the Pacific Northwest, camping and hunting. Knives were his companions most of the time, and he naturally developed an appreciation for them. Todd tried making knives while still in high school and realized he had found his passion. Todd became a full-time knifemaker in 2003. Inspired by the grinding skills of Bob Lum and Bill Luckett and the Integral construction of Edmund Davidson and Ted Dowell, Todd developed his own style of integral knives.
Tom Overeynder has established a reputation in the custom knife-making field for his refined folding knives. Specializing in slip joint and liner lock mechanisms, Overeynder combines traditional craftsmanship with modern aesthetics. His knives are known for their precision, balance, and elegant design. Overeynder pays meticulous attention to detail, ensuring each knife’s functionality aligns with its visual appeal. His use of high-quality materials, including various steels and handle materials, reflects a deep understanding of the craft. Overeynder’s knives are sought after by collectors and enthusiasts, who appreciate the blend of classic techniques with contemporary design elements.
Shelburn, Indiana, USA
Tony Bose, a highly esteemed figure in custom knife-making, operated from Shelburn, Indiana. He specialized in traditional folding knives, earning a reputation for exceptional craftsmanship. Bose’s work reflected a deep respect for classic knife-making traditions, combined with an innovative approach to materials and mechanics. His meticulous attention to detail and quality in every piece set a high standard in the industry. Renowned for his skill in creating complex slip-joint mechanisms, Bose’s knives are celebrated for their precision and durability. His collaboration with major knife manufacturers brought traditional folding knife designs into the modern era. Bose’s legacy in the custom knife-making community is marked by his dedication to preserving and advancing the art of traditional knife-making.
North Mankato (MN), USA
Tracy started making in 1999 after reading a magazine article on how to create a homemade knife. He got immediately hooked on the new hobby. His first 100 knives were never sold, but thrown away, destroyed in testing, or given away. Tracy is quite exacting and believes that after mastering one aspect of knife making a good maker shall start mastering another one. Tracy’s work is mainly focused on stainless fixed blades.
West Virginia, USA
Van started making knives full-time after graduating from high school, at the age of 17. A self-taught knifemaker, Van has also tried other mediums to express his creativity, as a painter, a sculptor and a carver. Van’s knives are very artistic, with flowing designs and unique looks. Van believes strongly in sole authorship, therefore, every aspect of each knife is done by himself alone, from designing to forging his own Damascus, engraving, carving, and gold-work. Van strives to craft each of his high-end art knives truly unique and one-of-a-kind.
Wolfgang made his first knives in 1984. Using dozens of file tools of every configuration, lots of sandpaper and elbow grease, and a few other tools, he began sculpting art knives from steel bar stock. While his use of few power tools limits the number of knives he can create at any given time, it also removes any limitations to the designs of his intricate daggers, folders, and straight knives. Daggers hold a special fascination for him since their symmetry and sizes allow endless possibilities of line and composition. Also, Wolfgang has paid much attention to creating lockback folders of unusual design. Wolfgang has collaborated on several knives with some of the greatest artists involved in this craft.
Bethlehem, South Africa
Bill started studying knifemaking under the guidance of Owen Wood. The benchmark set by the famous master became Bill’s inspiration. Years of experience in his capacity as a professional photographer resulted in him crafting knives that reflect his distinctive personal style. Bill believes that knifemakers are not there only to please customers, but are dedicated artists in their own right, expressing their artistic vision.
Q: Who are some of the best custom knife makers in America?
A: Notable American custom knife makers include:
Bob Loveless: Pioneered the modern tactical folder, refining the drop point blade for tactical use.
Ken Onion: Famous for innovative designs and creating the SpeedSafe assisted opening mechanism.
Bill Harsey: Known for durable tactical and utility knives with a focus on functionality.
Tony Bose: A master in traditional pocket knives, his work blends beauty with classic functionality.
Rick Hinderer: Recognized for the XM-18 folding knife, emphasizing robustness and ergonomics.
Q: Who is the best Japanese knife maker?
Japan has a rich tradition of knifemaking, and many skilled artisans and brands produce exceptional knives. Some highly respected names include:
Masamoto Sohonten: This is indeed a highly respected name in the world of knifemaking. Masamoto Sohonten is known for its exceptional quality and craftsmanshipFamous for their single bevel knives prized by sushi chefs.
Takeshi Saji: Takeshi Saji is a leading blacksmith in Echizen, Japan, known for his beautifully crafted knives using innovative designs and rare materials.
Hattori: Ichiro Hattori, the craftsman behind the brand, is known for his meticulous attention to detail and high-performance knives
Miyabi: Offers premium knives with elegant Japanese-inspired designs.
The best knife for you depends on your needs and preferences. Factors like blade style, handle material, and budget will all play a role in your decision.
Custom knife makers are artists and craftsmen who create unique and functional blades for various purposes. Whether you are looking for a hunting knife, a kitchen knife, a tactical knife, or a collector’s piece, you can find a custom knife maker who can meet your needs and preferences. Custom knives are not only beautiful and durable, but also have a personal touch and a story behind them.
Explore the craftsmanship behind the world’s most exquisite knives. Read our in-depth article on the most expensive knives globally for unique insights and detailed analysis.
If you are interested in buying or learning more about custom knives, we invite you to visit our website and browse our selection of handmade knives from some of the best custom knife makers in the world. You can also contact us if you have any questions or requests. We are passionate about custom knives and we would love to help you find your ideal knife. Don’t miss this opportunity to own a one-of-a-kind blade that will last you a lifetime.
Author: Aleks Nemtcev | Connect with me on LinkedIn