Do you want to have a knife custom made for you? Or do you feel like exploring the handicrafts of some prominent custom knife makers? Have you ever seen or held a custom knife so beautiful, that you felt immediately you know who made it?
NOBLIE Collectibles team has devoted some time to compiling a list of 30 most outstanding knife makers that have shaped the world of custom knives.
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.
Peterborough (NH), USA
Howard began making knives in 1960’s. He believes it is imperative that a knife 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 linerlock folding knives are assembled with screws to enable adjustments and make a knife work with smoothness and precision.
Pine Plains (NY), USA
Joe started studying metal work in 1963 as a blacksmith’s apprentice, making knives and cleavers. He has worked as an ironworker, senior detailer in an art foundry, and in 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 a field editor for BLADE Magazine.
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 for 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.
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 got 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.
Wolfgang made his first knives in 1984. Using dozens of files tools of every configuration, lots of sandpaper and elbow grease, and 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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Ariel made his first knife when he was 12 years old and later gained his 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 focus on Damascus steel, Ariel often combines various metal elements in his blades. He is constantly expanding the horizons, trying new ways and techniques, which makes every one of his knives unique and amazing.
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.
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 Brazilian knifemaking industry. Knife makers from all over Brazil that 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.
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 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.
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.
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 a par with a netsuke handiwork. Hidetoshi is a regular participant of exhibitions and shows and has won several awards both in Japan and overseas.
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 of hunting and his knowledge of blades have combined to create one of the best knife companies in the country.
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 own 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.
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.
Wickenburg (AZ), USA
Michael received a university degree in arts after serving in Vietnam in 1968 and returning home a disabled veteran. He became hooked with making 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.
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 progressing from just making fixed blade knives to making folders and to 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.
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.
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 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 has resulted in him developing his own style of highly ornamented and fully carved art knives. Stephen crafts lockbacks, liner locks and automatics, using precious metals, Damascus steels, fossil ivories and pearl.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Los Angeles (CA), USA
With the background in producing custom cabinetry and furniture, Dave became interested in custom knives in 2002. After studying books and videos and purchasing 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.
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.
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 by 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.
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 function. Mardi cares for the materials used in his knives and has developed titanium Damascus.
The best custom knives are not easy to define, as different makers have different styles, techniques, and specialties. However, some common factors that make a custom knife stand out are the quality of the materials, the craftsmanship, the design, and the functionality. These makers have earned their reputation by creating stunning and innovative knives that are highly sought after by collectors and enthusiasts.
If you want to see more of these amazing custom knives, you can visit our online store and browse our collection of the best custom knives available. You can also read our blog posts and reviews to learn more about the history and features of each maker and model. Whether you are looking for a folder, a fixed blade, a bowie, or a multi-tool, we have something for you. Don’t wait any longer and order your dream knife today.