Rural Missouri - January 2012 - (Page 8)
by Kyle Spradley email@example.com
veryone remembers their ﬁrst high school shop class project. Whether it was a birdhouse, a cutting board or some creation for Mom, few, however, made another of those handmade pieces. But for Tom McGinnis, his ﬁrst stab at fabrication was the beginning of a life committed to creating blades. “Back in the ’60s, I made my ﬁrst knife in shop class,” says the Ozark resident. “I pounded it out of a ﬁle, but it broke in two pieces. If I only knew then what I know now about working with steel.” Today, Tom is a master craftsman, creating Damascus steel knives that have made him famous across the country. He’s sharing those skills with others in his school at Ozark. Several years after that ﬁrst attempt, Tom got back into making knives. A friend at work taught him about proper hardening and tempering of a blade. “For 25 years, I worked the third shift at a factory in Springﬁeld and when I got my work done or had a break, I would go work on a knife,” says Tom. “It seemed the more I made, the more I wanted to learn about it.” During the ’70s, Tom furthered his knowledge of knife making by reading all that he could and taking classes from other knife makers across the country. “My next attempt at making a knife on my own was a gift for my son,” he says. Tom was soon getting requests for knives from relatives, friends and friends of friends as his fascination with knife fabrication blossomed into a strong business. At ﬁrst he sold his knives for $50, but today a typical knife made by Tom goes for nearly $1,000. Before long, his brother James and cousin Tim joined him in making their own knives under the name Ozark Knife Makers. More than 30 years later, the McGinnis family is still making a wide variety of knives such as dropand clip-point hunting knives, skinning knives, ﬁlet knives and other custom metal works including tomahawks.
Functional works of art put Ozark Knife Makers on the cutting edge of the blade-making craft
of creating Damascus steel for his blades. To create the patternwelded steel, 50 layers of Follow a knife-making thin metal sheets of difclass in a video in the ferent alloys are stacked online edition at and spot-welded togethwww.ruralmissouri.coop. er. The stack, or billet, is then cut into ﬁve pieces. The pieces are stacked on one another and spot welded together again. This process creates a much stronger blade from a piece of steel 250 layers thick. “Damascus steel was designed as a ﬁghting blade for chopping,” Tom explains. “No one is exactly sure how it originated, but the Japanese and Chinese ﬁrst perfected it with their swords. Today, it has become a very popular choice for knives.” The patterns in the ﬁnished steel are dictated by the alloys selected and the way the Damascus is hammered. “When you look at Damascus, it’s kind of like a contour map,” says Tom. “If you look at a contour map, you can see different elevations. The slower the slope, the wider the line. That’s how Damascus is. You can change the way it slopes by the way you hammer on it. The harder you hammer it, the closer the lines.” Most of the blades Ozark Knife Makers creates are produced from Damascus Tom has made, but to meet the high demands of their orders, some Damascus is shipped in from a maker in Alabama. From the block of Damascus, knife patterns are cut out. Accents are ﬁled into the back or spine of the knife along with other decorations. Next, the knife is taken to a belt grinder to add an edge to the blade. Several different types of edges can be created on the blade based on the purpose of the knife. A ﬂat edge, where both sides of the blade are evenly ground to a point, is the most popular. After edging, the blade is sanded to a smooth ﬁn-
Top: An example of a drop-point hunting knife made in one of Ozark Knife Makers’ classes by Se-Ma-No Electric Cooperative member Steve Sloan of Mountain Grove. Above: For more than four decades, Tom McGinnis has been working with Damascus steel to craft knives, tomahawks and other custom metal works. “We even make knives for several companies such as Black Widow Bow and Silver Dollar City,” says Tom. “We also make custom knives for several companies that use them as gifts or rewards to their top salesmen.” Tom also has led the way in perfecting the science
Tom McGinnis, standing, describes what a properly shaped and sharpened knife blade looks and feels like to students taking one of Ozark Knife Makers’ drop-point hunting knife-making classes. Tom, along with his brother James, cousin Tim and friend Jerry Alexander, teaches classes about how to make knives and tomahawks.
Kaleb Perez, 10, of Raymore takes a ﬁle to the handle of his knife during a knife-making class. A variety of materials are used for handles, such as wood, pearl and ivory. Kaleb chose a dyed bone handle material. After the handle is glued to the blade and shaped for a better ﬁt, it is ﬁled and sanded to remove any scratches.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - January 2012
Rural Missouri - January 2012
Table of Contents
Facing ‘extreme men’
Return to the prairie
Out of the Way Eats
Hearth and Home
Woven in tradition
The Nimblewill Nomad
Rural Missouri - January 2012