Rural Missouri - March 2021 - 34

P

ersonal challenges rarely manifest as a literal trial by fire,
but that was the case for Bobby Walker. Just as a blacksmith
brings metal to life in flames, the hobbyist knifemaker found
himself forging a new path when the Sears service center he
managed closed its doors in 2018. Encouraged by his wife, Debbie,
Bobby started bladesmithing full time under the name Devils Backbone Knives and was surprised by how fast word of mouth filled his
order sheets. Then, less than a month after Debbie and friend and
apprentice Joe Cunningham convinced him to apply, Bobby found
himself appearing on one of his favorite television shows: the History
channel program " Forged in Fire. " No small feat for someone who
had only taken up the trade four years prior.
" It's about your knowledge and ability to adapt to the circumstances, " Bobby says of the show. " There are fantastic bladesmiths
that go home in the first round because they missed one parameter
they were given. Your mind is going 100 mph and the last thing you
want to do is look at the clock. "
Bobby competed against three other bladesmiths on the show last
year. After proving his mettle and his metal in a series of challenges,
the Dora-based knifemaker won the 15th episode of season seven by
forging an authentic and ultimately unbreakable Chinese war sword.
Although the experience proves he can build just about any kind of
edged tool, Bobby's favorite blades to build are those born of necessity. An avid outdoorsman, he strives to build knives that are just as
functional as they are beautiful.
" I like making the kind of knife you can take hunting, skin a deer,
quarter it, debone it, cut it all up and when you're done the knife still
has an edge on it, " Bobby says. " You can do about anything in the
world with a 3-inch blade. You don't always need a Bowie knife. "
At the Devils Backbone forge, named after the nearby rugged
wilderness area, Bobby crafts custom fixed-blade camp, chef and
everyday carry knives. Hand-forged from high-carbon billets or folded
layers of Damascus steel, the knives are as durable and sharp as
they are fascinating. Proper care of the finished product means the
blade will live long after its original owner is gone. The attention to
detail seen in each often lands them in a display case until they're
passed down to the next generation. And the next. But Bobby builds
every blade with the intention that it will be used and tests each one
according to its design and function to make sure it's worthy of the
forge's name and the customer's hard-earned money.
Clockwise from bottom left: Bobby puts an edge on the blade at a grinder
- a tool each knife will visit many times before completion. Apprentice Joe Cunningham draws in sections he'll remove to put the handle on a chef's knife. One of
the forges heats carbon steel to a temperature where it can be worked. Bobby tests
the point of the knife under extreme conditions to make sure it will endure normal
use. The blade is quenched in oil to retain the metal's hardness and strength.

34

RURAL MISSOURI | MARCH 2021



Rural Missouri - March 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - March 2021

Contents
Rural Missouri - March 2021 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - March 2021 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - March 2021 - Contents
Rural Missouri - March 2021 - 4
Rural Missouri - March 2021 - 5
Rural Missouri - March 2021 - 6
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Rural Missouri - March 2021 - Cover3
Rural Missouri - March 2021 - Cover4
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