Rural Missouri - March 2021 - 35

" I built it as a tool. That's what they are, " Bobby says. " If I break
it, I build another one, but I want to find out why it broke because
under normal use it shouldn't. Sometimes, I'm a little hard on them,
though, " he adds with a laugh.
" Hard " is an understatement. After grinding a rough handle and
a keen edge on to the steel, Bobby runs the blade lightly across a
piece of newspaper, which peels away like a slice of melted butter.
The knife then undergoes a trial of blunt force endurance far beyond
what it what would encounter in typical use around the kitchen or
campsite. Using a shortened Louisville Slugger like a sledgehammer,
Bobby bashes the blade through a piece of 12/3 electrical wire and
a deer antler, inspecting the metal each time for signs of weakness
in the form of cracks, chips and rolls. The knife is repeatedly driven
point down into an ammo box and emerges unscathed. It slices as
effortlessly as it did prior to entering the proving grounds.
Bobby learned the testing process in 2015 when he made his first
knife with friend, blacksmith and fellow bladesmith, Harry McKee.
The Forged in Fire champion recalls his first blade as being, " the
ugliest thing you've ever seen, but I was so proud of it. I wouldn't
have sold it for a million dollars. "
Once the tested blade has been quenched and tempered, the hard
work is only half done. The knife needs to be fine-tuned before grinding in the bevel and plunge line and adding detail to the spine with
a hand file. Bobby's preference is a three-fingered design that allows
the knife to be used in a pinch grip for close work like skinning or a
reverse grip for pull cutting. This design also helps prevent the hand
from slipping down to the sharpened edge. Wooden grips need to
be fit, cut, drilled and sanded then epoxied and brass pins peened
or fasteners put into place before the final finishes of lacquer are
applied and the blade is fitted for a leather sheath.
Bobby and knifemakers like him agree the end results are sore
muscles and a primal feeling of personal satisfaction that make the
effort worthwhile.
" I think every kid, woman or man wants to make a knife, " Bobby
says. " I love forging. It lets you do something that's quickly becoming
a lost art. "
Part of the deal between Harry and Bobby was that Bobby had
to pay forward his own lessons learned in the forge by teaching the
craft to another student. Bobby anticipates the day he can begin
teaching classes again as he did in pre-COVID-19 times. Currently,
he has three regular apprentices: Joe, Nathan Chinn and Mike Johnson. They number four, if you count Bobby's uncle, Rod Hitchen, a
retired woodworker who at age 73 feels like a kid again hammering
away at the anvil.
" I think it's a lovely trade, " Rod says. " Something you build
today you're going to be able to pass down to your grandchildren or
great-grandchildren. "
MARCH
MARCH2021
2021 || RURALMISSOURI.COOP
RURALMISSOURI.COOP

XX
35


http://www.RURALMISSOURI.COOP http://www.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

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
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Rural Missouri - March 2021 - Cover3
Rural Missouri - March 2021 - Cover4
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