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by Linda Ferguson

Being a knifemaker’s wife is what got me started making knives. I have always
been a craftsperson—needlework of all kinds, beadwork, woodwork, etc. When I
married Lee Ferguson in 1999, I wasn’t even interested in knives. As watched him
work and attended shows and shop tours with him, I found myself challenged by a
new craft. I saw him throwing away tiny bits and pieces of beautiful materials
left over from his work, and my imagination kicked in. I prefer to make
miniatures because that is what takes my eye and challenges me the most. It also
makes use of a lot of the scrap from my husband’s knives. I like wearable
knives. I want them to look like jewelry. As I learn the techniques, my knives
get better. Since 2004 I have been a member of The Knifemakers’ Guild. My
husband has been a voting member since 1983. All the knifemakers I have ever
met are all very willing to help anyone who wants to make knives. They all want
to share the craft in any way they can. Women especially are encouraged to
learn, and there are more and more doing so. Children are also learning at very
young ages. Having done a lot of woodworking, I was familiar with power
equipment. Most women haven’t had the opportunity to use power equipment and
are rightly afraid of it, which is probably why most are hesitant to try
knifemaking. Learning to handle the equipment safely is always the first step.
One of my biggest challenges in making miniatures has been finding the right
equipment. Everyone says miniatures are harder to make than the bigger knives. I
made some larger ones (5-6 inches) to have for my first Guild inspection, and I
have to agree that in a lot of ways they are easier to make—more room for
mistakes. However, I found that most of the problem is having appropriately
sized equipment. My husband built me a grinder that will take from an 8” to a ½”
diameter wheel and also gives room for my hands VERY near the wheels. I got a
combination micro-mini mill-drill-lathe for Christmas. Now, if I could just find
some very small, very strong clamps! Some women would definitely be more
comfortable with the smaller equipment. I have very small hands, and I can’t
even change some of the settings on some of my husband’s large machines. I know
how, I am just not strong enough. Most knifemaker’s wives find that they enjoy
the shows more if they can help at the knifemaker’s table. If they will learn
about the knives their husbands make—how they are made, what materials are used,
what is special about each knife—then they can answer questions about the
knives. This will not only increase sales, but will allow their husbands to
leave the table long enough to see what others are making and what supplies are
available. Sharing the craft with your husband also strengthens the bond of

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Replies to This Discussion

The first women to become a mastersmith, James thanks for sharing the articles.........

Jan check this woman out! she rocks!
Audra Draper, Knife Maker
Riverton, WY

Audra Draper

Audra Draper forges all her knives. Since she first started making blades under
Ed Fowler’s watchful eye, while working as a ranch hand, forging seemed like the
only way to go. She forges her blades from 52100 bearing steel and layered
Damascus. Since she started making Damascus in April 1996, this has been a real
passion for her. Most of the time her Damascus is made from 1084 and 15N20.
Though Audra makes many different kinds of knives, she most frequently makes
using knives such as Damascus hunters with 300 plus layers and blades that range
from 3 1/2″ to 4 1/2″.
Each knife Audra makes is tested for flexibility and cutting ability before it
leaves her shop. As she says, “A good using knife should look good, but the most
important thing for a knife to do is perform.”
Her guards are designed for both comfort and protection. They keep your hand
from slipping up on the blade while their smooth, rounded edges are comfortable
to hold during heavy use. Her guards are precision fitted and silver-soldered to
the blades. She mostly used brass, nickel-silver, and mokume.
Handle materials show a dedication to quality since she uses only the best;
rambouilett sheephorn, antlers, buffalo horn, ironwood and other exotic
hardwoods are at home on Audra’s knives.
Audra passed her MasterSmith test with the American Bladesmith Society June
2000. She is the first woman to become an ABS Mastersmith.


Kathleen Tomey is one of the few female knifemakers in the custom knife industry today. She has honed her craft through the knowledge of MS Wally Hayes and believes in making knives both useful and aesthetically pleasing. -

There seem to be many more women creating art in the knife world than I originally considered.  This is Harumi Hirayama's wonderful work

those are beautiful knives they look like jewles...

Isn't it amazing Stephen what these knife makers create?  This is hers also

Another Husband and wife team of custom makers, Gail Lunn caught the fever to create from her husband.  She averages around 15 unique peices per year


I started making custom knives in early 2000, when Larry asked if I wanted to learn to something new.  He has been teaching me ever since.  He still has a wealth of information that is available to me. 

I enjoy creating a custom knife from raw materials.  As of now I make fancy folders.  I use Damascus, Mokume, Ivory, Ebony, Mother of Pearl, Goldlip and whatever else touches my fancy.  I file work blades, backbars and liners in a multitude of patterns.  Each new custom knife incorporates something I've learned from my teacher Larry Lunn or other Knife makers who are generous enough to help.  There is so much to learn that custom knife making remains exciting and challenging.  

 And beautiful work indeed

Another women making some wonderful knives...

Lora Sue Bethke - ABS Journeyman Bladesmith 
Scagel style knife, hand forged, ground, and heat treated. Blade is 7 1/4" 1084 steel, with silver guard, brass spacers and pin. Fiber and leather spacers and crown stag antler. Overall length is 12 1/2". The leather sheath is by maker. Price $695.

I love Scagel style knives, just not so big. Great work, Miss Lora Sue.

very nice ...reminds me of dr. jim lucies work

And How about Dianne Casteel another Husband and wife team. ?? 

Our knives are made one at a time.  This allows us to devote the necessary time and labor to achieve the best possible knife. We make bowies, fighters, daggers, swords, miniatures and folders.

About eight years ago, Dianna and I decided to try our hand using stone for handles.  Although we found it very difficult and laborious, we feel the end result is worth it.  Our favorite stones are jade ( all colors), and the deep blue of lapis.  The different colors, texture and irregularities in the natural stones add to the beauty of the handles.  The stone handles are widely accepted and are found on a few other makers' knives.

I usually make the larger, more elaborate knives.  My favorites are the bowies and daggers.  The larger pieces allow more space for the makers to express themselves.  I usually make at least one sword each year.  They are very elaborate and time consuming.  I also make fancy folding knives.  I prefer to use pearl or ivory on the handles and they are embellished with carving and engraving.  I have received many awards for best of show and won the prestigious "Cronk award" in 1993.

Dianna usually makes the smaller pieces such as daggers, bowies, push daggers and miniatures.  She started making knives in 1989.  At first, she made miniatures because she thought they would be easier.  She soon found that this was not true.  However, she still makes several beautiful miniatures.  Dianna is one of the first few women to be a member of the Knifemakers Guild.  She has won several best of show awards.  Her work has been featured in several magazines such as Blade, Knives Illustrated and Knife World.

And another 1/2 of a husband and wife team...'

Haley DesRosiers

Showcasing the work of ABS Bladesmiths Adam & Haley DesRosiers. All of the knives you see here are hand forged by us in Excursion Inlet Alaska.

We've both been hammering out knives in the Alaskan wilderness for a number of years. We met over an anvil repair job in the spring of 2008 and got married over the same anvil the fall of 2009. With combined shops and  passion for bladesmithing we're excited to see where all this metal whacking will take us.

Quality blades of every kind are a necessity to an Alaskan, from halibut dressing knives to firewood splitting mauls. It gives us great pleasure to be able to create and test knives in our day to day life, there's something seamless about it and that's what we'd like to share with you.




White River Knives

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