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James Black, The first legendary smith

January16, 2013
James Black
If Vulcan, the Roman god of Fire and Metalworking, ever decided to make a trip
down to earth, he would certainly have done so on the 1st of May 1800 in New
At any rate, that was where a certain James Black, considered to be the first
legendary American knife-smith, was born. After ten years training in a woodshop
producing silver objects, the young James was attracted by the forge and got
himself hired as an apprentice by a certain Shaw, in Arkansas, whose daughter
he married. As the location, symbolically called the “frontier” was particularly
strategic for business, Black decided to stay there and succeed his father-in-law.
The blades he forged were excellent and using his silversmith experience, he
decorated the handles with the most beautiful inlays. This mix of beauty, quality
and functionality earned his knives a superb reputation, with people coming from
far away to place their orders. Not only did he attach great importance to finding
the best shapes and sizes for given tasks, as well as fitting the customers hand,
but he labored endlessly to perfect the quality of the metal.
We can indeed say that he had understood everything about this mysterious
alchemy, that of sublimating the qualities of steel through fire and hammer, since
we know that he even discovered the secrets of damascene in his smithy.
He made tests with all the alloys he could get his hands on, and preciously
hoarded a meteorite he found during a walk, intending to make use of it for an
exceptional occasion. The opportunity came in 1830 when the reputation of this
devilish bladesmith reached the ears of Jim Bowie. So it was not by chance that
James Black, considered to be the precursor and model of American master
bladesmiths, became a legend.
100 Legendary Knives by Gerard Pacella, 2000 in Paris, France

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