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Scagel's most productive years as a knifemaker began around 1910. After a fire wiped out his place in Muskegon, he settled on an acre of land in Fruitport, which became the wellspring of most of the incomparable Scagel-made knives we know today -- from small 25-cent parers to full-on 25-dollar Bowies.

Perhaps owing to his Scottish heritage, the reclusive Scagel designed and built his own machining and forging equipment, wasting little. For many years his shop was powered by a gasoline engine salvaged from a 1926 Cadillac -- his way of stiffing the local electric company.

Bill Scagel died in 1963, about a year after he'd stopped producing knives. His 52 years of craftsmanship survives in the hands of dedicated collectors, and although it's accurate to refer to Bill Scagel as an artist, a master of 20th-Century American cutlery or "The Father of the Custom Knife," indeed the best nod to his legacy is to recognize it and carry it on.

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