Posted by: woodbeecarver   in Knives

FAVORITE KNIFEThe WOOD BEE CARVER is primarily a whittler who carves with knives in a style he calls WHITTLE FOLK ART. Often I am asked what is my favorite carving knife and my response is always, “The knife I am using at the time.”

The reason being that I have always loved pocket knives and whittling on a piece of wood ever since I was a boy growing up on a small farm three miles south of Poneto, Indiana (which is south of Bluffton and further south of Ft. Wayne and west of Berne.)  During those formative years every boy carried a pocket knife, even to school, and if a boy has a pocket knife he is prone to whittle on something.  In my case, even though I whittled often to make toys and “boy stuff” I did not really know what I was doing, did not know how to sharpen a knife nor what was good carving wood nor have anyone show me how to carve.  Still the carving urge persisted as I grew older occasionally whittling on something and drawn to wood carvings that would be on display in stores or magazines. 

Most of the earlier pocket knives were either lost, traded away or broken so there were none to carry into adulthood.  Then in 1966 while in seminary in Lexington, Kentucky preparing to become a pastor of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) my mother gave me an old pocket knife she found in a box of stuff she purchased at a auction sale.  It was a two bladed jack knife, spear blade and pen blade, rose wood handles and made by the Challenge Cutlery Company of Bridgeport, CT. probably in the 1920’s.  In other words an old knife in good shape with the pen blade fairly sharp (as I still did not know how to sharpen) and it could whittle slivers off a piece of wood.

One day, the urge to carve came to me but the only wood I could find was a broom handle.  So I cut a few inches off the handle with a borrowed saw and began to carve a human head for a bottle stopper.  The wood was yellow pine with hard resinous grain that made the carving tough to go, but the little pen blade in the hands of a novice carver shaped that broom handle into a man’s head in an amateurish way.

It was not until the early 1970’s when I served a church in Erlanger, KY that I met a “real” woodcarver by the name of Dave Monhollen who showed me the “ABC’s and the 123’s” of how to carve and pointed me in the right direction on the “Journey of learning by doing” by following the primary steps.  Having grown up with pocket knives and having a special attachment to whittling it was natural to continue to carve using a knife as the primary tool, even though I possessed some regular carving tools.

In those days the only carving knives available that I knew about came by catalog from Constantines of New York or Woodcraft of Woodburn, MA and the cost seemed expensive compared to used pocket knives rescued at flea markets, junk stores and garage sales.  So this “would be” carver began to accumulate old, junk and cheap pocket knives, many of which needed repair, reshaping the blade and of course sharpening.  Learning by doing is a great teacher in the age old lesson of trial and error and that is how I learned to sharpen knife blades (of which I am still learning because that is an on going process.)

Even though I have many custom made and commercial carving knives, yet an old pocket knife is still my favorite. Even though I no longer use the knife my mother gave me back in 1966, I still have it as a reminder of how it all began, so it could be my “favorite knife” among the many other favorites, if for no other reason than for sentimental reasons carved in my memory.

This entry was posted on Saturday, January 5th, 2008 at 1:37 pm and is filed under Knives. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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