Hi-tech, low tech, and just right knives

Hi-tech, low tech, and just right

Hi-tech knife makers talk about things like ATS34, Tru-Sharp,440A, surgical stainless, 420 high carbon, titanium, Zytel, Delrin, anodized black aluminum Zelite, and stabilized wood. They use computer driven machines to grind hundreds of blades to a tolerance of a decimal point followed by fourteen places. I don't know if this measurement is in feet or millimeters. Either one, that's a pretty close accuracy.

I have two knives that were made by old man, Walter Ezell sitting on his back porch in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. I'm told that Mr. Ezell on sunny days would clamp a vice to his porch steps and work with a file and hacksaw. He used a new Mill Bastard File to shape blades from old Mill Bastard Files.

Between these methods of hi-tech and low-tech is a cutlery firm in the village of San Bartolo Coyotepec village a few miles South of Oaxaca, Mexico. This family firm has produced knives at this location since the mid 1600's. Their output ranges from the sword that Arnold Schwartzenegger used in CONAN THE BARBARIAN which is so heavy I could hardly lift it, to a tiny Sunday Go To Meetin' pattern. They make beautiful, high quality knives. They are perfectly finished with great blade etches drawn freehand to your specifications while you wait.

I didn't have time to examine the equipment they used except for the forge and anvil in the courtyard of the rectangular compound which was both casa and factory. The inventory of raw materials used to manufacture their cutlery was explained by the owner. A pile of old automobile springs provided steel for the blades and back springs. Brass gate valves salvaged from plumbing repairs were forged into liners. Aluminum automobile pistons were melted and cast into bolsters and butt caps. A pile of native wood was used to fire the forge. The prettier grained pieces were saved to make knife handles.

I have some knives that are very hi-tech. I have a couple that are very low-tech. My very favorite for using was a little three blade folder made in a village near Oaxaca, Mexico. I lost it to Homeland Security at Tampa International Airport. I hope to go back to San Bartolo Coyotepec village some day to get another one just like it.


2005 - Cy Sarver - S.W. Florida Knife Collectors Club





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