Every one of our handmade knives has a unique story, just like its maker. My story starts at age 15, when I jumped out of my bedroom window in London Ontario and hitchhiked to British Columbia.
When I was 15 I thought I was getting old and the world was passing me by, and I needed to get out and see it before it was too late. So I packed up a few things in my little backpack and jumped out of my bedroom window at 2 AM with the intended goal of heading west. I started hitch-hiking, but didn’t make it very far that first night, and spent the rest of the night sleeping in a farmer’s field just a few miles from home.
The next day I resumed my westward journey. My mom didn’t know where I was for many days. It didn’t occur to me that she might be worried. (That’s not a reflection on her, by the way, but on what a dense and self-centered 15-year old I was). It was several days before I called her from a telephone booth in Muskoka, letting her know, matter-of-factly, that I was on my way west. No big deal. I’d be home in a few months, not to worry. I had to hold the phone out at arms length as she yelled and screamed. I wondered why she was so upset. Now that I am much older, with kids of my own, I can’t believe what I put her through, and I am astounded at how incredibly dense I was at 15.
I hitch-hiked west and six weeks later arrived in Vancouver, B.C. I didn’t have much with me, but I did have a drawing pad, pen and ink. I’ve always been an artist of some kind. I loved to draw pictures as a little boy. I sold my first piece of art while on the road west. Along the way I managed to make some meal money selling drawings.
Once in Vancouver I landed my first real job flipping burgers at a fast food restaurant. Of course, 15 was not the legal age to work, so I had to lie about my age. I got a basement apartment at the home of a nice older couple who rented rooms out. I lived there for several months, then went to Canmore Alberta and stayed with a cousin for a while. Then went back home to London. Needless to say my parents were not very pleased with me. At the time I remember being honestly bewildered at their anger. I couldn’t understand why they were so upset. All I did was hitch-hike 2500 hundred miles to the west coast. I was fine. What’s the big deal, mom? Of course, now that I am a parent myself I understand them much better.
But they eventually forgave me. And I repaid their forgiveness by…doing it all again the following summer when I was 16. I hitch-hiked to Vancouver again, but didn’t stay there. I went over to Vancouver Island, spent a couple of weeks camping and bumming around Long Beach on the west coast, then made my way south to the US. I took a ferry to Seattle, and over the next several weeks hitch-hiked down the #1 coastal highway through Washington, Oregon and California.
Living in “The Land of Love and Miracles”
Somewhere between San Francisco and Los Angeles I got my last ride ever as a professional hitch-hiker. Some Jesus freaks driving a VW van, spray painted with ‘Jesus Loves You’, stopped to pick me up. I didn’t want to get into the van at first, but they promised me a free meal and they looked harmless enough, so I jumped in.
They turned out to be very decent people, and they drove me into Los Angeles. I had no place to go, and didn’t know anyone, so they let me stay at their commune. They called it the ‘Land of Love and Miracles’. Really, I’m telling the truth. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I wanted.
I spent the summer living with these good people. I found a job cleaning cafeterias, but when fall came I decided to go back home and finish high-school. I took a Greyhound bus from LA to Toronto.
But I wasn’t there for long. Soon after arriving back home in London, my parents bought a farm and moved out into the country. I was attending a tech school that let me specialize in the arts, and my dream was to be an artist. I had to stay in town. So I rented an apartment close to school and got a job buffing floors at night. I never looked back and I’ve been on my own ever since. I put myself through high school and finished grade 12.
I had a pottery studio for a while, with my own wheel and kiln. I made a lot of pottery and even sold some, but it wasn’t paying the rent. I needed to find a real job. At the time Alberta was booming with plenty of work, and I’ve always loved the west. So I moved to Edmonton Alberta and found work in a factory making pipes for the oil field. It was there I bought my first computer, a Commodore Vic-20, and learned how to program it.
From Pottery Studio to Computer Programming
I found that I had a knack for programming, and my factory work wasn’t taking me anywhere. So it was time for a change. I moved to Calgary and went to college to earn a degree in computer programming. I put myself through college working nights at a gas station and 3 years later graduated with good marks.
I moved back to Ontario and lived in Toronto for a while, and over the next several years worked as a programmer. Eventually I moved into project management.
My artistic side suffered for a long time. Marriage and kids came along, and there was no time for much of anything else. So for many years I dropped art.
I started writing novels once the kids got older and I had some time in the evenings. I finished a few novels and have some for sale on Amazon, about aliens who come to Earth for our coffee. I’m even getting a few really nice reviews.
…at last, finally we get to the part where he talks about knife making
From Computer Programming to Making Knives
But the difficulty with writing as a hobby is that it involves sitting with my laptop, which is what I was already doing all day long in my job as a project manager. I was rapidly going to flab. Too much sitting and too much time on computers.
I realized I needed to find something to give expression to my creative juices, but I wasn’t interested in getting back into pottery. It had to be something physical, something that would keep me on my feet and physically busy. Something far away from any laptop. And it would have to be something creative.
I’d never thought about making knives. One day my wife complained about a dull kitchen knife and asked me to sharpen it. As I was sharpening the blade I noticed the handle was coming loose and starting to separate from the tang. It was a cheap plastic handle with cheap pins. As I looked at the cheap knife in my hands, I wondered how they were made.
I knew nothing about making knives. I’d never heard of ‘Forged in Fire’. I didn’t even know it was a thing until I found some videos on YouTube.
In 2016 I made my first knife from an old lawn mower blade I got for free from a repair shop. For a forge I used the fire pit in our backyard and my wife’s hairdryer for the forge blower. The anvil was a short chunk of rail road track. My first knife was as ugly as sin, but I kept at it and got better.
For the first couple of years I gave my knives away to friends and family. And more piled up in our kitchen drawers. I didn’t know what to do with all of our knives, but I didn’t want to stop making them. They continued to pile up on our counters until my wife suggested I try selling them, and that led to the birth of Blue Moose Forge in 2019. Our shop is located in Brantford, Ontario.
I love to re-purpose old steel into beautiful new knives. Steel is 100% recyclable and should never be thrown out. I’ve rebuilt many old knives that had been discarded, putting on new handles and restoring the blade. Damaged blades can be restored using a number of different techniques depending on what is needed.
I also make stainless steel kitchen knives from bar stock milled in the USA. Hardwood is a favorite handle material, and is always locally sourced.
I hope you will enjoy my knives as much as I enjoy making them. I believe that the tools we use should also be beautiful pieces of functional art. You can contact me using the ‘Contacts’ page.