Today’s installment of 5 from the Grinder features Oregon knifemaker Josh Navarrete. I first learned of Josh when he won an episode of Forged in Fire a while back, and we connected online shortly thereafter. I finally had the chance to meet Josh at 2021 Blade Show. He is one of the more selfless people I have met in the industry, both in his dedication to his “Abuela” which was documented in his FiF appearance, but also in the work that he has started to do for Veterans. I wanted to highlight this before we launched into his 5ftG piece.
Blacksmithing and knifemaking are a way to express yourself, exercise your creativity, to challenge your skills, to push your imagination but most importantly, to make you feel like you belong somewhere. One thing I have learned over the last 10 years is that knife making is more than taking a piece of steel, heating it up and hit it with a hammer. Knife making is about the human connection, is about the human element, it is about the relationship that you create not just with that piece of steel BUT with those around you. COVID-19 made everything worse but now that things are going back to normal, it is time for us to reconnect and build new relationships within our community.
A.C.T. is not just be a place where someone can come and make a knife, it is be a place where VETs and First Responders will find a safe place, where they will be surrounded by people who share more than just the love of making knives, they will find a community and a family.
We have developed a curriculum which the participants will find challenging but exciting to follow. This series of classes will give them the opportunity to accomplish goals and will give them new skills that will help them in the future.
Participants will have the opportunity to earn awards and will be recognized by completing classes / workshops, participating in events, functions and mentorship program. This will encourage participants to continue being active in the Forge and will invite more interested parties to join us. The A.C.T. program is not about just one time class, it is a place of support, challenge, growth and, ultimately, success.
Because of this giveaway, it seemed like the perfect time to share Josh’s thoughts on knifemaking. If you are a maker who would like to be featured on KnifeMagazine.com, you can read more about 5 from the Grinder here.
Please introduce yourself and let us know what led you to making/designing knives:
I have been making knives for about 10 years now. What led me to making knives was one day I was at my favorite store where I buy exotic woods from looking for some pieces to turn (I have been a woodturner for about 15 years). While looking at the selection I ran into another person looking for wood to make knife scales. We started a conversation and he showed me a knife he had made recently. I honestly do not remember what the knife looked like but what I remember was asking myself “how hard is it to make a knife?” That same day I started doing research on knife making and the rest is history.
What knifemaker(s) or designer(s) have had the biggest influence on you? Do you have any mentors?
I didn’t have the luxury to have mentors but I had the fortune to meet amazing knife makers that helped me in one way or another. Spencer Aplin, Claudio Sobral (CAS), Peter Kohler (Dark Timber Knives) and Mike Stewart (Bark River Knives) have been the most influential and have helped me developing my skills either by sharing techniques with me or by answering questions I’ve had.
What is your favorite knife pattern or style from history?
My favorite style from history has to be the Kukri. In my humble opinion, the Kukri is one of the most efficient chopping tools ever designed. There are several variations which have been made over the years and it welcomes makers to design one around their own style but one thing for sure is that when you pick up a kukri, you feel the need to chop something.
What is the next big thing in knifemaking? / What direction do you see the industry going?
Knife making is one of the fastest growing hobbies I have ever seen. New techniques and tools have been developed is a very short amount of time to accommodate the demands from knife makers. Although I think the biggest growth has happened in the demand for classes and instructional material. The beauty of what we do is that anyone can make a knife using very simple tools, although power tools make your life easier and many times more precise. I have seen dozens of new knifemakers creating amazing pieces of art who have increased their skills one hundred fold in a very short period of time. This wave of new makers have also created a new wave of knife collectors and knife aficionados who are not interested in making knives but are interested in owning and belonging to knife online clubs. I have taught many people over the years and many have been teenagers and most of them have continued making knives at home. The new generations are the ones who will continue pushing what can be done in the knifemaking world.
Is there a knife from your lineup that you feel best exhibits who you are as a knifemaker/designer in terms of design elements, aesthetic or techniques used?
Short answer is “no” lol. As a knifemaker, I am never fully satisfied with the end result. There is always something that you wish you could change or you feel like it is lacking of something. Although I must say that I have been working on 3 designs, an EDC, a midsize and a larger knife. One of them has been in the works for about 5 or 6 years and I think it might be the closes to what you asked me.
What is your EDC and why?
My current EDC is my RazrBak prototype. It is one of the 3 knives I have been working on for some time. During BLADE in Atlanta, I did market research. I made 4 different prototypes with different weights, handle material/thickness, different stock material thickness and thumb rest position. I had everybody who walked into the booth hold all of them and tell me what they thought. At the end of the show there was one clear winner and this is the one I am EDC’ing since then.