Howdy folks. It’s 5 from the Grinder time, and bucking the recent trend of makers previously unknown to me, I bring you Sean McWilliams or Artistic Ironworks LLC. I have know Sean for many years. I reviewed one of his forged stainless knives (Model #1) back in my TTAK days. I still have it. Not many people forge stainless. The temperature window in which you can work is narrower than with carbon steels, and precise temperature control is a necessity. Few have the patience to master the technique. Sean has.
However, I am not an expert on such matters, so I will turn things over to someone who is. I bring you Sean McWilliams. If you are a maker who would like to be featured yourself in a furture 5ftG, click this link for more information.
Please introduce yourself and let us know what led you to making/designing knives
I have been a blacksmith/bladesmith for 51 years. Forging blades became an instant passion. A chopper forged from leafspring steel (5160.)That was in the early ’70’s, buckskinning knives were a favorite and a ready market surrounded me. In the mid ’80’s, I attended the first few bladesmithing conferences in Wyoming, where I met Bill Moran, Bill Bagwell, James Schmidt, Henry Frank and others whose influence I still value to this day. In my early days of blacksmithing, I had forged some utensiles from 300 series stainless steels, so forging stainless knives was a natural progression that became a specialty. Many bladesmiths said it couldn’t be done or wasn’t worth the effort. I wasn’t dismayed, I knew better. One smith encouraged me, now that he has passed on, I reveal our secret. James Schmidt, Thinking of this mastersmith and his work brings a lump to my throat.
What knifemaker(s) or designer(s) have had the biggest influence on you? Do you have any mentors?
I have been influenced by so many makers as mentioned above and am grateful for the wonderful knifemaking family that remains strong in spite of today’s political climate. One maker that deserves a special place in my heart is Dan Dennehy. Dan was a sponsor when I joined the Knifemakers Guild. His son, John continues the Dan-D tradition. I own a Dan-D tomahawk that I traded Dan for a forged stainless knife and fork set, buckskinner style. John has those today! I could go on, but must mention Al Pendray, and Devin Thomas. I have mentored some students, even one to forge stainless, So at his request, I’ll keep his name confidential.
What is your favorite knife pattern or style from history?
Have to be the Bowie Knife, the only thing larger than the knife is the legend. Of the many Bowie knives that claim to be the “Authentic” Bowie, the “Bart More” Bowie had that feel when I held it in my hand, It felt like the real deal. Jim Bowie probably owned many so the legend continues.
What is the next big thing in knifemaking? / What direction do you see the industry going?
In recent years, the progress in steels, especially Knifemaking Steels is driving the industry and hand made offerings to new heights. For me, this is exciting, there are so many, it’s hard to keep up! Now I’ve got to try Larrin’s MAGNACUT! After I catch up on orders, that is.
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?
In my last “5” in 2017, It was my Model#1, I always wanted to turn that into a folder, So I have two sizes of that model. As an EDC, it really “floats my boat.” It’s a traditional slipjoint Canoe pattern, but with 21st century construction. No bolsters, no epoxy, forged S35VN blade, 154CM backspring, stout .050″ 410 stainless liners. And a spring tempered 410 stainless pocket clip that makes it easy to slip into the leg pocket of my work jeans. The Guide has a 4″ blade and the Scout has a 3 1/2″ blade. Canvas Or linen Micarta scales in the colors that are still available. I like making slipjoints, so will be making some retro models in sambar stag, jigged redbone and even some with that old Nickle Silver, just like I coveted as a boy, but couldn’t afford.
What is your EDC and why?
Of course, it’s my original Guide slipjoint. I’ve carried and used this thing everyday for three years, just to see how it would hold up. Well beyond expectations. Might be my forever EDC, but, we’ll see.