Hello Everyone, and welcome to KNIFE Magazine’s 5 from the Grinder. 5ftG is our simple 5 question interview series, where we talk to knifemakers in a quick-hit format, highlighting their work, and the thought process behond it. I recently put out a call for more makers to participate, and wow…folks really came through. I went from having a fairly empty queue, to several dozen waiting to be posted. Thank You! I can’t wait to highlight your work. Please be patient, I will be posting 2 a week for a while, and will be posting in the order in which they were received.
Today’s maker is Tony Baker (@tonybakerknives)who is an Oklahoma maker of fine folders, and whose work frankly leaves me drooling. I am a sucker for a classic slipjoint, and still look forward to owning a modern custom one.But y’all are hear to learn more about Tony, so I will step aside and yield the floor…
Please introduce yourself and let us know what led you to making/designing knives
After a successful Elk hunt where my friend and I shot two bulls seconds apart, it was time to test the knives on some big animals. Daylight was running out and it started snowing, not to mention the temp dropped very quickly. The knives put us in a predicament and It was time for a better knife and the only way I would be happy was with a handmade knife with the latest technology in steel.
What knifemaker(s) or designer(s) have had the biggest influence on you? Do you have any mentors?
I met with Jim Eriksen of Viking knives and discussed the possibilities of a hunting knives that he made. Later he started helping me make fixed blades for hunting. After 8 years of making those it was time for me to make some folders. I met with Warren Osborne for him to inspect my knives for application to the Guild, he ask about folders and told him I didn’t have a mentor for that. We became friends and hunting buddies and also he introduced me to Tom Overyender, Joe Kious, Gayle Bradley, Bob Merz and many other greats.
Tom and Gayle still help me to this day and I cherish their friendship.
What is your favorite knife pattern or style from history?
I’ve been making knives for 17-18 years now and still make a few fixed blades for hunting but my main focus is on lock back folders.
This is not in any particular order but here are the ones that come to mind quickly.
Osborne Tuxedo dagger
Warenski Tut Dagger
Overyender Split Tail dagger
What is the next big thing in knifemaking? / What direction do you see the industry going?
The factory knives have gotten so good now that there are minimal differences between factory and handmade. But I’ve always held the belief that if a collector is willing to spend the kinda money for a handmade, it needs to be better than a factory and have your heart and soul in it. I don’t believe in having all the parts made somewhere else by CNC machines and calling it a handmade. I know that’s controversial but I’m ok with my beliefs. The knife market for expensive handmade knives is relatively young, and collectors should know they are getting an original and not a print.
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?
I use a fair amount of rare stone for my inlays that start as a pencil drawings. Then the front lock mechanism is usually what I prefer(if the design allows it) to start seeing if I can fit all the pieces together. Also my directions of late has been Automatics. Bob Merz has been a huge help for technical support, and sometimes moral support. Autos will test your patience!
What is your EDC and why?
I carry one of my Carbon Fiber framed knives for a couple of reasons. 1) I ground the blade too thin and just kept it for myself and 2) Calvin Robinson said to me “how are you going to tell someone how good your knives are when you won’t even carry one yourself”.
If you would like to see more of Tony’s work, the best way is to check out his Instagram: @tonybakerknives
If you would like to reach Tony with a question or a commission, his email is tonybakerknives(at)yahoo.com
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