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The Fellowship of the Maker: Harv Holbrook
By Jamin L. Brackett
My first contact with H.L. “Harv” Holbrook was in October of 2018. While perched in a tree stand, I received a text. Harv was in North Carolina attending a sheath making course at Montgomery Community College in Troy, North Carolina. Harv had been watching my knife posts on social media and wanted to stop by on his way back to Kentucky.
In a day where family members seldom drive across town to meet one another, I felt compelled to take time to meet the man who was driving nearly two and a half hours out of his way to meet me. I’m grateful now for the opportunity to have met such a man. We spent several hours together in the shop and looking at each other’s work.
In the coming months I followed him on social media and admired his clean hunting knives. Harv and I shared a fondness for the late George Herron’s work. Occasionally we shared images of knives.
In April of 2019 after the quarterly meeting of the North Carolina Custom Knifemakers Guild, several members began discussing the hard work, dedication, and attitude of one sixteen-year-old member. Barry Jones of PB&J Handmade Knives and his brother Phillip Jones had spent time sharing their knowledge in their home shop. One noted that the young maker, Logan Walton, possessed minimal tooling. Another maker mentioned that he’d like to see what Logan would accomplish with a 2×72 grinder if he’d accomplished so much with a 1×30 grinder.
Later that evening a few more phone calls were made and members began committing various supplies, tools, materials, and equipment.
One of the men contacted was Harv Holbrook. A true gentleman, he became interested in the project despite having never even met the young man. Harv lived over six-and-a-half hours away, but said he’d attend the next meeting as well as bring a few items.
Fast forward a few months and our paths would cross again at the 2019 Blade Show in Atlanta. While I was seated at Harvey’s table talking to him and his granddaughter Kayla, a young boy kept coming by admiring Harv’s super clean knives. After the next pass, Harv leaned over to him and asked him which one he liked the best. The boy, Luke, picked up a green Micarta scaled skinner. Harv gave it to him. The young man, excited to have just received the skinner, thanked Harv before running off with his prize. Later the father called Harv, to make sure he had given the knife to his son. Apparently he saw the knife in their truck seat on the way home from the show. This gentleman, Jason Clark, turned out to have a similar past as Harv as he was a retired Florida State Highway Patrol Officer and also an established maker of fine handmade knives.
Back to Operation Grinder… on the morning of July 20, 2019 members of the North Carolina Custom Knifemakers Guild began to assemble at Montgomery Community College for the quarterly meeting. As usual, members laid items on the table for the Iron In the Hat drawing. This day was different in that all of the items were for our youngest member, Logan Walton. Logan, however, was not able to be present for the first time in several years, as he was hospitalized in upstate New York. In the time between the last meetings he had fallen ill with Guillain-Barre syndrome. Members of the Guild had been in contact with his family. His father arrived just before lunch and was overwhelmed with the outpouring of support for young Logan. After all of the items were presented, several members along with Harvey Holbrook and his grandson Nick, hauled a load of knifemaking tools to the Walton house. Each and every member sent something special based on their experience that would be useful in a knife shop. Young Logan wouldn’t see the items for several more months. Today however he’s recovered and is making use of the tools so many generous North Carolina Guild members provided. Let that soak in, Harv drove six-and-a-half hours to give a variable speed grinder to a young man he had never met. Needless to say, this caught my attention.
In the coming months I stayed in contact with Harv. We discussed a possible shop visit. As I was still working full time at Gastonia Police Department, family, obligations, surgery, and a pandemic seemed to interfere. In January of 2021 we planned again for my shop visit. This time an extremely bad ice storm again delayed my visit until Monday March 29th.
Harvey Holbrook was born in 1954 and raised in Sandy Hook, Kentucky. He grew up on his family farm, the son of a farmer and pipefitter. Graduating high school in 1972, he subsequently attended the Hobart School of Welding Technology. Harvey then went on to work as a pipefitter/welder for around five years.
Growing up, he had always wanted to be a Kentucky State Police Trooper and so he applied in 1977. Once accepted he began the then sixteen-week class. Graduating a few days before Christmas 1978, he was assigned to Post 14, Ashland, Kentucky. He was assigned to work the road in Lawrence County Kentucky, which borders West Virginia. He spent the majority of his time there with a small stint in Carter County. Harvey said they had not received a decent raise in several years so he decided to compete in the promotional process and was promoted to
Sergeant in August of 1986. From there he served at the Elizabethtown Post and Pikeville Post. He again competed in the promotional process and was promoted to Lieutenant in October of 1988 and assigned as
Detective Lieutenant at the Harlan Post. In 1994 he transferred to the Morehead Post in order to be closer to home. About five years later Harvey transferred back to his original post out of the academy in Ashland, where he retired on July 31st, 2002.
Before heading to Harvey’s shop, I reached out to several of his references. William C. Johnson, “I knew him when I lived in Kentucky, and he was a State Trooper.” He described Harvey as” having a great personality, and a common knife interest.” William, who is a voting Knifemakers’ Guild member, paid Harvey a great compliment saying his knives were “among the finest working knives I have ever seen.”
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