James L. Batson Jr.: History Drives Him
By Jean Noel De Sarrazin
Though forging is deeply rooted in history, only once in a while can a glimpse of the past be revealed by someone who pursues their knifemaking passion with a great sacrifice of time and an outpouring of talent. Although now retired, for over 45 years this was the case with Dr. James L. Batson, Jr.
Batson’s rendering of the old historical type blades is quite unique, as his speciality lay in making knives inspired by American styles from the late 18th century through the designs created by pioneering knife craftsmen of the 20th century. Very few knifemakers develop the deep understanding that Jim has gained over the years as to where these designs came from and how they were made. The result is a rare degree of authenticity that makes owning examples of Batson’s work very satisfying.
Back when he was an active maker, you could see a sign hanging outside Jim’s workshop that read “James Batson, Bladesmith,” a term that was foreign to the public until recently. Batson’s welcome guide meant exactly what it implies, a knifemaker who works his magic at the forge with hammer and anvil. It sounds like a sign you’d see in an old western movie, along with long-dead trades such as wheelwright, and coach builder – but bladesmithing is alive and well today, as evidenced by the surging membership in the American Bladesmith Society and the popularity of the History Channel show “Forged in Fire.” From the heart of James Batson’s forge have come some of the most amazing and spectacular knives. They are more than just knives, they are artistically beautiful pieces that testify to the skill and care of their maker.
This article appears in the August 2022 issue of KNIFE Magazine. Premium Online Members can read the whole thing by clicking the blue button below to launch the flipbook.