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Knifemaker Todd Begg
By Del Corsi
Todd Begg produces some superb knives; among the finest and most elaborate folding knives found anywhere in the custom knifemaking world. The mirror finished blades he produces are my favorite, although the intricate damascus steel frequently used in his work turns many a head as well. These signature, dressed up folders, are exquisite in every way. Certainly unique, there is no doubt about who the maker is. You might be just as surprised as I was to learn that Todd makes a considerable number of fixed blade knives too! In fact, this type of knife is his first love with respect to knife projects. I could not wait to find out more from Todd.
At shows or online we get to see the knives people make – I love this! For me it is always fascinating to learn more about what drives these talented knifemakers, and even more interesting to find out about their journey starting from the early beginnings. The level of craftsmanship on Begg’s knives is out of this stratosphere, so I knew his launch into the knifemaking world would be equally fascinating. One statement on Todd Begg’s website really caught my eye: “A knifemaker who became a machinist to become a better knifemaker.” This spoke volumes to me about the quality we are used to seeing in his work,. Not only that, it showed his sincere dedication and commitment to developing into the prolific knifemaker Todd has become.
The pull to make a knife came early for this talented knifemaker, and I do mean early. He was raised in Maple Valley, Washington. As a youngster growing up in a rural area he learned to hunt and fish, and was into all things bushcraft such as making shelters and fires. He fondly remembers always having a knife. One day Todd rode his bicycle to the local convenience store; inside was a magazine rack where he regularly checked out the archery and gun magazines. This day Todd was flicking through the issues and came across a knife magazine. At this point Begg told me that “It sounds goofy, but it was almost a religious experience, it hit me hard.” Suddenly Todd made that high-pitched choir noise like we hear in movies, mentioned “lights” as well. With a chuckle he continued “I don’t even remember getting home, I do remember pulling over a couple times and reading the magazine. In the issue they are talking about custom knifemakers – I didn’t even know there was such a thing, I thought all knives came from factories. I didn’t realize a guy could do that on his own. I decided right then – I’m going to be a custom knifemaker.”
The year was 1983, and Todd was twelve years old! Inside that knife magazine, or possibly the next issue, was a feature on how to make a knife from a file. Todd grabbed a broken file from his Dad’s shop, used a grinder with a motor that his Dad used to sharpen the lawnmower and got right to work. The excitement from then was still present while mentioning “I ground that blade, used an antler from a deer I had shot the year before along with some brass for the handle. Butt ugly – I still have that knife in my shop! Nothing I’m ashamed of, new makers who learn from me are intimidated sometimes. I show them that knife to see how I began. Looking back, every decision I made as an adult and as a young adult was geared toward my knifemaking goal.”
“Of course, I had other jobs. I was in the Army branch of the United States Military. GI Bill when I got out.” Wondering what to do when once discharged was a challenge. It had not clicked in his head about the machine shop thing, despite having done some of that type of work during shop class in junior high school. Todd went to a local college in New Mexico where he was living at that time. Looking through their catalog he saw the words “Machinist Program.” You could get a degree. I was like – that’s it right there! By the end of the first semester my knives took a quantum leap in quality.
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