Legendary slipjoint maker Tony Bose died today of an apparent heart attack. He was 74 years of age.
Bose was more than just an incredibly skilled and detail-oriented maker, he was one of the “good guys” who made it, and his impact on the knife community was a significant one. Bose made his first knives in 1972, and with Wilfred, Indiana squarely in pocketknife collecting country he was soon fielding requests to repair pocketknives for the traders in his area. Tony quickly developed an appreciation for old time pocketknives and the skilled cutlers who made them, and made his first pocketknife in 1975 (nobody called them ‘slipjoints’ then). He grew to know and understand the old knives inside and out, and in time built up a sizable collection of really fine old pocketknives by American and English makers.
Tony’s reputation grew along with his skills, and by the mid-1990s he was making traditional folders that many feel were as good or better than the best folding knives ever made. He became the first slipjoint maker to collaborate with a knife manufacturer in 1999, when he formed a relationship with W.R. Case & Sons that would endure for the rest of his life. This relationship proved to be a great success for both parties, with Tony lending his expertise to show Case what collectors wanted in their knives and teaching them how to make custom-grade knives in their Bradford, PA factory, and Tony’s easygoing “aw shucks” personality resonating as Case’s brand ambassador, making his star rise even higher.
Tony Bose was probably the most selfless knifemaker I’ve ever seen, sharing his extensive knowledge and even the patterns he’d worked hard to develop with knifemakers far and wide. Many a knifemaker was invited into the Wilfred Works shop to learn the tricks of the trade under his guidance. For all of this giving and more, Bose was honored with the Knifemakers’ Guild’s Red Watson Memorial Friendship Award, an honor that is treasured by all who have received it.
Wilfred Works and the Bose family legacy will be carried on by Tony’s son Reese, who has learned his trade well at the master’s hands. But Tony Bose was one of a kind and the knife community is surely a better place for his having been a part of it.
Features on Tony Bose and his knives:
Dec 2007 “Tony Bose Puts His Stamp on Traditional Knives” by Mike Robuck
July 2000 “The Case/Bose Collaboration” by Edward C. Bell
May 2016 “Tony Bose / Case Collaboration Knives, The First 10 Years” by J. Bruce Voyles