Custom Knife History

Trendsetters: A look back on those who have influenced modern knifemaking

TRENDSETTERS: A Look Back on Those Who Have Influenced Modern Knifemaking
By Jim Sornberger

Most knifemakers hope to come up with something new, different, or trend-setting that will have an impact on others, leaving their mark on the industry. It’s part of the knifemaking challenge. Achieving this can range from difficult to near impossible as knives or cutting instruments in one form or another have been around near as long as we began walking upright as hunter-gatherers. This story mentions some but certainly not all of the makers who have come up with something interesting enough to set a trend – and in some cases moved the entire knife industry forward, custom and factory alike.
It is fairly easy to research knives back about 1000 years. Modern style blade and handle shapes go back 500 years or so; swords, daggers, hunting and fishing knives, and folders go back nearly as long as fixed blades do. You will see as you read along here that completely new knives or ideas are rare, but sometimes an old idea can become something that looks like a great new knife design and embeds a maker or designer’s name into modern knife lore.

This article appears in the February 2021 issue of KNIFE Magazine. This is the longest single article we have ever run in print, and we think it is the most comprehensive look at the makers who have paved the way for the current success of the custom knife industry.

By popular demand, we are making the article available on the free side of the paywall. Please click the blue button below to launch the flipbook and read the whole thing.



Visit to learn more about Cutlery Hall of Fame Member Jim Sornberger and his work.