Winkler Knives – The Tradition for the Past, a Legacy for the Future
By Jamin Brackett
Growing up, Daniel spent a great deal of time in the outdoors hunting, fishing, and hiking. This love for the outdoors created an interest in the equipment for outdoor activities. Daniel said, “My first knife was purchased with green stamps I earned from my mother, doing chores around the house.” As he got older, he took shop classes in high school. It was around this time that he became interested in black powder shooting. As the accessories such as powder horns, shooting bags, knives and tomahawks were hard to find, he began making them as shop projects. One of these projects was his first knife, made in shop class in 1975.
Soon, Daniel began attending black powder shooting competitions. He said “In a shooting match everyone would lay down a prize on a blanket, as their entry fee. The winner would choose first, with the last in the competition being left with what no one else wanted. My knives began being taken first.” Before long the other competitors began asking if he would make a knife for them. In his own words, “This is where Winkler Knives got its start.”
Daniel, who was completely self-taught, read whatever he could find on forging and steels. It was at one of the larger matches he ran up on Steve Schwarzer. “I never knew there was anyone else making knives and Steve introduced me to a whole new world,” Daniel explained. His styling influences came from early American cutlery, American Indian materials, and decorations.
After high school he started making knives for both black powder gatherings and local craft shows. Daniel said they kept good customer records and started trying to send personal invitations about shows they were attending, to those who showed interest in their work. At this time Karen Shook was making her beautiful period correct sheaths for the knives, but more on that later.
Daniel said he was essentially a hobby maker from 1975 through 1981. As the business grew, he maintained a full-time job while working part time with the knives. He invested all of the money he made into equipment and materials. He began keeping books for his taxes. It was at this time that marketing brochures started to be produced and Daniel began attending gun and knife shows in addition to the black powder shoots and craft fairs.
With the support of his longtime partner and sheath-making wife, Karen Shook, Daniel took Winkler Knives full time in 1988. Together, this hard working couple had a vision that they continued to invest in and grow. They expanded their customer list through computerization. Daniel joined both The Knifemakers’ Guild and the American Bladesmith Society; he relates that their presence at shows began to grow, allowing him to build strong relationships with others in the business.
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