Have you ever seen or held a custom blade so beautiful that you immediately had to know who made it? Are you looking to have a custom knife made or looking to study the work of some of the most influential knife makers in the industry?
The team at Red Label Abrasives has taken the time to compile a list of some noteworthy custom knife makers from the knife making community. You’ll find over 30 makers listed below.
The knife making community is vast and this is not a comprehensive list. There are many talented knife makers out there that may not be included on this list. We plan to continue to update this list annually. If you’re a custom knife maker and you’d like to be considered for inclusion on this list, please contact our team by filling out acontact form.
A self-taught blacksmith, bladesmith, and jeweler, Ben Abbott is also the founder ofAshgrove Forge. He was theForged in Fire winner on Season 2 Episode 9 (The Khanda Sword Challenge) and Champion of Champions on Season 3. Later, Abbott appeared as a guest judge and was later hired as a full-time judge. His work includes swords, fighter knives, hunter knives, and other types of fixed blades.
Before entering the knife making trade,Bob Kramer spent 10 years working in commercial kitchens and noticing how poorly some knives performed. First he sharpened them, then he was determined to make knives that were of a much higher quality. Today, Bob makes some of the most sought-after kitchen knives in the world. His Damascus chef’s knives and bread knives are especially stunning and command premium prices when available.
Brian Tighe produces high-quality, one-of-a-kind knives that are functional and visually appealing. His blades are the result of his extensive experience and training in the Tool and Die trade, along with a solid foundation in metallurgy, design, construction, and heat treatment. He specializes in pocket knives and folding knives with custom locks and steel designs.
Forged in Firechampion Chad Kennedy is a bladesmith from Holliday, Texas and owner ofChad Kennedy Knives. By forging his own Damascus, he crafts knives into unique works of art in a variety of styles, from hunting knives to cleavers and hatchets. In June of 2021, Chad earned his Journeyman stamp from the American Bladesmith Society, providing further evidence of his skill.
CJ Buck is the Chairman and CEO ofBuck Knives Inc. Buck Knives is known for its sport and field knives and is credited with inventing the folding hunting knife and making it so popular that the term "buck knife" has become synonymous with that particular style. CJ is currently active with the American Knife and Tool Institute (AKTI), which he co-founded in 1996.
As the owner ofBridger Forge, Colton Arias has earned a reputation for making top quality custom, hand-forged knives and swords. He creates functional works of art out of a variety of materials, including military-grade synthetics, high-carbon steel, and stabilized wood. Arias also offers signature San Mai blades and pattern-welded steel produced using rigorous standards.
Bladesmith Curtis Haaland is the owner ofFree Hill Blades. After competing onForged in Fireand placing fourth in a Kilij-making competition, he dedicated himself to making some truly unique blades, such as a Bronze Age Fighter with an aluminum bronze guard and a steel rope Damascus knife with an elk antler handle. Each knife is custom-made, making them ideal collector’s items.
David Baker is an experienced swordmaker and bladesmith who creates high-end custom knives at his workshop in Long Beach, California. When not recreating some of the world's rarest edged weapons, he is a judge onForged in Fire, in which skilled bladesmiths compete to create the most iconic edged weapons. He also made the weapons and props forDeadliest Warrior seasons 1-3, which created demand for his services in movies and TV.
Enrique Peña is a Texas bladesmith and owner ofPeña Knives. He is known for making exceptional folding knives, both modern and traditional. He produces his custom designs using the Pena Knives X Series. Peña has made quite a few modern knives, but his signature work are his traditional knives. The blades are designed using modern elements like stainless steel and titanium, with a slipjoint construction and twists on time-honored designs.
Dr. Everett Stone started his career in horseshoeing and continues to use those skills to forge kitchen knives. He appeared in Season 6 ofForged in Fire and emerged as Genghis Khan's Sword Champion. While knifemaking remains his passion, he has also co-founded two biopharmaceutical startups aimed at turning lab discoveries into cancer treatments.
Goldie Russell is the President ofA.G. Russell Knives, which was founded by her late husband. She began by using her art background to produce the company catalog and quickly learned how to design, create, and market knives. In June 2014 she became the first woman accepted into the Cutlery Hall of Fame. Goldie also served on the American Knife and Tool Institute (AKTI) Board of Regents, whose mission is to protect the industry and give knife users the freedom to use the tools of their choice.
Ilya Alekseyev, a native of Troitsk, Russia, is an armorer and former designer atBaltimore Knife and Sword. In 2016, he was the winner of a spiked shield competition onForged in Fire. He also appeared on another show,Man at Arms,where he demonstrated his expertise in Damascus steel, bloomery steel, and armor.
Neilson has been making knives for 20 years and is one of the world's best all-around bladesmiths. The American Bladesmith Society awarded him the Mastersmith rank in 2008, marking his reputation. He forges blades professionally, out of his “shop in the woods” in northeastern Pennsylvania, with his product range including fixed-blade knives like Bowies and daggers, everyday carry blades, and historic replicas.
Jason Knight became fascinated with knives at a young age while growing up in Charleston, South Carolina. After training under Master Bladesmith Jay Hendrickson, he received his ABS Mastersmith rating. Known for his skilled techniques and distinctive style, his blades are some of the industry's most sought after. His blades can be purchased through the website for his business,Knight Forge Studio.
Jay Hendrickson started making knives in 1974, when he was still working at IBM as a telecommunications engineer. His straight knives are made in the traditional way, by hand and eye coordination, using minimal machinery. Despite this basic approach, Jay’s blades are a work of art that have been featured on magazine covers and gained him international attention: among his career highlights was forging Kukri Knives for Jordanian King Hussein.
Kentucky knife maker Joe Keeslar has had an extensive career in the American Bladesmith Society, earning his master smith stamp in 1989. In addition to forging fixed blades, many in the brut de forge style, he also produces beautiful handles with silver wire inlays and matching leather sheaths, the latter of which are often enhanced with conchos or other rich embellishments.
Jordan Lamothe is a knife maker and blacksmith based in Hebron, New York. As owner ofJordan LaMothe Blades, he makes a wide variety of blades, from hunting knives to high-end kitchen knives to vintage style swords and daggers. Jordan is a Master Smith in the American Bladesmith Society and teaches knife making regularly at numerous craft schools around the country.
Located in Kingman, Arizona, Justin Burton is the owner ofWarCrown Forge and formerForged in Firecontest who placed third in a Chinese War Sword competition. All of his blades are made by hand in his shop and one of a kind in some aspect. According to his website, his inspiration for knife making comes from military, history, and Greek and Norse mythology.
Kelly Vermeer Vella
Forged in Fire championKelly Vermeer Vella is a journeyman bladesmith in the American Bladesmith Society. A veteran of the farrier trade, she placed fourth in the world in 1997 and made the American Farrier Team the following year. Her Damascus Hunter knives are much in demand: one of them, a frame handle feather damascus bowie with mammoth ivory, won the Best Fixed Blade category at the 2021 ICCE show in Fort Worth, Texas.
Kyle Nelson started out as a knife collector but discovered his passion in manufacturing knife scales. He and his wife are co-owners ofFlying Shark Knives in Ventura, California. He makes premium quality custom fixed knives, but is more widely known for his custom scales, which are made from materials like natural hardwood, ivory, camel bone, and carbon fibers.
Matt Gentry is a Michigan bladesmith who startedGentry Custom Knives after years as a hobbyist. He makes a variety of blade types, from Damascus mini scouts and San Mai chef knives to hog splitters and gut hook skinners. According to his website, Matt also offers complete custom builds, from a sketch to a finished knife.
Matt Stagmer has been making swords for nearly 20 years. Before he even had his driver's license, he started making his own axes. He and his brother Kerry are co-owners ofBaltimore Knife and Sword, which specializes in stage combat swords and related items. Matt makes blades in a wide range of styles, from cleavers and Greek leaf daggers to Marine fighting knives and D-ring Bowies, giving him a strong reputation in the custom weaponry industry.
Mel Pardue started making knives in 1957. Over time, something that started as a hobby became a successful career. Although he produced many customized knives throughout his career, he is perhaps best known for the work he did during 24 years of collaboration with Benchmade. One of the most popular and recognizable products of this partnership is the Griptilian, an EDC folder. Sadly, Mel passed away in January 2022.
Michael Zieba is an award-winning knife maker based in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. He specializes in chief and tactical knives with intricate designs on both blade and handle. While Michael’s work tends to focus on large tactical knives, products like the Zieba MS3 M390 are slim, sleek, and discreet, making his creations appeal to a wider range of knife enthusiasts.
Neil Kamimura is a world-renowned blacksmith that had a quick rise to fame.Neil was an electrician by trade, but he decided to try his hand at forging shortly after his mother passed away. After only seven months of blacksmithing, Neil was invited to compete onForged In Fire against makers with decades of experience. Neil won champion and was invited back for the “Champions” show where he placed second. Neil has a gift for knife making and his passion shows in all of the beautiful custom pieces he creates.
Nick Timpson is the owner ofBirdvis Knives in Sacramento, California. He started out by refurbishing old pocket knives in his garage and is now a full-time knife maker in his backyard shop. Using modern materials but handcrafting them in the old fashioned way, Nick’s knives are modern interpretations of classic designs. They are primarily a folding design, with sleek and attractive handles.
Rita Thurman is the owner ofPixie’s Smash Forge, which produces high-quality chopping knives, kitchen knives, fancy daggers, and farriers file knives. She worked for 23 years at a well-known card company as a designer and illustrator before transitioning into hand-forged blade manufacturing. Rita’s distinct style and artistic vision resulted in an April 2020 appearance on theForged In Fire episode "Samurai Showdown".
Ryan Pepper is a bladesmith and owner of310 Knife Company in Asheville, North Carolina. His fixed-blade high carbon steel knives are distinguished by the hamon line created during the hardening process. Each knife features a unique-looking handle created from a combination of different materials like onyx, buffalo horn, and bog oak, making them showpieces as well as cutting tools.
Originally from Ukraine,Serge Panchenko makes a variety of knife styles, including hunting, tactical, Asian, and artisan. Due to a high demand for his designs, he launched the Serge Knife Co. to offer production knives as well as custom ones. Various models are available, such as Serge's Coin Claw and Beans, made of Bohler M390 and titanium or carbon fiber handles.
Oklahoma bladesmith Shawn Shropshire is aForged in Fire champion and owner ofSDS Knifeworks. His knives run the range from upscale hunting and kitchen blades to hatchets, daggers, and wavy artisan-style blades. According to his website, he spends as much time outside as possible and tests his knives in environments where customers will use them.
Steve Shackleton is a bladesmith and author ofGreatest Living Knifemakers, which profiles many of the industry’s most successful and prolific creators. A veteran of the United States Navy, Steve is editor of BLADE Magazine as well as a member of the BLADE Magazine Cutlery Hall Of Fame® and the American Bladesmith Society Hall Of Fame.
Tattoo artist and blacksmith Ted Thompson is the owner ofHooligan Kustoms in Brighton, Colorado. After being featured inForged In Fire, (and winning his competition with a type of battle ax called a tabar), he continued to make handmade knives, daggers, and other weapons at his shop. Ted forges a wide range of fixed and folding blades and even offers classes when time permits.
Tommy Matthews is a formerForged in Firechampion who ownsCrooked River Forge in Chester, West Virginia. His catalog of straight knives includes paring knives, Western Chef’s Knives, Trucker Santokus, and Chicken Hawk Drop Points. Although Tommy is no longer doing custom orders due to illness, he is still adding blades to the website as he is able to complete them.
Walter Sorrells is known for his art swords and knives designed to appeal to collectors of Japanese blades. He forges a variety of blade types, from high-performance pieces inspired by Japanese tradition to blades forged from folded tamahagane, which has been used by Japanese smiths for hundreds of years. Best of all, he maintains an activeYouTube channel with instructional videos aimed at knife makers of all skill levels.
Pensacola bladesmith Wayne Meligan is aForged in Firechampion who sells his custom fixed blades through his own company,Pirate Forge. They include swords and fixed knives with elaborate wood handles made from materials like curupay, canary, and red heart wood. Wayne’s attention to detail is so precise that he has spent over 100 hours crafting a single blade on more than one occasion.
What’s the Bottom Line?
Custom knives are in a class all their own. They represent the highest quality, attention to detail, and craftsmanship in the knife industry. A custom knife is an extension of the maker's personality and skill, and adding one to your collection is the perfect way to show appreciation for their work.
The noteworthy custom knife makers in this guide are among the best in their field. If you want to get into knife making as a hobby or profession,Red Label Abrasives sellsknife making kits that can help you get started or further you on your career path. All abrasives are superior quality, so that you get best results during stock removal, shaping, and polishing. For more information about our products, please call 844-824-1956 orfill out our contact form.
David Kranker is a writer and creative maker who has been covering the abrasive and knife-making industries on the Red Label Abrasives Blog since 2020. David spends his time continually researching sanding and bladesmithing to provide readers with the latest and greatest information. In his free time, David utilizes abrasives for many different home and auto projects at his home in Delton, MI.