In my recent search for featured products I came across Wilder Forge in Michigan. Chase Wilder makes custom knives the old fashioned way. He is a dedicated beardsman, a master blacksmith, and oh, did I mention he’s 18 years old?
I received what he calls an EDC knife: Every Day Carry. It’s a beautiful tool with a 3.75” blade that is 3/32” thick and forged from 1095 steel. It features jimping on the spine to provide friction and control for the thumb. It’s handle is walnut with copper pins. The overall length is 7.75” and has a hand stitched cowhide belt sheath.
I reached out to Chase to get his perspective on crafting such an amazing product out of completely raw materials and here’s what he had to say:
Urban Beardsman: How long have you been custom making knives?
Chase Wilder: Technically I started when was 13, but it would be a stretch to call those things knives. About three years ago I was comfortable enough with my skill to give selling them a shot.
UB: Why blacksmithing?
CW: I took a basic blacksmithing class in Downtown Kalamazoo, Michigan. That really helped me get some fundamentals and was my first experience with real blacksmithing tools. After I had really started creating quality knives, I realized that I needed money to do that. At first, selling them was only an attempt to fund my hobby.
UB: Tell us a little about your process?
CW: The first step is hammering the shape out on the anvil, basically placing the piece in and out of the fire and hitting it until its just right. Then I refine the shape on the grinders, and grind in the bevel. Heat treating is next, which involves heating the cutting edge to a cherry red, and quenching it in oil. After the quench I need to temper the steel to be sure it is not too brittle or prone to cracking. Once the desired finish is applied to the blade, and it has had a good sharpening on the wet stone, it’s ready for a handle. The handle material is attached to the tang of the knife, either using two slabs on a full profile tang (like the one featured) knife or attaching one solid piece to a rat tail or hidden tang by drilling out the center of the handle piece.
UB: What materials do you work with?
CW: As far as steel, I like 1095, O1 and sometimes W1 on smaller knives. I normally make my handles from walnut, hickory, oak, curly and birds eye maple. Just simple American hardwoods. I have also used blood wood, rosewood, osage, becota, and splatted maple. I’ll pretty much track down any hardwood for a customer. I also use elk and white tail antler at times. For fittings (pins, rivets, guards, bolsters, etc.) I use brass, copper and stainless steel.
UB: How much time does time goes into a knife and sheath combo? How many do you make each month?
CW: I can normally turn out something like this in 2-3 days and I make about 10-12 each month.
UB: What other items do you make? What are the price ranges?
CW: Tomahawks, Axes, fire steels, camp cooking supplies, small functional home decor, and just about anything a customer and I can think up. For knives range is $115-$275 but I guess its possible to go over that depending on materials. I sell tomahawks for $100-$200, fire steels and flint strikers for $10-$25. After that everything is very individually priced.
UB: Who do you sell to primarily?
CW: I mostly make knives for “outdoorsy” people. My knives can be used for hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, things like that. A lot of my customers are people who practice primitive skills, re-enactors, and bushcraft.
UB: What are your future plans for Wilder Forge?
CW: You know, I’m not sure I can tell you what they are yet, but I can tell you I’m exited. The business is still relatively new, and I’m so thrilled to see it grow. Right now I plan to keep making knives, and grow the business when ever inspiration and opportunity come to me.
UB: What are you most proud of at this point?
CW: Being able to make money doing something I love. Yeah, America has some problems, but don’t let any body tell you that this is no longer the land of opportunity. I know first hand that it is.
Do you know of an awesome product out there that we should feature? Let us know via email to @bandholz