Keon Maskell Making Knives Since Age 13
Over the years I have met different people with unique talents that have walked into my custom leather shop. Last summer, I had the pleasure of meeting Keon Maskell who enjoys making knives from his home workshop in Westphal, Nova Scotia, Canada. He wanted to order a custom knife case to fit one of his latest creations. He showed me a beautifully made knife that he had just finished. What is really interesting is that Keon is a young man of age 16 in grade 11 high school that taught himself how to make his own unique knives.
In elementary school he had an interest in swords and knives. At age 13 he wanted to own a good quality knife but did not have the money to buy one. He was totally self motivated and decided to teach himself the craft so he could have an unique knife. At that young age he started to forge his own knives all by himself. He researched the internet for articles, watched instructional youtube videos, read books and experimented. By age 15, Keon started to get requests for his work and has shipped his custom knives to places as far away as Sweden, Ohio, Pennsylvania in addition to doing local orders.
Process in Making Knives
When he found out that I was interested in the process he used to make his knives, Keon shared the following video showing his knife making steps using a forge and machine tools. To my surprise, he even included the custom knife case I had made for one of his knives in the video. It is very interesting watching the process of making knives which he starts with a plain piece of spring steel and transforms it into a beautifully finished knife with a real deer antler handle.
Video showing the steps to making a knife.
Keon starts making his knives from a piece of 5160 spring steel leaf spring for the blade. He explains that this type of steel is a good balance between being too brittle and too soft. After the spring is separated, it still has a curve in it. To flatten the curve and to flatten the bevels that will later be ground, the steel is first heated red hot to soften it. Then it is pounded to shape on an anvil with a heavy hammer and then cooled in a bucket of cold water.
Keon pounding flat a red hot blade that just came out of the fire.
With a hand grinder, Keon shapes the blade. Sparks continue to fly from the grinder until he gets the desired bevel into the blade.
Sparks fly as the bevel is ground in the knife blade.
Quenching which transforms the property of the metal is the next step in making knives. It involves heating the metal to a high temperature and then cooling it extremely quickly. The extremely high temperature is obtained by dipping the hot metal in a quenching oil. This makes the steel very hard but brittle. To take the brittleness out, the steel is then tempered by adding a constant heat.
Quenching is an important step in making knives.
Real deer antlers are used to make the handle. Keon obtains antlers from family members that hunt. First the antler is cut to size. The antler is then boiled to soften the marrow. This allows the tang to be more easily inserted in the handle after the hole is drilled. The handle is pinned and the ricasso (unsharpened part of the blade) is wrapped in brass wire. Both the wire and handle are then epoxied. Engraving of initial in the antler is done with a Dremel tool. Danish Oil is applied to the handle to give a beautiful polish as well as for sealing and conditioning.
Engraving knife handle with Dremel tool.
To sharpen the knife blade, Keon hand hones it on a coarse stone. For the final touch, a fine stone is used. People interested in contacting Keon about his knives or for custom knife requests can do so by clicking on the youtube button on the above video and leaving him a comment.
Custom Leather Knife Case
I was pleased to be able to craft a custom leather knife case for one of Keon's original knives. A thick leather blade guard was sewn around the inside of the leather knife case. The perimeter of the hunting knife case was sewn with two rows of thick thread on our harness stitching machine. It was very interesting to make a personalized knife case having met the actual knife maker. Thank you Keon for sharing your talent in the process of making knives.
Custom knife case by Leathersmith Designs for handmade knife by Keon Maskell.
Since I published this article in 2014, Keon has become even more involved in equipping hunters, fisherman, bushcrafters and outdoorsmen with the knives he makes. For more information on Keon's knives, you can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org