Fort Worth, Texas-based Jeff Davidson recently passed one year as a full-time knife maker, after many years making a name for himself forging customs part-time. The Ibex Hunter, a new stock removal model going up for sale this week, brings Davidson’s work to a new audience.
“People ask when my interest in knives started and that’s difficult to answer, because as far back as I can remember I was collecting knives,” says Davidson. “When we would go on vacation I would ask my parents to take me to knife stores because that’s what I always wanted as a souvenir.” During a trip to Opryland in Nashville, Davidson encountered a blacksmith doing a demonstration: “He forged out some scrolls and leaves, and eventually he took out some knives. That was the ‘a-ha’ moment for me,” Davidson recalls. It was his first exposure to a handmade knife and it made a deep impression.
Inspired by the sight of a custom blade, Davidson embarked on his first youthful attempt at knifemaking. “I started a charcoal fire in my backyard, laid a pipe on a brick, and tried to hammer it into a knife,” he tells us, candidly admitting that the results were less than ideal. But Davidson stuck with knives throughout his teen years, collecting and studying the technical aspects of the craft. As soon as he turned 18, he lit out from Texas, traveling across the country for an apprenticeship under storied knife maker Ed Fowler. It was a demanding, fulfilling period in Davidson’s life. “We worked on the ranch during the day and made knives at night, seven days a week. It was the hardest work I’ve ever done in my life but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Until now, much of Davidson’s output has been full custom, forged knives. “To me, forging means chasing the craft. I love old tools, old world craftsmanship,” he reflects. “Being able to take something mundane and turn it into something cool right there on the anvil.” A batch of a model Davidson calls the Ibex Hunter is arriving with KnivesShipFree this week, representing a new avenue of output for Davidson. Instead of forged pieces, these are made via stock removal, although every knife is ground and finished by hand. “This batch is kind of an in-between for me, where I’m blending the hand-finished details of my customs with the uniformity of stock removal production,” Davidson says.
He goes on to the Ibex Hunter itself as a knife very much in the tradition of blades smiths have been making since the very beginning – that is, a capable, well-rounded outdoor tool. Says Davidson: “It’s really meant to fill a medium-sized hunting knife role. Something for hunting, hiking, and camping, that’s robust but still not a tank or super heavy.” But the relative compactness gives it some EDCability too; Davidson also notes that the rounded ricasso area creates an idea pinch point for detail work or even food prep.
In addition to making knives of his own, Davidson teaches aspiring makers the ropes in his Fundamentals of Forging classes. “I really get to know the folks I’m teaching, and at the end everyone walks out with a really good looking knife,” says Davidson. It means a lot if he can help someone else start down the road to forging. “It all comes back to that one word: ‘Passion.’ I think a lot of people go through life without ever finding that one thing they were meant to do. Everything else I’ve done leads back to knives and chasing the craft.”
The Ibex Hunter will be available at KnivesShipFree tomorrow morning, Friday September 23rd, at 9am EST. If you’re in the Fort Worth area in November, Davidson will be co-hosting a “hammer in” at Texas Farrier Supply in Kennedale on November 5th, with demos and open anvil time throughout the day.
Knife in Featured Image: Jeff Davidson Ibex Hunter
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