Updated: Mar 2
A love of blades starts somewhere. For many that genesis can be traced to a single individual; a father or family member, a friend or mentor. Some special person who set in motion your life-long, and often bloody, love affair with edged blades and tools. For me, that individual was one, Mr. Claude Lister Burk (or "Mr. Lister" as I liked to call him.)
A work friend of my father’s from before I was born. Claude was a permanent fixture in my life growing up. A consummate outdoorsman and a true jack-of-all-trades, he had a knowledge of miscellany that bordered on encyclopedic. If I ever had a problem, no matter what it was (and I do mean ANYTHING,) I could go to him and he would have a solution. However, chief among Claude's interests was his passion for cutlery.
Claude introduced me to knives. His house was full of them. It was like stepping into a bladed tool museum. Every blade had a story to tell and I relished in hearing them. There were the more traditional blades in his collection – Cases and other classic brands from his boyhood. All the way up through weapons of war and bayonets that had seen live service and tasted blood – or so he liked to tell me.
His passion for cutlery extended well beyond the steel varieties with which we are all familiar. I remember spending lazy weekends scouring freshly turned cornfields with him in search of prehistoric relics; flint blades and axes, arrowheads and spear points, archaic precursors to the blades we all know and love. Claude always seemed to find the best stuff, and on the rare occasion that I found a nice point, he would be right there, “I’ll give you fifty dollars for it?”
And then, there was the Christmas when, quite by chance, Claude and my Dad happened to gift each other with the exact same knife (early Spyderco Mariners in stainless). And when my family took up sailing, Claude was the one to teach me how to deep-sea fish and how to properly handle a blade while filleting my catch.
Later on, he was instrumental in my blade design evolution when he introduced me to his old Puma White Hunter. He explained that this knife, from all of the hundreds of knives he owned, was the one knife he reached for more often than all others when he would venture into the bush for an adventure. This was followed by a detailed break-down and analysis of the various features of his Puma which had bolstered it to supremacy. Discussions of this nature were common with Claude. It was hard for me to know then just how monumental they would be to the development of my identity and my own design style.
Looking back on my life now, I see how each of these memories build upon each other and flow into the next, like lights on a string. One by one illuminating the windy path which has led me inexorably to where I am now – about to launch my own cutlery and minimalist outdoor gear company. Claude directly helped me to discover my purpose, long before I even knew it.
Sadly, Claude passed away in 2013. And, although I can no longer create new memories with him, the ones I have still light my path as clearly as the day they were made. So, for all you blade enthusiasts out there who are lucky enough to still have your heroes and mentors in your life, rest a hand on their shoulder and tell them, "Thank You."