How It All Began For Us...
Let's go back to 1989. Just think about that for a moment. Back then, when you wanted to learn how to do something, there wasn't an internet to turn to. YouTube wouldn't be invented for more than a decade! Basically there was the library, encyclopedias - IF you knew exactly where to look, or seeking out people who knew what you wanted and and asking them for help. Basically a lot of trial and error!
John has always been interested in knives, daggers, swords and all things sharp & pointy! Since childhood, he'd already sought out every book he could find on knife making. As time went on and John's passion to make knives grew deeper, we figured attending a national knife show may offer just what we need to get more informed. It sure sounded like fun! In 1993, we attended the Inaugural Knife Show in Las Vegas. We traveled there with John's sister Kathi, and her husband, Dan. I had never been to Las Vegas, however Kathi and Dan were regulars to the city that never sleeps. This was very exciting to go to a new place with people who knew their way around! We stayed for 4 days and the knife show was just one of the exciting events planned.
Upon entering this first ever knife show in Vegas, there were hundreds of tables in massively long rows. There was very little room between vendors; we didn't know where to begin. We walked around and looked at all the tables feeling a bit overwhelmed. There were names of artists that John recognized from years of research, however, John has never been one to just walk over and strike up a conversation with any stranger! I knew I was going to have to take it upon myself to meet as many of the vendors as possible during this venture. After two hours of walking around, I broke off from the pack to do my own investigating.
I was disappointed at just how many vendors back then were not open to answering questions about how to get started, or to even discuss their processes. Most of them wouldn't take me seriously at all. This would not deter me! I kept going from table to table. Eventually I found a few friendly knife vendors that actually said hello and asked me if I had questions, and I took best advantage of this opportunity. One of the friendliest people I met was legendary knife maker, Alex J. Collins. At the time, I had know idea who he was.
Alex had been living in Northern California, making knives for decades. He was a guild member for more than 25 years and his sense of humor was like no other! As an Afro-American custom knife maker, he was at all the major shows offering his knives as "Kustom Krafted Knives -- or KKK", think about THAT! This is one fellow who didn't give a hoot about what you thought about him or the name of his business.
He thrived on doing what HE wanted to do and wasn't at all offended by ANY of my questions. He had a studio located just outside of Universal Studios for about a dozen years. He'd made some pretty famous pieces, like the hooks used for Captain Hook in the filming of "Hook". It was Alex J. Collins who made the hands for "Edward Scissorhands". I was amazed at the different blade shapes and the unique materials he used for handles. I fell in love with an amazing Kris Sword - the only one I'd ever seen, and the only one he'd ever made. (I am planning a future blog all about Alex's Kris sword!) I told Alex that I'd be back with John and that I hoped he would remember me if I called him in the future. He said he'd never forget me!
It became somewhat of a joke as we walked by his table many times while making our rounds throughout this huge event. Eventually he started waving is credit card sign at us... taunting us... YOU KNOW YOU WANT THIS. By the end of the very long day, we'd bonded with Alex J. Collins. Eventually, he put US behind HIS table and he went and took a break! We didn't really have a clue - we were still so young and naïve. Who was this somewhat famous person that just just left all his belongings in our care!
Alex wasn't the only person who was very helpful to us that day in 1993. During my quest to find some real advice on just how to get started in knife making, I met Tom Black of Albuquerque, NM. He was the first person who actually came out from behind the table and put his AWARD WINNING dagger in my hands! I was thrilled! I explained to Tom that I was on a quest to seek information for my husband who was very interested in a life-time of making knives. Tom invited me to bring John back to the table and he'd see if he could offer us some advice! Now I had to find my way back to John and then be patient to get back to Tom's table!
I found my way back to John and we continued to meander through the long rows of tables. We saw tiniest miniature knives and some of the biggest swords we've ever seen. Eventually we made it to Tom Black's table. He smiled at me and welcomed us. Earlier that day, he'd been presented with three prestigious awards including, BEST DAGGER & BEST OF SHOW. I introduced Tom to John, and Tom introduced us to his wife, Kaki. We visited for a respectable amount of time. Tom was very attentive to us and our questions. I snapped some photos, and then we moved on. After the next couple of hours and not finding anyone else who was very forthcoming about how to get started, I was determined to break away again and go back to Tom Black.
I approached Tom as if we were long-lost friends and told him I was having a problem. It'd been several hours and I was finding it very difficult to get any real information on how I was going to get solid advice for John. That's when Tom said that the best thing he could do would be for him to personally teach John how to make a knife. I couldn't believe what I was hearing - I was all for it! At that moment I knew THIS was THE answer. I begged Tom and Kaki not to forget me. I told them they had to remember me and that if they got a call from a girl in Nebraska - that was going to be ME, and that I promised I was going to make this happen!
Before leaving, I asked if I could take their picture and I promised that they would hear from me again! Kaki was very appreciative of what I was trying to do and she was just as welcoming as Tom! The secret plotting had begun! We'd even come up with a ploy. I would plan a fake trip to Durango, Colorado to see my God-Father and other relatives, yet we'd really be heading to Albuquerque. I love being sneaky! This Vegas trip was awesome, and John was completely oblivious of my plans for MONTHS!