Kirk offers knowledge, quality knives this holiday season
Cherokee Nation citizen Ray Kirk holds the blade he made in the first “Iron Mountain Metal Craft Grudge Match” forging competition in September at the 14th annual Old Mill Heritage Day in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. On the table to his left are knives he’s made and kept since 1989. MARK DREADFULWATER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation citizen Ray Kirk holds the blade he forged in his shop on Oct. 16 at his shop in Park Hill, Oklahoma. MARK DREADFULWATER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation citizen Ray Kirk twists the handle of a blade he forged in his shop Oct. 16 at his shop in Park Hill, Oklahoma. MARK DREADFULWATER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Master knife maker Ray Kirk hammers a piece of hot steel to flatten it during the early stages of the knife-making process. MARK DREADFULWATER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Master knife maker Ray Kirk keeps a close watch on steel as it heats in his gas-blown forge at his shop in Park Hill, Oklahoma. MARK DREADFULWATER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Master knife maker Ray Kirk pulls a piece of hot steel from the forge during the middle stages of the knife-making process. MARK DREADFULWATER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Two pieces of steel heat in a gas-powered forge during the early stages of the knife-making process at master knife maker Ray Kirk’s shop in Park Hill, Oklahoma. MARK DREADFULWATER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Examples of knives that Cherokee Nation citizen Ray Kirk makes lay on a blanket at his shop in Park Hill, Oklahoma. MARK DREADFULWATER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
PARK HILL, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Ray Kirk forged his first knife as a Christmas gift in 1989. Twenty-eight years later, he creates knives from steel for his livelihood.
“I’ve been retired since (20)04 and my knife-making is just what I do. I enjoy it,” he said.
The master knife maker works in a small gravel floor shop behind his house. Sounds of humming from the gas forge, knocking from the hydraulic hammer and the ‘ping’ from a hammer striking the hot steel echo throughout nearby woods. It’s there, he spends most of his day thinking of knife designs and bringing those ideas to life.
“I enjoy making knives. Right now I’m working on cross-between a little panabas and a karambit that is easy to make. It’s simple in design and it’s affordable. It’s always fun to figure out a new knife design and then figure out how to make it…easily, and it’s what I like to do.”
Kirk said he continually makes certain knives to keep in stock. He said he has the largest inventory this year that he’s had in a long time.
He takes custom orders, he said, but it should be a knife he’s used to making. He added that custom orders need to be planned and take more time to make.
“I don’t do wild, scary, scientific…blades,” he said. “I enjoy making using knives, mostly.”
Kirk said if someone custom orders a knife during the holiday season, he or she wouldn’t receive it until spring. “If I have something that they (customer) like, I might already have it in inventory. As far as a special knife of this design, this size, I couldn’t get to it.”
He said a special-ordered knife creates a “connection” between the maker and the buyer and adds more time to the creation process. “I do heirloom knives where I take some steel and wood…from a customer…and if it’s weldable, I’ll forge-weld it together, and I’ll add some of my steel and make a usable knife out of it. It takes longer sometimes. I made some out of a crescent wrench. How good of an edge it holds, I do not know, but the guy said it’s working good.”
Kirk said he sells knives ranging from $50 to $1,500 and offers discounts to veterans, active-duty military, police, fire fighters and Boy Scout leaders.
Along with forging knives to sell, Kirk also desires to teach his craft. He said he’s going to Auburn, Maine, in mid-November to teach a two-week introduction bladesmith class for the American Bladesmith Society. “It makes you feel good whenever someone shares your enjoyment…and you’re able to share it with them.”
Kirk said he plans to start a class at his shop next year and wants to hold sessions over multiple days instead of a few hours in the evenings. He plans to renovate a house on his property so attendees can have a place to stay.
“What my wife and I plan on doing is we’ll have a place for them to stay, and it will run about $400 for three days,” he said. “We’ll make my kind of knife, and they should be able to make two of them in three days.”
Kirk said, for the class, he’s going to accept two to four people per class. “If they pay $400, it’s like them buying two knives that they made plus they get to know how to do it.”
To purchase a knife, visit www.rakerknives.com
or Kirk’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ray.kirk.5
. For more information on classes, call 918-207-8076 or email firstname.lastname@example.org