Stilwell native Darron Hummingbird is an assistant principal for Wagoner Public Schools. His hobby is knife making, which is also a stress reliever for him. JOSH FOURKILLER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
COWETA – An appreciation of knives and a need to find a hobby to relieve stress led Darron Hummingbird to begin making knives.
He makes his knives in a shop at his Coweta home, and is an assistant principal at Wagoner Public Schools, which is about 16 miles from Coweta.
“What drove me into this was I was a football coach for 25 years, and when I decided to leave the football field and go to the office, I needed something to occupy my time, my brain, my mind and something that was challenging and problem solving,” he said. “I always wanted to make knives, and it just fit perfectly, and I jumped into it about five years ago. I love the aspect of a knife, the use of it, it’s durability. I’ve always wanted to see if I could make one. My first one several years ago was not very good, and I still have it to remind where I was and where I wanted to be. I just enjoy that sharp edge and a useful tool.”
He said he makes his knives two ways. Stock removal, which is removing material from the steel until it takes shape as a blade, can take 12 hours, he said, while the forging process can take “a few hours.” Both require tempering once the blade has been heat treated, which can take three hours.
“So, we are looking at six hours to a day for a knife depending on which process I go with, so it’s in that time frame,” Hummingbird said.
He said he prefers working on up to a dozen knives at a time. He said working on this number keeps him from making mistakes. “There are so many steps in between and details, so I try to stay between six and 12.”
During the past five years he has made knives for people he knows and others who find him through social media such as Facebook. However, he emphasized his hobby is not a full-fledged knife business.
“There are a lot of us around that do knives,” he said. “If you just want one from Darron Hummingbird in Coweta, Oklahoma, we would probably have to have some kind of history or you know who I am or know people that know me. They tell me what they want, and I have them look at my pictures and say, ‘I can do these things,’ and then they order, and I get started on it.”
Hummingbird said he has shipped knives to states surrounding Oklahoma and made a “big camp knife” for a casting director in Hollywood, who in turn gifted it “Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler.
Knife making is also therapeutic for Hummingbird. “Just being able to concentrate on a process of working with that knife and whatever stage I’m in, just being able to zone everything out for a while and just concentrate on getting that knife ready. And I get to do some problem solving with how to create the geometry on the edge…or the type of wood I’m working with (for the handle). So, it really occupies my time and really gets me away from the stress that sometimes the regular job brings.”
A Stilwell native, he grew up watching Cherokee elders “make stuff” that were necessary for everyday living or for decoration or gifts.
“One of my fondest memories is going to Antioch Baptist Church (in Stilwell) when I was just little bitty and crawling around underneath that quilting frame while my grandmother and my aunt and their friends worked on patching a quilt together,” he said. “I remember those days still, vividly, and me and my cousins being outside playing while they were quilting. It’s a tradition with our tribe to be creative. It’s been passed on to me.”
He said he believes it’s important for people to find something that allows them to be creative and pour in their life experiences. “I know so many people who dabble in those things because it’s important as human beings for us to be creative. For me it’s a great way to fulfill that urge to be creative with knife making.”
Will Chavez is a Cherokee/San Felipe Pueblo Indian who has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 25 years. During that time he has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a writer, reporter and photographer for the Cherokee Advocate and Cherokee Phoenix newspapers.
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