Custom knife maker, back in the swing

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Story And Photos By Nate Howard
Wednesday, October 2, 2019
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Dan McLeod of Fixed Star Forge shapes a knife at his shop in Paradise Valley.

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A knife in the works is pictured at Dan McLeod’s shop, Fixed Star Forge in Paradise Valley.

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A selection of knives made by Dan McLeod, owner of Fixed Star Forge, are available for purchase at Bohème Apotheca, his wife’s store on Park Street.

As a young boy in Ohio, Dan McLeod often visited flea markets and always had an appreciation for knives.

He bought a make-your-own knife kit as a child. He keeps it in a tool box at his shop, Fixed Star Forge, in Paradise Valley where the pinging of a hammer on steel can be heard from the road.

His first knife has a thick, heavy blade and he laughs as he explains what’s wrong with it.

And he could put it in the gas fired forge and reshape it but he keeps it as a reminder of his beginnings, perhaps a benchmark of how far he’s come in custom knife making.

His shop is his escape and his joy, where he leaves the routines of his day job as an audio-visual technician and pursues the primitive art of shaping a knife in the evening.

For many years he practiced the art of knife making in Ohio and with his wife, Amy McLeod, and a mutual desire for a change, the couple set out for Montana, a place neither had been, where he accepted a job offer working as an audio-visual technician.

The challenge was leaving the bulk of his shop back in Ohio and investing in the tools once again to get back into his craft.

In his blacksmithing shop, he pounds red-hot steel on an anvil with a blacksmith’s hammer without any interruptions.

McLeod starts with a bar of high grade steel, often carbide steel.

McLeod explains the carbide steel holds a finer edge but requires some attention such as oiling and cleaning.

If left to the elements, it will rust.

Most important is the order of operations said McLeod.

When to stretch the blade, when to make turns or shape a custom handle.

He often has a couple knives in the works at one time.

Like many artists, he prefers making custom knives in collaboration with a customer.

There’s many options, including the general shape of the knife and the type of steel, the style and material for the handle, said McLeod.

He gives extreme attention to detail, and he’s fueled by a labor of love.